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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Noumea, Mare, Port Vila Vanuatu

First day on shore tomorrow . . . .

29/04/16 Noumea

Thank God for the Chou Chou train and the wine and cheese tasting, at the Hyatt - as I am unsure what else you would do, if you did not go on the Segway tour through the Botanical gardens. . . . which is what Cameron did. And he thoroughly enjoyed the Segway process. He saw emu, flamingo, monkies, birds etc, 120 minutes. 

For brunch, I enjoyed the French cheeses and three glasses of French wines which were very enjoyable. (needed the slow scenic train ride back to sober up!)

 There are some really cool, sassy little French restaurants  in the Latin Quartier, which are vibrant and right on the water-front. . . though to me, most looked as if they have seen far better days.
You need to do a tour to see anything worth while.

In the brousse (bush), the local cuisine, consists of deer, shrimp, coconut, crab or wild hog and fruit salad. It reminded me of the local food in PNG.

The Bougna is the traditional kanak dish (Melanesian) being mainly of assorted tubers, fish, prawn (shellfish) and I chose the impressive lobsters which have been marinaded in coconut milk, simmered for hours in banana leaves, on the hot stones of the Kanak oven. 
For the more daring there are candlenut worms, a fat white worm tasting like hazelnuts, eaten raw or roasted! I
 did say for the more daring . . . and I chose not to be daring.

Central Noumea revolves around Place des Cocotiers, a large, shady square with landscaped gardens, a couple of blocks in from the waterfront.

The main leisure area where locals and tourists hang out lies south of the city centre at Baie des Citrons, and Anse Vata, with beaches, restaurants, and bars.
I do like the colonial ambiance, with the old wooden houses, ironwork decorations and flowering gardens of hibiscus and bougainvillea.. . .but it does look worn and tired. 
Returned to ship in late afternoon . . .Played trivia, watched a modern comedy, modern musical performed by crew about being connected on face-book. 
Had meal on deck while watching people doing acrobatics. 
Late evening walk around the deck. 

So far what I like and dislike about the cruise . . . .

Being able to travel when mobility is limited due to surgery.
Big room, with our own veranda, with rails . . . not closed in.
Not having to cook.
Not having to clean, make beds. Level of cleanliness throughout is high.
Plenty of quiet places to sit. Book swap.
Varied and good quality activities/shows throughout day and night.
Various places to eat, with great water views
Lounges out under the stars. Movies on deck.
Great cocktails.
Amicable crew.

When we first walked onto the ship it felt overused and some of the carpets felt old, but once the air-conditioning was turned on it felt better.
The occasional child making noise. (I think I have counted a total of 16 children )
In places the windows are dirty/corroded from the sea salt, partly obscuring the view . .
Long distances to walk between activities . . .( though I guess not everyone is limited as I am ). . .  also, there is no rush and the walk will help work off all the food.
Some people . . know it all's, who have been on a dozen cruises and have advice for you, whether you want it or not.
Expensive internet . . .
Attitude of some passengers who seems to believe the cruise is a mobile bar and drinking continuously is mandatory. 

30/04/16 Mare
Gorgeous, mainly untouched. No shops. Yah!!! Took the shuttle around to the other side from the port to a pristine beach with the clearest water I have seen, since leaving PNG. Drank a freshly shucked coconut and then ate the soft green flesh. Beautiful clean breeze. Cam and I both noticed a distinct lack of bird life . . . or should I say that throughout the entire day, not one bird was sighted. Weird!!! Couldn't find anyone who could understand our English . . . they all spoke French of their own language . . .we guessed the reefs are fished out and the birds no longer have enough to eat???
Had afternoon siesta, swapped our books in the Dome, listened to a 5 piece jazz band in the Atrium, had meal of grilled Atlantic Salmon in water view restaurant, and then watched The November man on deck, under the stars, sipping cocktails, until after midnight . . . and Cameron did not fall asleep.

1/05/16 7am, Cruised into Port Villa, Vanuatu this morning. I instantly fell in love. Slight mist between layers of land, which is a gorgeous emerald green, and so thick it looks like the Island is made up of lush moss. The sailing boats in the harbour look expensive, the architecture of the houses perched on waters edge are varied and interesting, creating a first impression of plenitude . . .we go ashore at 10am for the Island tour, and the glass bottom boat reef viewing, and then the sea food lunch. . . .30 minutes to relax.

Cameron and I both turned off our phones when we left home. Have not emailed or read a news paper, watched T.V, listened to the news - since leaving Brisbane . . .
We have avoided socializing with the other passengers, and have only joined in the activities which are entertaining, or fun but require little effort or interaction. . 
(Boo'd and clapped for Liar Liar between crew members and passengers. Made cocktails, watched stage shows, musicals, musicians using various instruments. . 
Avoided the Art show, Art auctions, Bingo and the team sports . . . . all in all, we have enjoyed a very relaxing time.)
Had a cruise around this lagoon.
Next is Isle of Pines and Mystery Island and then two days sailing . . . before we reach home. Feels like we have been away for months. Even Cameron is on his third book . . .
Download more pics later . . . . xxx

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ahoy there!

Landlubbers at Sea 

25 April -  7 May 2016
A quick morning flight from Brisbane to Sydney, and we are now here on board the Pacific Jewel ready to partake of the 'Afternoon delight' cocktail hour . . . . . and it is only 1.30pm.
The Ship should be leaving the port of Sydney at 4pm.
Getting through the pre-boarding was fine. There was a wheel chair for me to sit in, and to take me aboard, and after being shown to our room, we were ready to have a drink, followed by lunch, and then time to explore.
Our room looks spacious and definitely user friendly . . . here it is looking all pristine before we make a mess of it. (Will take another pic at the end, and I am sure it won't look like this . . .though, it will be cleaned twice every day . . so may remain habitable. ) We are fortunate to have a quiet cabin which is not underneath anything (which has the potential to be noisy - like pool, disco, dining room)

Will certainly appreciate having our own balcony and the view to the ocean.
Lets hope we have fair weather throughout. . .

We have bought along plenty of magazines, and books, and there is a great little mobile library which roams the corridors.
I am reading All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr, The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann, Martel,  and if I have time, A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman. . .

                                                                                                              I think we will be able to find somewhere to sit, and something to eat, whenever we feel we need a wee nibble - all with gorgeous views to the ocean.  Cameron and I do agree we miss the sea.    
'The Pantry' is a new concept for the ship. It has numerous outlets with food prepared as requested, which I think is far better than the previous all you can eat buffet. There are a variety of culturally diverse cuisines. They even have a place totally dedicated to deserts .  .which I must try . . .    I must!!!!
Oh! And another to salads. Which I will try, if I must!

Cameron has eyed off the hamburgers, and Pizza, and given them both, the meat to surface ratio test, and fully approves.

4pm - Sailing out through Sydney harbor was spectacular. We were going to view it from our own verandah to avoid the crowds on deck, but stayed and we did enjoy the party atmosphere. The Harbor is beautiful and it was dark before we were free of land.

Evening meal tonight in the waterfront restaurant, which as the name suggests is at the front of the vessel and has views to the ocean.

We have our own table near window, as requested. May socialize later, but for now Cameron and I are happy to have time to ourselves.  Will vary our meal time, and the venue, but tonight it was good to get in early before the room filled up.
May try The Pantry tomorrow night, and then have booked the SALT restaurant by LUKE Magnan.

Can it get much better than this? ( Ok, maybe it does not compare with 3 months travelling through France, Spain and an Italian cruise from Barcelona to Venice - but, here and now, there are No dishes to wash, no cleaning, and there is fresh sea air, entertainment and we have the Pacific Islands to explore . . .)

View of the land out the window.  . .which slowly disappeared as it got darker, to be replaced by a worthy sunset.

Not a bad start . . . . now to decide if we want to go see the evening entertainment which is The Blues Brothers . . .mmm? Or stay here on our own balcony enjoying the breeze and the briny smell of the sea.

Decided to go have a look . . . .

On the Friday before we boarded the ship, I went in for further testing regarding allergic reaction. After 28 injections into my forearms, of different medications, diluted to various strengths, it was discovered that I am highly reactive to antibiotics.
So one real positive, is that I am now back on my anti-inflammatory drugs,(Yah!!!!) Cortisone (not so happy!) and painkillers . . .Wooohooo!!! (Bring them on!) And as a result I am almost pain-free . .

Early days, but so far, there is nothing much to complain about . . .

Day One at Sea

Cameron is off learning how to SEGWAY, while I have a freshly brewed cuppa and do this post.
I am sitting in The Dome, a children free area which has the old world charm of a Gentlemen's club. Leather, potted palms, waiters in white, games like Marjong, chess, drafts, and a library, and expensive wifi.
There are four other people in here. I have a three seater leather lounge to myself, feet up with a huge bay window, with ocean view, mellow Blues music, and the promise of a delectable ice coffee when Cameron joins me.

Last night we watched a huge crowd dance to 80's music performed by a band, set up in the open, on the top deck under the stars. Then we watched a comedy production, before a stint in the Atrium listening to a duo sing love songs.

We are in a room right at the front of the vessel, on the 11th flour, so we feel and hear the waves crashing against the front of the Ship. It reminds us of being in Bougainville, PNG, when living on Madehas Island, Banu, Tinputz and Teaposino, which were all on the waters edge, and therefore subject to the oceans capricious nature. Neither Cameron or I suffer from sea sickness so the movement and noise is enjoyable. We left the veranda doors wedged open to enhance the experience. . . . had a good night sleep in a comfortable queen size bed, (Yah! do miss the king size!!) but waking to the sublime sunrise, viewed through full length sliding glass doors was Magical. . . . I could get used to this.
Had a huge breakfast in the Waterview restaurant, with white tablecloth and waiters. (Plenty of variety.) Then after watching a five person/instrumental Blues band, time in Dome, and a stint watching people learning to do line dancing, we had a lunch of Fish, Chips and Greek salad in the Pantry . . . self serve.
Should we try the bungy thingagamy thing?  Cameron may.
Me? Nahhhhh!

I'm not scared . . . It is only because I have seen The Little Mermaid a hundred times.Amazes me where all the people are . . .no one place is ever over crowded.
I think they must all be on deck and in the pool. Eventually we found them in The Orient Bar doing a Quizz . . .  while others were looking at the Jewellery and exercising.  
Found I do like watching the ocean. Yah! the bungythingamagigy can wait . . .this is more my style. At least until lunch time. . . and then after lunch we are going to learn how to make cocktails and drink them, and then we are going to a show called Liar, Liar . . .and if still awake, will see the adults only comedy show at 10.45pm . . .or lay on deck, in a lounge chair under the stars, while watching the movie Spectra. . . .decisions, decisions!!!! XXX
Tomorrow is Country and western day, so have nominated Cameron to do Line dancing . . .
The following day we make land and have booked to do a tour of Noumea and have lunch . . 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

2016 - Mixed reviews to date

After a very successful exhibition in November 2015, an extremely enjoyable Christmas, and New Year spent with family, and friends, at the Roo, and in Brisbane, Maleny, Stradbroke Island and the Tweed, I started 2016 with high hopes.. .  

I knew I had to have a total hip replacement operation end of January, to remove a growth and diseased acetabulum, and though I was not the least impressed, I was resigned to the process happening. . .so packed my bag and into hospital I went. . .  unfortunately, not to come out until I had experience two nights in Intensive care and another week on the ward. Yep!! And still no hip operation!
I experienced anaphylactic shock, and ended up intubated, and supporting a series of tubes pouring in copious quantities of Insulin, antibiotics and antihistamines.
I felt 10 times worse after the NON-Op than before I went in.
Now here we are towards the end of April, and still waiting for the hospital to release my, operation anaesthetic drug use list, so the Immunologist can re-test . . . . And for my system to get rid of the mast cells, and recover from heart attack.
So there will be more testing, to find what caused the severe allergic reaction. . . .but when?
Cameron and I had anticipated going on a river cruise in France, and then driving through Spain, to join a cruise from Barcelona across to Italy, ending in a week in Venice, and then home. This would have been to celebrate Cameron's second retirement (Sounds like the Second coming of *. And no there will not be another series of retirement parties!!!)
Being extremely unamused with all the hospital visits, blood tests, Dr's visits and waiting. (Pain in hip is unacceptable and lump is growing rapidly)  So some positive action is required . . . . . . (A table of friends here last Friday night were talking of their favourable experiences on recent cruises)  And I thought . . .why Not? . . .Looked on line, and by the Saturday was booked, and we are off next Tuesday . . .Cameron, is at this very moment, in trying to extend his Passport, as he didn't realize his was out of date . . . .Yep!!!! That is what happens when you are VERY spontaneous.
But bugger it!!!  Booked first one I could find... leaving the soonest.
Melanesian discovery, for 10 nights aboard the Pacific Jewel . . . mmm!!!! Not France, Spain or Italy, but it is on water, and I will not need to lift a finger for almost two weeks.
Melanesian Discovery Itinerary
No it is not something I had anticipated, but when you can't move much, it appears a great option.
Booked a Stateroom with Balcony, and have been informed that we have been 'bumped up' . . .sounds painful, but apparently it means we now have a mini suite, with a balcony -  so should be Ok!!
Cameron will be able to do all the exciting, energetic stuff, (Segway touring, deep sea fishing, golfing at Le'Meridian, Diving)  while I meander, and do the less strenuous activities like cocktail making, cheese and wine tour, discovering the Island food, sailing through the islands on a Catamaran, (again!) and trying snorkelling (again!!!)  
 So, if one must suffer and endure .. I am pleased it will be while sitting on my Balcony, looking at the beautiful blue Pacific ocean flow by.
p.S booked Luke Magnan restaurant, SALT for a couple of meals . . .Looking forward to that. Yum!!
Thank you to family and friends for ferrying me here, there, and everywhere, and for bringing untold quantities of coffee and taking me out for cuppas, and outings . . truly appreciated.
PSs . . . .have recently sold two more paintings, so all in all, and despite ALL, the year should improve, end on a high note.