February 20-24, 2012 – Sea Days en route to Australia
Ok, so here’s the deal. Sunday night, after leaving Samoa, we crossed the international dateline, and lost Monday. Most of you who know me, know that I am a fairly logical guy – ex systems analyst, computer programmer, amateur deal maker, etc. But I must confess to extreme confusion on this dateline deal. I have had it explained to me many times and when I look on a map and am told that when we cross this line, we lose a day – I got it. But as a practical matter, what happened to the day? When I crank up the internet it is President’s Day, but for me it is Fat Tuesday. Someone on the ship said we get a whole bunch of 25 hour days (setting back our clocks almost every night) and then we have to give them back all at once. Well, that is just as clear as mud. I guess I will just accept it and move on, with the realization that I am now a day ahead of you all until we get back
In Samoa, the CEO of Holland America, Stein Kruse and his wife joined the ship to accompany us to Sydney. Apparently this is a tradition on these world cruises as he joins the cruise each year to thank his customers and give everyone an update on future cruise itineraries. Also, his presence coincides with the “big party” of the cruise. They have sail away parties, penguin parties, equator parties, but this is the big party and is set to be a Mardi Gras party. Extensive construction has been underway to convert the area around the pool on the Lido deck into a riverboat. Large amounts of hammering, drilling, sawing and painting with gold, purple and green are underway.
The Lido Decorated
The Captain & the Hotel Manager
The Winslows, the Lyles, and the Saunders
Sally and Marcia
The ship went all out for the Mardi Gras party, flying in several people from New Orleans, including a jazz band, a street magician, and a fortune teller, all of whom joined us in Samoa.
The entire crew was in costume, including the Captain. They had named a “King & Queen of Mardi Gras, held a grand parade around the deck which was ringed in food stations offering lobster, roast beef, jambalaya, shrimp, oysters, ribs and ham, all with dirty rice on the side. It was indeed a grand blowout!
There was an open bar for 4 hours for 1000 passengers – not an insignificant contribution by Mr. Kruse.
Mr. Kruse (excellent name for his job, by the way) gave a presentation to a packed house in the main show room and did a great job fielding questions of all types from serious ones, such as “what has HAL done to prevent an incident such as Costa had?” to frivolous ones such as “the carpets need cleaning on Deck 1”. The most common question was “why is the internet so slow?” and the answer was probably accurate, but unacceptable. He says they pay $30,000 per month for internet access, just for this ship – but my feeling is they should buy more access, and charge for premium, high speed access. I would pay.
The day before arriving in Sydney we pass a phenomenon in the middle of the Pacific. Out of nowhere, suddenly there are these stark volcanic peaks jutting up out of the Pacific. They are huge volcanic mountains, steeply rising from the ocean and with no access harbor or beach access. The most prominent is called “The Ball’s Pyramid” of the Lord Howe Islands. After the emergence of a volcano from the sea floor, it must take millions of years for reefs, beaches, and harbors to develop from life on the slopes.