Sydney Harbour, Australia…I watched my home of 3 weeks sail-away without me tonight!
I bid the passengers and crew of the m/s Volendam a heartfelt “Bon Voyage” and a big thank you for a great trip!
Sydney, Australia…what a magnificent arrival into this gorgeous city!
At 5:15 am, I woke up extra early to witness our sunrise sail in to Sydney harbour…it was a thrill to make it 8,527 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean and see that famed Opera House now within reach in the near distance! The skyline appeared closer and closer and I rushed to the bow of the ship to soak in the miraculous view that unfolded before me…
As the pilot boat guided us through the waterfront, a welcome committee greeted our arrival: a large school of Dolphins leaped in and out of the water towards the ship and we all erupted with excitement! It must of been 25 or more of these beautiful creatures putting on the best welcome we could have to Australia!
The fiery sun started to rise higher and higher over the city and the colors continued to change as if it were being painted with the boldness of an artist’s brush!
As the ship steered its way in front of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, we docked into our spot in the middle of some of the most famous sights in the world at Circular Quay! What a view and what a city!
This part of the journey is over as we disembark into the city of Sydney to start a whole new adventure!
At sea…my last day aboard the m/s Volendam as my 21 day journey comes to an end and I will return to life on land!
In the early 20th Century, travel by ocean liner was a privilege of the wealthy. It was a luxurious experience in which the rich were catered to with elegant and elaborate parties hosted by a regal ship’s captain.
Obviously, times have changed…today this type of travel is available to anyone who has the luxury of time! Most people today, though, want the quickest nonstop in getting to their destination; most travelers don’t have the spare time for a long and leisurely cross ocean voyage! But this voyage cost much less than a business class transpacific flight but so much richer in experiences!
It’s hard not to feel a sense of nostalgia as my time on the m/s Volendam winds down and my experience in this decadent old school style of ocean going comes to an end…Slowly navigating the immense seas and getting to see these remote places has been truly special…
I have cruised a lot as part of my many adventures, yet I think this voyage will be remain a highlight. This medium sized ship doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some of the newest mega ships, but it has a “heart” and “soul” to it that is hard to put my finger on! It’s size neither feels too small and confining, nor does it feel overwhelming and overrun.
After 3 weeks on board, this Holland America Line ship feels like home..certain things have become habit forming, creating my own special moments:
1. Sail-away on the bow or very front of the ship. It’s like my own special “Titanic” moment!
2. A mid-day nap on one of the 4 hammocks on the secluded Oasis area of the top deck!
3. A decadent formal dinner served in my cabin as I lounge in my robe with a good film in the DVD player!
4. Relaxing in a recliner in the traditional New York Times sponsored library studying a travel guide of our next port!
5. A deep night’s sleep cradled to the gentle ocean roll of the ship!
6. Floating in the salt water “seaview pool” at the ship’s aft! The high salt content in this pool allows you to easily float!
7. A long session of cardio in the top deck fitness center over looking the open seas and witnessing dolphins playing alongside the ship!
8. An early morning one mile walk on the grand outdoor promenade, watching the ship pull into the day’s port!
9. A late evening film in the movie theatre indulging in delicious popcorn!
10. People watching: seeing my fellow passengers dress up for formal night, witness small children so excited to play dress up with mom & dad, and observing the dance floor come alive with older couples who’ve obviously been ballroom dancing together for many years!
At Sea…today was a very special day as we sailed towards Australia!
Holland America Line hosts “On Deck for the Cure” ….a 5K walk around the ship’s deck that raises money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation! The cruise line has been doing this event on every sailing for the past 5 years, raising over 3 million dollars to date! For every $15 collected, $11.25 goes to finding a cure for breast cancer…
For me, it was a must do! I walked this 5K in honor of a survivor…a very special one to me! My best friend, Shelly fought and won her battle against breast cancer several years ago! I can remember the call when she shared the news, my silence, and her brave painful struggle to fight her shocking diagnosis!
I am so happy she will join me for the end of my 4 month journey…she has been an important part of my life and I am grateful to say she continues to be…but others are less fortunate! This walk is for you, Shelly, and of course the countless others that continue to fight this debilitating disease!
The walk was 11 laps around the ship and we had 5 survivors walking with us! It was emotional to see everyone dressed in their white tees and pink wristbands come together to walk against a disease that affects someone we all know! As the laps got less and less, the group finished proud of our collective accomplishment and we were treated to a lot of cheering and delicious pink lemonade!
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month…I am glad I could do my tiny part to honor that and my best friend and survivor!
At sea…I have set sail away from New Caledonia and the exotic South Pacific!
I am on my final leg of this sea voyage and on my way to Australia…we will reach Sydney in 2 days!
Today I saw my last Tiki and bid them and this incredible region adieu! Tiki sightings are such a symbol of Polynesia and an important icon of my travels here…
I hope to return to the unforgettable beauty of the South Pacific and once again swim in that warm brilliant sea!
Noumea, New Caledonia…fashion can come in the most unlikely of places! The main square in town, Place des Cocotiers, hosted a celebration and brought out the local elders to display their Polynesian style!
Booths selling local crafts, homemade delicacies, and homegrown produce lined the square. But the women dancing and enjoying the music in their homemade hats stole the show for me!
Each trying to outdo the next in their woven palm hats…they were so excited that I liked them and wanted to take their picture!
Hats off to primitive style! Ladies, you look great!
Noumea, New Caledonia…our last South Pacific stop before heading straight to Sydney, Australia! The French influence is everywhere here from the language to the food.
I head to Anse Vata beach, making my way past the yacht filled marina. The beach is long with a very narrow strip of sand…the temperature is noticeably cooler than yesterday!
Instead of relaxing here, I can see Duck Island in the distance and decide to jump on the water taxi…the water is a similar brilliant shade of aqua blue as Lifou but it’s set against a riviera of high rise hotels and apartments. The feeling is much more Nice, France than Paradise, South Pacific! The water taxi speeds it’s way to little Duck Island off shore as the blue water sprays all around us…
Duck Island is a spot of an island that I am able walk its entire perimeter in less than 10 minutes! But the beach is very French, outfitted with chic loungers and bright umbrellas that can be rented for an exorbitant fee! Again, reminiscent of the French Riviera but here in the South Pacific…
There is no denying Duck Island is lovely! The island is a natural bird sanctuary and has a more rustic look. The coral here is beautiful all along the sand; this coral of all sizes is mixed with sea shells all in stark chic white! I think how beautiful these would look filled in tall glass cylinders in my home…but unfortunately there is no way to get this back for some decorating magic!
It’s a nice place, but honestly the more undiscovered Polynesia is much more stunning and makes you feel a world away!
Lifou, New Caledonia…as we near New Zealand, we arrive at one of the Loyalty Islands that is part of the larger French territories of New Caledonia.
There is no port, no taxis, no hotels, and no organized tours on this remote piece of Paradise! We take the tenders ashore to a rickety wood platform steps from an incredibly bleach white stretch of coral sand beach.
I have never seen water this color of aqua blue! It’s beyond stunning and it just calls out to you to swim in! How can it just get more beautiful as we go from island to island in the magnificent South Pacific?
I take a stroll beyond the lush vegetation of our landing site to Baie du Jinek; an underwater natural aquarium! Crystalline waters revealing a bevy of underwater coral refuges that hold a population of exotic fish! It’s so clear you can view the marine life below from the cave edged shoreline above!
I spent some time snorkeling…seeing fish of every hue and I can’t help but to be awestruck by the striped sea snake slithering between the coral beneath me! So much so that the surprise of seeing this unique animal causes me to begin inhaling the salt water and I have to stop for an above water breather…I am disappointed I don’t have a waterproof camera to capture what looks like an animated children’s film below the surface!
The rest of the day I just enjoyed the seemingly undiscovered beauty of the beach, probably still looking as it did when Captain Cook discovered this perfect little island!
Life really doesn’t get much better than this!
Vanuatu…Polynesian cultures have a rich history of intricate wood carving. The tiki or tam-tam are richly carved and have centuries of meaning. They are deeply regarded in this culture, even appearing on local currency.
Most people associate the tiki with Hawaii, but on this trip I have seen them throughout these remote islands of the South Pacific! The most incredible tiki I have seen were in Vanuatu today. These dark almost black wood talismans lined the gorgeous waterfront at Turtle Beach!
The tiki stand guard ominously along the breakwater in front the brilliantly blue shore. Obviously, each holds an important symbolism to the locals. These carvings stand proudly displaying sexual and virility themes; from phallic symbolism to even depicting an hermaphrodite!
I know many cultures believe the phallus is good luck…but these tiki go beyond that! I keep thinking about the haunting statues with their intense stare. They stuck with me because they seemed to look right through to my soul. I was totally drawn to them!
Art, superstition, craft, black magic, voodoo, and religion are all intertwined in history of Polynesia…I am so glad I got a chance to see these special tiki and witness these local mysteries!