Monday, October 29, 2007


Yesterday I went snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef. What an experience! The water was perfect (albeit salty) and after swallowing a few mouthfuls, I got the hang of it! The fish were up close and personal. The coral were amazing. I've seen pictures of coral but seeing the "real thing" is different. The colors ranged from white to blue to pink to red to--guess what--coral! The fish just swam up to my hands. I have no idea about the varieties of flora or fauna, but all were outstanding.

Today we are in Kuranda enjoying a mountain experience where the weather is cooler and less sticky. We leave OZ on November 1.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Palm Cove, Queensland in OZ

We are on the last leg of our journey having landed in Cairns, Queensland this morning. Part of the journey has been learning the language. Learning the "Aussie Accent" has been challenging. Cairns, in Aussie, is "Cans." Today I am driving a "Tyota" but yesterday I had a "Farlane" (aka, Fairlane). It takes a bit of time to understand the lingo. Now that we are getting ready to leave, we have our ears "on."

Cans is tropical and pretty. The beaches are clean; the sand is white; the skies are blue; and the water is aquamarine. The mountains in the background are covered with lush tropical plants filled with strange looking birds. The are signs on the road saying "watch out for kangaroo," but so far we have not seen any. I think the signs are akin to "watch out for deer" in the states becuase you never see any deer where you see the signs.

Tomorrow we'll take a 1 day trip to the Great Barrier Reef. I'm really excited. Our ship is supposed to have a small submarine so Chet will be able to see the critters up close and personal while I try some snorkeling. If I get a chance, I'll report about it next.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Legendary Ghan

We left the legendary train, The Ghan, last night. Three days and two nights of going back in time through some very remote territory in the middle of Australia. When someone says that "the outback" is remote, listen! It's more than remote! There's no water; there's are few critters; there are a lot of trees and termite mounds and not much else. It's interesting to see how remote, remote can be. From Adelaide to Alice Springs there are a few whistle stop towns. After Alice Springs, there's nothing for hundreds of kilometers.

In Alice Springs we took a helicopter ride to see the mountains rifts that shoot up at 40 degree angles from the landscape. The Outback was a sea at one point in time, so that now, hundreds of millenia after, there are convoluted patches of earth that have been upthrusted and eroded to form interesting mountains and valleys.

After Alice we cruised along in our Gold Kangaroo serviced sleeper car and lounge. We had a "butler" taking after our every needs and regular meals in the dining room. Travel on the Ghan is nice and easy.

In Katherine we took a "nature cruise" on the Katherine River and looked at fresh water crocodiles which are said to be harmless, unlike their salt water kin. We spied hundreds of rainbow bee-eaters, a colorful little bird, as well as crested cockatoos...birds are certainly different here. It was on the cruise that we saw our first ' Agile Wallaby.

We are now in Darwin, a tropical city in the northern part of the Northern Territory. It's hot and humid and summery. We head for the Great Barrier Reef tomorrow leaving behind fond memories of The Ghan, a train we have wanted to ride for 21 years!

Life is good.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Life on the Sun (Princess that is)

Life on the Sun Princess is sweet. First thing on my agenda each morning, after waking up, was walking on the deck for an hour. Here I rubbed elbows with the other "walkers" all of us trying to make up for the desserts that we had the day before. An hour of quick walking on the Promenade Deck equals about 3 miles. Some folks go to the gym everyday, but I liked being in the great outdoors where I could see and feel the ocean "up close" and perhaps catch sight of a whale or flying fish or maybe an albatross!

After my walk, it was time to clean up and go up to breakfast on the Lido Deck in the Horizon Court Buffet. Here I was greeted with thousands of choices to tempt me from my regime. I was successful in savoring fresh melon, pineapple and yummy yogurt each morning for breakfast. Other folks were leaving the buffet line with hand crafted omelets, heaps of bacon and piles of hash browns, while some stuck to cereal. No matter what you wanted, it was in the breakfast buffet.

After breakfast came the decision of what to do for the next two hours before the next "feeding" at lunch. The ship was filled with possibilities ranging from ballroom dance, bridge, golf, lectures, cooking demonstrations, bingo, crafts, to reading, embroidery, to that old standby of sitting on the pool deck enjoying the sun or swimming laps, to soaking in the hot tub...and so much more. There was also the possibility of just "loafing" as one passenger called it. She enjoyed sitting and looking at the folks and talking to people.

Some folks enjoyed a game of Trivia which seemed to be available three times a day. What started out as a minor game, became very tense after 30 days onboard the ship. The prizes were monumental too. For each winning segment, a coupon was given to the first place team. When ten coupons were won, they could be traded in for key rings or caps. I don't think they played for the prize as much as for the fun of it.

We were usually found in the Princess Theater where the lecturers "performed." Each sea day the 5 lecturers traded times to talk about their various topics. Chet was surprised by the following he had...about 400-500 passengers came to his lectures each day.

The lectures were a great way to meet people on the ship. Sometimes we would form dinner groups and continue talking through dinner an beyond.

After a hard morning of lectures or play, it was time for lunch. We had a choice of going to a formal lunch or back to the Horizon Court Buffet. We chose the buffet again. My lunch was simple, salad and a dessert. If I planned to fit into my clothes, I needed to eat stuff that was going to be good for me and not too fattening. As with breakfast, the luncheon bar was wonderful too. Late in the cruise we discovered that hamburgers were made on the poolside deck, so we had burgers a couple of days.

In the afternoon, we had to make more choices as to what we wanted to do. The morning choices were still available and usually a few other "things" popped up to spend our time. Life was never boring. Oftentimes we read or I would work on my pictures as I was determined to learn how to use Photoshop Elements better.

At 3:30 the dessert bar opened on the Horizon Court Buffet and if we were in the mood for more food, we often made the "arduous" trek to the elevator that took us to the 14th deck for fresh cookies, home-made ice cream and lots of other delights.

Then came cocktail time...then dinner. We always had dinner in a formal dining room where Alberto, our Head Waiter, made sure we were fed well (as if we had not been fed all day). Again, the choices were always good, but after a few days of 5 course meals, I decided that maybe 3 courses were long as one of the courses was dessert.

Dessert on a cruise ship is always a treat and the Sun Princess desserts were not an exception to that rule. I soon remembered that Princess' chefs made an excellent souffle, so every time souffle was on the menu, I had one...and 2 times when it was not on the menu, I had one. Alberto is a good head waiter!

After dinner came evening entertainment. Again, there was a range of choices from gambling at the casino to dancing, to live entertainment or viewing a recently released movie in one of the theaters or having after-dinner cocktails with your new friends. If there was live entertainment, I was there, so most of the time you would find me enjoying the dancers, singers, comedians, and magicians. The ship's dancers and singers were quite good too.

After the entertainment, there was still time to dance or talk or walk outside on the Promenade Deck...and there were always little cozy places where you could sit back and listen to the music. There's always music somewhere. I particularly enjoyed the pianists who played every afternoon and evening.

Finally, after a long, hard day of serious leisure and wonderful food, it was time to turn in and be rocked to sleep by the Pacific...and get ready to start another day on the Sun. Life is good on a cruise.

Then, all of a sudden reality hits...and we have to disembark the ship and leave our sheltered little cocoon! No longer are we rocked to sleep at night in the arms of the ocean; no longer do we have breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner at our beck and call; our own steward, Fernando, does not keep our cabin tidy; no longer does Alberto see after our every dining need. We are on our own...and that is where we are right now. We are "on our own" in Sydney, Australia. We are coping with "real life" as there are many things to do in Sydney. On the otherhand, we are also counting the days until we board the Pacific Princess in Tahiti in mid-December to start the decadence all over again!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Lovely Lahaina

We are definitely in the tropics! Now when you walk on deck you can feel the humidity. You can smell the heat. Tomorrow we start a 4 day voyage to Bora Bora where it will be even warmer and stickier.

Lahaina is one of the magical places in Hawaii. There is something here that makes you relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the area. The flowers seem to be brighter. The shaved ice is colder. The people are friendlier. Today we are sharing the port with another ship, NCLA's Pride of Aloha. While this makes for a crowded port everyone is so happy to be in Lahaina, there's not any complaining. This is the spirit that makes Lahaina, Lahaina.

We sat in the shade under a Kukui Tree and we looked at the tourists wander up and down the street with their treasures from Hilo Hattie and the Macadamia Nut Store. Being good tourists we had our treasures too. However, I must confess, I looked at the flowers far more than the people. It's hard to describe their beauty, so I captured some images that are just a shadow of their true being.