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!
Sailing the South Pacific…another beautiful day as we sailed towards the island of Vanuatu. The color of the sea has taken on an almost neon shade of cobalt blue and the sun is warm and intense!
It’s hard to believe that this voyage is in its final days! When I boarded this ship over 2 weeks ago, it seemed to me that this 21 day sailing would seem like an eternity…but now with 5 days remaining, it seems like time just flew by!
I have shared this ship with a varied group of world travelers that are my fellow passengers. Many of whom are retired but yet with such a zest for life! Neither Age nor physical limitations nor even disabilities have limited any single one of these people from seeing the world!
I am inspired everyday seeing this group’s desire to live every moment…making every second of the gift of life count…
A retired couple told me emphatically: “don’t plan for tomorrow what you can do now!” They said so many of their friends say “next year” but that date never seems to arrive!
I also met a marine lecturer on board who told me how her she loves her time on cruises and how it’s has given her new insight into old age…she has seen the vibrancy and incredible living that one’s golden years can be…it’s not the convalescence she once thought it was!
I know each and every experience I am having is really just a lesson in disguise!
Pago Pago, American Samoa…we arrived this morning to the lush green island of Tutuila in the remote archipelago of the Samoan Islands! It’s great to be on land again, but this island that is seemingly off the map makes me feel like Giligan after being shipwrecked during that famous “three hour tour”…
Not too many ships stop here, so the entire town seemed to show up for our arrival!
I headed to Tisa’s Beach for a day on the sand. Nothing prepared me for the surreal beauty of this location; a barefoot bar hut built on a crescent of unspoiled beach! I truly feel like an explorer who just discovered a place all my own! Samoa means “sacred Earth” and this beach delivers that in spades..
The water is bathtub warm filled with glorious fish and coral and the sands have wreaths of fauna that have washed ashore! I took some time for arts and crafts on the beach, spelling out the name of this sacred place in leaves, fauna, nuts, and flowers that I found on the sand…
Back on Tisa’s, lunch is served! The Samoan people are so kind and extremely welcoming and they were anxious to share their Samoan delicacies prepared beneath coconut leaves and hot rocks. Tarot, coconut, and bananas cooked with turkey, lamb, and pork for hours until all is falling apart tender!
Even though I may feel like a rare explorer, my days at sea have brought me to this island that many hearty travelers before me have visited and gone on to tell tales of for years…like James Michener who came here to write his 1946 classic “Tales of the South Pacific”.
Somewhere in the South Pacific…today is the fifth consecutive sea day in our journey, as the m/s Volendam makes it way towards Samoa. It’s been beautiful for days, if not a bit too hot…but today was a different story!
I woke up a few times throughout the night feeling the roll of the ship, but in a way that rocking just adds to the amazing amounts of deep sleep I have I had so far on board! When I finally awoke, I peered outside to gray skies above and rain drenching the open decks.
This entire day has been spent lazily do nothing as the ship pitched and rolled. I had found my sea legs but at times standing upright and walking in a straight line seemed totally elusive! The captain has slowed down a bit to lessen the impact of the rough sea. Yet this is just a minor wave compared to what has been experienced by some of the more seasoned sailors that I have spoken to on board…the decks remain open and besides not being able to use the outdoor pool all is the same as usual besides a bit of unsteady passengers!
At Sea…during this long voyage, Holland America has tried to up the ante on entertainment; Lorna Luft and The Drifters have been headliners. These entertainers are not of my era and I was not particularly drawn to either of them.
Surprisingly, I was struck by Lorna Luft’s personal insight. She is the daughter of Judy Garland and the sister to Liza Minnelli. She has written a best selling book, produced an Emmy award winning mini-series, and starred on Broadway. Yet it wasn’t her accolades that struck me, rather it was her candid conversation about “Legacy” and her difficulties in coming to terms with her own Legacy that has sorta hit me smack dab between the eyes!
Legacy is a funny yet larger than life word, one I don’t use much in my own vocabulary. Ms. Luft discussed how she ran from being defined as the daughter of an American Icon and for years ignored the huge legacy that bestowed on her. Once she faced that daunting task, she needed to stop running and stake her own personal legacy, independent of the one of her birth! She said it’s not until people are in their 40’s that they begin to understand their parents and it’s then they really face their own issue of personal Legacy! Wow, how true!
This trip in a way has been my own journey towards understanding my own Legacy! First by traveling to Poland to see where my father came from and then having serious “me-time” to come to terms with the reality of how far I have come…
Now I look forward to where I am going; my passions, my talents, my observations, and my desires coming together to form the next step of my life. Getting away and wandering the world is getting me ready to start the course towards cementing MY OWN LEGACY!