Updated: May 17
A sneaky sail away to the tropics as winter approached Australia. A new country for us, new experiences and new friends. That's what we love the most about our travels!
This was a win for us. A win to actually get onboard for this holiday. You see, we had quite a lot going on with our business,
and literally four times we said to ourselves that we probably won't make this trip.
The powers to be didn't prevail...we did;
and walking across the final gangway to the ship, was the best feeling ever.
That said, there were a couple of dramas ahead but we motored along happily,
regardless what may swing our way.
OKAY, so it may have been only seven or so weeks since we returned from The Maldives...
but this was a last minute change of plans.
You see, I had been planning, and TRAINING for what seems like forever now,
(actually about three years), for my epic journey to Nepal to trek to Everest Base Camp,
and to climb a mountain next to Everest, called Lobuche East Peak.
Lobuche summit ridge.
I had already postponed this trip once, for a year, due to Covid,
and this time I was completely on track for my April/May '23 assault...
all until I slipped over by the pool during our
December '22 cruise with the family to the South Pacific.
I hurt my knee something fierce, but not enough (I thought,) to be attended to on ship,
so I just hobbled on with a sore and bruised knee and a limp.
However, eight weeks after our return, I was at the doctor's surgery,
with a swollen and hot knee that hadn't recovered.
(Edit: 2 weeks after this trip, the specialist says I need a full knee replacement! Obviously the knee was worn, but this slip tore my meniscus. So, my point is here, I should've seen the doctor onboard and had it all logged.
Plus, as we were to find out in a couple of days, if the accident happened onboard,
there are no doctor's fees. My travel insurance may have then claimed all my cancellation fees for Nepal due to this. Don't be a hero. Get it documented.
This is why you buy insurance!)
Long story short, I made the call to postpone my Himalayan adventure for yet another year, as I needed to sort a few health issues out.
So here we were, with a 'gap left' in our travel calendar
(haha, now that we actually have one again),
so we came up with a relocation cruise from our home city of Brisbane,
to Honolulu, via Tahiti.
Ok, why not?
Never normally fans for many consecutive cruise days at sea, and this one had two looong stretches... but we bit the bullet as the price was pretty amazing, the destinations beautiful,
and our stress levels were soaring as we has a LOT on our plate.
So, as we thought our bucket list was definitely acting as the f**kit list at this time
of our lives, we booked this bad boy without a second thought,
and just hoped for the best with fingers and toes crossed that we'd be able to make it.
Needless to say, at times I was entertaining the prospect of asking a friend
to fill Trev's shoes as it looked like he couldn't make it on several occasions,
but honestly, at the end of the day,
there is no one I would rather travel with than my wingman.
All for one, and one for all.
And we made it.
Leaving Brisbane with smiles.
Always grateful, this time even more so.
Yeah baby, let's do it. Tahiti and Hawaii here we come.
And this time, we had chosen no drink package for the first time. Yikes.
As I like to inform in my writings as well as have a giggle, we had noticed the same prices that we saw onboard in Australia in December,
were indeed actually in US dollars,
which to us Aussies and our ever dodgy exchange rate, almost doubles the cost. (Last time we all had pre purchased packages,
so we never needed to bother about prices on board.)
The drinks package for the two of us on this trip for 17 days
was going to be almost the same price as the cruise.
And whilst Trev is not a big drinker, I, only the other hand, (ahem,)
may have been known to indulge in a few cocktails from time to time, lol,
so this time we ended up saving buckets just buying our own drinks as we went.
And also thanks to new buddies we made onboard,
who shared their free drinks allowance with us, (aka me),
it was a match made in cruise heaven. (Thanks Gab, x.)
Very grateful, as we always prefer being the ones to offer, rather than the other way around.
Next cruise = included drink package.
Yeah Leo, you know it!
That said, we have made friends for life, with new pals, Gabby and Christine.
Later on during the cruise, on sea days, we all met up most mornings for swims and spas,
...then teamed up most afternoons
for trivia and espresso martinis that had a shot of Baileys. OMG, next level yum!
Well, I had to get my caffeine in somehow, didn't I?
So now that we had seven days at sea before arriving in Tahiti,
we filled these days in with a lot of relaxing, reading, eating, trivia competitions, card games, dancing, sipping cocktails... ;) eating, dance shows -
(I even learnt 'The Hustle' after all these years!), comedy shows, sleeping, eating,
people watching, and yes, Trev napping. Bless.
This lad can sleep anywhere, anytime. (It wouldn't be a holiday blog without at least one Trev napping pic.)
Did I mention eating?
Sheesh, back to back holidays aren't conducive of managing one's waistline!
And whilst Trev's never one to make a fuss or even want it to be said,
I do choose to mention this, much to Trev's reluctance,
as it was a large part of our experience this time, poor Luv. Must admit, we've had a cracking good run so far!
However, his dodgy knee finally gave up the goods and threw in the towel
just two days into the cruise. Consequently, my wingman Trev, was in a wheelchair for most of the trip,
managing to use crutches when we went ashore in Tahiti,
but was determined to walk off the ship unaided when we were to finally
disembark in Honolulu. Which he did.
The down ramps, downstairs and getting on and off the tender boats were challenging,
but hey, we were still on holidays, and lucky to be so,
no matter what else gets thrown our way.
So apart from a couple of photos, I won't dwell on it.
All good. Didn't stop us from doing anything...just did it a little slower.
But hey, we're on a cruise ship - we blended in! :)
That said, we realised and experienced the beautiful side of humanity. Such kindness, consideration, empathy, courtesy...you name it. People show some beautiful colours. It was so noticeable, and appreciated no length.
(Second edit. Trev needs a new knee too! So we now have to stagger these surgeries,
so hopefully we still get to the UK on time in Sept/October!)
Crikey, we're a good pair, aren't we? LOL)
After five or so days in the wheelchair, Trev did give the crutches a test run the night before we got off in Tahiti, just to get used to them. Dress up night was the time to shine, lol.
Better late than never.
It was a welcome relief to arrive at these tiny isles in the middle of nowhere.
Even the Captain's morning and riveting (not) announcement,
saying that it was 'pretty cool' that we managed to find the place - made me giggle.
A friend at home told me that I must get up early as it is staggeringly beautiful
sailing into this lush, tropical, volcanic paradise at dawn.
She wasn't wrong. (Thanks Gilly.)
Whilst the lighting wasn't great, this is the best my phone could manage. Wait till the photos later once we landed here. This is the island of Moorea. Our first stop, opposite this sight, was to be Papeete,
the capitol of Tahiti.
When we first started cruising, we would purchase shore excursions from the ship. (Sometimes it's best, like we did in Russia a few years ago.) We have since wised up, and we'll either buy something online before hand,
or just be happy to simply go ashore and find a local tour guide,
or even locate an on/off bus to jump on.
Not always successful, as I was to find out later on in Hawaii,
but today was great, and we were met at the dock by a plethora of tour buses and choices, and happy French speaking Tahitians who were more than willing to relieve us of our
Pacific francs, US dollars, or swipe our Visa card.
A four hour, five stop, round the island bus tour was what we managed to grab for
$50USD each, amidst a crowd of other travellers, all with the same idea as us. It was a good thing we got off early, as the tickets were selling like hotcakes,
consequently we didn't have to wait long for our bus to depart.
Just a local bus really, not a fancy coach like the ship shore excursions had,
but thankfully it was air conditioned, and our local guide was wonderful and very informative.
We cruised around and basically saw all we could along the coast road -
black volcanic sand beaches, the lighthouse, a blow hole that I renamed the' no-blowhole' ;) - giant waterfalls, the beautiful 'Grotto de Maraa' with its underground aqua lake,
and a tropical water garden park. A lovely way to spend the day in this island paradise, once you got out of the city.
And then back into town for some local brew and chow. And tapas, in French Polynesia!
Who'd have thought?
That evening we left for the neighbouring island of Moorea,
and I was so excited about snorkelling there in it's famous lagoon.
Even more excited that we will be swimming with stingrays and sharks! The sharks are friendly here. So they say...
Entertainment tonight onboard was a local group of stunning,
and immensely talented Tahitian dancers,
and boy, could they shake their booties! Wow.
No wonder the sailors of the Bounty mutinied and wanted to stay here. Some of the girls are absolutely drop dead gorgeous.
The following morning saw us having to catch the tender boats ashore,
and find the first of two tours I had previously booked from home,
as I was super keen not to miss out on the stingray/shark encounter. (Another tip from my friend, Gilly.) This was a two day stopover so we had plenty of time.
I'll add though, there were heaps of tours offered from the shore,
and cheaper than what I bought online, so if you visit here,
just get off the ship early and you'll find a tour. They even sell them from where we were yesterday in Papeete.
But first, a little selfie with some local talent, I mean Jason Momoa, I mean tour guide... It's not just the girls who are cute here. :) (And I'm not standing in a hole either. He was literally crouching down too.)
He wasn't our guide. :(
This was our tour guide.
He was soooo funny.
It ended up being a small boat that picked us up, with just about 8 passengers,
which was really cool compared to some of the other crowded boats we saw.
When I booked this, I did tick the box saying 'English speaking',
but that went by the wayside, as we were the only English speaking couple onboard,
and the only ones from the ship. Everyone was French. So we did a lot of smiling and nodding. The boys did translate when they needed to.
The two blokes operating it seemed at first a little backyard-ish,
but in the end we had quite an authentic experience. Right down to the local fruit from their back yards, home cooked cakes,
and home brewed rum that was so strong, it made your toes curl! Check out their improvised glassware!
They took us to where we watched dolphins surfing in the small waves,
we swam with giant turtles whilst listening to drums beat from the beaches,
enjoyed some local cuisine in a waterside restaurant,
where everyone spoke French around us, much to our and their amusement. Smile and nod.
Then the highlight was at the end of the day, where we (and a whole bunch of others)
got to swim with the stingrays and reef sharks. The rays were super friendly, as the guides would feed them, even though they weren't supposed to, and the sharks hung around, but were a lot more shy.
Even a tropical downpour didn't dampen our spirits.
And the best part?
Trev jumping in!
That was the easy part. Climbing back up the ladder onto the boat was never going to be easy,
but there was no way he was going to watch all this from the boat.
A real highlight!
Onya Darls! Great job.
These overwater bungalows were sadly derelict. Bloody Covid.
Day two on Moorea saw us go ashore again, and be met by our
tour guide for the day...Frank, of Franckyfranck tours . Without a doubt, after all the touring we've done, this guy by FAR,
is the best we've ever had for a day tour.
SOOOOOO funny. So knowledgable.
I'm shaking my head as I write this, thinking of all the funny stuff he shared with us.
We had two cars, open top 4 X 4's, like a safari, and we just had the best time.
Went further and experienced more than I thought when I booked this.
Saw plenty, learnt heaps, laughed a lot, tasted great ice cream, and Trev got to walk on his crutches up to the top of 'Magic Mountain', for the best view of the coastline.
A brilliant day.
The videos of Frank still crack me up.
Check out the video of the little plant that closes up when you touch it.
Frank named it the 'Sonia plant', after his ex girlfriend. Too funny.
If you ever come here, you MUST book his tour.
The 'Sonia Plant'...
Our ice cream entertainment. It reminded me of the time my then six year old son played the recorder,
actually two of them, out of each nostril, at the same time. Boys will be boys. x
So now it's time to bid au revoir to this little piece of paradise, and sail away,
this time due north, over the equator, towards Hawaii. We crossed the International date line a few days ago, actually gaining an extra day. We had Saturday A, then Saturday B, which was a little trippy.
Better than losing a day coming the other direction!
There's something magical and celebratory about a sunset sail away,
and even more so in this stunning location.
The sunset, the music, the vibe, the friends, all make it so memorable.
Cheers, Big Ears.
Sunsets roll into sunrises!
I woke super early the following morning as the colours flooded into our room. Astonishing.
We saw quite a few shows during this voyage, and one that stood out to us,
was this entertainer named Steve Larkins. He performed a Freddie Mercury Tribute Show called 'Mercury Rising',
and besides being great vocalist,
he was utterly hilarious, taking this p*ss out of everyone in the front rows, as well as himself, with his fabulous dentures. He's a Kiwi, so if you're in New Zealand, look out for his shows.
So this journey sees us experience two nautical milestones...
crossing both the International Dateline and the Equator.
We have previously have flown over, driven over and walked across the Equator, so we have now added one more to the Equatorial trifecta, by sailing across her. And there is a ritual that goes with it. Apparently we were known as Pollywogs, but now we are Shellbacks. We even received certificates acknowledging our milestone!
We got off easily. Some crew members didn't fare so well.
They had an hilarious ceremony by the pool,
where they dragged numerous crew members up who were 'Pollywogs',
and they had to 'kiss a large fish' as well as have beer poured over their heads,
raw eggs cracked on them,
then sloppy food poured over them and down inside their shirts. All in great fun.
There's always something happening onboard.
The following day was Anzac Day.
To those reading who aren't familiar with the significance of this day,
it's a commemorative day for Australian and New Zealanders,
acknowledging all who have served and particularly those who have given their lives in wars,
but specifically this date, marking the anniversary of a dreadful battle at
Gallipoli, Turkey during WW1.
We always get up for a dawn service, on April 25, and being at sea was no different.
It was a very moving ceremony indeed.
But what a day this day turned out to be.
I debated whether or not I would add this to my story, but it did impact all of us onboard,
so at this stage, I'll include it.
A very shocking and sad event happened around 11pm that night.
As we were leaving an auditorium after what was a very funny show, we heard over the PA system: "Oscar, Oscar, Oscar, Port Side." Three times in a row.
To which our friend Gabby said immediately, "Omg, I think Oscar is code for overboard."
She was right. Someone had gone over.
All hell broke loose.
Staff and crew running, passengers worried, people getting in the way. As we were on deck five at the time, we got out the way and went up to deck 15
to see what was happening.
We saw twinkling lights in the water, but away in the distance, and I remember remarking to Trev that they must have gotten the rescue boats in the water pretty damn quick!
They weren't boats. They were the buoyant life rings, that had lights on them.
Crew threw those over immediately, so as the boat slowed, turned around and came to a halt, the rings indicated location, as well as the current.
It was very eerie seeing them floating past the ship, empty.
After about half an hour, the call came out, asking all passengers to go back to their staterooms, and account for every member of their parties. I recall one lady arguing with a staff member saying;
"I'm with my husband, why do I have to go back?" I just said to her,
"Just go to bed. It's late. Let them do their job."
By the time we got back to our room, the ship had turned and we could see the rescue boat out there in the dark, with the ship's spotlight trying to help. The ocean was relatively calm thankfully, as it would've been just dreadful and dangerous to do this in heavy seas.
Didn't help that there was no moonlight either.
It was a creepy feeling, standing on our balcony, the ship still, just bobbing,
in the middle of the pitch black ocean. You'll see how impossible it is to see on the ocean on such a dark night. I took this from our balcony.
Eventually we heard a voice come through the speakers in our room, asking;
"Would Warwick Tollemache please contact guest services immediately." This was repeated over and over.
That's when we realised that's the name of the person who went over.
I thought I'd wake the next morning and we'd still be idle,
but I woke during the night and was surprised to see that we were under way again.
I did however, before going to bed, text all our kids back home, to say that we were ok,
incase they heard it on the news when they got up.
The following morning was very sombre onboard.
No-one knew anything, and a lot of stories and rumours were flying around. We learnt more by watching a news story that was live from back in Australia.
We were all curious to know more. What happened? Maybe he had been found? We hadn't a clue. I don't think the Captain's announcement came until late morning.
There wasn't much he could say, other than they did everything they could,
and are helping the family of the man who was travelling with him.
How utterly devastating for them. And so far from home.
So so sad.
So weird to carry on. But that's what you need to do. We'll never forget.
But that's all I can say about it. Still not sure if I'll leave this in or not.
We had one last day at sea before we were to arrive on the Big Island of Hawaii,
There was a 70's theme tonight, and whilst we often would bail by this end of the cruise...
not this time. Go hard then go home we reckon.
We rocked, or should I say 'disco'ed',
long and hard with our new friends.
It went off like a rocket, the crew all dancing with fabulous costumes, and choreography,
and the Village People songs just bringing the house down. I'm posting this video, as much for our friends on board, and just us, it was such a fun night. One of the best nights we've ever enjoyed on a cruise ship. That's our Cruise Director as the cop, and his assistant director as the raunchy cowboy. I'm even dancing in the crowd. :)
We are still singing 'In the Navy' around the house...but ad libbed to 'Chips and Gravy'...lol I'm thinking now we should have a 70's disco themed party at home now...
Before leaving Australia, I had researched all different tours that we could do on this
Big Island. I really wanted to get up and see the volcano.
I had entertained the idea of booking a helicopter tour of the whole island,
but it was hugely expensive, and what if the weather was crap?
The cruise plan was that we should be able to go ashore by 8.30am,
if we managed to get an early tender ticket.
Well that went out the window, as the US immigration was boarding, in their own time,
and the whole ship had certain allocated times to line up to be processed. And I mean the whole ship, crew included.
Some floors weren't listed to go through this until after 1.30pm!
This really pissed people off, as that blew off any chance of getting a tour.
By the time we got ashore, it was around 12.30pm, and even though the Captain had extended our stay till 8pm instead of the previous 5pm,
there was little for us to do there other than to walk up and down the main street,
pop into shops, or go to a bar or restaurant.
Very glad we didn't book that heli flight!!
We did however, run into some people at the end of the day,
(actually people we have known on the Gold Coast for years - small world)
and they did manage to get off early and onto a pre booked helicopter flight,
but the weather over the mountain was poo and they couldn't get over the volcano after all.
That would be a real bummer, and it was well over $1000 per person.
Never one to dwell, we got amongst what we could;
I got a cute meet and greet with some beautiful parrots,
and we had a delicious lunch with a beautiful view.
We LOVE clam chowder, so it was amazing to see it on a menu after all these years. (Australia does a seafood chowder, but just clams are so much better.)
Oh, and a Tuscan lemon drop martini. My fave.
Food with a view!
Wandering back, not really wanting to return to the ship quite yet,
we found another bar where we thought we'd just park it
and people watch for a while.
That was until we saw the menu, and it had the world famous clam chowder,
from the Old Fisherman Grotto recipe! We first had that in San Fransisco, back in the late 80's,
and have never tasted a finer one since. So, like piggy little Hobbits ordering 'second breakfast', we had 'Second lunch' instead.
When in Rome, hey?
And maaaaybe another cocktail?
So we made the most of the afternoon. Last day onboard, as we dock in Honolulu in the morning.
We had booked only one night in Waikiki, so we were keen to get off fairly early. A little bit of packing, then one last dance with the cover group 'Switched on Band',
who played up a storm during this cruise, we absolutely loved them.
That's us up the back (circled) in the group insta shot.
And it's time to go.
Well, just off ship.
We still have 24 hours left - let's see what we can fit in.
And you know us by now, we'll pack it in for sure.
It took FOREVER to get off the ship and out of the terminal, but cool that we were sharing a cab with our cruise buddies, Christine and Gabby, as we were both staying in Waikiki...
the girls for three nights, us only one.
We were originally looking at staying four nights over on Kauai,
but it all became too much,
so we thought we'd just capitalise on this great deal we had for the cruise,
and look at coming back and doing Hawaii properly some other time.
So, just one night in the Outrigger Waikiki Beachcomber Island Resort,
which was centrally located,
and yes, I pulled the whole 'I'm a travel blogger card' out,
and scored an ocean view upgrade to the 18th floor.
But we were hardly going to be in the room at all,
on this limited time schedule, so we dumped our bags,
(as we couldn't get into the room till after 3pm),
and headed out onto the main drag to jump on one of their On/Off Trolley buses.
They had three different routes, and as we only had time for one, we chose the blue route,
as it was the most scenic,
hugging the shoreline for a two hour circuit.
Here I was filming the rugged coastline, only to score the blowhole at the end as a bonus. Didn't even know it was there. Great timing, hey?!
Once the circuit had completed, and we were back in Waikiki,
we had to go and have a bite and a bevy at the legendary 'Duke's'.
Ideally located with the famous Waikiki Beach in front, with all it's glorious sights,
(yeah, hey Trev?),
but we couldn't find a table, however, luck would have it, and we ran straight into our
Gold Coast friends who did that heli flight yesterday.
I think they were onto possibly their fourth round of drinks, and had already eaten,
but as the good, hospitable Aussies that they are, they stayed on for some more with us!
Here, I ordered a cocktail, maybe more than one, called a Lava Flow.
Oh my word. Strawberry, coconut milk, and rum is all I read.
It was like a grown up's strawberry milkshake.
Didn't even touch the sides.
Great BBQ wings and burgers, the all American fare you'd expect, and we loved it.
The late afternoon saw us at the only place you needed to be. The beach for the sunset.
But not before a little crazy hat shopping.
Yeah, I know, another sunset...but apparently they had been having heaps of rain lately,
so we scored a brilliant day of weather, for our only day in town.
We got lucky.
It was a most memorable few hours, and we soaked up every last second of it.
And check out these before and after pics',
of when we were first in Hawaii 34 years ago, to now!!!!
And lastly, us. Haven't changed a bit, hey???!!!! LOL
And that's a wrap.
What a full on three weeks.
I honestly didn't think I had that much to write about, but yeah,
I like to type,
and I love to chat.
Just ask Trev.
Back home now to get our knees and such sorted,
before we hit the UK in September.