Posted by: glenswatman | November 23, 2010

20101101-15 AUSTRALIA Vic SOUTH PACIFIC CRUISE

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201011

MONDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2010 – Into our last week of house sitting at Ocean Grove. Another poor day but we are happy to visit the library and get more DVD’s to watch.

OCEAN GROVE 27

TUESDAY 2 NOVEMBER – In preparation for our cruise I get myself a haircut.  In the shopping centre they have Tuesday trims for $15.  Stylist Catherine sounds Australian but moved here from Burley just 3 years ago.  She does a good job shaping my hair back into a short style which I can spike up or wear flat.  I’ve not been home long when Ruth & Tony arrive to visit us for the day.  Ruth has bought me a couple of books to read, one of them an E-book that she paid $40 for on line and reckons and could write far better!   In the afternoon Ruth completes my hair style by adding some highlights and I treat her to a facial.  The lads are happy enough watching the Melbourne cup races.  In the past Tony, who is a coach driver, has worked there shuttling people from the car parks to the course but today all the car parks are flooded and people have been advised to go in by train.

OCEAN GROVE 28

WEDNESDAY 3 NOVEMBER – Whilst I clean Bev’s car Steve does a bit of gardening.  Now this is getting scary because I follow this up with some house work – are we in danger of turning into normal people?

OCEAN GROVE 29

THURSDAY 4 NOVEMBER – Steve has been getting up at 6.30am to watch football and I am up soon after.  The knock on effect is that when I arrive at the nursing home to visit Joan she is in the shower.   It is a cold and windy day so I settle on just having a walk around the home with her.  We put up the cards that Bev has sent and have a good chat.  She is still very confused because when I say we are leaving soon but will be back in January she tells me we are always very welcome and she has a spare bed for us.  Although it is unbelievable cold out we still have a hot spot on the back balcony so sit out through the afternoon.

OCEAN GROVE 30

FRIDAY 5 NOVEMBER – Our last day consists of clearing out of the bedroom and storing things in a cupboard, cleaning up in between sitting around.  Actually manage to get our total luggage down to 21kg.

OCEAN GROVE 31

SATURDAY 6 NOVEMBER – Facebook friend Grant has insisted on coming down from Melbourne to pick us up so we can stay with them overnight.  He’s a fellow naturist and really friendly.  He drives freight trains but has also been a policeman and helicopter pilot so has plenty of tales to tell.  Their home is in Sunbury, birthplace of the ashes, and there we meet his wife Anne, daughter Danielle and their German shepherd Zoe.  Grant has brought us up by a more scenic back route and it is 2.30pm when we get there so we get straight into a cold lunch.  They have invited their friends Jamie, wife Elise and daughter Kayla (14), Brie (12) and twin sons (5) Hamish & Willie round for the afternoon.  The time passes quickly as we get to know them all and also take turns in the hot spa tub.  In the evening Danielle goes out with her partner Josh to the family farm where they intend shooting rabbits then leaving them out as bait to catch the foxes that are causing problems.  Around 10.30pm we hear a loud noise as someone next door revs up a motorbike, first it smells like the speedway track but as they persist we get the burning rubber and it is so bad we are driven inside.  The kids spend time in the front lounge watching DVD’s whilst we chat away until after midnight.  It’s amazing how with some people you just fit in and feel like you have known them all your life and don’t have any lulls in conversation, Steve is really happy that Grant also likes to talk sport.

SUNBURY

SUNDAY 7 NOVEMBER – Jamie works at Rupertswood (home of the ashes) and has arranged for us all to meet up there so he can give us a tour.   The estate belongs to the Clarke family who originally owned all the land for miles around and ran a self sufficient farm.  Today the heritage listed building is used for wedding and functions.  It is really nice inside with some wonderful picture stained glass windows.  Attached is a Silesians church as originally this is where men came to learn to be Silesians priests.  It is such a strict order that it is now dying out.  On the way back Grant stops to show us the original jail from the area and in the adjoining tourist office we read about many other attractions nearby.  Anne & Grant say we must come back and stay for longer so they can show us around.  Mid afternoon they take us over to Glenroy where we have been invited to stay with Joe & Helena whom we met at Taylorwood.  This gives Grant and Anne a chance to get to know more naturists.  Looking back since we arrived in Australia on 20th May there is only the 1 night at Mission Beach backpackers that we have not been with naturists; they are such a friendly bunch.  Grant & Anne head off as he need to get some sleep in before working nightshift.  We catch up with news and enjoy a fair old BBQ feast sat out.   Get a bit of a disturbance in the middle of the night when a local cat and a feral cat meet up outside our window and give out some amazing cries.

GLENROY

MONDAY 8 NOVEMBER – Up at 5.15am to get to the airport in time for our 7.25am Tiger Airways flight to Sydney ($29, £18 each).  True to form our flight is delayed until 10.00am which is the flight time we really wanted but booked the earlier one in case of delays.  The flight goes smoothly and we land at Sydney Domestic terminal about an hour later.  For $15 (£9) you can catch a train from the airport directly to the city.

We alight at Circular Key and are delighted to see our Royal Caribbean ship the Rhapsody of the Seas majestically anchored up at the wharf.  It looks huge against the small ferry boats.  It’s only a short walk to the International Ferry terminal but takes some time as we keep stopping to take photos.  With the opera house on one side and the harbour bridge behind it really is a stunning spot.   Perfect timing as the boarding begins at noon just as we walk up.  Within minutes we are checking in and spot our friends Val & Dave just ahead of us.   Once on board we head to the Windjammer for the first of many buffet lunches.  By 1pm our cabins are ready and whilst inside cabin 3027 is well appointed the design is not great when the beds are made up as a king size.  We drop our bags off then set out to explore.  The ship holds just over 2000 passengers and has numerous public areas.  Fit in a bit of a wallow in the hot tub before the brewing storm brings a few spots of rain.  At the spa raffle Val & Dave win a free massage and we get a $50 of a treatment voucher.  Our dinner sitting is at 6pm and we are seated with two elderly couples from Sydney, Bill & Pat and Larry & Jan.  Departure from Sydney around 8pm is spectacular.  The city looks great with all the lights on and we have an electric storm as well.  Passing the opera house is stunning.  Going through the heads we get a bit of bumpy ride and later learn that this is when the storm hit and we had 60km winds.  Sydney airport is closed because of the storm and streets are flooding, reckon we have a lucky escape.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL, RHAPSODY OF THE SEAS 1

TUESDAY 9 NOVEMBER – We are up early and after breakfast relax in the solarium basking in the sun.  We’ve highlighted the things we want to do on the activities programme and this is the only gap between them!   In the “Guess the personality” quiz we come first and win pens.  The history talk about the explorers finding the islands is pretty boring and much like the kind of school lectures we both hate with someone talking in a monotone voice so we cut it short.  Progression trivia begins today and scores carry over throughout the cruise.  Our team “Have a go” with Mike & Gabi from Perth and Maureen & Jenny from Brisbane come in 2nd so we are off to a good start.  Through the web site www.cruisecritic.com we have been chatting to other members and today there is a meet and greet gathering.  It must be our lucky day as I win a prize of a rucksack filled with T-shirt, baseball cap, umbrella and passport wallet.  Some of the people there are card players so we meet up in the afternoon for a game of Euchre with Jan & Sandra.  More trivia (we win and get drinks mugs) and ten pin bowling then just a short nap before the Captains welcome and formal dinner.  Steve looks really smart in his chinos topped off with a $2 (£1.20) charity shop black jacket.  We are spoilt for choice with food but attempt to show restraint having started the cruise heavier than expected due to our weekend with friends!  The show is a female singer but not to our taste so we leave early.

RCI, RHAPSODY 2 – AT SEA

WEDNESDEAY 10 NOVEMBER – I phone England to find out how Mum has got on with her hip op but it is not due until today.  Enjoy lots of trivia, split the difference game where contestants are given a question and 2 answers, you must then move to the side of the room where you think the correct answer is and all the people on the wrong side are eliminated.  Steve is down to the final two and the last question is about how people in Chile serve wine (always with the right hand) so he wins.  The afternoon movie is “Knight & Day”, an enjoyable action packed spoof.  Today there is a meeting for past cruisers and Crown & Anchor meeting so more free booze.  Evening show is called the “Piano Man” with up to 3 pianist playing the music of people like Billy Joel accompanied by dancers and very good too.

RCI, RHAPSODY 3, AT SEA

THURSDAY 11 NOVEMBER – Mums op has been postponed to Friday due to a hospital error.  We are docked in NEW CALEDONIA in the capital city of Noumea.  I’ve pre booked a Europcar rental (Euros 40) on the Internet and Dave & Val are sharing with us.  You have to take a free shuttle bus from the port and from there we are frustrated to learn that the “downtown” car rental collection point has moved and are now over a 30 minute walk away.  Today is a public holiday and taxis are scarce so we have little choice but to hoof it.  At least we see a bit of the French style city and the locals.  People are very dark with frizzy hair but although some of the youths look a bit intimidating they all seem friendly.  French is the main language here but the car rental people speak English.  We have a small Peugeot car the same design as Claire’s in England but left hand drive.  Steve soon gets the hang of the gears and we head off round the peninsula by Anse Vata then around the coast to join the main highway out.  Traffic calms down once we get out of the city and head off on the “southern loop”.  The island is quite mountainous and at the top of Mount Dore we stop and join the locals filling water bottles from a natural spring.  We are amazed by how green the island is and how many fords we have to cross with lots of flowing water.  There are great views from the Prony Col before we drop down to the ex penal settlement.  It is just a small village with fig trees growing over the jail building making it look very attractive.   We’d hoped to do the full southern circuit but time is passing quickly as the roads are either bed or through villages with 50kph speed limits so we opt to turn back.  Missing the ship would be a nightmare we don’t want to face.  Back in the city we explore the western headland to Nouville with a nice resort area and attractive huts out over the water.  Time for a quick city tour before returning to the ship.    The evening Rock N Roll party is really good with many of the crew dressed up as stars like Marilyn Monroe.

RCI RHAPSODY 4, NOUMEA

FRIDAY 12 NOVEMBER – Today we are on Espiritu Santo Island at the village of Lifou.  We catch the first tender ashore, too early for the village dance group to greet us.  A short walk takes us towards Lifou town where we see their unusual church with a kind of castle tower.  Doubling back we step into the forest to escape the worst of a quick downpour.  This leads us on a track down to the beach where we walk back then join the road in the other direction. Here the chapel of Lourdes is on a headland and reminds us of the one featured in “Mama Mia”.  The chapel is nothing special but we do get great views.  On the opposite side of the headland there is great snorkelling at Jenik Bay.  From a platform you walk down steps to swim a few metres to the coral area with nice fish.  By early afternoon it is getting busy with cruise passengers so we return to sit around by the ships pool.  The evening show is an Australia Liz Layton.  A rather large lady who fills the show with jokes about fat people and women’s problems.  She is hilarious but also has additional talents of being a singer.  She asks where people in the audience come from then sings a local song and gets some tough one including Lebanon.   The last part of the evening is the infamous “Quest” game show.  Our “Have a go” team have all done it before and are up for the challenge.  So many people want to participate that the rooms is split into 6 teams.  You have to race up with your team number and either take what is requested or perform the action such as making a 6 person human pyramid, a couple with one leg each in a man’s pair of trousers and the finale of a team member dressed up as a women.  We just can’t stop laughing and really enjoy ourselves and actually win.

RCI RHAPSODY 5, LIFOU

SATURDAY 13 NOVEMBER – It is mid day before we land at Luganville, one of the islands belonging to Vanuatu. This area was occupied by the Americans during the war so most of the people speak good English.  We are off really quickly and along with our trivia group try to find a car to take us out and about.  Negotiations are not going really well (they want $15 each to take us and return us from Million Dollar Point just 5km away) so I go off and try to negotiate a whole vehicle.  Solomon says he can take up to 10 people and accepts my offer of $100 for a 2 hour tour including the blue hole.  We quickly gather up others and make it 9 which is enough.  Solomon’s vehicle is a truck so 4 of the women go in the front whilst the 4 men and Gabi hop in the back.  Driving along we learn about life and customs on the island.  It’s interesting to hear that they are predominantly Catholics and celebrate Christmas with a dinner of chicken and flying fox (bat).  We pass a small blue hole where the locals swim and kids have fun jumping into the water from trees.

At the main hole ($15, £11) we all get out to swim.  It is a massive hole of the most beautiful blue water (mineral) and a delight to swim in.  We’re ahead of the main tour groups but notice how much busier it is when we leave 20 minutes later.   During the drive Solomon tells us more interesting things including the fact that the many island coconuts have numerous uses including fuel as the generators run on 30% coconut oil and 70% diesel.  Story has it that at the end of the war the Americans offered all the equipment to the resident British and French for bargain prices but they couldn’t or would not pay.  Consequently the Yanks built a jetty and drove everything off the end into the ocean.  This area became known as “Million Dollar Point” due to the value of the stuff dumped there.

Today some has been washed ashore whilst other things are about 20metres in from the beach and make superb snorkelling.  You can see boats, tanks, guns and all sorts with coral and fish all around.  Solomon drops us in the centre of Lugainville so we can walk back to the ship.  Only the souvenir shops are open but we do see lots of locals in costume and crafts.  The evening show is a mentalist “Phoenix Magic” and his performance is fascinating, he started out on Australia’s talent contest.  Tonight is tropical theme with ice carving by the pool and a midnight buffet to round it off.

RCI RHAPSODY 6, LUGANVILLE.

SUNDAY 14 NOVEMBER – Still on the island of Espiritu Santo we now anchor off shore from Champagne Bay, the location for the movie “Blue Lagoon”.  It seems that all the villagers have come down to either pose for photos in their local costume, sell souvenirs, cook up lobster or take you out in their canoe.  Everyone is extremely friendly and there is no pressure to buy.

The beach is beautiful soft white sand with some coral off shore for snorkelling.  Unfortunately it is another over cast day so we can only imagine how spectacular it would look on a sunny one.  We return to the ship for lunch crossing with the multitudes just going on shore.  Spend a pleasant afternoon relaxing in the solarium before the round of evening entertainment.  We almost miss the “Memory workshop” as we had forgotten about it.  Phoenix demonstrates how picturing things can help you remember lists and proves it when I am pulled up and go from barely remembering 7 items to recalling 11 quite easily.  The Blankety Blank game show becomes a real farce as the crew that have been selected to fill in the blanks have obviously never seen the programme and come out with the most ridiculous unpredictable irrelevant answers eventually leaving us all in stitches.  Our “Have a go” team are now joining up for almost all the quizzes and trivia so we have fun anyway.

RCI RHAPSODY 7, CHAMPAGNE BAY

MONDAY 15 NOVEMBER – Port Villa is the capital of Vanuatu and we are anchored on Wharf Road outside of town.  The minute we get through the port gates we are surrounded by people trying to sell us tours then having got through that we have the walk past all the market stalls.  It is further into town than we expected but we do get to see a bit of local life.  I’ve copied a walking tour from the Rough Guide and we begin at the market.  If you thought we were good using green bags instead of plastic carriers you should see the version they use here made out of leaves.  The islanders speak English and French plus lots of local languages but often converse in pigeon English.  We laugh when we see a mobile phone advert saying “Kredit Mi Kredit Yu. Askem mo Sendem Kredit lo any Digicel Mobael phone” – which we think means you can pay for credit to someone else’s mobile!  It’s hard to follow the tour as streets are not named and the buildings we do find are not outstanding but we get a good view from the hill and eventually succumb to the heat and humidity and get a $5 (£3) taxi ride back to the ship.  We’ve been taking our evening meal in the full service Edelweiss restaurant where the staffs is superb but the food often not quite up to standard (cold pasta, badly cooked steak etc).  We don’t want to feel we are complaining each time they as how the meal is so tonight opt for the Windjammer buffet.  Good move as you get most of the choices from the seated restaurant plus much more.  The show is Bruce Parker soul man, flown in from England.  This is just our kind of music and he goes down very well and gets a standing ovation.

RCI RHADSODY 8, PORT VILLA

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