Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 76

Day 76 – Panama Canal to Puntarenas – Monday 30/7/12

Weather – Mainly cloudy. 26C – 28C
Sunrise – 6.19am
Sunset – 6.52pm
Time difference - minus 15 hours ex Sydney

After exiting the Panama Canal, Sun Princess set a northerly heading towards Puntarenas, Costa Rica. We are now in the Pacific Ocean – home pond :)

Todays geography lesson for the grand-kids – The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the earth's Oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north, to Antarctica in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east. At 165 million square kilometres in area, this is the largest division of the world ocean and, in turn, the hydrosphere covers about 46% of the Earth's water surface and about one third of it's total surface area, making it larger than all of the Earth's land area combined. Tell Mum that over the dinner table tonight and you are sure to get an extra scoop of ice cream :)

Quiet day at sea for us today. Not much to report. We did our usual morning stuff, exercise walk (me), Zumba (Donna) Trivia ( we're back). Donna had a movie arvo, and I had a reading on Promenade deck arvo.

Formal night yet again tonight, and there is another in 4 nights time, so we passed tonight and had a pizza night with friends Bob and Wendy. This also enabled us to go to the earlier show tonight, which was a split show with two entertainers who have performed a few nights ago. We had not seen either of their earlier shows, but both were highly recommended, and were quite good.

Les – Sorry, but I dont think we have met your friends. We are actually still on the lookout for a lady who got on in Sydney at the start of the cruise :)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Day 75 Panama Canal

Day 75 – Panama Canal – Sunday 29/7/12

Weather – Sunny, then cloudy, with one almighty downpour. 28C – 28C
Sunrise – 6.09am
Sunset – 6.40pm
Time difference - minus 15 hours ex Sydney (one hour back last night)

Well, what a day that was....fair dinkum unbelievable.

When I looked at our itinerary the other day, I thought, well there is no more big ticket days now for the cruise, the rest from here should be fairly sedate. How wrong I was, today will definitely go down as one of the highlights of this epic holiday.

We were up and out the cabin by 5am, and top deck front and centre for our entry into the Panama Canal. It was still very dark, and would be for an hour, but the bright lights in the distance of the Gatun Locks inched closer to us. By daybreak the open decks, and we arrived at the entry to Gatun Locks on time. Sun Princess was assigned 'pole position' for our transit of the canal, so that gave us the Quinella, as you may recall we also led the convoy through the Suez Canal what seems like an eternity ago now.

The benefit of being leader is that we had a clear uninterrupted view ahead all day, and we would not be subject to delays that may be caused by issues on ships ahead of us. One downside of not having a ship in front of us is that we did not get to see the operation of a ship transit, and the lock workings before we transited, but we more than solved that issue, which we will come to. We were fortunate to have a guide sitting up in the bridge, who was very knowledgeable of the locks, and their operation, who provided narration over the PA system throughout the day.

As we approached the first of the Gatun Locks, the crowd top deck swelled, and it looked to be 5 or 6 deep in most vantage points. We marvelled at the operation of the lock, the way the 'mules' kept the ship steady as it powered slowly into position. To consider these locks are now 99 years old, and in effect they still operate as they did when they designed and built.

As I understand the ship traffic control room has been modernised with computers etc, but other than that things are as they were, right down to the fellas in their little row boats who retrieve the ships guide ropes, which are then used to connect the cables to the mules. Our guide asked the Panama Pilot the question that everyone was asking...why do you still use little row boats, why not motorised dinghy or runabout? The answer – oars dont break !!!!

After we watched our transit through the first of the triple locks that make the Gatun Locks, we went over to starboard side and watched a bulk carrier doing its entry and drop in its first lock, then we went to the rear of the ship to get another perspective of our transit through, by this time it was the last of the triple locks. We spotted Pam and Randy down on their suite balcony, so they waved us down, and we had a great uninterrupted view that was a bit closer to the action.

After exiting the Gatun Locks, and entering the Gatun Lake, we went for breakfast, and a few other things for the rest of the morning. We were anchored in the Lake for a couple of hours whilst we waited for the northbound traffic to pass, and then made our way on. We were lucky to be invited up to Pam and Randy's suite for a lunch of booze and burgers, and to watch the rest of the transit.

It was just the best afternoon, and we are so appreciative of their hospitality. We were able to watch the transit with uninterrupted views, in comfort, and in great company. We took about 200 photos during the day, so that is another culling exercise I will have to do :) We fell about 45 minutes behind schedule as the day went on, which was not too bad given the day's transit takes about 9 or 10 hours, and there are staging points along the way, and we also had to disembark a a passenger for medical reasons at the last of the locks.

The whole day was fine and mostly sunny, with high humidity, a little uncomfortable, but we were able to rotate through the air conditioned suite when we wanted a break. We did get a dose of the famous Panama rain on only one occasion, and boy did it come down, horizontally and hard, just as we got to the last of the Mira Flores Locks, where the multi storey visitor centre was packed to the rafters with people watching our transit. It only lasted for about 15 minutes, but it was quite a dump, but did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd or us.

After a shower and rest we went to a pre-dinner comedy show that was a bit ordinary. We are not having much luck with comedy shows, we missed what we were told by many was an excellent comedian the night before, but we seem to pick the 'lemons' to go to :)

After dinner, we went to a second show by a duo who sing with a bit comedy. This was not as good as their first show a few nights ago (they never are), but it was enjoyable, and a nice way to end a simply fantastic day.

So are transiting the Panama Canal, we are now in our 'home pond' that is the Pacific Ocean, although we actually head further away from home for the next week as we visit Coast Rica and Los Angeles.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 74

Day 74 – Aruba to Panama Canal – Saturday 28/7/12

Weather – Sunny 27C – 28C
Sunrise – 6.06am
Sunset – 7.03pm
Time difference - minus 14 hours ex Sydney

After departing Aruba last night Sun Princess set a westerly course through the south Caribbean Sea, passing the Gulf of Venezuela, which leads into Maracaibo, on our port side.

Rest Day sea day today, and boy do we need it after yesterday !!!. The Captain reported today that both of the patients, who were evacuated from the ship by the US Coast Guard helicopters a few days ago, are out of intensive care, and are recovering well in the San Juan hospital that they were airlifted to, so that is great news. He also mentioned that the gastro numbers are down, with the hope that the day after tomorrow the special procedures currently in place will be relaxed – hopefully, no promises :)

I went to a lecture today on the operations of the Panama Canal, in readiness for the big day tomorrow. For those interested, we have been given the approximate times that we will be at various points along the canal tomorrow. The times will not be confirmed until tomorrow, and I dont how many webcams that have operating along the canal, so they maybe a little out. We will be putting our clocks back another hour when we go to bed tonight, so that will make it minus 15 hours from Sydney/Brisbane time, and minus 13 hours from Perth time.

So in Panama time, we will should be at:
Gatun Lock entry – 0615 - (Syd/Bris – 9.15pm, Perth 7.15pm)
Gatun Lock exit – 0740 - (Syd/Bris – 10.40pm, Perth 8.40pm)
Gamboal entry – 1120 - (Syd/Bris – 2.20am, Perth 12.20am)
Gamboal exit – 1150 - (Syd/ Bris – 2.50am, Perth 12.50am)
Centennial Bridge – 1255 - (Syd/Bris – 3.55am, Perth 1.55am)
Opedro Miguel Lock – 1300 - (Syd/Bris – 4.00am, Perth 2.00am)
Mira Flores Lock – 1410 - (Syd/Bris – 5.10am, Perth 3.10am)
Bridge of Americas – 1530 - (Syd/Bris – 6.30am, Perth 4.30am)

At 1630 we will be hooked up to a fuel bunkering operation at Balboa Anchorage for Bunkers for about 4 hours to refuel,

A quiet day on board again today, gave us a chance to sleep in (Donna) and rest our weary bodies from an active day yesterday. This of course also means much socialising at various points across the ship. We revisited Trivia for the first time since mid June – new team, same result :) CC group had a get together this afternoon, which is always nice as we get to catch up with people that we dont always see around the ship.

There seems to be an increasing amount of complaints about stuff on the ship, and sometimes I do wonder if we are on a different cruise to the people we are talking with at times. Maybe there is a limit to the number of days on a cruise that the average person can experience, after which the glass becomes half empty, rather than half full. Or perhaps because we have such a large social group that we interact with, which we thoroughly enjoy, it keeps our frame of mind positive, so our glass is usually half full.

We have had the odd day when your having a bit of a downer, or feeling a bit off, your gunna get that on a cruise that is nearly 4 months long, just like you would at home over a four month period, but the next day is a Bran Nue Day (pardon the pun). There are many days when Donna would give anything to be sitting with her grandson and daughter in Royal Brisbane Hospital, than be on a ship on the other side of the world, it is the nature of a long absence from family that you get homesick a little, and sometimes a lot, and I dont know if this is effecting the enjoyment of the cruise for some people or not, but there are folk who are not having the best of times, and dont mind telling anyone who will listen.

I personally noticed a change in the atmosphere on the ship once we left Dover, From Sydney to Dover the ship always seemed to be 'alive' with positivity and merriment being dominant, perhaps because we had fantastic weather all the way, and the whole ship, indoors and outdoors, was being used to its best. Or perhaps because the itinerary was full of lots of 'big ticket' ports, dunno, but after Dover, it has been not so positive and merry at times.

The weather, when at sea, between Dover and Halifax was cold, and the outer decks were deserted, so everyone was confined indoors. The gastro broke out quite extensively, so the sanitisation procedures were put in place, which slowed service down in all the meal areas, as self service was stopped. There is probably no one single thing that is causing complaints from some, but there does seem to be more folks not happy now, than before Dover. Personally I think it is all about expectations, and how they may have altered as the journey has progressed.

Whatever, we are having the holiday of a lifetime, every port is a new port, which is a new adventure, and we are feel quite privileged to be a part of this cruise, and the experiences that we are having, the places we are seeing, and the friendships we are making, and we will let others sweat the small stuff.

At midnight we passed Punta Gallinas, on the northern coast of Colombia. We will steer a south-westerly heading and maintain approximately a 12 mile minimum distance from the coast of Colombia, passing Barranquilla at 11am. Tomorrow morning at 5am we will embark the Panama Canal Pilot as we enter the outer breakwater.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 73 - Aruba

Day 73 – Aruba – Friday 27/7/12

Weather – Sunny 28C – 28C (and windy as the mens loo at the MCG)
Sunrise – 6.25am
Sunset – 7.07pm
Time difference - minus 14 hours ex Sydney

At 6am this morning the pilot climbed on and we followed the buoyed channel into the port of Aruba, where we tied up alongside passenger terminal Berth “C” by 7am.

Aruba is only 33km long, and is situated in the southern Caribbean Sea. Together with Bonaire and Curacao it forms part of the ABC islands of the leeward Antilles. Aruba and all the Dutch and former Dutch islands are known as the Netherlands Antilles.

Another new port for us, and another wonderful day in our holiday of a lifetime. This morning Donna went horse riding in the countryside, which she was thrilled about. It has been a long time since she has been in the saddle and had a good hit out, which she was able to do on a large horse that she cantered on through the countryside that was well stocked with cactus plants, with and those slithery reptiley things:)

Whilst Donna was out playing Cowgirl Annie, I went looking through town in search of wi-fi with which to upload some photos onto the blog that I have had ready since Halifax, which seems like a long time ago now. The Starbucks wi-fi did not work, but I had success when I logged in as a bogus hotel guest at the 5 star hotel next door. By then shops were open, so I took the opportunity to restock our cabin provisions for the last stretch home.

By the time I got back to the ship, Donna was only 5 minutes behind me, so a quick freshen up and we were back out again. We went over to the bus terminal and caught a bus to Eagle Beach, which we had been told was listed as one of the 'top 10' beaches in the world. It was only a short 5km ride to the beach, and I must say we were impressed, we can see why it was on the list. Soft white sand as far as you can see, and the most exquisite turquoise water that is just picture postcard stuff.

After a lovely swim in the nice soft waters, we decided that rather than catch the bus back, that we would walk the 5km back to town along the beach. It was quite hot, so as we dried out, and got hot, we would jump back in the water for another swim. We repeated this about 6 or 7 times until we ran out of beach and met the docks. It was a lovely couple of hours which you can only dream of doing as you salter around the Caribbean.

We grabbed some lunch at a French cafe/restaurants (baguettes of course), and then filled in the remaining time until 'all aboard' time with a bit of shopping. As soon as we got back to the cabin Donna realised here spectacles were missing, so we back tracked through the terminal and out to the last place where she remembers swapping to her tinted spectacles, a shop a few streets away. We did not sight them on our back track, and the shop keeper had not seen them, so we resigned ourselves to them being lost for good.

As we trudged back to the ship in the wind and heat, we followed the same path back to the ship, when Donna saw her spectacles laying on the bitumen of a carpark. She is sooooo lucky that saw them, and even luckier that a car had not run over them upon entry to the carpark.

An early dinner, a few drinks with friends, and a after dinner production show, Country and Western style, followed by a Country and Western Quiz, which was then followed by a line dancing session. We passed on the line dancing as we were stuffed by our exploits of what was a lovely day in Aruba.

At 6pm we thrust off berth, and once outside the harbour, we steered a westerly course through the Caribbean Sea towards the Panama Canal.

Day 72

Day 72 – St Thomas to Aruba – Thursday 26/7/12

Weather – Sunny 28C – 28C (felt a lot hotter than that !!!)
Sunrise – 6.06am
Sunset – 7.03pm
Time difference - minus 14 hours ex Sydney

After departing St Thomas at 6pm last night, we set a south-westerly heading through the Caribbean Sea, and we maintained this course throughout the day passing over the Venezuelan Basin. Sun Princess was affected by the Caribbean Current, which is a warm water current that flows into the Caribbean Sea from the east along the coast of South America.

The current results from the flow of the Atlantic South Equatorial Counter Current as it flows north along the coast of Brazil. As the current turns north through the Yucatan Channel, it is renamed the Yucatan Current.

Rest day at sea today, in readiness for another port call tomorrow in Aruba. We spent the day hibernating today. This cruise has has been such a continuous social event thanks to the many friends we have made, and people we have met through CC, and there has not yet been a day where we have just spent time by ourselves during the day, so we decided today was it, therefore this will be the briefest of reports.

After dinner show by Kimika, a musical comedy, with impressions, and instrumentals, was an entertaining show.

That is all :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 71 St Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Day 71 – St Thomas, US Virgin Islands – Tuesday 24/7/12

Weather – Sunny 28C – 29C (not sure where they get this from, it was easily over 35C)
Sunrise – 5.55am
Sunset – 6.56pm
Time difference - minus 14 hours ex Sydney

In the early hours of this morning Sun Princess transited Virgin Passage, passing Savana Island, and the steered an easterly course toward the port approaches of Saint Thomas. We then altered our course to a northerly heading, passing Buck Island, at which point the pilot will climb aboard, and guide us to our berth at West India Dock.

Today in St Thomas we took to the water, as we have not seen much of that in the past 10 weeks :) We ventured out in a catamaran to a small island about 20mins out from the main harbour. This was a seriously big catamaran, very modern, and held the 50 passengers with ease. Our destination was Turtle Cove, aptly named as it is the home for a large school of turtles, as well as stingrays, and a whole host of other interesting and colourful marine life that abound on the coral.

We had about an hour to snorkel our way around the cove. It is a lovely part of the world, and we had a great time being a part of this experience in crystal clear warm waters that is the Caribbean. I it was easily me best snorkelling experience ever, but then again, I have not done many.

The sail back took about an hour, during which time we were plied with salsa, corn chips, and a very potent rum punch, combined with some very loud music, and that cat was rocking. It would be fair to say that by the time we got back to the harbour nearly all the passengers were intoxicated on a scale from 'merry' to 'very pissed'. I wont tell you where we were on that scale, but suffice to say that at one stage Donna was seen pole dancing...sorry, not photos will be revealed :)

After staggering the short walk back to the ship, we freshened up, had a bite to eat, and ventured into the local shopping strips. We only lasted a couple of hours before fatigue caused by the heat, and the morning exploits drove us back to the ship. A refreshing swim on board, and a very long nap was in order for me, though Donna still had enough in the tank for Sailaway, where we got up close and personal with the very large Allure of the Seas, which we gave way to in the channel.

Tonight there was a Christmas in July deck party that was very well attended, it even had a form of snow making coming in from the top deck, quite well done.

The gastro thing looks like it has finally settled down for now, as the yellow flag is not flying now, but all the procedures are still in place. I understand there was only 2 reported cases today, so that is well down on where it was a week ago.

Rest day tomorrow...and we need it!!! 10 weeks down, and 5 weeks to go, so we are the home stretch now, and still having a great time. There are a few folk around who have had things not go their way, but we are still living the dream

At 6pm we retraced our steps of the morning, and set a south-westerly course through the Caribbean Sea, towards our next port of Aruba.

Day 70

Day 70 – New York to St Thomas – Tuesday 24/7/12

Weather – Sunny 26C - 29C
Sunrise – 5.55am
Sunset – 7.06pm
Time difference - minus 14 hours ex Sydney

Today Sun Princess continued on a south-easterly course through the Atlantic Ocean. We are in the area known as the Bermuda Triangle so if you dont see any more blog posts after today you will know we have been the victims of some paranormal activity. If you happen to see a little green man with antennas on his head, who may look suspiciously like a relative to ET , driving around the Gold Coast in a new blue Toyota Corolla Sport, you will know the aliens have kidnapped us, so can someone go to our place and feed the dog and cat :)

Today we had the medical evacuation of two passengers by the US Coast Guard. Two separate helicopters and a support plane were despatched all the way from Miami to facilitate the evacuation of the patients. The open decks atop were cleared aft and middle, the only area where people were permitted was on far front of the open decks. All deck chairs were stacked away, in preparation for the evacuation that was to occur at the open area on the rear of 14.

The Promenade deck was also partly closed off, with the small 'man overboard' runabouts at the ready. The Captain made numerous announcements to crew and passengers in terms of what and when to expect things occurring, and the dos and donts. There is not a helipad on the ship so the evacuations were done with the helicopters hovering incredibly close to the ship, on the port, aft corner of the ship.

Passengers were in awe at the professionalism and skill displayed by the helicopter pilot who was able to maintain such a stable, and hazardous position for the 20 minutes of so it took undertake the procedure. By the way the ship was not stationary, it continued to sail along, which made the feat even more meritorious. Firstly a crew member drop lined down to the ship deck, then the stretcher capsule was drop lined down, the patient hoisted up, and then the crew member hoisted back up.

Due to the helicopters payload restrictions, and fuel requirements needed for the helicopter to be able to get to San Juan, where the patients were being taken, the first chopper was not able to take both patients. This must have been factored into the planning as the second helicopter was on standby nearby, and performed the second operation the same as the first, and equally as well.

There was a US Coast Guard plane circling above in support, keeping watch on the operation. Full credit to the Princess and US Coast Guard crews for the professional way the whole operation was conducted, and we all hope that both patients recover well from their ailments.

Tonight we had our Christmas in July dinner, for our dinner table. Wendy and Donna went to a lot of effort to make bonbons, that contained Xmas hats, toys, candy and jokes. They also decorated the table, and Wendy made a fantastic Xmas tree. Everyone participated in the Kris Kringle which was great fun. Head Waiter Johan, and the Executive Chef spoilt us with a wonderful turkey dinner, followed up with a yummy plum pudding. We were the envy of the dining room I am sure.

After dinner we went to the move that was on show in the Princess Theatre, Mirror Mirror. Surprisingly I did not sleep through it :)

St Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands tomorrow, so we get our first taste of the Caribbean :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 69

Day 69 – New York to St Thomas – Monday 23/7/12

Weather – Sunny 23C - 29C
Sunrise – 5.52am
Sunset – 7.27pm
Time difference - minus 14 hours ex Sydney

Today Sun Princess cruised on a south-easterly heading through the North Atlantic. We passed from the American basin to Nares Abyssal Plain, a vast underwater sea bed standing at the foot of the continental rise, at which point we will be 460 miles north of Cuba.

At midnight tonight we passed close to the Antilles Current, which is a warm current that flows to the north west, and passing the island chain which separates the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The Antilles Current forms part of the North Equatorial Current that flows across the Atlantic Ocean from the gulf of Guinea.

Sea Day 3 of 4 in our transit from New York to St Thomas, and a relaxing it day it was...again. I did need to pat a visit to my friendly doctor again today, as I had a 'blue' toenail, which indicates bleeding under the toenail, caused by some sort of trauma. I dont recall kicking my toe, or Donna standing on it during dancing, so I can only hazard a guess as to what has caused it.

Given the drama I had with the foot infection 6 weeks ago, I figured I would get the Doc to look at it straight away as I did not want a repeat of last occurrence where a relatively minor blister became quite serous. She bled the toe, by putting a hole through the nail, and put me on a course of anti-biotic as insurance.

Donna started the day with Zumba again, whilst I hit the Promenade deck again, this time a bit longer than yesterday, and a bit faster pace. This was before the visit to the Doc of course. A light breakfast in the buffet and Donna was off with friend Wendy to prepare xmas decorations for our Christmas in July Dinner tomorrow night. I went off to my quiet little hideaway in the Shooting Stars nightclub to start work on my photo culling. The Shooting Stars is deserted during the day, and so makes an ideal sanctuary from the hub bub of the ship.

A light lunch in the Dining Room was nice. If anyone is on a Princess cruise and sees curried herring on the menu as an entrée, try it. I know it sounds questionable, but take my word for it, if you generally like herring, you will just love this.

After lunch Wendy and Donna were back at work on the bon-bons , and I went to the photography section to enter a photo into the competition that is running. This sectors category is People, so I have entered the photo of Donna with the Macaw on her shoulder that was taken in Dubrovnik, which I think I posted on the blog. We will see how that goes. I spent the rest of the afternoon socialising until Donna had returned.

Formal dinner tonight, so on with the glad rags again, these formal nights seem to be coming around a lot quicker. I am missing Eduardo, our dinner waiter who got off in New York. We also lost our Junior waiter, Edgar, who is also excellent, to the other Dining Room.

After dinner show tonight was a production show by the new crop of singers and dancers who got on in New York. Tonights show, Shimmy, we have seen a few times before, and tonights performance was a marked improvement on the bunch that got off in New York.

Last sea day tomorrow, before we get into St Thomas, our first Caribbean stop, so it will be nice to see yet another new port of call...they keep on coming :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Day 68

Day 68 – New York to St Thomas – Sunday 22/7/12

Weather – Cloudy 23C - 26C
Sunrise – 5.47am
Sunset – 7.51pm
Time difference - minus 14 hours ex Sydney

Throughout the day Sun Princess steered a south-easterly course through the North Atlantic Ocean, passing over the North American Basin. About 3pm we passed 200 miles of the nearest land, which is the east coast of America. We crossed through the Gulf Stream (or North Atlantic Drift) which is a powerful, warm and swift ocean current that originates near the tip of Florida and heads north easterly back up where we have come from in the North Atlantic, reaching the UK and Norway.

Rest day at sea, so you know the drill, not much to report today. Quiet day catching up with friends and sharing tales of our adventures in New York City. The warmer weather got folks out doors, even though it was cloudy all day. For the first time since Dover I was able to sit out on the Promenade deck to read and write up the NY blog updates.

There were over 500 photos taken in New York, so there is some serious culling to be done to get it down to a manageable number, which is easier said than done, as it was such a great port visit. I may save that task for tomorrow. Hopefully I will get a few in the can to put on the blog in St Thomas.

We went to dancing lessons again today. Today was a slow nightclub dance, which I am afraid I just did not grasp at all. This dance is set for 6 lessons, as you learn an extra bit of it each day. I figure if it takes 6 lessons to learn, and I am struggling after lesson 1, it is best I make a graceful exit, and we focus on the waltz

We hit the Promenade deck for an exercise walk in the arvo, it is so nice to have warmth in the air again, though the legs were still a bit sore from the New York adventure, so just a half pace today.

Our CC group had a meet and greet today, which was well attended, to welcome on board the New York embarkers, then a quick change, and off to pre-dinner drinks, and another dining room dinner. Carl – sorry, I lost track of the soufflé scoreboard, they came too thick and fast there for a bit. You may not believe this but I have passed on the soufflés for about 4 weeks now. And you definitely will struggle to believe this – I have passed on the lobster 3 times now. Too much of a good thing …....

This morning the Captain said that the Norovirus (gastro) has eased, with numbers dropping, but there must have been a surge in cases reported as we were told by staff tonight that we had gone to 'Condition Red' , which is the highest rating. I have not been top deck tonight to see if the yellow flag that has been flying has been changed to red, but multiple staff told us so we assume that it is accurate.

The ship had a full sanitisation in New York, with every part of the ship being cleaned and sanitised, all the cabins were stripped and sanitised. It was a massive job, and now we are told that because we have gone to Red, they will have to do it all again in St Thomas. So the procedures in the eating areas, with staff serving everything will continue, tables and chairs being sanitised after every use etc etc, which I actually like. I used to avoid the buffet, as I never felt comfortable with the hygiene up there, but I dont mind it now, though some folk are cracking the shits as they cant treat the buffet like a sloshpit trough like they want to :)

The good news is that the revenue generating parts of he ship continue to be immune from germs:) No sanitisation required after a person leaves a pokie machine, they wipe them down every half hour the staff member tells me. I asked for the machine I was going to use be sanitised before I used it, and they were happy to do so, but it is the exception, not the norm. Same in the Internet cafe. Same in the boutiques. It will be interesting to see if they amp up the procedures even more tomorrow with the Red status.

Apologies for the delay in posting sometimes, as the ships Internet has been a real drag through the North Atlantic, though it seems to be more consistent now. We get on late at night, or early morning, when other usage is down, and it does help. We dont bother during the day now, as it just hangs, and burns up precious Internet minutes. We really appreciate all the comments we get, thank you. Sorry I dont respond to them all, but again, the premium of Internet time means we try and get on, and get off asap. We have a daily allowance of about 20 mins per day, to update blog, check emails, do banking, check facebook, so it does not leave much time to do other stuff, but we do see all the comments and appreciate them.

Kerrie & Sav – Congratulations on your engagement !!!!!! Exciting news, and we are thrilled for you. Look forward to hearing about all your plans. xxx

Taryn & Rob – Good luck with the next few weeks, fingers crossed you will get the news your looking for xxx

Kimberley & Wayne – Best wishes to little Blake on yet another surgery, that must be surgery number 9 or 10? Poor little bugger, about time he got cut some slack. Nana talks about him every day :) xxx

Marie & Mal – Yes we did get the video, thank you. I have tried emailing you a few times, but they keep bouncing back, dont know why. It is not quite the same on board without you, you are missed by many, but we soldier on – someone has to :) Happy travels, and stay safe.

Day 67 New York (Day 2)

Day 67 – New York (Day 2) – Saturday 21/7/12

Weather – Fine and Sunny 20C - 27C
Sunrise – 5.42am
Sunset – 8.21pm
Time difference - minus 14 hours ex Sydney

A slow start today, the bodies were stiff and sore from yesterday, but once we got going it was OK. We walked off the ship in search of Central Park. As we walked along we took in the locals going about their Saturday morning stuff, and there is plenty to do in New York City.

We bought a few things along the way in preparation for the Christmas in July dinner that our dinner table is organising in a few days time. We cant have it on the 25th as we are at St Thomas that day, and open dinner that night. So we elected for the 24th, which, with the time difference, will be the 25th in Australia.

We arrived at Central Park in pretty good time, it only took about 20 mins or so. Nice patch this, an it was alive with a fun run of some type. We met Ian and Mary, and decided on a Hop On Hop Off bus route. There were 3 day routes to select, and had we had more time, we would have done the one big loop which was about 4 hours. We elected for the Downtown route that had all the iconic buildings, landmarks, and monuments.

It was a glorious morning, in brilliant sunshine, quite a pleasant change from the day before. We sat top deck in the open, with the sun giving us an overdue dose of rays. What a wonderful treat it was to see all those places that have made New York such a notable city. Two hours of traversing all the Manhattan burbs down the westside through the middle and up the east side. Each area had its own unique sub-culture which was fascinating to see. The obvious highlights was the grandeur of the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, Madison Sq Gardens, the Flat iron Building, the Charging Bull and of course the new buildings under construction at the World Trade Centre site.

The East side had it's own charm and history, with its multi story tenements, Chinatown, Little Germany, Little Italy etc. We got off the bus, and sated the starving bodies at the West Side Bar and Grill. I had a New York style burger, which was yummy, with a side order of Potato and Carrot Hash, because we could :)

On Saturdays, not sure how often, but today was one of the days, when Broadway is closed to traffic, and it is turned into a street markets. It was really good to look at what was on offer, and yeah we did buy a few things. It was about now that I was wishing I had left some room in the tummy for the food delights on offer. There was a curled sausage that was just enormous, that was begging for a taste test, and a paella that had me wanting even more.

We go side tracked by an impressive M&M merchandising store, that had just about anything that was possible to put an M&M imprint on. We went through the first and second floors, and with more time could have gone higher. Impressive, even for the cynic in me. Back outside and across the road was a similar store Hersheys. We passed that one and returned to the markets, we we got the compulsory New York T-Shirts at 5 for $10.

Whilst buying the shirts, we lost Ian and Mary, but continued on for a bit. With the weariness creeping in, and the clock against us we turned for home and walked or way back to the ship. Just like milking time on the dairy farm, the streets of west side New York were awash with cruise passengers walking all the same direction, back to the ship.

Sun Princess left its berth on time at 5p, reversed out into the Hudson River, swung the bow to starboard and set off southerly as we said farewell to New York City.

We were very fortunate to be invited to Pam and Randy's suite for the sailaway from New York. What a wonderful way to end a wonderful port visit to a wonderful city. All those things that we had heard and read about New York were true, and it is definitely on the 'must return' list.

We retraced our way out , passing Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, through The Narrows past Fort Hamilton and under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge about 6pm. We then proceeded through the bouyed Ambrose Channel, and set a southerly course to our next port of call, Saint Thomas, in the Caribbean.

The dream continues :)

Day 66 - New York (Day 1)

Day 66 – New York – Friday 20/7/12

Weather – Bloody wet 18C - 22C
Sunrise – 5.40am
Sunset – 8.19pm
Time difference - minus 14 hours ex Sydney (back an hour last night)

New York, New York.... WOW !!!!

We had the alarm set for 5am this morning for our sail in to New York City, but I was up at 4.30am, and Donna not long after. The anticipation and excitement of a big day ahead had us up on the top deck bow by 5.15am. Just visible on the night sky horizon were a few microscopic size lights in the far distance, so we figured we had time for a quick tea and toast in the buffet.

By the time we got back out the dawn sky was that deep blue of day break, and the horizon was now the clear shapes of a skyline, albeit very small, that was dominated by two buildings that had all their lights on. We later discovered these were two of the buildings under construction on the World Trade Centre site.

By the time we passed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, daylight was upon us, but no sun, and and it turned out we would not see the sun today, only raindrops. Not long after we passed the Statue of Liberty on our left, and I will admit to a few tingles, it is a sight to behold when you see it for the first time.

By now the skyline was, 'alive' with buildings looming closer, Staten Island ferries transiting the Hudson River, and the hum of the city being heard. As we slowed to approach our berth, we had a a great view of the the USS Intrepid that was moored just a couple of piers over from where we would be 'parked'. The Intrepid was a fantastic sight with a Concorde parked on its lower deck, an array of fighter planes and other military aircraft, and a big inflatable bulb cover on the rear of its flight deck, which houses that Space Shuttle Enterprise.

We were very fortunate to be part of a group that Pam and Randy had put together, for which Pam had pre-booked tickets to the Intrepid, Water Taxis and the 911 Memorial. We got ourselves through US entry process, without the delays that I had heard would confront us.

First stop, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum with the centrepiece, the USS Intrepid, which is an awesome sized hunk of metal, through which we got a guided tour. The hangar (under the flight deck) has been turned into a museum, which was really interesting. It was a fantastic tour that took us through some of the ships front end, with officers quarters, and then out to the 'anchor room'. After working our way through the inside exhibits, it was up onto the flight deck, and we got up close and personal with the array of military aircraft on display.

We were lucky that we had the guide, as he was able to take us beyond the roped off areas around the planes, for a good look, and great photo ops. We then went onto the rear of the flight deck to where the space shuttle Enterprise is shrouded in a protective cover. We are so, so, so lucky as this only became open to the public yesterday for the first time.

It was a breathtaking sight to see, quite a marvellous bit of technology. It was much bigger than I expected, and it is in the same condition as it was after it completed its duties. It has not been cleaned up and repaired, so the scratch marks on the heat tiles, and scuff marks on the body are still there to see. To be able to get so close to it, and walk under it was just amazing. Yeah I know I say amazing a lot, but this was just amazing, amazing, amazing.
Back out onto the flight deck of Intrepid, where the queue to go up to the bridge was snaked around for a very long way, so in the interests of time, we passed that, went down to ground level and had a look at the exhibits of a space festival that is on this week (another dose of good timing), the submarine parked alongside, and the BA Concorde, which is the actual plane that set the world speed record for passenger airliners in 1986. We had our first NY style Hot Dog whilst walking the deck, yummy, but it was only a small one, but resisted the urge to get a second one.

We left Intrepid, and went a couple of piers down to catch the Water Taxi which would take us down the Hudson River to Battery Park. Whilst waiting for the water taxi to arrive, I popped into a bar to grab something more substantial to eat on the run. I ordered a serve of chips, and walked out with a container the size of a big cake tin, full of hot chips, covered in hot chilli, beans, and melted cheddar cheese. It looked absolutely disgusting, and tasted disgustingly fantastic. Fortunately Donna, Mary, and Ian helped out in knocking it off before the taxi arrived.

The heavens opened big time whilst waiting, and a few of us were cursing the weather forecast we had been given aboard, as we did not bring jackets, or ponchos. We did have our ' I Love London' umbrella in the back pack which had not been used yet, but it did not provide much shelter against the rain. It was wet, but not cold, so on we soldiered. A nice ride down to Battery Park, and a wet walk to the 911 Memorial. We bought another umbrella along the way, so now we had one each.

By the time we got through the security screening, and walked our way through the temporary entrance (temporary as it is a construction site) we were getting a little over the rain. Upon seeing the memorial one could not help but reflect on that day, and the images that are now burned into our memory. It is a very well put together memorial, and looks better up close that the pictures display it. Unfortunately the driving rain, and a collapsing umbrella steered us away from the memorial and into shelter.

A wet walk back to Battery Park to get back on the water taxi. We went further down the Hudson River, and around to East River, and the South St Seaport, across to the Empire-Fulton Ferry Park, passed Governor's Island and over to the Statue of Liberty. We got a real treat here as the Captain took the bow right up to the statue and stopped. They opened the doors so we could could go out on the bow and take our photos, it was so cool.

Back to Pier 84, for a damp walk back to the ship at Pier 90, where we showered, and had dinner. We were buggered, it had been a long day, but a great one. It would have been so easy to just climb into the sack then, but the call of the city was abound. So out we ventured again, by now the rain had stopped. We walked away in the general direction of where we thought Times Square was. After about 20 mins the tell tale signs a of glitz, flashing neons, crowds, theatre were upon us.

The atmosphere here was just intoxicating. I dont know if it is like this every night, or just on a Friday night, but the sights and sounds of people crowded on to the footpaths (oh sorry, sidewalks) was a sight to behold. As Donna said, you could just grab a seat and spend the night just watching what was on display. We spent a couple of hours here just soaking it up, wandering into a few shops, and immersing ourselves into the crowd, which seemed to just burgeon with a top up of people as the Broadway shows emptied out.

We could have caught a cab back to the ship, but we elected to walk back, but it was a slow walk !! It was nice to walk the streets of New York at night, you see so much when your on foot. The little bars underground, the subway exits where people mill about etc. We never uncomfortable at all walking through the streets after dark, everyone was friendly.

By the time we got back to the Pier the legs were sore, the feet were sore, the knees were cracking, the back was painful, but we were smiling at such a wonderful day and night in New York. Back on board and collapsed into bed and asleep in a nano second.

With New York being an overnight stay, we get to do it all again tomorrow !!!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 65

Day 65 – Halifax to New York – Thursday 19/7/12

Weather – Fine and Sunny 19C - 20C
Sunrise – 6.04am
Sunset – 9.03pm
Time difference - minus 13 hours ex Sydney

Throughout the day Sun Princess steered a south westerly course towards New York. We passed Georges Bank at 10am, at 7pm passed 40 miles off Nantucket Island, which is south of Cape Cod. At 4.30am tomorrow the pilot will jump on 8 miles west of Sandy Hook. We will enter Ambrose Channel, and at about 5.50am will pass underneath the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. We will pass the Statue of Liberty at about 6.15am, and will be secured alongside Pier 90, Manhattan at 7.15am.

Another Sea Day today, gave us an chance to rest up after Halifax. The usual socialising over a very long breakfast, though we did not actually eat much. We had a CC lunch today was attended by a few more than of late, still 50% down on earlier lunches, but I guess that is to be expected with sector changes and stuff, but it did mean a very long lunch, although we did not eat much...true..honest..well not very much:)

It was Jackpot Bingo day today being the last day of this sector, and as mentioned before, it is the only one we go to. Good news, Donna had a win on one of the games, and pocketed a handy $250. We did not pick up the big jackpot that was a few grand, but a win is a win is a win.

Tonight is the last night for our table waiter, Eduardo, as he gets off tomorrow in New York. He is one of the most experienced, and best, and we will miss him. Tonight was Italian night at dinner, so we wore the appropriate headwear, our Venitian Gondolier hats..very cute :)

It is very exciting, the last of the grand slam ports on our fantastic journey around the world – New York. We will be setting the alarm to make sure we are top deck for the sail in past the 'old girl'.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 64 - Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Day 64 – Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada – Wednesday 18/7/12

Weather – Fine and Sunny 18C - 25C
Sunrise – 5.46am
Sunset – 8.54pm
Time difference - minus 13 hours ex Sydney

Today we were in the lovely provincial and regional hub of Nova Scotia, Halifax.

As we were not into port until 10.30am, and I was up early, and the weather was quite comfortable on deck I decided to try and do a few laps of walking for the first time in over 6 weeks, since my foot got infected, and ulcerated. It has healed really well, it almost looks normal again now. Until now I have had to have it bandaged when doing any walking, to prevent any friction damage to the new skin, but I wanted to give it a try with just socks before heading out on the port visit today to see how it went. All is good, it has been a long slow process of healing, but the hoofs are in good nick now.

I also wanted to do a hot spa before breakfast to help the back a bit, but they, and the pools were all closed, and netted for 'maintenance'. The ship is having a big clean and sanitisation day today whilst we were in port. The poor old cabin stewards worked all day, without even a break. Our man had to do his full usual morning shift, but instead of having the middle of the day off, he, along with all the others, had to go up to other levels to assist with the big sanitisation.

I am not sure how many floors were done, but I know every cabin on 11 (Aloha) was stripped, cleaned and remediated today. Then he had to come back to his floor and do his evening shift. Apparently this is all part of the procedure required by US Health. We have heard of even more reports of people being ill, and not reporting in to the medical centre as they do not want to be quarantined, and miss ports, so the spread of the gastro continues, hopefully at a reduced rate.

Today we shared a rental car which our lovely Arizonian friends, Pam and Randy had arranged. Randy was our driver, so the left hand drive rules were not a problem for him. We also had fellow Gold Coasters, Phil and Chris along. We went for a lovely drive through the countryside out to the idyllic fishing village of Peggy's Cove.

Set on rocky shores, the lighthouse (allegedly the most photographed lighthouse in the world) and village at Peggy's Cove are a photographers paradise. Despite it's popularity this tiny fishing village is able to keep the same relaxed atmosphere that has made it famous. We had a lovely lunch of fish and chips here, and a gorgeous ginger cake, with ice cream, which we all shared.

We then drove on to the memorial site for the Swissair plane crash that occurred not far off the coast of Peggy's Cove in the mid 90's. Another drive through glorious countryside back to Halifax, where we then strolled along the boardwalk. A Tall Ships event is underway, or just concluding, and there is a fine array of stunning tall ships through the harbour area. We took the opportunity to visit the Maritime Museum, where there is a small, but interesting section on the Titanic memorabilia.

The remainder of the day was taken up by browsing through the many shops and stalls on the boardwalk, until it was time to head 'home'. A lovely day, and so warm, compared to what we have had since Dover, it was soooooo good to see the sun again.

A quiet dinner in the dining room, and and early to cabin night for us tonight, a little tuckered out we are :)

We left the berth on time at 8pm tonight, and set courses around Georges Island, then proceeded out of the harbour. After the pilot jumped off we followed the traffic separation scheme in the south bound lane, and set a south-westerly course towards New York. At 1.20am tomorrow morning we will pass the southern tip of Nova Scotia on our starboard side 50 miles off.

Shetland Island photos

Iceland photos