Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Monday, 11/11/13 Auckland

Monday, 11/11/13 Auckland

Took the hop-on/hop-off bus; two lines, a Red Line for near sites, and a Blue Line for sites farther out.  The Red Line started right outside the ship at the Ferry Building.  Its first stop was at Bastion Point Lookout, which had nice views of Hauraki Gulf and Waitemata Harbor.  This site also had a statue of Michael Joseph Savage, a Prime Minister of the 1930s.  The bus then went to the sea life aquarium, which I did not visit.  Stop 3 was the Parnell Rose Gardens, where dozens of rose bushes were in bloom; I took photos from the bus.  Stop 4 was the Holy Trinity Cathedral; I went there later, but did not get off the bus at this stop.  Stop 5 was the Auckland Museum, where I got off the bus to take photos and also to change buses to the Blue Line.

At the Auckland Museum, one could also visit the Winter Gardens, an indoor flower garden, which I did not visit; this was the first stop on the Blue Line.  Stop 2 on the Blue Line was the Eden Gardens, a former quarry that is now a beautiful garden.  It reminded me of the Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, only not as nice.  The bus then went by Mt. Eden, with views over the city, but I did not climb the 300 meter hill.  The bus passed by Eden Park, the 60,000 seat stadium for cricket and for the All-Blacks rugby team.  Stop 4 on the Blue Line was the Westfield Shopping Center, which I did not visit; Stop 5 was the Auckland Zoo, again, which I did not visit; and Stop 6 was the Museum of Transport and Technology, which I did not visit.

Back at the Auckland Museum, I visited the museum shop and then reboarded the Red Line bus for the second half of its loop.  The first stop (Stop 6) was Parnell Village, where I got off the bus.  Parnell Village is a row of old Victorian houses that has been renovated and converted into shops and cafes.  It is very pretty, and I walked along and took photos.  I stopped into a very pretty little café/gelateria for a sandwich and gelato.  I then reboarded the bus for one final stop, at the top of Queen Street, where I got off to walk down Queen Street all the way back to the ship.

Queen Street is the main street of Auckland.  It is a very busy street filled with large department stores and small shops.  Along with many modern buildings are many buildings dating from the early 1900s.  It is a very interesting street, and I enjoyed walking along taking photos.  At the top of Queen Street, where I got off the bus, was the Auckland Art Gallery in a very interesting building, as well as the Civic Center and two major theaters.  I also stopped at the beautiful Holy Trinity Cathedral for photos.

As I discovered on the bus loops, Auckland is filled with old Victorian homes.  These homes are constructed of wood, with corrugated metal roofs.  These houses have withstood many earthquakes and seem to be well suited for withstanding earthquakes.  These houses are very pretty and seem to be well-kept.  It is very striking to see so many of these houses in such a modern city.  Auckland is New Zealand’s one large city, with a population of about 1.5 million.  It is a very modern city, filled with large, modern skyscrapers and a tall TV tower building, like many cities in Asia.  Auckland is also New Zealand’s largest port, with many container ships being loaded and unloaded.

After returning to the ship, I went back into a nearby café to use the Internet for 30 minutes, their limit.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Sunday, 11/10/13 Tauranga and Mt. Maunganui, New Zealand

Sunday, 11/10/13 Tauranga and Mt. Maunganui, New Zealand

The ship docked in the small town of Mount Maunganui, and Tauranga was another 10 minute drive from there.  The population of Tauranga is about 120,000; it is New Zealand’s leading export port and the fastest growing provincial area in New Zealand, tripling is size in the past 20 years.  Nearby, Rotorua is the oldest and best known resort city in New Zealand, with thermal pools used for relaxation by many New Zealanders.  However, these thermal pools have the smell of hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs).

Took the Hop on/Hop off bus, which had stops in both Mt. Maunganui and Tauranga.  Got off the bus in Tauranga and walked the two streets in the downtown area.  As it was Sunday, many of the stores were closed, and really none of the stores held much interest.  The little town area was beside the bay, and a boat show was being held; however, there was a charge for admission, and I did not enter.  After walking for an hour, I reboarded the bus and returned to Mt. Maunganui.

Mt. Maunganui is a typical beach resort town.  There is only one “main” street filled with shops and cafes.  Every shop was open, and it seemed that most of the people from the ship as well as many townspeople and other visitors were there, browsing and enjoying the warm sunshine.  After walking the length of the street, turned toward the beach area to walk along the beach, which was very pretty and very pleasant.  It was filled!  I am assuming that most of the people at the beach were either local residents or New Zealand visitors; I doubt that anyone from the ship was at the beach.  After walking the length of the beach, turned back toward the ship, stopping at an ice cream shop that made its own waffle cones.  They would not take Australian or American money, so I got change at a shop next door, exchanging a $20 Australian for $20 New Zealand.  The woman expressed surprise that I would make an even exchange as the Australian money was worth more; however, I didn’t mind.  I did not want to go to an ATM machine and get $100 because the following day would be the last day in New Zealand.  The ice cream was very tasty as I walked along the beach back toward the ship.  This beach was in a different bay, and as the water was very shallow, it was filled with families with very small children.

Saturday, 11/09/13 Napier

Saturday, 11/09/13 Napier

The ship was in Napier only until 2:00 p.m., and “all aboard” was at 1:30.  Napier is called the “Greatest Art Deco City in the World”, and I wanted to walk the city and take photos of the buildings.  The British Museums Association says, “Napier represents the most complete and significant group of Art Deco buildings in the world, and is comparable with Bath, England, as an example of a planned townscape in a cohesive style.“

On February 3, 1931, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 on the Richter Scale completely leveled the town of Napier, leaving on a couple of buildings standing.  The town decided to rebuild using steel reinforced concrete to protect against the devastation of future earthquakes.  To decorate the plain buildings, the town decided to incorporate a new building style of that time, Art Deco, which had become popular at the Paris Expo of 1925.  This new style made use of pastel colors and decorative sunbursts, lightening bolts, zigzags, and stars -- a happy, playful art form.

As time was limited to only a few hours, I did not want a guided tour.  I wanted to go at my own pace, stopping to take photos of each building, and then read and learn about the buildings later when I had more time.  Fortunately, the information center had a map of the city with a brief explanation of each of the Art Deco buildings.  The day was sunny and cool, perfect for walking and taking photos, and I walked at a quick pace to cover as much as possible.

The town was aware that the ship would be arriving with 2000 passengers wanting to see the city, so volunteers were available to answer questions.  In addition, a local collector of antique automobiles put on display 10-12 automobiles from the 1930s era, and ladies dressed in 1930s costumes poses for photos with the cars.  The ship was in Napier on a
Saturday, when the local food market was held, adding to the ambience and color of the occasion.  I spent my entire time walking and taking photos, returning to the ship just before “all aboard“ time.  It was a great day in a very pretty small town.

Friday Evening, 11/08/13 Fire on the Ship

Friday Evening, 11/08/13 Fire on the Ship

After my day in Wellington, New Zealand, I returned to the ship with a headache, and I decided not to go to the dining room for dinner, but to get a hamburger at the grill and eat in my room.  By 8:30, my headache was worse, and I went to bed.  About 9:00 p.m., I heard an announcement in the hallway, something about the Princess Theater; announcements are made in public areas, including hallways, all the time, and these announcements usually regard sales on the ship or entertainment on the ship.  When an important announcement is made by the captain of the ship, it is made very loudly inside the rooms.  So when this announcement was made, I assumed it had something to do with entertainment.  After another 10-15 minutes, the captain made an announcement in the rooms, informing everyone on the ship that the fire alarms had sounded at a certain part of the ship on the deck below the Princess Theater, and that staff were checking the situation out.  He asked everyone on the ship to return to their rooms, but to take no further action until further notice.

About 10 minutes later, my cabin steward suddenly banged loudly on my door and then opened the door with his master key, and said loudly and urgently that I should get dressed, take my jacket and my life vest and report to my muster station as quickly as possible.  He repeated his instruction urgently and said to hurry.  So that is what I did.  The temperature outside at that point was about 40 degrees, and I knew that the life boats were open air boats, so it would be cold in them.  I quickly slipped on two sweaters that I had brought with me and my jacket, picked up my life jacket, and stepped out into the hallway.  I smelled smoke very strongly and realized that I was on the 10th deck, and the fire was on the 6th deck, so it must be an important fire that the crew had not been able to deal with and it must be strong enough to send smoke up four floors.  I realized that the situation was urgent.

The stairs were packed with people, and the move down the stairs to the muster station was very slow; many people on this ship are quite old and many are quite infirm and move very slowly.  I patiently made my way to my muster station on the 7th deck, and showed my room key to be scanned in; I was given a sticker to put on my jacket showing that I had checked in.  The room was packed, standing room only.  People were very concerned and talked among themselves as they waited for further instructions.

Fire is the greatest hazard at sea.  Fire can spread quickly and smoke even more quickly.  In fires, people usually die of smoke inhalation rather than the fire itself.  Time is needed to get the lifeboats ready and get all the passengers into the lifeboats -- and smoke can travel very quickly.

After a few minutes, the captain announced that the fire was an electrical fire and it had been completely brought under control.  He said that everyone should stay at their muster stations while the crew checked other electrical “panels” to make sure that the fire had not spread, and that the danger had been completely controlled.

At that point, the crew began to check the computerized “roll call” to make sure that everyone on the ship had been accounted for.  A senior officer at my muster station asked if anyone had not checked in and obtained a “sticker” when they entered the muster station, and many hands went up.  Crew then methodically went to each of those passengers to check them in by hand; the electronic “check-in” process evidently had failed in some cases, and in some cases, passengers had not brought their room keys with them.  This process took quite a bit of time.

Some passengers were still not accounted for, and the senior crew member then began to announce names and room numbers of missing passengers.  Some of those passengers were present in the room, and they were checked in.  Others were not present, and a search went out for them.  Finally, all passengers in my muster station were accounted for except one.  There are several muster stations on the ship, and this process was conducted at each of them.

The captain then announced the name of that one passenger still missing and asked him to make himself known to any crew member; he was quickly located.  Then the captain announced that the fire was completely under control and all passengers could return to their rooms.  The total time at the muster station was about an hour, and passengers were relieved to be reassured by the captain.

By the time I had returned to my room, I was in terrible pain from my headache.  It was very severe, so severe that I wondered if I might have a stroke.  When I returned to my room, I fell into bed immediately and soon fell asleep.  My headaches are usually the same -- sharp pains in and around my left eye that make me feel very nauseated.  They can be quite severe at times, although this time was the worst I could remember.  Happily, this morning as I write this, my headache has subsided.

Later, I thought of what the scenario might be if a fire occurred in the middle of the Tasman Sea.  This fire occurred while the ship was a mile from shore and could easily move even closer, and in very calm seas.  What would happen if a fire occurred two days from land and in very rough seas, with waves 25 feet high and high winds.  I do not believe that the little life boats could withstand such conditions; I think they would soon capsize or fill with water and sink.  Such possibilities make one pause about going on another cruise ship, particularly in rough waters or far from shore.

Friday, 11/08/13 Wellington, New Zealand

Friday, 11/08/13 Wellington, New Zealand

The ship pulled into the harbor just before 8:00 a.m. in heavy fog and mist, so heavy that I was not able to see the city from the ship.  The fog had begun the previous evening at sea, and it was still there in the morning.  There was no Internet service, as the signal from the satellite was blocked by the heavy fog.  There was no need to hurry, as I would not be able to leave the ship until the fog dissipated somewhat.  The port lecturer had said that volunteers would be available in the port terminal building, so after breakfast, I went there to talk with them about possible options for the day.  I had planned a walking tour, but the volunteers told me that only one would be available, at 10:00 a.m., and as it was 9:30 by then, and the fog had still not lifted, that was not an option.  At 11:00, I decided to take a taxi around.

Wellington is very pretty, built on reclaimed land in a bowl surrounded by mountains, with houses up the sides of the surrounding mountains.  The fog seemed to be lifting, so the first stop was Mt. Victoria on the south side of the bowl.  Usually the views from Mt. Victoria are spectacular, showing the city located at the base of the surrounding bowl of mountains.  I was able to get a few photos, but the fog was still pretty heavy.  After Mt. Victoria, the taxi went to the studios where the Lord of the Rings movies were made.  The Lord of the Rings was the first big movie made by the director, although he had made one previous smaller movie.  He is from New Zealand, and he has now funded the development of many buildings in the city, including the vast expansion of his studios.

Next, I went to the Parliament buildings, called the Bee Hive because of the appearance of the building, and then to Old St. Paul’s Church, the Anglican Cathedral Church of Wellington from 1866, when it was constructed, until 1964, when a new cathedral replaced it.  St. Paul’s Church is one of New Zealand’s greatest historical places and is one of the finest examples of timber Gothic Revival architecture in the world.  Many of the older buildings and houses in Wellington are constructed of wood, both because timber is plentiful and because wood is useful in earthquakes.

I then went to Lady Norwood Rose Garden, where I took photos of beautiful roses, and got a sandwich for lunch at their tea room.  The taxi driver dropped me off at the top of the mountain, and I rode the cable car back down the mountain to the Center City, where I spent the remainder of the day walking and taking photos, and then took the bus back to the ship.  Fortunately, the fog finally lifted before I returned to the Center City, so walking and taking photos was very pleasant.

The population of Wellington seems larger than 400,000 as it stretches around the entire bay.  The streets are clean and easy to understand; many of the buildings are tall and modern, although many older buildings are renovated and also in use.  The side streets are extremely narrow, and cars have to move to the side to pass oncoming traffic.  Earlier this year, the city had experienced an earthquake of magnitude 6.1, with little damage, showing that most of the buildings have been constructed to meet earthquake standards.  However, some older buildings, including a very large, beautiful church, are not in use, while waiting for renovations to meet earthquake standards.

As the ship pulled out of the harbor, the fog returned, so thick that the captain had to use the fog horn numerous times to make sure that other boats were aware of the ship’s presence.

Thursday, 11/07/13 Day at Sea

Thursday, 11/07/13 Day at Sea

Day at sea prior to Wellington, New Zealand.  Attended the port lecture on Auckland, and then after lunch, got my hair cut.  Laura, who had cut my hair when I boarded the ship almost a month ago, did it again.  She is from England and this is her first cruise contract; she did a really nice job, and I was very pleased.  After that, I worked on my summaries and on my photos.  The calm seas and sunny skies were very welcome.

In the evening, attended the production show, “Moments to Remember”, a show I had seen before, but this was a new cast of singers and dancers, and the show was completely different, with different music.  It was very, very good, and I enjoyed it very much.

Wednesday, 11/06/13 Fjordlands National Park, New Zealand

Wednesday, 11/06/13 Fjordlands National Park, New Zealand

Fjordlands National Park is an area of high mountains slashed by deep fjords carved by glaciers.  It stretches for 200 kilometers along the Southwestern coast of New Zealand and up to 42 kilometers inland, covering fully 5 percent of the total land area of New Zealand.  Rudyard Kipling once called this area the “eighth Wonder of the World“, and Fjordlands National Park was recognized as a World Heritage site in 1986.  Some of the fjords are wide enough for cruise ships, and more than 60 cruise ships navigate these fjords each year.  Although weather in the park often prevents entry, today was a beautiful, sunny day, making scenic viewing spectacular, despite very high winds at times.

The ship made three entries into the fjords, first at Milford Sound, where rainfall occurs more than 200 days each year -- but not today.  At the entrance, the winds were very high, and many passengers were not able to remain on the open decks; however, after the ship had fully entered the sound, the winds calmed, and viewing was spectacular.  The temperature was in the 50s, and the sky was clear with a few puffy, white clouds to add to the beauty.  The fjord is lined by high mountains and sheer cliffs, with Mitre Peak the highest at 1693 meters.  Many of the peaks were snow-capped.  A few waterfalls punctuated the high, green walls all along the fjord, although the waterfalls were mostly thin trails rather than full and gushing -- not at all as spectacular as those in the Norway fjords.  The ship entered Milford Sound at 10:30 a.m., sailed up to a turn-around place near the little town of Milford, and exited the fjord around 1:00 p.m.  Milford Sound is the location of a world famous hiking trail, the Milford Track, and numerous sightseeing boats also afford tourists the opportunity to view this fjord.  From the ship, passengers viewed numerous sightseeing boats and kayak excursions, as well as numerous sightseeing airplanes.

Sailing Southward, the ship entered the next fjord at Thompson Sound about 3:30 p.m., circled Secretary Island, and exited Doubtful Sound about 5:00 p.m.  These fjords were not as spectacular as Milford Sound, but still very beautiful.  Last, about 6:00 p.m. the ship entered Breaksea Sound, circled Resolution Island, and exited Dusky Sound about 7:30.  Again these fjords were not as spectacular as Milford Sound, but still very beautiful.  The winds through both of these sounds were much higher than in Milford Sound, sometimes making standing and walking very difficult.  The temperature also fell throughout the day.

My day was on deck from about 9:30 a.m. until the ship made its final exit about 7:30 p.m., although I did return to my cabin between fjords.  I spent the day going from side to side on the open decks, viewing spectacular scenes on both sides of the ship.  Because of the high winds, the day was very tiring.  It was a great day, and we were very fortunate to have excellent weather, even with the high winds.

Tuesday, 11/05/13 Tasman Sea, Day Two

Tuesday, 11/05/13 Tasman Sea, Day Two

Day two on the Tasman Sea on the way from Melbourne to New Zealand.  The violent storm continued through the night, and will continue all day today.  Seas are now 15 feet, with gale force winds continuing.  Overnight, the ship continued to experience violent jerks, and that same violent motion is expected through the day today.   At 11:00, I went to breakfast/lunch, and it felt good to get out of the cabin at last.

In the afternoon, I watched the Chicago/Green Bay game on TV, and then watched the Melbourne Cup, “The Race That Stops a Nation”.  It reminded me very much of the Kentucky Derby with lots of pageantry.  It was very elegant, and for the first time in many years, the favorite won.  The horse was trained by a woman trainer, Gai Waterford, whose dad was also a horse trainer.  I enjoyed the race, although I was not emotionally involved at all.  I had never watched the Melbourne Cup before, and it was very interesting to watch it for the first time.  The race is two miles long.

Monday, 11/04/13 Tasman Sea, Day One

Monday, 11/04/13 Tasman Sea, Day One

Day one at sea on the way from Melbourne to New Zealand.  The Tasman Sea is known for its storms, and today is no exception -- gale force winds with seas 26 feet high.  During the night, the ship began jerking violently, and the violent motion continued all day today.  No activity today, not even a lecture.  For lunch, ordered a club sandwich in my room and watched the Sunday football game between Houston and Indianapolis.  Entertainment on the ship was cancelled because violent jerks of the ship made walking impossible and singing and dancing, dangerous.  For dinner, ordered pizza in my room.  For the first time, took sea-sickness medication.  A quiet day, with two more days ahead just like this one.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Sunday, 11/03/13 Melbourne

Sunday, 11/03/13 Melbourne

Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city, with 4.4 million people.  It is the most multicultural city in Australia, with a large percentage of Asians.  Melbourne is Australia’s fashion capital, its arts and entertainment capital, and its sporting capital, with the biggest sporting event of all in Australia, the Melbourne Cup, “The Race That Stops the Nation.”  Melbourne is situated on the Yarrow River, and it became a large and important city as a result of the gold rush, in which more gold was discovered than in California.  Melbourne is a modern city, with numerous skyscrapers, including the Eureka Tower, the highest residential tower in the southern hemisphere, as well as the tallest office tower in the southern hemisphere.

Melbourne is the principal shopping city in Australia, with the Bourke Street Mall, a pedestrian street filled with shops and also street musicians; Collins Street, with an abundance of boutiques and antique shops; and Swanston Street, the long “main street” of Melbourne, with miles of shops of all kinds, including “Paris End”, fashion boutiques with Versace, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, and also Coogi of Australia.  Many beautiful shopping arcades lie hidden in the Central Business District area, filled with small shops of all kinds, along with small cafes.  Melbourne is Australia’s food capital, and many of the downtown streets are lined with outdoor restaurants and cafes.

The Queen Victoria Market is the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere, and the site of more than 600 stalls selling everything from all types of food to clothing, flowers, jewelry, souvenirs, and numerous other items.  The Queen Victoria Market has been in operation since 1878.  One of the most popular sites in Queen Victoria Market is the “American Donut Van”, which sells hot, freshly made donuts from a van, and always has a long line waiting to buy a bag of five donuts for $5 Australian.  Although they are not the same as American donuts, they are very tasty and well worth the wait in line.

The Melbourne Cup is a horserace somewhat like the Kentucky Derby in America.  It is a two-mile handicap race run in the spring on turf of horses of all ages and gender from all over the world.  It is also a fashion event, in which both men and women go all-out with new fashions, including fancy hats.  The event is filled with pomp and ceremony and attracts visitors from all over the world.  The entire week is a huge party week in Melbourne.  The race is run on Tuesday, and the ship was in Melbourne on Sunday prior to the race.  The streets were filled already with happy visitors in advance of the race.  Like the rest of Australia, the ship celebrated the race by showing events leading up to the race, decorating the ship in celebration of the race, and selling “sweeps” tickets in the casino.  “Sweeps” tickets are lottery tickets with the numbers of the horses running in the race.  In this race, the Number 6 horse won, so the holder of the “sweeps” ticket with the number 6 won.  Alas, my ticket was number 14.

My day in Melbourne started with the purchase of a Myki ticket, a plastic card used in all forms of public transportation -- bus, train and tram.  Myki tickets can be “topped off” by adding fare to the card at special machines (the same as the Metro fare card in Washington).  The transfer bus from the ship dropped passengers at the arts center, on the south bank of the Yarrow River on Swanston Street.  My first destination was the Queen Victoria Market, located near the “top” of Swanston Street, and I began my long walk up Swanston Street toward the market.  On the west side of the street, Swanston Street is filled with shops.  An overhang covered almost the entire sidewalk on the west side of Swanston Street, and billboards of a uniform size hang down to identify the shops along the way.  On the east side of Swanston Street were churches, public buildings, and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, a prestigious university in Australia, much like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in America.  At the “top” of Swanston Street, I turned left on Franklin Street for a few blocks to the Queen Victoria Market, where I spent hours browsing the stalls and taking photographs.  During the time I was there, a sudden downpour lasting half an hour sent everyone inside, under that metal roofs of the sheds and provided an interesting sound of the rain on the rooftops.

After leaving the Queen Victoria Market, I took the tram back to Bourke Street and walked back to the Central Business District, where shoulder-to-shoulder crowds made their way along the Bourke Street Mall, the pedestrian shopping street.  When I spotted the Royal Arcade, I stepped inside to take photos of the elegant architecture, and then stopped at the Caffe e Torta café for a cup of minestrone soup and apple strudel.  Leaving the Royal Arcade, I continued along Collins to other pretty shopping arcades.  Eventually, it was time to return to the ship, and I boarded the tram that terminated at the pier.

Melbourne is a very elegant city that has everything, including very easy transportation.  Unless Sydney has more to offer, Melbourne is clearly the most complete city in Australia.  I loved my day there.

15,345 steps on my pedometer.

Saturday, 11/02/13 Day at Sea

Saturday, 11/02/13 Day at Sea

Attended the lecture on Melbourne, and then worked at my computer.  Today was a terrible headache day.

Friday, 11/01/13 Adelaide

Friday, 11/01/13 Adelaide

Adelaide is Australia’s fourth largest city.  It is located in the state of South Australia, the driest of the states.  It is 75 percent desert.  Adelaide is located in an area that is not quite as dry as the rest of the state, and the area around Adelaide is wine country, where most of the wine in Australia is grown.  There are hundreds of vineyards in the area.

Adelaide is a planned city, with a grid of streets surrounded by large parks on all four sides.  The city has now grown well beyond the initial planned section.  Adelaide is called the “City of Churches”, with many churches of all denominations.  It could also be called the city of parks, with the large parks surrounding the core of the city.

The day was bright and sunny, and I was ready to get going.  A three person singing group was on the pier just outside the ship singing Australian folk songs, and they were really excellent.  Passengers exited the ship directly into the cruise port terminal, and right away, something was different.  Many women (volunteers?), dressed in navy slacks or skirts with light blue blouses and white hats were waiting for passengers to hand out maps and answer questions about Adelaide.  How wonderful that all these cheerful, helpful women were there to help the passengers.

I took the train into Adelaide; the station was just outside the port terminal, and just as in Perth, it was very easy to use.  Passengers boarded the train without tickets, and bought them after arriving at the Adelaide train station.  “Daytripper” tickets were good on all public transportation for the entire day, including busses and the tram, as well as the train.  As I rode the train into the city -- about an hour’s ride -- I noticed the flat, dry land with small, neat houses.  Most of the houses had metal roofs, which, I suppose reflected the sun and helped keep them cool.  I have never been to a place in which so many houses had corrugated metal roofs.  Most of the houses had wide porches, some that wrapped around the house, and many of which had lattice work decorating the roofs of the porches.  The houses were painted in pastel colors, and they were very pretty.  The dry, flat streets could easily have been from the Panhandle of Texas, although the streets were lined with trees, unlike the Panhandle.

Once in Adelaide, after purchasing my ticket, and exiting the station, I found myself on King William Road; I wanted to head first North to the river so that I could take photos of the bridge there.  It turned out that the sun was hot, and I tried to stay in the shade of the trees along the road as much as possible.  A huge stadium was under construction at the river, and across the bridge, I noticed the cathedral and decided to walk there to take photos before returning to the downtown area.  The cathedral turned out to be Anglican, and a very nice man told me about its history.

After the cathedral, I went to a bus stop and hopped on the bus to return to the city.  My “Daytripper” ticket worked perfectly, and after a few stops, I was back in the central business district.  I walked along North Terrace and took photos of some of the government buildings and historical buildings, and then turned south.
Several blocks of Rundle Street have been blocked to traffic and is now called Rundle Mall.  It was packed with pedestrians, and several musicians were playing music to entertain the shoppers.  Suddenly the welcome ladies that I had seen at the port terminal came up to me to ask how they could help.  They had no problem identifying me as a visitor by my big camera.  They were very helpful and very cheerful, and I loved it that they were there to help visitors.  I just wanted to spend time walking on the street, observing the scene and taking photos.  It was a truly wonderful experience to be there.

At one point, I came upon an arcade that the port lecturer on the ship had recommended and I went inside to take photos.  I walked all the way through the arcade, exiting on the parallel street to Rundle.  I noticed Haigh’s Chocolates, and walked toward the store, where I saw another arcade, all decorated with Christmas decorations.  I stopped in Haigh’s and picked up a few packages of chocolates for presents, and tasted the samples.  By showing my ship card, I received a 10 percent discount on my purchase.  Haigh’s Chocolates are very famous in Adelaide, as they were originated there.

I walked through the arcade taking photos of the Christmas decorations and exited back on Rundle Mall.  Then I slowly walked the entire length of the mall, enjoying the scene and taking lots of photos.  Back on King William Road, I walked toward the center of the city, to Victoria Square; I wanted to head to the Central Market, located just off Victoria Square.  When I got to Victoria Square, it was completely dug up with a construction fence around it.  I saw a sign pointing to Central Market and went there.

Entering Central Marked reminded me of the market in Barcelona -- it was large and laid out in the same way, although the market in Barcelona is larger.  I slowly walked through the market, aisle by aisle, and at the far end, I stopped at a booth and purchased a turkey sandwich and diet Coke for lunch.   I sat listening to a young man playing a piano to entertain the crowd, and feeling very pleasant.  It was such a good feeling to watch the people buying fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and meats.  One booth had a sign for Kangaroo steaks.  After eating lunch, I decided to walk back in the direction of the central railway station.  I needed to get back to the ship before time to sail away, and by the time I had walked slowly back to the rail station, it was almost time to board the train.

When I got to the train, it seemed that most of the other ship passengers had the same idea, and the train was packed, standing room only.  I didn’t mind standing to let someone else have a seat, although I recognized that by standing, I would not be able to take any photos out the window.  The train ride was again about an hour, with many stops, and eventually, we reached the port terminal, where the passengers formed a herd heading back to the ship.

Once back at the port, I decided to go into the terminal to try to use the free WiFi.  I noticed a man sitting on a sofa with an Apple computer, and decided to sit by him.  I asked him if the WiFi was working and he said only intermittently, and very slowly.  I decided to try it, and learned that I was really not able to use it much at all.  However, I began talking with the fellow on the sofa, and he turned out to be the ship manager of the photo services on the ship.  He was very friendly, and he showed me some photos he was working on.  He did portrait work and he had been on Princess ships for 10 years.  He said that he had finally saved enough money to open his own studio in Nottingham in England, and this would be his last contract with Princess.  We talked about photo editing, and he said that he sends his photos to a professional editor rather than doing the editing work himself.  We talked for more than an hour about him and about photography.  He asked me about my interest in photography and about my camera.  I showed him my photo of the bride in Murmansk tossing the white dove into the air, and he really liked the photo.

As we talked, we both checked from time to time to see if we could get a WiFi connection.  Both of us recognized that our laptop batteries would run down in an hour, and eventually his laptop shut down and he left.  Just before my battery also ran down and my laptop shut down, I was able to get a connection and do just a little bit of work, and then my laptop shut down and I returned to the ship.

Thursday, 10/31/13 Halloween Day at Sea

Thursday, 10/31/13 Halloween Day at Sea

There were no lectures on the ship today, and nothing else of great interest to me.  I edited photos.

The ship made the Halloween occasion happy by putting up really wonderful decorations.  The decorations were really great, and I took some photos.  Even better, at dinner all the wait staff were in costume and some of the costumes were really wonderful.  The dining rooms were also fully decorated, and some of the passengers had brought costumes to wear as well.  Dinner was a really happy occasion.

Wednesday, 10/30/13 Day at Sea

Wednesday, 10/30/13 Day at Sea

Attended the port lecture on Adelaide, and then met with a man on the ship to copy dozens of books from his thumb drive onto my computer.  He had downloaded the books from Pirate Bay and transformed them to fit on his Kindle.

He said that to download books, I would need to get a “torrent” and then go to Pirate Bay to download the books to the torrent.  Then I would need to use a converting program (“Caliber”) to convert the files to .mobi files, the type of file used for Kindle.  Perhaps I will be able to get someone to show me how to do that at some point.  I have never read a book on a tablet; I read books printed on paper, but perhaps one day I will want to get a Kindle or other tablet.

He was quite insistent that I set up a Kindle Shortcut on my desktop and also a “working file” to use for the books I decided to copy on the Kindle.  He was also insistent that he use a “send to” method to copy the books onto my laptop, and that turned out to be somewhat difficult for him as he was not accustomed to using Windows 7.  He was genial, but insistent on doing things his way, and setting up my computer in precisely the way that he wanted.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Tuesday, 10/29/13 Albany

Tuesday, 10/29/13 Albany

The port lecturer had described Albany as a place with nice coastal scenery, but little else, so I decided to take the ship tour and let the bus take me to all the scenic sites, rather than try to find them myself.  The day turned out to be pretty unrewarding -- okay, but not great, especially by comparison with Perth and Fremantle the previous day.  Albany is a small town that has a very good natural port; the harbor is now called the “Princess Royal Harbour“.  At one time it was a major port for the whaling industry, and now forestry and fishing are the main industries; wood chips are sent to Japan for paper production.

During the first world war, the harbor was thought to be in jeopardy of attack, so a fortress was established to protect the harbor from attack.  That fortress is now called the Princess Royal Fortress, and is a historic site.  The bus first stopped at this fortress, sitting high above the harbor.  The tour guide took the passengers through the fortifications still remaining from both WWI and WWII.  Of greater interest to me were the nice views of the harbor and the coast, and I took some scenic photos.

The bus drove past Middleton Beach, Albany’s popular swimming beach, and it was very pretty, with a nice park all along the beach.  The surrounding residential area was filled with beautiful homes and very well-kept landscaping.  The entire area was very pretty.

The bus next went to Torndirrup National Park, with dramatic coastal rock formations.  “The Gap” is a formation in which a gap about 80 feet deep has formed between two rock formations, and the surf of the sea shoots spray very high in the air in that gap.  “The Natural Bridge” is another rock formation in which the surf has carved a gap under a rock formation, so that the result resembles a natural bridge over the churning surf.  The sight is quite spectacular and was the highlight of the day.

Albany has established a wind farm high on the hills overlooking the town, and now 80 percent of the town’s electrical power is generated by that wind farm.  On the way back to town from Torndirrup National Park, the bus stopped at the wind farm so that passengers could view the huge wind turbines up close.  The turbines are 213 feet high with blades that are 115 feet across, the largest that have been constructed in the southern hemisphere.

After the bus returned to the ship, I hopped on the shuttle into the little town for a walk down the main street of the town, taking photos of some of the restored buildings.  In the early evening, as the ship sailed, I took photos of a cargo ship being filled with wood chips headed for Japan.  The nighttime reflections in the water were very pretty.

Monday, 10/28/13 Perth Fremantle

Monday, 10/28/13 Perth Fremantle

The day dawned glorious -- cool, sunny, with low humidity.  It was wonderful.  The ship arrived in port at 7:00, and as I was not on a ship tour, I decided not to hurry to leave the ship.   About 8:30, I walked to the train station only a couple of blocks from the port and took the local train into Perth at a cost of $4.00 for a one-way ticket from Fremantle to Perth.  The scenery all along the way was very pretty -- neat, middle-class houses with well kept lawns and evergreen trees.  At the Perth train station, I had to turn in my ticket in order to pass through the exit gate; if I had lost my ticket -- which was only a flimsy stub -- I would have had to pay again.  Fortunately, I keep most of my stubs.

Perth is a city of about 2 million people in the far Southwestern corner of Australia.  It is Australia’s fourth largest city, and the only large city in the West.  Outside the train station in Perth, I took a photo of the Post Office and the pretty fountain in front of it.  As I walked forward a few steps, I found myself in a pedestrian street -- the Murray Street Mall -- which was a street that had been closed to traffic for a few blocks and turned into a pedestrian street.  I noticed an information office and picked up a map of the downtown area.

As I walked, I began to notice many old buildings, dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s, restored, and occupied by businesses.  They were beautiful.  As I turned the corner on William Street, I could see the adjacent pedestrian street -- Hay Street.  At the head of Hay Street was another information office, where I learned that the Captain Cook sightseeing ferry back to Fremantle was at 11:30 a.m.  I walked through the Hay Street pedestrian street and took photos of many of the beautiful, restored, old buildings all along the street.  I noticed many arcades connecting the two pedestrian streets, and then came to a quaint, narrow pedestrian side street right out of old England -- London Court -- filled with charming shops and cafes.  At the end of the Hay Street pedestrian street, I turned right to St. George Street and walked past the Government House, which was hidden by trees and bushes, and then past Council House to Barrack Street, where I turned down toward the Bell Tower a gleaming copper and glass tower with the old bells from St. Martin in the Field, where I bought tickets for the Captain Cook sightseeing ferry back to Fremantle.

The ferry turned out to be a wonderful trip; the weather was cool and sunny, and I stood on the bow of the boat taking photos of the beautiful houses and boats along the Swan River.  This ferry ride was called a “must” by the ship’s port lecturer, and I agree that it was a really wonderful experience.

Back in Fremantle I had intended to take the Hop-On/Hop-Off tram, and I noticed a tram with the words Hop On/Hop Off on the side that looked like the tram I was looking for.  I purchased a ticket, but later learned that it was not the Hop-On/Hop-Off tram at all, but a Captain Cook tour bus that was mislabled to fool passengers.  I got off the bus and walked around town.

Fremantle is a town of about 25,000; the port lecturer had called Fremantle a college town, and I did see a lot of young people.  Most of the young women were wearing tight-fitting short shorts, and the young men were wearing loose-fitting shorts.  I also noticed a large number of drunks and hobos on the streets, more than in any other city I had visited in Australia.

I got off the tour bus on High Street, the main street in Fremantle, which was filled with restored buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Indeed, these old restored buildings were all over Fremantle.  At the end of High Street, I wandered around and found myself in Market Street and South Terrace Street, the same street, but the name changes at some point.  This street was filled with outdoor restaurants, and I stopped for lunch at the one that was filled with customers -- Ben’s (??).  I had wonderful pumpkin soup, and it was easy to understand why so many people were eating there; the food was really delicious.  After lunch, I walked back to the ship.

With one hour before time to reboard the ship, I tried to use the Internet at the port terminal, but it did not work for me or many other passengers.  I was hoping to update my travel blog and post some photos of the Great Barrier Reef, but no luck.  Later, I talked with the Internet manager on the ship, and he could not find any reason that my computer would not connect in the terminal.  Who knows what happened.  I was able to connect with the WiFi, but then I could not connect with any Internet site.  I’m sure that I needed to click a switch on my laptop, but I was not able to figure out which one to change.

Back on board, I decided not to go to the dining room, but had pizza a the pizza restaurant on the ship.

12,700 steps.

Sunday, 10/27/13 Day at Sea

Sunday, 10/27/13 Day at Sea

No lectures of interest today.  I watched some football on TV, and worked on photos.  A quiet day at sea.

Saturday, 10/26/13 Day at Sea

Saturday, 10/26/13 Day at Sea

Attended the port lecture on Albany.  The ship will be there only half a day, and that appears to be sufficient, as the town seems to have little to offer other than some coastal scenery.  I will take the ship tour to all the scenic places and take photos, which seems to be the easiest approach.

Last night was formal, and after dinner, I went to hear a singer, Jay Weston in the Vista Lounge.  He is a classically trained tenor who now sings some popular songs as well as a couple of classical pieces.  He sang: “O Sole Mio”, “Unforgettable”, “The Prayer”, Roy Orbison’s “Crying”, and others, and he closed with “Nessun Dorma”.  He was quite good.

Friday, 10/25/13 Day at Sea

Friday, 10/25/13 Day at Sea

Port lecture on Fremantle/Perth.

Australia immigration.

The Last Tsar of Russia.

Camera and photography meeting.

Thursday, 10/24/13 Lombok, Indonesia

Thursday, 10/24/13 Lombok, Indonesia

Lombok, Indonesia is an island adjacent to the island of Bali, Indonesia; it lies only 20 miles to the east of Bali.  For many years, Bali has been a major tourist destination, and it is very highly developed.  Lombok, on the other hand has not been a tourist destination, and it is virtually undeveloped.  In the past few years, Princess Cruise Line has been alternating its cruises between the two islands, and on this cruise, the ship visited Lombok.

The day did not start well for me.  There is no port in Lombok, and the ship anchors in the bay and tenders passengers ashore.  As passengers file onto the tenders, they are guided to fill in all the seats, and it turned out that I was one of the last passengers on my tender, so I was guided to a seat that was directly in the sun.  The ship had to anchor quite a distance from shore, and the time for the tender boats to arrive on shore was about half an hour.  By the time the tender reached shore, I was completely drenched in sweat and I was terribly overheated.  It was a brutal ride on the tender boat, one of my hottest experiences ever.  Once on shore, we were all guided to our tour busses, and the tour bus was mercifully air conditioned and very cool.  I recovered quickly and soon was feeling back to normal.

The port lecturer had warned passengers that few taxis would be waiting at the shore, so passengers would be well advised to take a ship tour.  As always, I had chosen the tour that would visit the most sites, and fortunately, the tour guide spoke good English.  The sites to be visited were widely separated, taking 45 minutes to an hour between sites.  As a result, the bus traveled over a wide area and I was able to see a broad section of Lombok.  As the bus drove to the first site, it was immediately apparent that the island of Lombok was truly third world.  The roads were two lane roads that were paved, but very narrow.  I came to see that all the roads and streets are very narrow, and houses and other buildings were built very close to the roads.  Roadside stands lined the sides of the roads.  There were no sidewalks and no places to park cars or trucks, so people had to walk on the shoulder of the roads and parking was common all along the roads.  Traffic had to weave among the pedestrians and parked vehicles as well as the thousands of motor bikes.  In addition, many horse-drawn carts clogged the roads; these two-wheel carts were usually painted in bright colors and pulled by one quite small horse.  Fortunately, drivers were accepting of this situation, and very patient.  The bus had particular difficulty as it was too large for many of the streets, and often drivers had to pull over to the side of the road to let the bus pass.

Virtually all the buildings were either shacks or very old.  The overwhelming sight was the horrible living conditions of the people.  Throughout the entire day over much of Lombok, I saw NO middle-income house -- no house that was not a shack, often constructed of corrugated metal, with corrugated metal roofs or tile roofs.  Trash was everywhere, often huge piles of trash near houses.  Everything in one’s view was in disarray; no sight was neatly kept.  Virtually every building was old and in great disrepair; new construction was underway in a very few buildings, usually new mosques.  Although electric lines littered the roadsides, cooking was clearly done by wood-burning, and often outdoors.  It was unclear whether any sewage capacity existed.  Heavy rains were common, and open drainage ditches lined the sides of the roads; often these drainage ditches were constructed of rock and concrete.

The bus passed a few schools, and the children were dressed in uniforms.  The hours for elementary schools was 7:00-noon, as they were not air conditioned and the heat was too great to permit afternoon classes.  We were told that high schools held classes until 3:00.  We passed many mosques, as most of the population is Muslim; we saw only one church.  There were also many temples, but they seemed to be ancient, and we were told that there are very few Hindus or Buddhists in Indonesia.

Despite the terrible living conditions, the people were friendly everywhere.  Patient on the roads, smiling at tourists, helpful, and often with knowledge of English.

Indonesia has vast natural resources, particularly oil reserves.  However, the wealth of Indonesia is concentrated in a very small number of people, while the great majority of the population lives in terrible poverty.  Compare that with Norway, where the oil wealth is owned by the state and shared by everyone.  As a result, living conditions in Norway are among the best in the world, with everyone having a nice home, nicely furnished, with nice schools, great roads, and one of the most advanced societies in the world.

The tour stopped first at a Seret Penginang, a songket weaving factory where women weave a colorful silk or cotton brocade that incorporates metallic fibers.  I took photos of some of the young women who were weaving.  Some passengers gave money to the young women, and later I noticed that a man collected all the money from the young women.  The bus then visited Lingsar Temple, a Hindu shrine founded in 1714 that now welcomes Buddhists and Muslims as well.  The temple’s sacred pool is home to eels that feed on boiled eggs tossed to them by worshipers.  After stopping at the temple, the bus next stopped at Pasar Seni, a market selling crafts and jewelry, some of which may have been made locally.  Outside the market, young men participated in a type of “swordfight”/dance in which they smacked sticks against woven shields held by “opponents”, accompanied by rhythmic music.  

For lunch, the tour stopped at the Sheraton Senggigi Beach Resort, an upscale resort on Senggigi Beach, one of the nicest beaches in Lombok.  The resort seemed to cover almost the entire beach area, and it was very beautiful and peaceful, with palm trees and shade trees covering the entire area.  Sheraton had set up a large outdoor buffet luncheon under open canvas tent-tops.  The luncheon included many local food choices, with fruit for desert.  Unthinking, I made a mistake at the lunch; a waiter offered cold drinks -- fruit punch or Coke in large glasses -- and with all the heat, I selected Coke and drank it down.  However, later, I realized that the glass was filled with ice.  Previously, we had been warned to avoid the water, which I did, but I had not avoided the ice.  I was very concerned that I would suffer from an intestinal infection; however, I was fortunate and did not.  I narrowly missed misfortune with that mistake.  After lunch, the walk along the beach was beautiful, where I took photos.

Following the lunch stop, the tour went to the Mayura Water Palace, a temple complex completed in 1744 that includes a “floating” pavilion in the center of a large pool.  The temple complex also includes other structures and altars.  The temple is a national shrine, but is only lightly used as a place of worship.

The bus then returned to the port for the tender back to the ship.

The most important part of the day was not any of the stops, which I found of only mild interest, but the travel around the entire island between the stops.  The way the people lived was of great interest to me, the poverty and squalor, the shacks in which the people lived, the lack of basic water and sewage and garbage collection, the trash everywhere, were all very sad to me, knowing that Indonesia has great wealth in its national resources that is not shared, but is hoarded by only a few people.  We were told that the adjacent island of Bali looked this same way about 30 years ago, and that Lombok likely would be developed like Bali over the next 30 years.  However, I doubt that development would redistribute much of the wealth of Indonesia, leaving most of the people living in terrible poverty.  I found it very interesting that the people could be so friendly and so patient on the roads, living in such conditions.

Wednesday, 10/23/13 Day at Sea

Wednesday, 10/23/13 Day at Sea

Attended the port lecture on Lombok, Indonesia.  As always, Ronelle gave lots of information about the next port.  She advised against trying to find a taxi as a tour guide; she said taxis are limited and finding someone who speaks good English is also difficult.  She strongly advised taking a ship tour at this port.  I was pleased that I had signed up for a tour months ago, as most of the tours were filled at this point, particularly the one that stopped at the most sights in Lombok.  It is always best to prebook tours, as they can always be cancelled later.

Attended a lecture about Jack the Ripper.  Very strange lecture.  Why on this cruise?  Perhaps the lecturer was given permission to speak on any topic she desired, and she decided to give this talk.  The talk was interesting, but the topic was very strange.

Tuesday, 10/22/13 Kimberly Coast

Tuesday, 10/22/13 Kimberly Coast

A special captain is required for all ships sailing near the Kimberly coast of Australia, just as a special captain is required for all ships sailing inside the Great Barrier Reef.  This morning, the special Kimberly Coast captain, Captain Craig Brent-White, gave a lecture on the Kimberly Coast, and it was perhaps the worst lecture I have ever attended in my entire life.  The man was completely unable to speak in complete sentences, and his long stutters and pauses as he skipped from thought to thought mid-sentence were unbearable. It was hard for me to believe that he could be trusted to guide this ship any place, much less in a dangerous place such as an inlet along the Kimberly Coast.

He was supposed to give commentary all during the time that the ship was sailing into the inlet and along the coast, but fortunately, the ship’s crew was unable to get the sound to work, so no one was able to hear any of his commentary.  As a side note, it is sad that a Princess ship was unable to get the sound system to work so that a lecturer could give commentary; it is as if the ship had never before done this.  Making the situation worse, they didn’t check the sound system beforehand, and they didn’t even check during the commentary; they relied on passengers to tell them that the system was not working, and then they were unable to make it work during the entire time of the commentary.  Incredible.

The views were not as scenic as we had been led to expect.  The soil is red, but the cliffs were not as high as passengers had been led to imagine, and the ship was too far away from them to get really good photos.  The sunset was very pretty, however, as the red dust made the sunset very red.

There was also a lecture on pirates, both historically and present-day, which was mildly interesting.

Other than that, I edited photos all day.

Monday, 10/21/13 Broome

Monday, 10/21/13 Broome

Broome is a small town of only 15,000, located on the far Northwest coast of Australia.  In the 1870s, pearls were discovered in Roebuck Bay and Broome was established as the base for pearling operations in the bay.  Broome soon became recognized as the “pearling capital of the world”.  At one point, more than 80 percent of the world’s pearls were harvested from this area.  Japanese, Chinese and Aborigine divers risked their lives in the search for oysters, and more than 900 lost their lives and are now buried in the Broome cemetery.  After the introduction of plastic, the pearling industry faded, and then the invention of pearl farming changed the production of pearls.  However, pearls from this area are still highly valued for their color and luster, and pearl farming is a big business.

Took the ship tour to Willie Creek Pearl Farm to see how pearls are farmed.  The trip to the farm was interesting as it passed through flat, extremely arid, red sandy terrain covered by low trees and bushes.  A recent fire had blackened the grass and killed many of the low trees.  There are only two seasons in this area, wet (November to April) and dry (April to November); the dry season is ending and the wet season is about to begin.  The Northwest coast of Australia is called “cyclone alley”, and cyclones (hurricanes) are common in the wet season, when many residents leave.  During the dry season, the area is a popular tourism location, and the population of Broome swells from 15,000 to over 50,000.

At Willie Creek Pearl Farm, a very pleasant, entertaining young woman explained the process of pearl farming (which I will not go into here), and then we were served refreshments before going on a boat tour of the oyster beds and shown how the oysters are cared for during the process of producing oysters, which take about two years to grow.  One interesting aspect of the boat tour was to see how high the tides are in this area; the water marks could easily be seen on the trees and bushes growing along the banks.  Tides reach 9-10 meters, or about 30 feet.

After the visit to Willie Creek, the tour dropped passengers off in town, where we could catch a city bus to Cable Beach to watch the famous sunsets.  Cable Beach is a 13 mile long, wide stretch of beautiful sand that is hard enough to for vehicles to drive on, like Daytona Beach in Florida.  Sunsets at Cable Beach are famously spectacular, and a visit to see the sunset is a must in Broome.  The bus arrived only a half hour before sunset, time to walk along the beautiful walkway all along the beach and pick a spot to view the sunset.  Thousands of people were lined up along the walkway to watch the sunset, and restaurants were filled with people, gathered to watch the sunset.  The entire area is beautifully developed and it is easy to see why tourists love to visit there.  Unfortunately, the sunset on this day was nice, but not spectacular; still, it was nice to see the sunset at Cable Beach.  Cable Beach got its name from an event that occurred here.  When the first undersea telegraph lines were laid between Australia and Singapore, the cable came ashore at this point -- hence the name “Cable Beach”.

The little town of Broome has been extremely well developed for tourism.  It is beautifully laid-out; the stores and houses seem to follow a strict building code that requires buildings not only to be “cyclone proof”, but also of a certain level of beauty.  Although the town is small, it seems larger than it is because it is so pretty and so well maintained.  The beauty of the town invites walkers and shoppers, and it is easy to see why so many tourists visit here, especially with the wide, beautiful Cable Beach.

After the sunset, the next attraction was to watch the full moon rise over Roebuck Bay.  At full moon, the reflection on the water seems to create a “stairway to the moon”, and people flock to take photos.  However, once the bus had arrived back from Cable Beach to the midtown area, clouds had formed in the east, blocking the view of the moonrise.

The last transfer to the ship was not until 8:30, so there was time for dinner in town before returning to the ship; however, the only restaurants seemed to be bars and burger places, so I boarded the bus to return to the ship.  The ride back to the ship took half an hour through extremely dark, winding streets with many turns.  Finally, after a final turn, the fully lighted ship suddenly appeared.  The departure from Broome was delayed until almost midnight to wait for the tide; at low tide, there was not enough clearance for the ship.  After returning to the ship, the hamburger at the grill was very tasty.

Sunday, 10/20/13 Day at Sea

Sunday, 10/20/13 Day at Sea

Attended the port lecture on Broome, which was really good, and then the lecture about Kimberly, the large section of Australia in the Northwest, which was also very interesting.  The remainder of the day, I edited photos of the Great Barrier Reef.

The dining room at dinner was extremely noisy, and I mentioned to tablemates that I was not sure that I would be able to continue to having dinner in such a noisy dining room.  The ship is very different from other Princess ships; it is extremely noisy, and the density of passengers on the ship is much greater than on other Princess ships.  The ship has far more inside cabins than other Princess ships, and the hallways are so cluttered that it is sometimes difficult to walk down them.  In addition, I am learning that Australians are much noisier than Americans, and in many instances, obnoxiously so.  The impression I am getting of Australians is not good -- loud, noisy, obnoxious, inconsiderate, and in many instances, outright bullys.  How odd to think of Americans as nicer and more considerate than someone else, but the difference is quite noticeable.  I have had to ask to be reseated for breakfast because of noisy, obnoxious passengers, and I had to leave afternoon tea because of loud, obnoxious passengers -- both are firsts for me on any ship.  The behavior is not limited to the dining room, but is very evident everywhere -- for example, anywhere there is a line, people try to jump ahead.   More and more, I am feeling peace only in my room.

Saturday, 10/19/13 Darwin

Saturday, 10/19/13 Darwin

Darwin is in the far north of Australia, which is in the tropics.  It is very hot and humid in Darwin, with only two seasons -- wet and dry.  Darwin was a gold rush town for a brief time, but then faded into a small town for years.  During World War II, it was bombed by the Japanese to prevent any military interference with Japanese takeover of Indonesian islands nearby.  In 1974, Darwin was flattened by a Cyclone Tracy (hurricane).  Over the years, Darwin became an important shipping port, particularly goods to and from Asia, and Darwin has grown in recent years because of oil and gas drilling.  Darwin still has a small town feel, although the population is now more than 100,000.

I learned that there is a hop-on/hop-off bus in Darwin, so I cancelled my ship tour.  I learned that if I purchased the transfer from the ship to town, the ticket also included the trip to the Saturday market at Parap, a suburb of Darwin, and I decided to go there first.  Unfortunately the Saturday market was mostly small booths where local crafts were sold, along with booths of hot foods for lunch.  I had thought the market might be a food market or fish market, but it was not.  The day was very hot and humid, and I purchased a flavored shaved ice cup, and then went to wait for the bus back to town.

In town, I wandered through Smith Street pedestrian mall, which was covered with a tin roof.  The mall was one block long, and filled with souvenir shops, a pharmacy, and a few other shops of odds and ends, along with a food court.  I learned that the entire mall area had free WiFi, and then I left and returned to the ship.  After getting some lunch, I took the bus back to town with my laptop, hoping to update some of my blog entries; however, I was only partly successful.  For some reason, the WiFi was not working very well, and I ran out of power on my laptop without making much progress in updating my blog. While I was at the mall trying to use the WiFi, suddenly, a hard rain began to fall on the tin roof, making a loud noise.  The rain lasted only a short time, and it did not get me wet under the tin roof.  It was a very pleasant experience, and perhaps it was the reason that the WiFi didn’t work well.

The entertainment was “Piano Man”, the same show I had seen on the Diamond Princess on the previous cruise.  It was not nearly as good on the Dawn Princess, but still entertaining.  The Dawn Princess has only two singers, male and female, where the Diamond had four singers, two male and two female.  In addition, the singers on the Dawn are not nearly as good as the singers on the Diamond or on any of the other Princess ships I have been on.  Still, the production shows are the best entertainment on the ship.

Friday, 10/18/13 Day at Sea

Friday, 10/18/13 Day at Sea

Woke up again with a fierce headache in my left temple and eye, my usual headache.  It lasted all day.

Attended the lecture on Australia in World War II, and it was interesting.  The entire lecture was about the incompetence of the military officers and Australian Prime Minister, leading to large numbers of unnecessary deaths.  How sad that throughout history, incompetence of military leaders occurs again and again, leading to untold numbers of deaths.

Edited my Great Barrier Reef photos all day.  The headache did not diminish all day.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Thursday, 10/17/13 Day at Sea

Thursday, 10/17/13 Day at Sea

This morning, I went to the port lecture for Darwin, and learned that Darwin has a hop-on/hop-off bus, so I will turn in my ticket for the crocodile jumping tour and instead take the HO/HO bus around town.  The port lecturer said that one stop on the bus route is the Saturday market, and I will be sure to stop there for photos.

Today I also got a haircut.  That is a scary thing to do on a cruise ship because one’s hair can come out looking strange.  However, this time, I emphasized how important it was to me that the stylist cut only a small amount and I will have it cut again before the end of the cruise.  I think she did a good job, and it looks pretty much as it did before, but just a little shorter.  I’m hoping for the best.

Today I attended a seminar about online social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.  The seminar was too elementary for me, although I stayed until the end.

Today I edited many of my photos of the Great Barrier Reef, and some of them are okay.  I was concerned about the quality of the photos through the heavy glass windows of the semi-submersible boat; however, some of them seem to be acceptable, and they do remind me of being there.

In the evening, attended the production show, “Country Jam”, a show about country music and dancing.  After the show, the crew led line dancing.  It was all amusing.

Wednesday, 10/16/13 Great Barrier Reef

Wednesday, 10/16/13 Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the wonders of the world and a World Heritage Site.  Stretching half the length of eastern Australia, it is so large that it can be seen from outer space.  The ship arrived in Port Douglas, the nearest point to the Great Barrier Reef, and it had arranged to take passengers out to the reef through Quicksilver Reef Cruises, a tour company specializing in taking tourists out to the reef.  Quicksilver took passengers to Agincourt Reef, located on the outer edge of the reef where the reef runs parallel to the Continental Shelf.  The water is quite clear at this point, allowing good viewing of the reef.

Port Douglas is a tender port, as it has no pier.  The tour began at Port Douglas, which meant that passengers must first tender into the dock and then transfer to the large Quicksilver catamaran for the trip out to the reef.  A lot of time was wasted in this process, and the tour did not begin until 9:30 a.m.  Coffee, tea, and punch were available on the Quicksilver catamaran, and videos were shown regarding the reef system.  The trip out to the reef was approximately 90 minutes; the day was beautiful -- sunny and bright, with calm seas.  Sometimes the seas can be rough, and many passengers suffer sea-sickness; however, the calm seas left everyone feeling good.  The catamaran was quite large, with two inside air-conditioned cabins and an upper, open-air deck; approximately 250 passengers were on board.

Quicksilver operated a large pontoon platform at the reef, with several covered decks.  A very nice buffet lunch was set up just after arrival, and passengers separated into their various activities -- snorkeling, scuba diving, helicopter rides, or taking a semi-submersible boat to view the largest section of the reef.  I chose the semi-submersible because it offered the largest viewing section.  Snorkeling and scuba offered only a very small viewing space, and I wanted to see as much as possible.  The semi submersible boat offered viewing about six feet under the surface, with views down to more than 25 feet because of the clear water.  Each boat ride was approximately 30 minutes, and I took three of the boat rides, the most possible during the time we were at the pontoon.

The views were spectacular, with views of dozens of reef and fish species.  Some of the reef types were colorful, while others were more brown in color; fish were of many colors as well, some spectacular.  The tour guide said that fish viewing was not the best at this time because it was low tide, but still it was great.  He pointed out a very large moray eel, which he said he had seen only one other time in the past six years that he had been at the reef.  He was very good, pointing out the various types of reef and fish as the boat slowly made its way around in the reef, taking care not to touch the reef.  I took hundreds of photos, although they were taken through the glass window of the boat, and they may not turn out to be very good.  At the end of the time at the pontoon, I felt that I had truly experienced the reef.

The ride back to the port was uneventful.  At the port, I took a photo of several of the Princess staff, and one man ran to be included in my photo.  He noted my Nikon camera, and he joked that he would not have run to be included in the photo if I had a Canon.  On the way back out to the ship, we talked, and he was a member of the security staff on the ship.  He had been in police work for 30 years, and after he retired, he joined Princess as a security officer.  He had a Nikon D-800, and he said that he had previously had the D-700 like mine.  He said that his wife worked for British Air, and that next year, she would be able to spend up to 120 days on the ship with him.  Steve was his name, and he lived in the southwestern part of England.

In the evening, I read for a while and went to sleep early.

Tuesday, 10/15/13 Day at Sea

Tuesday, 10/15/13 Day at Sea

Lecture day.  First, I attended a lecture on the Great Barrier Reef by the Pilot Guardian of the Reef .  Each ship that travels through the reef is required to have a pilot aboard, and this pilot gave a presentation of the history and functioning of the reef.  After that lecture, I attended the port lecture on Port Douglas, including not only the reef, but also the rain forest and other attractions in Port Douglas.  Then I attended a lecture on the biography of Captain James Cook, the British naval officer who discovered and mapped eastern Australia and many other South Pacific islands as well as other places.  The lecturerer described his death by natives in Hawaii.  After lunch, I attended a photography class, which turned out to be too simple for me.

Finally, after much effort, I found the Passenger Services Director on the ship, Cynthia, and asked how to get my prize.  She said that she would talk with the art director and ask him to contact me.  After dinner, when I returned to my room, the prize had been delivered to my room.  It was a lithograph of sound waves by Billy Dee Williams titled, “Jazz Chords.”  The prize was prepackaged, and a very small photo of the lithograph was attached.

I also talked with the Passenger Services Director at some length about the long delay in being transferred from the airport to the ship in Sydney.  She professed no knowledge of the situation, and told me that she would look into it.  She apologized for the long delay.  When I returned to my room after dinner, she had sent a message apologizing for the delay, refunding the transfer fee, and having a bottle of wine delivered to my room.

I was not interested in going to the entertainment, a comedian, so I stayed in my room.  Later, I noticed that “The Big Wedding” was showing on TV.  When I saw that Diane Keaton was in the movie, I turned it off.  I’m not a fan of Diane Keaton.

Monday, 10/14/13 Day at Sea, Winner!

Monday, 10/14/13  Day at Sea, Winner!

Early afternoon, the ship passed the Sun Princess one mile off the port side, on its way to Sydney.

About the ship, the Dawn Princess.  Talked with the Passenger Services director, Cynthia.  She said that Princess permits people to use the ship as local transportation between ports in Australia and New Zealand.  The ship has a very large number of inside cabins, which locals use for one or two night trips.  About 300 passengers who had come on board in Sydney disembarked in Brisbane, where another 300 passengers boarded.

Each cruise, as passengers board the ship, they are given a scavenger hunt card, and they are encouraged to find certain places on the ship and get the card stamped at each place -- the “revenue centers” on the ship, such as the spa, casino, boutiques, photo shop, internet café, etc.  After a passenger gets all the stamps, the cards are placed into a box, from which some are drawn for prizes, such as a free spa treatment, $50 gift certificate for the shops, etc.  The final prize that is drawn is for a gift from the fine art shop.  This time, my name was drawn for the final prize -- artwork with an estimated retail value of $500.  “Artwork is prepackaged for your convenience.  No substitutions.”  I was not shown the prize, but was asked to find the art director on the ship for a description of the prize.

In the evening, I read rather than going to the entertainment, a comedian.

Sunday, 10/13/13 Brisbane

Sunday, 10/13/13 Brisbane

Took a taxi to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, and walked around photographing all the Koalas, as well as kangaroos, and a few other animals.  It was great to see the koalas, almost all of them sleeping.  The ranger said that koalas sleep 20 out of 24 hours a day.  They wake to eat and then go back to sleep.  He also said that they are very fast runners over short distances and that they jump from limb to limb in trees.  Because they were sleeping, it would have been impossible to imagine them being fast or agile.  

After leaving Lone Pine, went downtown and took a walking tour that I found online.  Walked throughout the downtown area -- the “CBD” or Central Business District.  Passed through Queen Street Pedestrian Mall.  Walked past Brisbane City Hall and King George Square, the Anzac War Memorial and the Post Office Square, the Old Customs House, Story Bridge, St. John’s Cathedral, the casino, Government House (Parliament) and Old Government House, as well as the botanic gardens across from Government House.  Passed the Goodwill Pedestrian and Cycle Bridge and many other interesting sights.  Total steps on my pedometer -- 16,323.

The taxi driver from Lone Pine back to the downtown area was from the Delhi are in India, had lived in New York for 12 years, and then moved to Brisbane for the past 12 years.  He said that he really liked Brisbane because it was an easier lifestyle than India or New York.  He felt more comfortable in Brisbane than in the other places.

Watched the sail-away, taking some photos as the ship sailed under the bridge.

Dinner in the pizza parlor.

Saturday, 10/12/13 Day at Sea

Saturday, 10/12/13 Day at Sea

After the long day and night getting to Sydney, spent much of the day sleeping.  Attended the port lecture on Brisbane, and then attended the Cruise Critic meeting.  In the evening, the production show was “Shimmy“, and it was good as always.

A day of sleeping and resting.

Thursday, 10/10/13 Fly to Sydney Friday, 10/11/13 Dawn Princess Boarding and Sail-Away

Thursday, 10/10/13 Fly to Sydney
Friday, 10/11/13 Dawn Princess Boarding and Sail-Away

Required to have bags outside door of hotel room by 9:00 a.m. for pick up and transfer to airport.  Then breakfast.  At 11:00 a.m. check out of hotel and go to Princess hospitality room for bus to airport.

Arrive at airport, and see again the largest airport terminal building in the world -- and most likely the most beautiful.  The Princess guide on the bus to the airport helped everyone get a luggage cart and then went inside with the group to help everyone find their check-in location.  Air China check-in, F-12.  After check-in, found a Haagen Dazs ice cream store and got some ice cream.  Noticed that the entire second floor area -- which overlooked the first floor -- was restaurants.  Then, through security into the International Departures part of the terminal building.  A few restaurants were in this section of the terminal, but I went first to find my gate.  Well, my gate was at least a mile distance, and when I finally got there, I found no restaurants or food, but only a machine for water and sodas.  Fortunately, I had some peanuts and candy from the ship.

Boarding was a stampede from the bus that led to the plane.  Seats were very narrow and with no leg room at all.  Could not stretch both legs at the same time.  Very hard, uncomfortable seats.  The plane going to Sydney was packed with Asians; I assume that most were Chinese and the announcements were in both Chinese and English.  I noticed that a large number of babies and small children were on board, and in my section -- Economy class.  I also noticed that many of the people seemed to know each other and were talking excitedly and happily -- and loudly.  After take-off, I fell asleep, having had little sleep the previous night.  However, I was awake again in a very short time because of the loud noise in the cabin from loud talking, laughing, and crying babies.  The loud talking and crying babies continued until dinner was served about 7:00 p.m., and then resumed immediately.  At 10:00 the captain turned off the lights, but the crying babies continued, and continued, and continued all through the night.  I slept for perhaps two hours all night.

At 2:30 a.m. the captain said we would be landing in two hours, so breakfast was served.  He also announced that watches should be turned forward by three hours, as Sydney was three hours ahead of Beijing.  Soon a pretty orange dawn appeared and then sunrise.  The plane landed on time at 4:15 a.m., or 7:15 Australia time.

Passing through customs was not difficult, but then getting the luggage was a nightmare.  The luggage situation seemed out of Africa or some other third-world country.  One bag appeared and then a wait of half an hour for the second bag, and then another wait of half an hour for the third bag.  Then the true horror began.  Thousands of people had to pass through two one-person doors to be checked by security.  One of the lines was for Australian “Fast Track” passengers, and there were few of them.  The line for the other door grew longer and longer as the wait continued, until there must have been at least a thousand people waiting.  People were growing more and more unruly, shouting at the poor young woman who was guarding the door, and eventually, she let passengers pass through the “Fast Track“ door as well.

After finally passing through the security check-point, I found the Princess representative, a young woman who told me that the bus would be in 45 minutes; the time then was about 8:00 a.m.; she suggested waiting at a coffee-shop next to her.  After a few minutes, I asked if I could wander down the hallway, and she said “yes” and that there was another coffee shop area down the hallway.  As I got to that area, I saw another Princess representative, who told me that I should not wander too far as the bus to the ship would be coming soon, and if I missed the bus, I would have to wait for another one later.  I got a cup of coffee at a McDonalds restaurant, but it turned out to be cold.  I sat in the coffee shop with other Princess passengers, and we waited and waited and waited.

Finally at 11:00 a.m. we were told that the bus had been called, and it would be arriving soon.  We were led to a bus area, and again we waited and waited.  Finally the bus came, and it was large enough for all the passengers, but not the luggage.  Some of the luggage was put onto the bus, and the bus had to return for the rest of the luggage.  The bus finally left the terminal building at 11:20 a.m.

Clearly, this situation was horrible.  Some of the people could have been taken to the ship sooner, as the bus had to make two trips anyway.  Instead we were all required to wait for more than three hours -- why?  So that Princess could save a few dollars making only one bus trip to the ship, rather than two.  The weather was beautiful -- sunny and warm -- and we could have gone for a walk and taken pictures, but instead we were required to wait for more than three hours at the airport.  If we had been told the truth by Princess, I would have taken a taxi to the airport for less than Princess charged for the transfer, and then I would have gone for a walk in the nice weather.  Instead Princess lied about the wait time, and we were all stuck in the airport for hours.  Just another example of horrible Princess passenger service.

After arriving at the cruise terminal, the check-in process was easy, and boarding was no problem.

The ship is older, and it is very different from other Princess ships.  Pretty, but cramped.  The cabin is a bit larger than cabins on newer ships, but there is much less closet and shelf space.

The sail-away was very beautiful.  The weather was perfect, and I took many photos of the downtown area of Sydney as the ship sailed out of the harbor, including the old bridge, the new bridge, and the opera house.

Wednesday, 10/09/13 Beijing Day 3


Tuesday, 10/08/13 Beijing Day 2


Monday, 10/07/13 Tianjing to Beijing

Monday, 10/07/13 Tianjin to Beijing

Transfer day to the hotel in Beijing -- the Marriott City Wall hotel.  The previous evening, all bags had to be packed and put outside the door by 10:00 p.m. except for carry-on bags, which included my camera and laptop.  After breakfast, the wait to board the bus was not long, and it seemed that the bus would leave early; however, after boarding, the tour guide announced that the bus would be holding at the ship because the freeway leading to Beijing had been closed due to heavy fog.  The bus would hold at the ship until the freeways had been reopened.  The morning was pleasant at the ship, and I waited outside the bus talking with a Canadian man for a while.  After about an hour, the announcement was made that the freeway had been reopened, and the bus proceeded.

The American name of the tour guide was Jason; he gave his Chinese name, which I did not understand.  He spoke with an American accent, and I asked him if he had spent time in America; he said that he had never been outside China, but had an American teacher.  He had studied English in school, and also at a special language school.  He had been a tour guide for eight years, and he said that his wife was also a tour guide.  He talked a lot about himself, his family, China, Chinese policies, and many other things; I thought he was a really great tour guide.  All passengers remained with the same bus and tour guide for the three days in Beijing.

Once on the freeway, new high rise buildings began to appear everywhere.  He said that Tianjin was a “mid-size” city of 14 million people, and it was the main port for Beijing.  He said that many of the new high rise buildings were condos, and that people in China purchased their condos, often taking mortgages for their entire lives, the prices were so high.  He said that the usual size of a condo was about 1000 square feet.  He also said that many new apartment buildings were empty because people could not afford to purchase the apartments.  He said that all land in China is owned by the state, and that land is leased for a period of 70 years.  After that, the lease must be renewed, or the building torn down and the land reclaimed by the state.

After the bus was on the freeway, traffic stopped for half an hour or so due to the back-up from the previous closure.  Eventually, the traffic moved, but slowly.  The terrain to Beijing from Tianjin was flat, as is often the case in coastal areas.  Much of the land was farmland, with sudden groups of high-rise apartment buildings rising out of the countryside; again, Jason said that many of these new buildings were empty.  The highway was beautiful and it seemed to be new, although I am sure that it was there when I last visited Beijing in 2008.

Once in Beijing, the bus went directly to Tiananmen Square for a visit.  Because of the late arrival, the tour stop in Tiananmen Square was brief, but it was sufficient to walk around and take a few photos.  Although the Golden Week holiday was still underway, there were not as many visitors as during my visit in 2008, and the opportunities for interesting photos were fewer.  The children were still cute.  Across the street from Tiananmen Square is the National Art Museum of China, a very large, beautiful building whose title board was inscribed by Mao in 1963.  The building spans an area of 18,000 square meters in five floors and has 17 exhibition halls.

After the visit to Tiananmen Square, the bus stopped for lunch at a nearby hotel -- the typical Chinese lunch with an unending line of dishes being placed on a large Lazy Susan in the center of the table.  I found the sweet and sour to be the most palatable of the dishes.  As the bus traveled through Beijing, it passed many beautiful buildings and important historical sights, such as the new China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters building; with 54 floors, the unique building reaches a height of 234 meters.  The bus also passed Zhengyangmen or Qianmen Gate House, a historic gate house on the city wall that was first constructed in 1419.  The gate was completely reconstructed in 1914, and it was occupied by the People‘s Liberation Army in 1949.  It has become a major tourist attraction.

After lunch, the bus went to the Forbidden City.  As I followed the tour group through, I thought of the last time I was there, and this time, the place seemed more familiar, even though I had been there only once, and that was five years ago.  I took many of the same photos as before, and this time, I did not feel as much urgency.  I took far fewer photos this time, and the photos were of a more general nature than before.  The Forbidden City is unique and one of the great sights in the world -- a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  One still gets a feeling of awe walking through it.

After the Forbidden City, the bus went directly to the hotel for check-in -- the Marriott City Wall Hotel.  Everyone was given the keys to a room without having to go through the room registration process, and luggage was already in the room upon arrival.  The room was okay, although a bit small, but the bed turned out to be a foam mattress and difficult to sleep on.  Remembering the food illness I got the last time I visited Beijing, I wanted to be cautious this time; the pizza in the restaurant in the hotel turned out to be just fine.  Then early sleep for a full day tomorrow.

Sunday, 10/06/13 Dalian

Sunday, 10/06/13 Dalian

Took the “City Walking Tour”, a guided walking tour along Zhongshan Road, one of the main roads in Dalian.  The walking tour began at Zhongshan Square, with it’s huge soccer ball in the center.  The guide was a college student, studying to be an English teacher.  She was difficult to understand, and on the street, she was very hard to hear; however, she was pleasant and did manage to convey information about the squares and some of the buildings.  The tour was a walk straight up the main road from Zhongshan Square through Friendship Square to Victory Square, past a very upscale shopping area, and on up the street to People’s Square, with its very interesting fountains.  The walk was uphill, and one wondered why the tour did not start at the top of the hill and walk down.

At People’s Square, the tour stopped at a local restaurant for refreshments -- coke or beer -- and then we all boarded a coach for the ride back down the same street to Labor Park, the most interesting place on the tour.  The ship was in Dalian on a holiday, the sixth day of the national week, and many people were in the park to relax and enjoy the nice weather.  One of the interesting sights was a matchmaking scene at the entry to the park, where dozens of parents had posted one page descriptions of their son or daughter on trees, in the hope that some other parent would want their own child to meet them and form a match.  Rather than using a computer site to form matches, this ancient ceremony was an attempt for parents to find a match for their children.

As I took photos, a young woman came up to me and wanted her boyfriend to take a photo  of me with her, which I found amusing.  Later in the same park, I saw them again, and I asked him to use my camera to take a photo of her and me.  The entire scene in the park was very colorful, with people everywhere relaxing and enjoying the day.  The guide handed out paper kites for passengers to try to fly, but I did not attempt that.

Dalian is a very modern city, with skyscrapers everywhere, and like other Chinese cities, it was very clean and neat.

Saturday, 10/05/13 Qingdao

Saturday, 10/05/13 Qingdao

Took the ship tour, an all-day tour of the Badaguan historic district of Qingdao, including lunch.  In Chinese, the letter “Q” is pronounced “ch”, so the name of the city is pronounced “Chingdao”.  The ship was in Qingdao on a holiday, and the streets were filled with local people enjoying the beautiful weather on a day off work.  October 1 is the national holiday of China, like July 4th in America, and the entire first week of October is a national holiday, called “Golden?? Week”.

This was a very good tour that included many of the top historical sites in Qingdao.  The tour guide spoke very poor English, and it was very difficult to understand him; however, the tour was very good.  One of the first things that I noticed was that the streets were lined with large shade trees, and the tour guide explained that when the city was under German control, the streets were laid out and trees were imported from Germany to line the streets.  As the bus passed “Bathing Beach No. 1”, I noticed brides on the beach, where bridal photos were being taken.  The tour guide explained that brides often had bridal photos made on the beach prior to their wedding.  I was disappointed that the bus did not stop at the beach.  When the bus did stop, passengers were led past “Bathing Beach No. 2, which was not nearly as pretty as the No. 1 beach; however, some brides were also on this beach for wedding photos, and I was able to take a couple of photos of them.

The tour guide led the passengers to a beautiful park and on to

Friday, 10/04/13 Day at Sea

Friday, 10/04/13 Day at Sea


Thursday, October 03, 2013

Thursday, 10/03/13 Busan, Korea

Thursday, 10/03/13 Busan, Korea

As the ship slowly made its way into Busan harbor, the view for miles was of a forest of high rise apartment buildings. Busan (formerly Pusan) is South Korea’s second largest city. The population of Busan is now 3.5 million, and that is a decline from a former population of 5 million. It seems that the corporations and the jobs are moving north in
South Korea, to the area near Seoul, where labor is more plentiful and cheaper than in the Busan area. Still, the forest of high rise apartment buildings stretched for miles.

Korea was divided in 1945, after World War II, and the division was confirmed by the Korean War 1950-1953. After the Korean War, all of Korea was desperately poor, and many thousands of people died of starvation. The poverty continued until the early 1970s, when the United States pressed South Korea to support the Vietnam war. South Korea had no military, and no money to support the United States in the Vietnam War; however, the United States offered to give South Korea the rights to all construction projects in the war if they would support the war. For the first time, South Korea had an opportunity to improve its economic situation, and they took it. As the war went on, South Korea gained knowledge and experience in construction projects, and they are still now called upon for construction projects around the world. That was the beginning of the economic turnaround in South Korea, and the country has continued its economic growth since then. It is now one of the economic powerhouses in the world. Busan is one of the top five ports in the world as measured by the number of containers processed there, and the port is very impressive. A new bridge crosses the harbor, adding beauty to the port.

Because the Korean people suffered deep poverty for so long, they now want only new products. There are very few cars on the roads that are not new, as well as the roads, the apartment buildings, the appliances and everything else. In addition, they have kept few historic sites, although they now recognize the value of historic sites in tourism, and they now are reconstructing some historic sites.

The tour included several historic sites designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The first site was Tumuli Park, the home of 20 royal tombs dating back to the Silla Dynasty, including Chonmachong, or “Flying Horse” tomb, that was excavated in 1973. The tombs of Tumuli Park are located in Tumuli Village, which is part of the UNESCO designation, and is filled with historic houses and buildings that are occupied and in use. No external changes can be made in these buildings. This site is about 1.5 hour’s drive from the port. Although the tour stopped at the tombs, one sad aspect of the tour was it did not include a photo stop at the village, and there was no opportunity to take photos of the interesting buildings there.

After this visit, the tour stopped for a large buffet lunch at a local hotel. This lunch was not the greatest; it was definitely a “tourist” luncheon. One of the items at the buffet was Kimchi, the national dish of Korea; this is a cabbage dish that is fermented and very spicy. This dish is so important in Korea that many households have two refrigerators, one used solely for Kimchi. The luncheon included a very beautiful folk dance.

After lunch, the tour went to the Bulguska Temple, a very impressive Buddhist temple that was constructed about 750 AD, and also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tour guide discussed Buddhism, which has been the national religion of Korea since around 700 AD. Buddhism originated in India, traveled to China, and then on to Korea and Japan. The basic tenet of Buddhism is that desire is the cause of all pain in life, and the path to peace is letting of all desire.

One interesting tidbit that the tour guide pointed out concerns the appearance of Korean women. She said that it is often very difficult to tell the age of a Korean woman who is between the ages of 25 and 60. As an example, she asked the people on the bus to guess her age. She appeared to be 25-30, but she said that she was in fact 46. Everyone was shocked; she certainly did not appear to be 46. She was asked if she was married, and she said “no”, that she was never wanted by any man. She was very well educated, including graduate studies in America, and in Asia, many educated women are not wanted as wives because they outshine their husbands.

Busan is a very interesting city, and the tour barely touched on the interesting aspects of the city. It would be very interesting to return and spend some time there. Busan stretches for miles along a valley, and almost all of the city is in that long valley, with high rise apartment buildings rising up along the sides of the valley.