Day 39 — Feb 8 — At Sea
Another typical At Sea Day. This morning I attend a seminar about our next port in Tonga before playing a table shuffleboard game called Jakkolo. We’ve played this game numerous mornings before, but today I sweep out a win! My second game won on board! So now I possess 2, count them, small minuscule prizes, a keychain flashlight for shuffleboard and a bottle opening coaster for Jakkolo. I happily endure the good natured teasing from shipmate friends about being a “weiner” and all is good.
Off to the restaurant for a light lunch after skipping breakfast. Eating light today for this evening we are invited (for a price, of course!) to the “Chef’s Table” that we have arranged for us and 11 other onboard friends to join in on. All we know is it will be a 9 course meal with wine pairings in a special room. The dinner includes a Galley Tour which has been postponed due to the current illness conditions on the boat. They are promising a special make up day for the Galley Tour so we agree to go ahead with the Chef’s Table.
Our group of 13 dwindles to 11 for the Chef’s Table but no worries, the Head Chef and Head Waiter carry off a great 9 course meal with Wine Pairings for each course. Several in our group don’t want to drink anything but red wine which I find odd because they don’t seem to care for the full experience. But to each his own. The wines that they serve are far above the wines that are available on our drink package. Courses from Duck Carpachhio to Beef Tenderloin and exquisite desserts were served and all were pleased. The Galley Tour was postponed, however, due to the illnesses on board. They promise to invite us for that in the near future.
After the dinner we go into Taverner’s Pub to watch a Karaoke Night and chuckles and applause fill the air. Even the Ship’s Captain makes a showing and sings a song making the rest of the crowd at ease because he has no talent for singing and it shows. Back in the room and we retire for the evening.
Day 40 — Feb 9 — At Sea
Another At Sea Day and games and quizzes are played. We go about a normal day except instead of watching a show, tonight we watch the new live action version of the Lion King Movie. Then it’s dinner and a nightcap and we retire.
Day 41 — Feb 10 — At Sea & International Date Line
Today is just another At Sea Day. We are told we cross the International Date Line about 1:30 PM but that doesn’t change anything on board. What is DOES change is what happens at midnight tonight. At midnight it will be February 12, 2020. What happens to February 11? It is gone, it never existed. For those of you on land in one location, you will have a February 11. But not us, the day goes by without recognition! If we sat in a trivia quiz and the question is, “What comes after February 10?” The answer would be, “February 12!”
How does that happen you ask? How can one lose an entire day? Well, the simple answer is that we get it back and have been getting it back, one hour at a time. Ever since we have sailed away from England, we have been turning the clocks back an hour approximately every three to four days. We were 8 hours behind our home time in England and as of now, we are 3 hours ahead. So we have gained 11 hours so far. Only 13 more to go.
Day 42 — Feb 12 — Nuku Alofa, Tonga
We have been told many days ago that we will not be going to China due to the Corona Virus Outbreak and we have added more stops in Japan. We question that also. But our disappointment of the day is the news that Tonga will not let us dock this morning even though we have shown them we have been nowhere near Asia as of yet. They have shut down all Cruise Ship arrivals. So we are At Sea and scheduled to arrive in Fiji tomorrow, a day early. We don’t know what Fiji will say so we are at the mercy of the South Pacific Kingdoms. So here is a photo of Tonga as we pass by!
Day 43 — Feb 13 — Suva, Fiji
We are up at dawn as that is when the ship arrives in Suva, Fiji. I go up on deck and shoot a few shots of the islands which are not as close as I hoped. The ship has stopped moving at all. I am a tad worried that Fiji is not going to let us in at the last moment. So, to assuage my fears, I go inside and have breakfast and wait for the Captains announcement. Soon, we get his announcement, similar to yesterday’s that we are all required to fill out a Health Affidavit declaring we are not sick. The news is not good. But the ship starts moving and we arrive at the City of Suva and we tie up at the dock. This is good. But the queues for turning in our Affidavits is a nightmare of confused people. We manage to get our Affidavits turned in and all of a sudden, while passengers are still turning them in, the Captain announces we can disembark!
Now people have called me lots of things, but never have they called me late for much of anything. So, in a flash, we go down to the Gangway and it turns out we are, again, the first off the ship. Okay, we have set foot in Fiji! The day has improved immensely! We are a day early and now we are scheduled to be here overnight and will leave here at 11 PM tomorrow night.
We have a Private Tour booked for tomorrow (the day we were originally scheduled to be here), so our goal is to find something to do that doesn’t conflict with tomorrow’s tour. We walk around the ‘Vultures’, the taxi guides that vie for your business, and after ‘promising’ several to come back to them, we find some interesting tours.
Our shipmates, Norman & Beryl, whom we have already had a few successful day trips with, show up and are interested in what we choose to do so we accept a tour that takes us all the way to the Momi Gun Turrets that were built for WWII. Our guide and driver, Thomas, agrees to $45 per person for a 6 hour tour. Can’t touch any other tour for that price! He also assures us that if we go over 6 hours it will not cost more.
So off we go and Thomas takes us on our way. We drive for about an hour at a time between stops and we see some fun sights. Our first stop is at a Resort that Thomas has connections at and we see how wealthy people spend their time in Fiji. A very nice beach is here along with some scenic views. We finish this stop with some photos of an interesting sculpture of a bird and then it’s on to the next stop.
Thomas takes us to a fruit stand that he knows and he buys us some cooked tree fruit called “Evee” and described that they cooked it after peeling it. He passes it around to all of us and we each take a piece. We all take a bite and out of respect for the interior of his car, we stoically chew it and swallow. I am sitting in front with Thomas and I keep taking bites and swallowing, trying to finish it before I wretch. To my great relief, Thomas’s attention is distracted by a sight out the window and I am able to toss the remaining fruit out the window. (I will find out later that my fellow passengers also threw theirs out the window!)
The next stop is at a picturesque location where a wharf and dock protrudes out into a lagoon. I swear I have seen this in a travel magazine somewhere. It turns out to belong to a resort called, “Maui Bay Resort” and we spend some time here taking photos and walking out the dock to the water. As we walk back, a fishing boat has returned and we see they have caught a huge Yellow Fin Tuna, a delicacy to us. We encourage them to display the fish to us and they do. Camera lenses play and capture all of this as we return to our taxi.
Many more roadside sights attract our cameras as we drive on and arrive at the Momi Gun Range, a WWII embattlement with 6 inch guns that once protected the islands. We check our clocks and see we have been traveling for over 4 hours at this point and we only have a 6 hour tour. So it is clear we will be on at least an 8 hour tour or more. We walk around the battlements for about a half hour and our cameras are playing happily again.
Back in the taxi, we head for home, in other words, our ship. More roadside sights entertain us before Thomas stops at a Handicraft Shop and we use the facilities. Oh, we also buy our obligatory Magnet for our Wall in our Stateroom where we are ‘Plotting’ our trip. We see school children getting out for the day and Thomas obliges me and stops at the ‘Dock’ we stopped at on the way out. We drove out at High Tide and now it is Low Tide. So we take photos at Low Tide where the colors of the water are totally different. I’ll have to do a comparison later.
We see a police motorcade of some sort and more school children getting out. More Roadside Stands and other fun sights assault our senses and lenses and we get closer to home. A Fiji Beer Brewery and then it’s heavy traffic getting back to our ship.
Back on board, I get some shots of Pre-Sunset before we get a bite to eat on board and then it’s back into town to check out some free WiFi we have been alerted to and we take advantage of getting several Posts up. Some of you will surely notice when you see a half dozen posts all of a sudden show up.
After we use the WiFi for a couple hours, we stroll back to the boat and get a couple night shots of the boat. Then it’s back on board and a couple more shots of the violinist entertainment and it’s time to put the camera away, get a nightcap and retire. Tomorrow will be a second day in Fiji. We have been told by several locals that we are the first ship to ever spend an overnight here! Only because Tonga refused us entry!
Day 44 — Feb 14 — Suva, Fiji, Day 2
Today we disembark the ship after breakfast and find our tour operator easily, especially because we had WiFi last night and saw an email that told us what to look for. We board a small bus, 30 or so people, and the bus waits for 2 people that never come. 45 minutes of waiting and many people get restless and ask to start the tour. We get underway and our guide, Joe tells us about this part of Fiji. We retrace part of the route from yesterday’s tour. But after a half hour we turn off and head to a small Fijian Village, the Riawanqa Village.
We are greeted by the Village Elders who are not that elderly but rather young and we are immediately escorted to river canoes after storing our dry clothing. We don ponchos and acquire plastic bags to put our towels in and we are off in wooden canoes that have 40hp outboard motors attached. We cruise upriver and even through a couple small rapids. After a half hour fun river ride with a pilot named Ti, we go ashore for an uphill walk to a waterfall.
This waterfall, Wiacomibe, is about 150 feet high and cascades into a pool of cool water. Several people wade into the pool and it becomes a small party in the water. One of the guides is seen climbing the slippery wet cliffs next to the falls and before you know it, he high dives off the cliff into the pool. He does this a couple times and I catch him with my high speed shutter as he jumps from about 100 feet. I have to keep drying the lens as the mist gets everything wet.
We walk back to the canoes and the lady in the front of mine graciously gives me and my camera the front seat. My camera is thrilled at her generosity and we head out on the river. A short distance down river, we stop at some bamboo rafts and we are invited to float back on the rafts. Many members chose to ride the rafts while I and a couple others decided to stay in the powered canoes. Glad for my decision as it afforded my camera some interesting views of the rafts and one guide member who dressed in traditional garb including body paint.
I feel remiss to mention that Fiji and many South Pacific islands have a cannibalistic past that only ended in the 1900’s. This didn’t end until British missionaries came and convinced the natives that people are not food. It took some doing but the British got through to the natives and converted them to Christianity. But, I must say, the Cannibal jokes abound to this day and even throughout our tours.
Cannibal joke of the day, “What is Cannibal Soup?” Answer, “Any soup in a can!” Ta Dum De Dum… Not my joke, my guide’s joke.
The rafts don’t go far as this tour doesn’t have the 3-4 days it takes to float back to the village. So we soon take back the passengers from the rafts and we power back down the river to the village. Once back on dry land, we change out of our wet swimwear and into dry clothes. Why? So we can walk through the rain to our next adventure, of course!
The Fijian rain soaks you with warm water that is not uncomfortable. Then you dry off naturally in a very short time. This is the rainy season, actually it is Cyclone Season. Luckily, for us, no Cyclone comes through while we are here. But it rains torrentially hard for 5-10 minutes at a time and then stops suddenly for an hour or so. Our hosts bring us to the Imu Pit (They call it something else in Fiji, but the name eludes me) where the Chicken for our lunch was cooked underground. They uncover it and we watch as our lunch is removed from the pit.
We then walk through another torrential downpour across the village to our lunch building where tables are spread out with food adorning them. The floors of the building are covered with woven mats from the Pandanas Tree Branches. We are asked to remove our shoes and go barefoot. We are welcomed in a ceremony that converted us from guests to family and we are told that if we ever return, we are already family and will be forever.
We then watch a performance of native dressed men that dance and jump and “attack” us. I keep my camera trained on them and the reactions are priceless! This goes on for many minutes as we are entertained by them. After a bit of that, the ladies in traditional garb dance and sing for us. A good time is had by all.
We are then invited to join them for lunch, a treat we are waiting for as the tables of food go on for ever on one end of the room. We try all the dishes and are not disappointed. We even try the Taro Roots and Taro Leaves and expect to not want to eat them. But they are so delicious we go back for seconds! We eat rice, stir fry noodles, fish and chicken cooked in the Imu Pit among other dishes that we cannot name but enjoy thouroughly.
Our Host tells us stories of yore and then all the host crew gets us up dancing traditional dances with them and all are happy. The atmosphere in the room is magical to say the least. All too soon it is time to bid them adieu and we go outside to meet our bus back to the ship. An hour plus bus ride takes us back with less traffic than yesterday and we go back on board and get our laptops to use the rest of the WiFi we purchased yesterday for One US Dollar for 24 hours.
So we find ourselves in the local mall on the top floor writing this Blog for you and all is well again! As soon as I have time to edit my photos, you will see this!