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Travel Diary

Friday, March 1 New Zealand, Australia, Friday March 1: The first of three sea days going from Wellington, New Zealand to Sydney Australia. BGM attended a lunch in honor of her yoga instructor, and, then a Shabbat dinner. Eating two meals in one day means that Saturday is Yom Kippur again for her and I will be seeking other dining companions. The Buffet did, however, have a whole roasted turkey, the carcass of which was delivered to our cabin so there will be food on Saturday even thought she will not go to any restaurant. The Shabbat dinner, attended by about 60 passengers, including some we had no idea were Jewish, was preceded by quite a nice (and short) service that was actually quite nice. This is not an activity in which I would normally participate, but I agreed to go primarily because it was an opportunity to say Kaddish (Prayer for Mourners) for Jonathan Boies. His funeral was moved to Sunday so it is fortunate that we did not fly from New Zealand to New York for a funeral on Friday and then leave Saturday to pick up the ship in Sydney. Most of our family will attend. The dinner itself will be very briefly discussed in the food exhibit. I did not win at poker. I am very easy going about the expense of things, maybe too easy going, but the more I thought about it, the more “ripped off” I felt about the cruise line charging us $409 each for the tour we took in Wellington. That comes to 1188 New Zealand dollars, and half of what we were charged would have been too much. I was advised to file a complaint which I did. I think others will do the same thing. I learned that, essentially, Oceania multiplies the actual cost by 4 which means that taking their tours should really be limited to excursions that one cannot put together privately. I do book with the cruise line when taking overland trips as opposed to day trips where I am confident we can get back to the ship on time. If a plane were delayed and we were on own, the ship would leave without us. The ship will not leave if many of its passengers are delayed on a trip taken under the auspices of the cruise line. After the Shabbat Dinner, we listened to the string quartet which plays each evening and then attended the Talent Show which passengers entertain. It was very enjoyable. For some strange reason, BGM would not let me do any of stand up comedy. I cannot imagine why. It is amazing how much talent is on the ship. Our friend Jack Siegel is a professional trumpet player so one of the highlights was his playing “Lady Be Good” with the ship band which is very good. One of our other friends, although he does not earn his living in the music business, is a very accomplished harmonica player. He did a great delta blues number and sang as well as played. We knew he could play, but even his Wife claimed she did not know he could sing. A 10 year old boy told a few jokes. I think I might have done better, one passenger did some good magic trips, another with quite a good tenor voice sang “Danny Boy”, but the biggest surprise was a man about 80 who did as good a version of “My Way” as I have heard other than, of course, Sinatra’s. A very prim and proper British lady told a joke with the word “bitch” so I thought about filing a motion for rehearing with BGM but I did not for many reasons including that it was too late and I would have lost. Our 58th anniversary is coming up on March 12 which is a sea day. I started trying to organize a dinner which will probably be at Toscana because the seating for a private party works out better than in the Polo Grill. I have not yet figured out where and how our entire family of 14 will eat on the ship when everyone gets on in Rome. We lost and hour of time the day before and we lose another hour tomorrow. The numerous time changes sometimes are inconvenient to our routine and particularly in scheduling telephone conferences. Saturday March 2. Spent a lot of time talking to people beginning at breakfast but throughout the day as BGM having eaten twice the day before came out of the cabin only for Yoga. We did, however, have to the cabin for drink and snacks the friends, Garry and Nicki with whom I had dinner. Neither of us attended, but there was a very good wine tasting. For $55 attendees could have has much to drink of 27 different wines. None of them were great wines, but everyone seemed to have a good time. Lost in poker again. There was some excitement during the poker game. Just a few feet from the poker table there were about 8 paintings on easels which have been displayed several weeks as they are for sale. Although I think two have been sold, I think it is unlikely that many more will be sold because one does not have to be an art critic or even semi-knowledgeable about art to know that the paintings range from “horrible to REALLY horrible”. Anyway, we hit some turbulence and all the paintings came crashing down making a very loud noise. Fortunately, no one was walking by or someone could have really been hurt. The biggest thing that happened is that, because a crew member became ill, the ship is going to arrive in Sydney at about 4 p.m. tomorrow which is Sunday until Monday morning. The illness is, obviously, “bad news”, but the “good news” is that we get an additional half a day in Sydney. I had told BGM that I wanted to go to Chinatown, but her research showed that it was much more exciting at night. We probably would not have gone had the schedule not changed, but now we have plans to go with friends to Chinatown. It is unclear what, if anything else, we do. There are some major customs hoops to jump through when arriving in Australia. I am not significantly expanding the number of friends being made on the ship. Over 200 (about 220) people are leaving the ship in Sydney and a few more than that are getting on including our friends Paul and Pat Feren whom we met on a previous cruise. They are from Atlanta and traveled down to Florida to attend my 75th birthday party and visited us in Italy. I think we will be able to incorporate them with the group of friends we have made during the first almost 50 days we have been cruising, but BGM and I both think we would never want to take less than the full cruise if it is an around the world cruise. Oceania does so much more for the ATW passengers than it does for those just taking a segment or even more than one segment. There are eight segments in all, the longest being the one just ending from L.A. to Sydney. Not only does the cruise line favor the passengers taking the whole cruise, but the passengers themselves treat each other differently. One frequently hears when introductions are made, in substance or in form, “how far are you cruising?”. Some real and lasting friendships can be made on a six month cruise that are much more, if not impossible, to forge in a much shorter period of time. There are about 320 passengers taking the whole cruise and they seem to seek each other out and kind of “stick together”. Unless you already know someone on the cruise when getting on a segment, it is really hard to get assimilated. Our good friends Bobby and Elaine Baer are getting on in London for the last segment, and they will not have that the same kind of problem, both because we will be there, and because of Bobby’s personality. If he could navigate, he might be the Captain before the segment he is on is over. Those who know me well know that I do not like to talk about the rhubarb crop. For many, I am overly intrusive because I ask a lot of questions, and people who are private by nature get put off by me. I never ask a question I would not answer if I were asked the same question, but the problem is that I will answer just about any questions. “It is none of your business” is simply not a phrase that often come out of my mouth. Thus, I get attracted to people who are willing to share their lives with me as I am with them. This, in turn, has led to some fascinating times. I read a lot of books because I like stories, and I was attracted to family law because every time I see a prospective client, I hear a new story—“once upon a time I married…..” So, the more conversations in which I engage, the more I listen, the more I realize, for those who remember “Naked City” that “there are eight million stories in the naked city” That quote ends with “this has been one of them”. I have heard some unbelievable stories as I sit and share thoughts with people. One friend is fighting both liver and lung cancer and has to immediately go to a doctor when we dock in Sydney. Another friend has to has to wait with baited breadth every thirty days to see if a very rare medicine she needs to live will arrive on time. If I have learned nothing else, and I hope I already knew this, it is “never judge someone without knowing the whole story”. I have also learned to “never just someone by the opinion of others” although there are a handful of people in my life whose opinions come with a strong presumption of correctness/ Sunday March 3: PORT 1: SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA. Each evening of the cruise, passengers receive “CURRENTS” setting forth information about the next day—all the activities on board, the hours each restaurant will be open, and when there is a port, information about that port. We docked about 4 p.m. and by the time we got through customs, which was run very efficiently, it was about 5 p.m. However, beginning well before we docked virtually every passenger was outside on a deck or on their balcony to see the ship come in. Here is what was written in our “CURRENTS” about the 51st day of the cruise (our 48th). Sailing into Sydney harbor is one of the world’s great maritime moments. Almost without warning, the golden sandstone cliffs that edge the Pacific coastline part to reveal a huge natural harbor with a beauftiful city at its heart. One, if not “the” first thing that catches the eye is the world famous Sydney Opera House which is really a magnificent building. It is truly magnificent architecture and is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Australia. There are really no words that can adequately describe its beauty. One has to see it, and no matter what the angle, it is gorgeous. I have been wanting to come to this part of the world, New Zealand and Australia, for many, many years, but it was just not something BGM was interested in doing. One of the main reasons, I have wanted for many years to take a trip around the world was so that I could get to these places because I knew that BGM would not take an isolated trip to this part of the world. Well, that has all now changed. She loved all three places were visited in New Zealand, and we already know, after just five or six hours in Sydney, that we want to come back. The friends we spent this evening with spent two weeks in Sydney just a year ago, and we met other passengers who have been to Sydney almost a dozen times. When I asked my companion, a very experienced traveler, to name this favorite places in the world, he named Paris, Shanghai, Melbourne and Sydney. With all the great places in the world, for two of his four favorites to be in one country gives one an idea of how much many people think of Australia. We took the ship’s shuttle bus into the center of the city and walked around the Harbor for about two hours. Ended up for a drink at the West Hotel. We asked the concierge what his recommendation was for dinner in Chinatown. The concierge was very helpful making a dinner reservation for us. It was the same restaurant Golden Century Seafood that was number 1 in Trip Advisor and the same one that BGM had noted when she checked things out. Our meal is described on the food exhibit. Anyone who likes Chinese food should make it a priority to eat at this place. We saw one party of 12 from Beijing who has best we can figure out after talking to the manager, spent about $4000 for dinner. Not surprisingly, the restaurant specializes in fish, all fresh floating in huge tanks. The fish is brought to the diners in a clear bag before it is prepared. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day every day. Although we spent less than half a day in Sydney, we already knew that it was a terrific city to which, if possible, we would love to return. Our overnight in Sydney was a last minute itinerary change, and the first port of our cruise where the stay is more than one day. Clearly, it is a port where the cruise line should plan to spend at least one overnight. Monday March 4. We left the ship before 9 a.m. so we could have as much time as possible in Sydney. We had to be back on the ship by 5 p.m. because today is the start of the third segment of the cruise. A mandatory safety drill (our third) was set for 5:15 since over 200 new passengers were getting on the ship. We did a lot of walking. I ended up having walked 7.8 miles, just short of 21,000 steps, but that included half an hour on the treadmill after the safety drill. BGM’s position is that just walking as we did was not cardiac exercise. Anyone need an Olympic coach? There are over 5 million people in Sydney. It is not as beautiful as Paris, but it is gorgeous, and the architecture may be the best in the world. It is has great shopping and food. There are beautiful parks, and great sculptures throughout the city. It is spotlessly clean and the people could not be nicer or more accommodating. I think we saw as much of Sydney and learned as much about the city as one could learn in one day because BGM found a walking tour which we took for the first three hours with a very good and entertaining guide. It is billed as a “Free Tour”. The deal, it turns out, is that the Company, which also does this in Melbourne, says “just pay at the end of the tour what you think it is worth. We left the tour, missing the last half an hour, because of a lunch reservation. There were about 30 people on our tour and there were three separate tours. This was a very worthwhile thing to do and we recommend it to everyone who can walk. We got to see a lot of the historical buildings, and learned a huge amount about the history of the city. We had to take a taxi from where we left the ship to our lunch, and the fare was AD $9.30. I had a $10 bill which I gave the driver, and then thinking a 70 cent tip was insufficient reached for a 50 cent coin. The driver said “thank you, but you have paid me enough” and would not accept an additional tip. Can anyone imagine a New York taxi driver or a taxi driver anywhere in the States saying something like that? Lunch was at the Sydney Tower Buffet. It is an experience that everyone should do once. The Tower is the tallest in Sydney was a 360 degree view of the City. The restaurant revolves so it does not matter where one sits. I thought the food was better than BGM did. The building is 95 stories high. It is the tallest structure and the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere. The 360 degree rotation takes 70 minutes so this is not a place to plan to eat and run HOT TIP: TAKE THE WALKING TOUR AND THEN GO WHERE WE WENT TO LUNCH, BUT LEAVE AN EXTRA 10 MINUTES TO ACTUALLY GET TO THE RESTAURANT ONCE ARRIVING AT THE ADDRESS BECAUSE IT IS NOT EASY ACTUALLY DETERMINING WHERE ONE GOES, FIRST TO PAY THE BASIC PRICE FOR THE LUNCH (60 AD PER PERSON) AND THEN GETTING TO THE RESTAURANT ITSELF WHICH IS NOT EASY. We spent the rest of our time walking around, going into various very nice shopping arcades. We also were looking for the sparkling chardonnay we had for lunch. Did not find it but found another we were told was really better. Wine stores are called “Bottle Shops”. Also brought some Chinese food back for the two very nice ladies from housekeeping who maintain our cabin for us. One surprise, to me, is that, when it comes to beer, I always associated Foster with Australia. Foster was served at Wimbledon when we were there, and at a memorable lunch I once had in Mumbai, India, they served Foster instead of Kingfisher, the most popular Indian beer, because they said “Foster goes better with our spicy food”. We saw a lot of places that sold beer, both in bottles and on draft and I never saw Foster. Finally, I asked about why and was told that “Foster is no more”. When I got back to the ship, I googled it and the saw that it is an Australian brand but not an Australian beer. It is not popular in Australia and it used to be the most popular. Now Carlton Draught is most popular with 17% of the market and Victoria Bitter is second. Haven’t I made everyone day with this information? We give our experience in Sydney, Australia A plus. Tuesday March 5. A sea day between Sydney and Brisbane should have been totally non eventful. We met with the head and food and beverage Roberto and the head chef Mario about our 58th anniversary dinner. It looks like we will have about 20 people, perhaps minus one for the reasons set forth below. BGM was not terribly excited about this party until she heard the ideas from Oceania who really are trying to do special things. When I suggested to Mario what I had in mind because it was the way things would be done in Italy, he was delighted but said I was the only one on the ship who knew that. There is no doubt there are some other passengers who have spent meaningful time in Italy, but it was still amusing to hear. At 2 p.m. they showed the Academy Award winner “The Green Book”. Yoga for BGM was cancelled. I did not want to break up the poker game so I did not go. I blew a huge lead so I would have been better off going to the movie. However, we just have barely enough players for the poker tournament and I did not want to be the one to cause the tournament not to take place. We did pick up another player in Sydney who says he will become a regular. The piano player who was on the ship since the beginning of the cruise was replaced, and we like the new one much better. Turns out that although he sings well in perfect English, that he is from Rome and after I talked to him for a few minutes, he suggested he would like to have dinner. I do know a little about The Great American Songbook and he liked that. He plays standards, but I suggested that he learn some of the great verses that go with the more familiar refrains. “It Had To Be You” is one example. It is a great song, but it is even better when done with the great verse. (for the total novices, consider the verse to be the introduction and the refrain to be the main melody. or the chorus) Had both lunch and dinner in The Terrace with Garry and Nicki as it was Yom Kippur again for BGM. I think in the contest between “meals with BGM” v “museums with BGM” meals are still ahead but it is not a runaway. The head concierge, who, unfortunately, is leaving the cruise in about a week (only some of the crew stay on for the whole cruise, and some go and come back) is a 27 year old woman named Kristina. She is a most extraordinary individual and does her job as well as anyone on the ship. Her assistant Riccardo is also very good and he is staying on the ship so i am confident we will continue to get excellent service. Anyway, about 5 p.m. I went with the Wife of the couple with whom we were planning to spend the next day in Brisbane, to see Kristina to purchase tickets for Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (not through Oceania who tacks on ridiculously high charges) and to arrange for the transportation. Our objectives were very satisfactorily completed, but that is not the point of this story.. When we got to the Kristina’s desk, a mutual friend, the Husband of another couple in “our group” was talking with Kristina and had his credit our, so I said, in substance or in form, “x” what are you getting?” intending to determine what plans he was making. His answer was “I am going home tomorrow, I have had it with all the criticism about my drinking and my behavior”. X had not even told his Wife. I advised him to do so. Then, I called BGM who was in our cabin, and to borrow a phrase from our daughter, I said “we have a little situation”. BGM then got on the phone a got X to come and talk to her. When I got back to the cabin, both X and his Wife were there and we spent the next hour trying to resolve the issues. It was pretty clear that if X left the ship and his Wife remained on the ship for the next four months, which she intended to do, that the marriage was probably going to be over. It was a real disaster all the way around. To skip ahead, although “the fat lady has not yet sung”, by the morning, as briefly described below, X stayed on the ship, and, at least a potentially lethal bullet has been dodged. What happened is that this couple bought from Oceania a drink package the terms of which, for $39 per day per person, every day, whether in port or on the sea, they could drink an unlimited amount of wine at both lunch and dinner. The package was limited to those two meals so if they had drinks at other times during the day, they paid extra. To break even, on what is really a ridiculous deal, they each had to drink four or five glasses of wine at each meal which, basically, they did. Each of them, but if affected X more than his Wife, were getting blood in their alcohol stream, which, in turn, resulted in some bizarre behavior on more than one occasion and also resulted in significant criticism of X and he had had enough. Doing some shuttle mediation for the rest of the night, talking to X and to the General Manager, by the end of the night, X had said that if the cruise line would take him off the drink plan prospectively, he could manage to significantly limit his drinking because he was too “penurious” (my word, his word was “cheap”) to pay for more than two drinks. BGM and I went to sleep hoping that, before the X left the ship the next day, Oceania would grant the request. So as not to keep the reader ins suspense, as I know you are all on the edge of your seats wanting to know what happened, the cruise line did terminate the drink plan, and X stayed on the ship. In fact, his Wife subsequently told us that he did not even have one drink the next day. So far, a good result, but this is a situation where the fat lady cannot sing for, perhaps, forever. Wednesday March 6: PORT 2: BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA Morning spent at Lone Pine Preserve to see Qualas, kangaroos and other assorted animals. Went privately with friends Ilya and Nana. This was not my choice but (1) I knew this was something one was “supposed” to do when in Brisbane; and (2) BGM wanted to do it which meant, good or bad, it had to be done because, if it were done, she would have built in her head that she missed something really great so it would have been lose/lose not to have gone. BGM said afterwards, “I was underwhelmed”. We took taxi both to the Preserve and back into the center of the city, walked around some. I went into a very nice wine store and bought two bottles of Tasmanian sparkling wine, highly recommended, and two bottles of a Shiraz that was voted “wine of the year”. Bought a bottle of local hot sauce but we now have enough hot sauces from the various ports we have visited, that we may never again need to buy hot sauce in our lifetime even if we were 30 years younger. We had arranged to meet other friends, Gary and Alex for lunch in order to celebrate outstanding medical test results for Gary who is fighting some serious health issues. BGM picked the place for lunch, and when we walked in and I saw the menu which I found basically incomprehensible, she thought her life might be in jeopardy. However, as more fully described on the attachment, lunch turned out to be among the best culinary experiences of our trip. We then did some more shopping and bought quite a nice necklace as a birthday gift for Diane whose surprise 50th birthday party we are attending iin a couple of days. She is will be only 50, about the age of some of my shoe, but she has cystic fibrosis and does amazingly well even thought she has a large oxygen tank with her wherever she goes. It is amazing how well some people we have met on this ship deal with serious health problems. It is even amazing that they are on the ship at all. Would not normal mention and manicure salon, but we walked into one run by a Vietnamese woman named “Sue”. She was an unbelievable character and quite an entrepreneur. Turned out she had three shops in Brisbane and had her nephew working for her who gave me a foot and leg massage which really helped me with some paid I was having because of all the walking and exercise I have been doing. HOT TIPS: TAXIS ARE VERY REASONABLY PRICED IN BRISBANE. ALMOST A ONE HOUR RIDE COST 60 AUSTRALIAN DOLLARS ($42). THERE IS LOTS TO SEE IN BRISBANE SO START OFF EARLY. I WOULD SKIP THE QUALAS AND GO TO THE FARMER’S MARKET INSTEAD. We give our experience in Brisbane, another place in which we would like to spend more time, an A. Thursday March 7. A really nice sea day with almost too much going on. We found ourselves rushing from activity to activity. I continue to visit a lot at breakfast while BGM works in the cabin. We exercise for over an hour each day. On sea days, we have found the best time to be just before lunch at about 11 when the people who exercise early are done, but lots of people who got on at the beginning of this segment in Sydney exercise and there was not a machine available. We both attended a very educational lecture on The Great Barrier Reef where we will be going at our next port which is Cairns, Australia. Many of the passengers have been there before but we have not. We did not stay, but following this lecture was a cooking class by Christian Delouvrier, one of the most famous chefs in the world. As previously mentioned, there is a great head sommelier on the ship with whom we have become quite friendly. Many times he has invited us to his wine tastings but they are always at 1:30. BGM has yoga at 3 and I play poker, but we decided to go to wine tasting today because the wines from Bordeaux which are our favorite wines. We had been to wine tastings on previous cruises but none even approached being as good as this one. Both the wines and the food tastings were outstanding, and we learned a great deal from Lugo. One very interesting aspect of the tasting was learning about the various aromas in wines. For each of the five wines tasted, an assistant sommelier passed around five little bottles of the aromas in each wine in concentrated form. For example, we could sniff the coffee, chocolate, cassis etc) The wines we tasted were 2014 Fombrauge, 2011 Dassault, 2012 Nenin, 2008 Figeac, and 2007 Clerc Milon. All but the last wine was from the right bank. Although both BGM and I would have bet the Figeac, a great wine, would be best, BGM, who has quite a sophisticated palette liked it the least. Surprisingly, we both liked the Clerc Milon the best. The entire experience was so good, we signed up for a very high end wine tasting tomorrow—all very expensive wines so the wine tasting will cost $195 per person. The one today cost $95 per person. BGM did attend yoga class and said she did all right despite the wine. My poker game was cancelled because the casino was closed due to the rules of Australian immigration. Not sure why it was all right to have a bingo tournament, which they did, but not a poker tournament. Oceania then had another very well attended cocktail party in honor of all the new passengers that got on the ship in Sydney. We have been to several of these parties and they are very nice. The ship’s band plays, a couple of the entertainer’s sing a song, and everyone is introduced to the officers and other key personnel on the ship. It is always very enjoyable. We had to leave the cocktail party to go to a surprise 50th birthday party for one of our friends. This woman is truly amazing because she was never supposed to live as long as she has due to cystic fibrosis. She is a very pretty woman who has to have a large oxygen tank with her at all time. She handles this very serious medical issue as about as well as anyone could, and enjoys life and all the events on this cruise to the fullest. The crew really loves her and they made this party very special for her including, perhaps, one of the prettiest birthday cakes I have ever seen. All of the senior staff was there to greet her when she came in, and then she and her Husband renewed their wedding vows with the General Manager performing the wedding ceremony. It was a very heart warming evening other than for the fact that our friend with the alcohol problem made the mistake of coming to the cocktail party and never could make it to the birthday party. His Wife came by herself which does not bode well for them. Tomorrow is another sea day. Think that except for wine tasting, will not see BGM at any place for food is served. Friday March 8. Highlight was the high end wine and food tasting The wines were 2005 Cristal, 2010 Opus 1, 2008 Solaia, 2006 Pichon, 2014 Insignia. The champagne was great. The Insignia was not ready to drink. The other wines were very good, but the 2006 Pichon did not compare to the 90 Pichon were brought on board. One passenger brought a bottle of Overture, the second wine of Opus 1. It was good. I did not even know they made a second wine. It does not have a year, and is different each year. When I checked with my local wine guy, he had it at $120 bottle so still not cheap, The food served to match the wine was very good and included a duck leg with sun dried tomato, a cheddar and swiss cheese truffle, prime rib with a cranberry sauce, veal meatballs, and braised beef. Since BGM does not eat meat, I had more than enough. Our friend Jack Siegel sat in with the band for the 5:15 set so we went to hear him play. As previously mentioned, he is a professional trumpet player. The band is very good, but it is surprising that it does not include a trumpet. We then had a couple celebrating their 34 anniversary to our cabin for a celebratory glass of champagne. Served Ruinart Rose. Then they went to dinner, and I went up to The Terrace to meet Paul and Pat Farren for what was, for me, a light dinner, Had second thoughts about whether to spend the entire next day at The Great Barrier Reef, but it was too late to turn in the tickets and, since there was no waiting list, we will be going. Tour too expensive too eat ($409 per person) Gym was not a busy as the day before so did not have to wait. Reading this, it appears that, other than the wine tasting, it was not much a day, but somehow it was a busy day and very enjoyable. BGM did het to yoga but late because she hung around the wine tasting to talk to people. Casino still closed so no poker tournament. Somehow, however, there is never a boring moment. There are really some outstanding and interesting people on the ship, and, if one takes the time to strike up a conversation, it is almost always worthwhile. Most everyone is thrilled with the cruise, but that it should not be surprising that sailing around the world on a very nice ship with lots of activities going on every day and excellent food, puts almost everyone in a very good mood. SATURDAY MARCH 9: PORT 3: CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA Our 8 hour excursion was to The Great Barrier Reef. We had had second thoughts about going, but paid Oceania $409 per person, and waited too long to try to cancel. It turned out that this was “good” news because it turned out to be a great day. BGM even went snorkeling and loved it. It is a 90 minute trip on a large catamaran that had room for 200 people. Only about 115 people went so there was plenty of seating room. The crew was very helpful. A buffet lunch was served that was more than satisfactory which included baked chicken wings, very good cold shrimp and a lot of vegetables so there was food for BGM. I went on the submarine and saw the fish and coral. We missed the glass bottom boat ride miscalculating when the last one was going to leave. Rain had been predicted but we lucked out again with no rain and calm seas. The equipment was very good with sizes for everyone. This trip was well worth what Oceania charged. Paying $409 for a food tour in Wellington was outright thievery. This excursion was worth the price. HOT TIP: IT IS BEST TO BRING YOUR OWN FACE MASK AND SNORKEL. It was such a nice day that when we returned to the ship, we changed out of our bathing suits to our exercise clothes and took about a two hour walk into the city of Cairns. What we saw of the downtown shopping area in the short time we were there was never nice. The streets are very clean, the shopkeepers very friendly and at least one store offered a 10% discount to anyone on a cruise. (there were two cruise ships in port-the other one being the Europa) The dock is very well situated. This port is probably the easiest in terms of proximity to where one wants to be and to disembark and embark. There are many good restaurants within a few minute walk from the ship. There is a small Chinatown, but we all saw Italian, Greek, Indian, Malaysian and other types of food establishments just a few minutes from the ship. I also saw some great bars in this area including a large place where they brew their own beer, right at the dock. I would have not needed to walk any further. There was also an Irish Pub where I could have spent the day. In addition to local shops, there were some very high end shop within five minutes of the dock including Gucci and Louis Vuitton. SECOND HOT TIP; ALTHOUGH IT IS CALLED “WOOLWORTHS”, VERY CLOSE TO THE DOCK IS A HUGE AND EXCELLENT GROCERY STORY WELL STOCKED WITH JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING ONE MIGHT NEED OR WANT INCLUDING A LOT OF PREPARED FOODS. THERE ARE ALSO A COUPLE OF VERY WELL STOCKED ASIAN GROCERY STORES WITH LOTS OF GOOD LOOKING FOODS. Perhaps surprisingly, we give our experience in Cairns an A Sunday March 10. We were scheduled to be in Cooktown, Australia, a port with about 2600 people, but of historical importance. When BGM and I saw that (a) it was a 30 minute tender ride each way; (b) the place we would have eaten lunch was closed on Sunday; (c) there was not much to see anyway; and (d) we had to be back on the ship by 3:30 anyway, we had decided to just stay on the ship. Then early in the day, an announcement was made that the port was cancelled and it we would have another sea day. That decision did not matter to us, and so far as I could tell there were not too many broken hearts about not stopping at this port. Oceania really needs to consider revamping the itinerary to spend more time in Sydney and/or Auckland. Because of this last minute change, Oceania scheduled a number of shipboard activities. Among other things, BGM’s yoga class had to be moved from 3 to 4:30 and the casino opened so that the poker tournament could take place. Played in the poker tournament but did not win. We had six players and came in 3rd when my 7 high straight was beaten by an 8 eye straight. Listened to the piano player for two sets. He is much better than the first one they had. Also, did a little planning for our anniversary dinner which is on Tuesday. It will be 22 for appertivo in our cabin and dinner at Toscana. BGM did not go out of cabin for meals so I joined up with friends in the Terrace for lunch and dinner and brought BGM some cold poached halibut for lunch. Of course, we exercised. Looking at what I have written, we did not do very much but somehow I walked, including the treadmill, 6.1 miles, had 13, 852 steps and climbed 9 floors. Monday March 11 (in Australia—Sunday March 10 in U.S.A. Another sea day on the way to Darwin, Australia. BGM attended an engagement party for a very nice woman whom we met on the ship who became engaged. Her fiancé is not on the cruise, but has pursued her by flying to the ship’s various ports in order to spend time with lady. Other than the engagement party, it was a normal day at sea. We exercised, I had lunch, while BGM went to Yoga, I played in the poker tournament (did not win), and, then, BGM joined me to hear the very good piano player/singer who is drawing big crowds in the Martini Bar where he plays two sets beginning at 5:15 and then another set after the show lets out (about 10:15. Following the music, BGM went back to the cabin, and I went with two couples to The Terrace for what was billed as “Australian Market Dinner”. I had a regular dinner of lamb chops and roasted potatoes (skipped the sushi) but featured, in addition to other famous Australian dishes was kangaroo and crocodile. I passed, but lots of people were devouring these dishes which came in various forms. I was reminded of the story about the man who convicted of killing and eating a crocodile. Just before sentencing, the Judge asked the man if he had anything to say on his behalf. The man explained as followed: The day all this happened, your Honor, was the worst day of my life. I was fired from my job at a time of my life when it was impossible for me to get a comparable job. On my way home, my brand new Mercedes was rear ended and totaled. When I finally got home, I found my Wife in bed with another man, and she told me she did not love me anymore. I took my gun intending to end my life, but first went to a bar to drown my sorrows and gather up enough nerve to end my life. I sat in that bar for many hours, consuming many drinks. When I was as drunk as I could ever be, I walked down to the river, intending to but a bullet in my head and fall into the water. I had not eat anything all; day, and just before killing myself, saw this crocodile half on shore. I then realized that none of what had happened was really my fault, that I did not deserve to die and that I could still make something of my life and contribute to society. I then realized that I was starved never having eaten anything all day, and, so without thinking, I shot that crocodile and ate some of the crocodile meat for which I am, Judge, truly sorry. The Judge then told the man how moved he was by the explanation he just heard and told him that he would not be sentenced to prison, but rather be put on probation. However, the Judge, said “as a matter of personal privilege, I would like to ask you how the crocodile tasted. The man replied, “sort of like the cross between an egret and a bald eagle.. Tomorrow, in Australia, is our 58th wedding anniversary. I suspect we will heard from whomever we hear from on the following day which is 12th in the States. Tuesday March 12. Quite a day. Oceania had a really nice party at 11:15 for all the around the world guests. We have one more stop in Australia before getting into Indonesia, and there was so much great food and drink that most people did not have lunch. The General Manager, Damien, who leaves the ship soon but then returns in London, announced to everyone that it was our 58th anniversary. Attended a lecture with BGM about Australia become a penal colony. The lecturer is a well- respected scholar and there was a very big crowd. I exercised very early in the morning for the first time. Got to the gym before 7 a.m. and had to wait for a treadmill. We will never forget the fabulous anniversary party we had beginning at 6:30 in our cabin. Oceania furnished a bartender and several butlers to serve almost 30 people, 22 of whom later came to dinner at Toscana. Another couple, who were celebrating their 14th anniversary, and having dinner at Polo Grill came for drinks and then to dessert with us. Our butler made phenomenal arrangements decorating our cabin, setting up the cabin including the balcony and putting out wonderful canapes that what devoured. There was smoked salmon with caviar, fois gras,and shrimp. The food and the prosecco for the aperol spritz was a gift to us. Mario, the head chef, put out a great typical Italian meal unlike anything ever served on the ship. It was just like being in Italy. When we walked in, there were huge platters of meats and cheeses. He made chicken liver and bruschetta for Barbara. After the cold appetizers he put out a bunch of hot, then a special pasta, and then tagliata. Some guests ordered other foods. I was really amazed at how much wine was consumed. All 6 bottles of an Amerone I had purchased at a wine sale were gone and then two magnums of a very good Bordeaux that I had just bought, I thought for my family when they come on board also went. I do not yet have a count on how many bottles of champagne were consumed. I did not use the champagne I brought from home, but rather a good rose I bought from Oceania for $58. Had to tip a lot of people. It was a great party. We really closed down the restaurant. Everyone seemed to get along. We had two table of 8 and a table of 6. BGM gave a nice and I gave a toast both of which were well received. We are very lucky people to love one each other for over 60 years. As I often say, “there are lots of people smarter, richer, faster and thinner, but I would not trade places with anyone”. WEDNESDAY MARCH 13: PORT 4; DARWIN, AUSTRALIA Our first port on the entire cruise that was not good, very good, or some degree of great. It was not because Darwin is not a nice place or that the Australians living in Darwin were not nice, or that Darwin does not have anything important or is ugly. Everything can be summed up immediately below: HOT TIP: IT WAS JUST TO DAMN HOT AND HUMID TO BE ABLE TO ENJOY ANYTHING. EVEN THE OFF AND ON BUS WAS STIFLING. We walked from the ship for about 20 minutes and were soaking wet even though we dressed for hot weather. The combination of the high temperature and the humidity made it too hot to walk around. We got on the off and on bus (35 AD per person) but it was not air conditioned and there was no breeze. There is an art museum and a military museum but it was just too hot to do anything. The entire route t00k 90 minutes. Our friends the Farrens were on the bus. Paul, who may be one of the fittest people on the planet, did not seem to be bothered by the heat and so he and Pat got on and off and saw much more than we. We saw some nice residential areas and parks Darwin was heavily bombed during WW !! and also devastated by a cyclone so we learned some interesting things, but went back to the ship by a little after noon. Generally, when the ship is in port, the only people who go back to the ship for lunch are those who are compelled to so for personal reasons or think “why pay for lunch when it is free on the ship?”. However, today, the restaurants were all very busy. Most of the passengers came back to the ship early. We give our experience in Darwin at C with the caveat that we would not mind going back if we could have milder weather. Thursday March 14 Another nice day at sea. BGM attended a lecture on Indonesia which she said was okay but not great. Yoga, exercise, poker, music at happy hour. Really nothing special to write about but still loved it. Friday March 15: PORT 5: KOMODO, INDONESIA This is a very small island which around 2000 inhabitants. It is known for its dragons. One reaches the port by tender. We had not read the small print and did not know that one could not get off the ship unless a tour was booked either with Oceania or privately. There is also a beach where one can go snorkeling. The reader might expect me to say “at age almost 80, my snorkeling days are over”, but if truth be told, they never began. The best I can say about my swimming ability is that I am “water safe”. In any event, we made the decision to stay on the ship as, I would estimate, half the passengers did. However, late the previous evening BGM (and I) were asked to join a private tour. BGM elected to go. I elected to stay on the ship. One might argue that I did so because the chef had promised to make me ribs for lunch. My “story” and I am sticking to it, is that my favorite lunch instead of seeing dragons and going to the beach to watch others snorkel, “may” have been a contributing factor. Anyway, BGM went and had a great time. She was able to get snorkeling equipment that fit her and she was very pleased with how she did. QUERY: IS THERE A SENIOR OLYMPICS? If so, the next thing to expect is that BGM will go into training. HOT TIPS: IF WANT TO GET OFF THE SHIP FOR ANY REASON, ONE NEEDS TO BOOK A TOUR. SECOND, BOOK THE TOUR PRIVATELY AND NOT THROUGH OCEANIA. IT IS SIGNIFICANTLY LESS EXPENSIVE, AND ALMOST ANY PRIVATE TOUR WILL BE BETTER. For BGM, all she did for the rest of the day is exercise. I went to hear the piano player with Paul and Pat Farren, and, then, had dinner with them in The Terrace. Tomorrow, we dock in Bali overnight and we will be staying off the ship with our friends, Don and Patty Smith whom we met on a prior cruise, live in Perth, Australia, but have a home in Bali. Tomorrow we also lose the head concierge Kristina whom we will miss as she is so highly competent and helped us a great deal when we needed help with various things. This around the world cruise is the best trip Oceania has to offer, and we are told that they staffed it with their very best people. Not all take the entire six month cruise, and some leave and come back. Both the General Manager Damien, with whom I often coffee in the morning, and Robert, head of food and beverage, will be leaving the ship for vacation but returning before the cruise is over. Unfortunately, Roberto will not be on the ship for the segment all our children and grandchildren will be joining us, but Damien will be so I am confident, everything will be fine. BGM”s experience in this port is A and, based upon the principle “happy Wife, happy life” I also give it the same grade. (the ribs were really good) Saturday March 16 and Sunday March 17: PORT 6: BALI, INDONESIA There is really no way to adequately describe the approximately 28 hours we spent in Bali. We did none of the customary things one does on a first or even a tenth trip to Bali. What we did was spend a magical day and half with our friends Don and Patty Smith (hereinafter “P & D”). We met this most extraordinary couple on a previous cruise and became friends.. They are from Perth, Australia and frequently visit Bali which is about a three and a half hour flight for them. It is not appropriate to invade our friends’ privacy by saying too much about them. Suffice it to say that they are both unbelievably nice, and extremely competent at everything they do. Patty is fluent in multiple languages including Indonesian (when they visited us in Florence, she spoke Italian like a native) and Don is one if not the most extraordinary businessman I have ever met. They both have great personnel skills and everyone loves them. Louis Armstrong, my musical hero, used to listen to the great King Oliver play the trumpet. When asked what he did when he heard King Oliver playing, he said “I just went in and took my lesson”. That is how I feel when Don starts talking about his business matters, mostly real estate, and when I see how carefully he plans everything. Don and Patty took us on an unbelievable journey. Keep in mind that they have visited Bali for decades and come several times a year. Also, keep in mind, that, to borrow from a famous Billie Holliday lyric, “the difficult they do right now, the impossible takes a little while”. We were met immediately as we disembarked (an hour late). No one is allowed to be at the bottom of the gangplank other than Oceania personnel, dock employees, and customs officials, but there they were. They had a special car with seats rearranged so that we could face each other as we drove almost literally from one end of Bali to the other. First, we went to Puri Sintrian a beautiful resort in the Sanur section of Bali. We sat on the patio to have very good coffee, very good macaroons, and to see why Bali is considered, perhaps, the most beautiful place in the entire world. Skipping ahead, every passenger we spoke to upon returning to the ship said that Bali was their very favorite place and many were already thinking about when they could come back. P & D describe Bali as “a third world country” but there are numerous six star hotels, and driving across Bali for about an hour and a half to lunch, we saw so many great shops, restaurants and other sights that we knew we could spend several weeks just walking around. We went to a very nice “light lunch: at La Lucciola in the Seminyak section. Another gorgeous view . After driving all the way back to the other side, we arrived at the hotel P & D chose to stay so that we could be their guests at one of the nicest places we had ever stayed—The Laguna Resort & Spa. Our accommodation, which we shared with our friends was “over the top”. As Nixon said “it would be wrong” and it would be wrong to provide the details of our stay, from the cocktail hour with great food and drink and LIVE MUSIC to a great dinner and a great breakfast the following morning. I will say that we were told to bring bathing suits, and, the morning, we walked just outside our living room to sit around and go in a private pool almost as big as the ship’s pool, but with beautiful birds flying around that we could feed. HOT TIP: THERE IS SO MUCH TO ENJOY THAT THIS IS A PLACE TO TRY TO GET BACK TO. We loved the Indonesian food, more fully described on the exhibit. BGM had what was probably her favorite meal not just on this trip but in her lifetime. We drove around Bali some more seeing additional sights and then returned to the ship. We give our experience in Bali A plus, plus. Monday March 18. The first of two sea days on our way to three ports in the Philippines. Oceania had a nice cocktail party. Listened to music first and then had dinner with Paul and Pat Feren at Polo Grill. BGM joined us. Very pleasant evening. Just about closed the place down and missed the show which started at 9:30. Lunch with Michael and Dana Werner. BGM did not join us. Coffee with Damien the General Manager whom I really like. He leaves the ship soon in Tokyo to go back to his home in Lyon but returns to the ship in Rome. He works very hard to please the passengers, and, although there are always discontents, the vast majority of the passengers are very pleased. The around the world cruises for the next two years are just about sold out, and many of the people on this cruise are returning for one or both of the next two years. About 200 passengers get off in Tokyo but an identical number get on. The ship is entirely sold out for the entire cruise. Oceania had another safety drill at 10:15 which was not a good time for those who use the gym. Many waited until after the drill so the gym got overloaded. It is a good idea to exercise early when this type of scheduling takes place because the delay caused us to miss a champagne tasting which we would have probably attended. Tuesday March 19: Same old great day. BGM attended two lectures about the Philippines and the surrounding areas. Then Yoga. She exercised while I was having lunch with two couples from Canada who have become friends. Both are very nice couples. The Canadians I have met are very nice and very knowledgeable about not only what is happening in Canada, but in the United States. On the other hand, what I know about Canada is limited to probably what an average third grader in Toronto or Vancouver knows. So I asked for some lessons about Canadian history and what was going on in Canada of interest to them. One of the men is a very successful real estate lawyer in Toronto and the other man, with the help of his Wife, who is a CPA, built a very successful helicopter business that now has about 140 employees. The lawyer’s Wife, is BGM’s yoga instructor, a travel agent, and a very bright informed lady so I walk away from lunch feeling a little more worldly than when I began. (the lunch was okay but not as good as the conversation). After listening to music at Happy Hour with Paul and Pat Farren, our friends from Atlanta, BGM and I attended another birthday party in the Polo Grill for the Wife other friends we have made and will keep as they live in Hollywood, Florida. I have talked about Ilya and Lana previously. They are both very accomplished people originally from the Ukraine. There were four table of guests and we had the honor of sitting with the celebrating. Although Ilya’s first language is Russian, his English is very good, and he has a wonderful way of expressing his thoughts in a second language. It continues to be a wonder that so many people, few being Americans, can speak multiple languages fluently. It is also a disgrace to the educational system in the United States. The joke in Italy is, “if one speaks two languages, he/she is bilingual; three languages, trilingual, four languages, quatralingual, (sic) one language, American”. I understand that some people have the gift of mastering languages but not everyone who speaks multiple languages has that gift. Anyway, it was another very nice day. I lost an inlay at dinner so when we dock at our first port in the Philippines tomorrow, I will try to find a dentist. We do not have much planned so nothing special is likely to be missed. Wednesday March 20: PORT 7: PUERTO PRINCESA, PHILIPPINES A very interesting day. I was told by a retired periodontist on the ship that I needed to have the inlay (really an overlay) replaced as soon as possible because otherwise my tooth could fracture. He advised that the concierge could arrange an appointment with a dentist near the dock. He also said that it was an easy task that a first year dentist with ten hands could do. What I thought would be a simple matter that could be attended to easily became somewhat of an epic, but with a happy ending. I with a simple email to the concierge asking him to please make an appointment with a dentist for me. I then get a called from the ship’s medical office that I need to come down and fill out a number of forms, and sign consents. Then, they would set up an appointment. I could hardly understand the lady who called me because, although she spoke English, she did so with a such a heavy guttural accent that I could understand every third world. Her attitude was not much better. The forms I had to fill out to have my inlay replaced were ridiculous. Then, they wanted to take my blood pressure, which I refused to do. I made it clear that this who process seemed ridiculous, but at this point, I had passed the point of no return. About half an hour later, I received a call to be back at the medical office at noon, and that I would be accompanied to a dentist. There were four other people waiting to get help, two for doctors and another passenger with a dental issue whom we knew. He had lost a tooth on his bridge and wanted to get it replaced. We were told to disembark and we would be met by a port agent who would accompany us to the dentist. It took us almost an hour to find the right person. Eventually, we connected, and the two dental patients with our wives were then driven to a 7th Day Adventist Hospital that had a dental clinic. Because of the delay, we did not arrive until their lunch break so we waited around until after 1:30. That is the “bad news”. The “good news” is that there was a male and a female dentist. The man took care of the other man’s bridge problem in about an hour, very competently, and at a cost of about $25. The man was prepared to pay several hundred. The lady took care of me extremely well. It took almost an hour to clean and refit the inlay, but it was done very well and I was charged $19. (I learned from my dentist that there was no divorce in the Philippines) It was now after 3 p.m.. but we were able to hire the driver who took us to the hospital for the rest of the day for $20. He took us to a great lunch at a place we highly recommend Badjao Seafront Restaurant. It was a beautiful place overlooking the water. The food was great (see exhibit) and the price was about 20% of what it would be in most restaurants serving fresh fish. We then had a chance to see the military museum and the most famous chapel. Of course, I knew that The Philippines was a very important place in terms of WW 11, but I had no idea what to expect. There are over a million people in this port which I had never heard of. There is lots of traffic but we did very well getting around because we had a very comfortable vehicle and a great driver. HOT TIP: IF ONE HAS A MINOR MEDICAL/DENTAL ISSUE, TRY GETTING IT RESOLVED WITHOUT THE SHIP’S ASSISTANCE, BECAUSE THE RED TAPE IS RIDICULOUS. IF IT A MAJOR PROBLEM, TRY GETTINGIT RESOLVED WITHOUT THE SHIP’S ASSISTANCE, BECAUSE, IN ADDITION TO THE RIDICULOUS RED TAPE, I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO CONFIDENCE THEY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING. The natives all speak English and Philippino. Some places accept U.;S. dollars but it is best to change money into pesos. The signs are in English. It is a mix between East and West. A very interesting place to visit. Had we not had to spend so much time on my dental issue, we could have done a lot more. Notwithstanding we did not do a much as we would have liked. BGM was satisfied. I exercised before we left the ship so went to hear music upon our return. BGM did not so, although she heard a few songs, she needed to exercise. That was fine because it was now dinner time and the gym was empty. I just went to The Terrace and had some fruit because we had had a great lunch that was not finished until after 4. Given all our experiences, it is difficult to assign a grade. How does one give a high grade when most of the day is spent addressing a dental problem. Nonetheless, everything worked out so we give it a B * Thursday May 22: We were supposed to be disembarking at Boracay Island, Philippines, but we did not because the tides were too high and it was deemed unsafe to get off the ship. Many passengers and crew were extremely disappointed as this port has one of the nicest beaches in all of Asia. Many of the crew members are from this area and they had their families and friends waiting for them. Few, if anyone was happy with this change in our itinerary. Oceania did do an excellent job of immediately scheduling a full day of shipboard activities. Spent a lot of time with Pat and Paul Farren with whom we were planning to spend the day in port. Although Oceania saved money because docking fees did not have to be paid, all excursions fees paid to Oceania had to be refunded. Anyone who had booked tours privately and paid for them lost their money because we did not know until an hour before we were scheduled to disembark that we were bypassing this port. The reason we had to skip this port is that the water was too rough for the tenders that were needed to take everyone to shore,. Hence, the following: HOT TIP: BOOKING EXCURSIONS PRIVATELY IS SIGNIFICANTLY CHEAPER THAN BOOKING THROUGH THE CRUISE LINE. HOWEVER, IT IS RISKY TO BOOK PRIVTELY AT PORTS WHERE ACCESS TO THOSE PORTS IS BY TENDER. FIND OUT BEFORE BOOKING EXCURSIONS WHICH PORTS ARE ACCESSIBLE ONLY BY TENDER AND CONSIDER BOOKING EXCURSIONS IN THOSE PORTS THROUGH THE CRUISE LINE. IN THE ALTERNATIVE, IT MAY BE POSSIBLE TO OBTAIN A CANCELLATION POLICY THAT REFUNDS ONE’S PAYMENT IF THE SHIP DOES NOT STOP BUT THAT MAY NOT BE POSSIBLE. FRIDAY MARCH 22: PORT 8, MANILA, PHILIPPINES We had a terrific day, although I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I skipped dinner and was in bed by 7:30 and did not get out of bed until about 9 a.m. When I skip dinner, I am either in a coma or in that great courtroom in the sky. I had hired Tour by Local for the entire day. We were joined by our friends Paul and Pat Farren. The deal was that the itinerary could be flexible so BGM, with input from everyone else put together a great itinerary. Manila has a lot of traffic, but so we went first to the Ayala Museum over an hour from where we docked. It was actually a terrific place. BGM labeled it “spectacular”. The architecture was terrific, but was unique, in my view was (a) the display of pure gold objects; (b) the manner in which everything was displayed’; and (c) that we learned virtually the entire history of the Philippines in a most unusual way. The history was laid out in about 75 diaromas. We saw a lot of Manila and learned a whole lot because our guide a 32 year old woman Serck Salinas was absolutely fabulous. We had a very comfortable van and an excellent driver. Spent a lot of time in Chinatown which is the oldest Chinatown in the world outside of China. We took our guide to lunch, walked around a lot and went to an “in place” where they make the dumplings to order after arrival. Very inexpensive and very good. There is a lot of poverty and it is incredibly hard to obtain visas to the United States. The government, including the judiciary, is corrupt. They do believe strongly in education and have a strong work ethic. The medical and dental care is excellent. We were warned not to wear jewelry and to be very careful with our money. Observed first hand, literally hundreds of people waiting in line to receive bowls for rice. Went to a great store with some of the most beautiful wood objects I have ever seen including the more gorgeous huge salad bowls. BGM bought more coasters and place mats. Had I not already been exhausted, I might have more actively participated which would have been expensive. I am a buyer not a looker. Fortunately, I exercise before getting off the ship. There would have been zero chance of my getting to the gym upon returning. BGM, however, went to the gym. We give our experience in Manila an A Saturday March 23: A sea day on our way to Taiwan. BGM attended two lectures, yoga class, a happy hour to listen to the piano as well as her normal workout. I played in the poker tournament after going to an a very nice wine tasting which included some very nice wines. The head sommelier continues to impress me with his vast knowledge of wines. Had coffee with the General Manager Damien who, unfortunately , leaves the ship for a two month vacation but returns in Rome for the last two segments of the cruise. That is good timing for us because our children and grandchildren join us in Rome. Tomorrow, our first of two ports in Taiwan before heading for Japan. Seas got rough enough that the show scheduled for 9:30 was cancelled. Sunday March 24: PORT 9: KAOHSIUNG, TAIWAN What a pleasant surprise. This is really a terrific port. Previously, we had been to Taipei, where we go tomorrow, but this was a new place. Almost 3 million people. Beautiful wide streets, a lot of things to do and very nice people, many of whom speak some English. Spent the day with Paul and Pat Farran following a plan essentially conceived by BGM which the three of us we happy to embrace with, essentially, no comment. The weather was absolutely perfect, about 78 degrees, so not too hot, as was Manila, and not too cold as to require any kind of jacket. Since, as a general rule it is better for me to exercise early in the morning, I was able to get in my full routine and still not runout of gas before the end of the day. BGM prefers to exercise at the end of the day when the gym is almost always empty and most people are having dinner. I am not displeased with how I am doing physically, and, including, the 70 minutes on the treadmill ,had 21, 506 steps and 8.6 miles, the most I have had on this cruise to date. We started out taking a taxi about 40 minutes to a very nice area, where among other things, we took a walk through a dragon in order to have good luck. It was a very nice area of the City, and, because it was a Sunday, there were lots of families out and about. The little children are really cut and dressed beautifully. Saw a lot of the city on this ride. Very wide boulevards, and not a lot of traffic for a place this big. We negotiated a flat fee with the taxi driver, and the 40 minute drive cost about $7. When we left, we made a similar deal with another taxi to take us to a great shopping area where we spent several hours, had great food, as more fully described on the attachment, There restaurant, the most popular in the city, had about a 45 minute wait even though it held several hundred people. It was in the middle of a terrific food court on the bottom floor of a shopping center that was 5 or 6 floors and had just about every shop of significance in the world. We then took our final taxi to another area a short walk from the ship and spent the rest of the day walking around. We visited a second beautiful park and an arcade selling all kinds of merchandise and food item. HOT TIPS (SEVERAL) 1. UNLESS WANT TO SEE MORE TEMPLES, ONE CAN SPEND A VERY ENTERTAINING DAY WITHOUT BOOKING AN EXCURSION. THE FOUR OF US SPENT LESS THAN $100 INCLUDING A GREAT LUNCH, SAW MORE, AND PROBABLY HAD A BETTER TIME THAN ANY PASSENGERS WHO BOOKED EXCURSIONS THE COST OF THE SHIP’S EXCURSIONS VARIED FROM ABOUT $125 PER PERSON TO $200 PER PERSON. 2. EASY TO TAKE TAXIS, CAN MAKE A FLAT FEE WITH THE DRIVER, BUT EVEN IF THE METER RUNS, TAXI’S ARE VERY CHEAP. 3. CHANGE MONEY RIGHT INSIDE THE TERMINAL. IT IS NECESSARY TO HAVE LOCAL CURRENCY UNLIKE SOME PORTS WHERE U.S. DOLLARS ARE READILY ACCEPTED. BGM did a great job, with an assist from the Farrans, of scoping things out and we give our experience in this port A MONDAY MARCH 25: PORT 10: TAIPEI (KEELUNG), TAIVWAN This is our second time in Taipei. We docked in Keelung which is about a 40 minute taxi ride from Taipei. Keelung has almost 400,000 people and we walked around it a little at the end of the day. I assume we docked in Keelung on our first visit, but on that occasion, we got on some Oceania tour, something like “The Highlights of Taipei, so we paid no attention to where we docked. We saw the “usual” highlights and returned to the ship. This time, knowing how inexpensive taxis are, and being with our friends the Farrens, we decided to do our own thing. It rained most of the day, at times quite heavily, but it never hampered us. We went back to what I have to admit is one of the great museums of the world. It was our intent to rent audio guides, but when we tried to get them, because we did not have our passports with us, we would have had to leave a deposit of $300 per person which was ridiculous. We just walked around for a few hours, running in to many of the ship’s passengers on organized, very expensive tours. We then went to the very famous 101 building, one of the tallest in the world, maybe the tallest. Another great food court including a branch of the great restaurant we had eaten in the day before. However, there was a 45 minute wait even after 2 p.m.so we found another very good place selling barbecue chicken, pork and ribs. One can eat very well, and very cheaply in Taiwan and get around by taxi for a very reasonable price.. There is great shopping, and a lot going on. Most of the people speak some English. There is no reason to take expensive tours. Paul and I each converted $300 to Taiwan dollars and spent about $175 a couple in the country over two days going everywhere we wanted, when we wanted, and eating (including quite good beer) both days. HOT TIP: IF GOING TO MUSEUM, WHICH IS REALLY A MUST, EITHER HIRE A GUIDE OR BE SURE TO BRING YOUR PASSPORTS SO AUDIO GUIDES CAN BE OBTAINED. Did a lot of walking, 19,315 steps, 7.7 miles, but not as much as the day before when walked 8.6 miles (21,506 steps). In preparing for this cruise, I had done a great deal of preparation for many ports. I did nothing for either of the ports in Taiwan, the first port because I could find out nothing meaningful about it, and the second port because we had already been there. I was not particularly looking forward to either of these ports, but we did have a great time. BGM did a great job and Paul and Pat Farren were a total pleasure. We give our experience in the port an A. TUESDAY MARCH 26: PORT 11: MIYAKO, JIMA JAPAN Our first of seven ports in Japan spanning ten days. Japanese authorities required every passenger to have their temperature taken and be fingerprinted. It We did not dock until 10 a.m. and by the time every passenger jumped through all the hurdles, the day was about gone. There was not that much to do at this port. There was a shuttle into town, but by the time we got off the ship with our friends the Farrens, some passengers were already returning with reports that it was a waste of time. The Farrens immediately decided to return to the ship. BGM and I were prepared to walk around but learned that it was another hour before the next shuttle so we too returned to the ship. However, it was still good to get off the ship because we there was a desk set up for us to obtain Yen. We have some Yen with us from our previous trip to Japan, but we turned in our Taiwanese currency for additional Yen. HOT TIP: THERE IS NO NECESSITY TO KEEP ALL UNUSED CURRENCY. IF NO INTENTION OF RETURNING TO THE COUNTRY, TURN IN WHAT IS LEFTOVER AT THE NEXT COUNTRY IN WHICH A CURR3ENCY EXCHANGE IS AVAILABLE. We had dinner at Polo Grill with Damien, the General Manager and with the new Chief Concierge, Randall. Roberto, head of food and beverage was scheduled to come but was not feeling well. It was a most pleasant dinner. Damien supplied the white wine and I brought I 90 Pichon. I continue to be impressed by the key personnel on this cruise. The conversation throughout dinner was very interesting in many respects. Both Damien and Randall are very erudite gentleman with knowledge far beyond their job descriptions on the ship. At one point, we were talking about music and I brought up my interest in American Musicals. As we talked about some of the legends of the theatre, I mentioned that one of my heroes was Oscar Hammerstein, that I thought his lyrics were among the best ever written, and that his lyric to “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” was the most important lyric in all of theatre music. When I googled the lyric for Randall to read (I have not yet mentioned that he is from South Africa) he immediately said “are you familiar with Nelson Mandela’s words on the same subject?” I then read those words and for those interested, I juxtapose below what Oscar Hammerstein and Nelson Mandela had to say so eloquently: Hammerstein: You’ve got to be taught To hate And fear You’ve got to be taught From year to year Its got to Be drummed in your dear little ear You’ve got to Be carefully Taught You’ve Got to be taught To be Afraid Of people Who’s eyes are oddly made And people who’s skin is a different shade You’ve got to Be carefully Taught You’ve got to be taught Before it’s too late Before you are six Or seven Or eight To hate all the people Your relatives hate You’ve got to Be carefully taught You’ve Got to Be carefully taught Mandella No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more Naturally to the human heart that its opposite. Because we did not really visit this port, there is no grade assigned to it, but we give our evenings experience A plus, plus Wednesday March 27: PORT 12: OKINAWA (NAHA) JAPAN Instead of taking any kind of organized tour, we, together with Paul and Pat and Gary and Alex decided to do our own itinerary. We were extremely lucky to find immediately outside the port, a van which comfortably held six and a great driver who took us around for four plus hours at a cost of about $35 per person. We could not have done better. Tipping is an insult in Japan. However, we were able to show our appreciation for the great job our driver did paying extra because we had agreed to four hours and took more time. So, we told him through Google Translate that the extra money was for the extra time. Okinawa was extremely important in WW 11 so the first place we went was the underground naval headquarters of the Japanese Navy. It was very worthwhile and I recommend it to anyone visiting Okinawa. Okinawa was a major battle lasting 82 days. There were about 160,000 casualties on both sides at least 75,000 Allied We then went to the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum. It is also very worthwhile. There are memorials to both the Japanese and American soldiers who were killed on Okinawa. We also visited Shurijo Castle Park which was the King’s Castle and is one of the major attractions in Okinawa. BGM learned that karate was invented in Okinawa because the king had banned weapons. Thus, citizens had to learn other ways of defending themselves. The three attractions mentioned were not geographically close so we drove around a lot and saw a lot of the city from the van. BGM had scoped out some very good “all you can eat, all you can drink” restaurants, but we never made it to eat, and seemed to be the only one who noticed. What would have been an A experience, I give an A minus because as those who know me, know “you have to feed the Fox”. Thursday March 28. A sea day on the way to Kobe/Kyoto. A great wine tasting even though not great wines. For $55 there was a selection of over 30 wines from all over the world, and various cheese for those who wanted some food to cleanse their palate of whatever. Almost everyone on the ship interested in wine showed up at one time or another and it was a very social occasion. Normal other shipboard activities, and then we had three couples in our cabin for some wine and canapes. Paul & Pat, Gary and Alex, and Garry and Nicki. Then, although BGM had no intention of eat dinner, we had a “command performance” (even BGM could not decline) to join Michael & Dana and their friends (a couple both doctors) who came to join them on the Sydney to Tokyo leg, in the same manner Pat and Paul Farren came to join us on the same segment. Our friends had a great time and I think they would have liked to stay on for another segment but could not because of family obligations back in the States. Dinner was at the Polo Grill, but I had seen the dinner menu at the Terrace included Peking Duck. Three of the six at dinner preferred the duck to the normal menu at Polo, and the duck was brought to us. We had been to Kyoto before the cruise we took to celebrate our 50th anniversary. Having seen the key sights, I booked, through Viator, a walking food tour in Kyoto at a cost of $90 per person. It was not until we focused today on those plans that we realized Kyoto was about a $100 taxi ride each way. I had not realized what a really great port Kobe looked to be. The cancellation policy with Viator required me to cancel a week in advance, but after several emails back and forth, they agreed to refund half our money and we made plans with the Paul & Pat, Gary and Alex to spend the day in Kobe. HOT TIP: BEFORE BOOKING ANY PRIVATE EXCURSIONS, DETERMINE HOW FAR THE SHIP DOCKS FROM WHERE THE EXCURSION BEGINS. Friday March 29: PORT 13: KYOTO (KOBE), JAPAN The itinerary provided by Oceania is as reflected above, but that is totally misleading as the ship docks in Kobe and Kobe is a terrific place to be. Kyoto also has a lot to offer. Both places have many attractions and a population of about 1.5 million. We made private plans to spend the day in Kobe with Paul and Pat, and Gary and Alex. Ultimately, Paul and Pat went off to do their own thing. We were going to meet up for lunch but were not surprised when the Farrens did not show. Gary wasn’t feeling well and Alex chose to go with BGM and me. It was not easy to plan the day as the Japanese authorities, for reasons unknown, shutdown the satellite so we had no wireless and television. BGM got off the ship early and used the wireless in the port terminal so that when the rest of us got off the ship, a lot of information was available. Kobe is known as “the Paris of Japan” for both its shopping and its food. While in the terminal, she asked at the information desk about their favorite restaurant and she was given the name “Takoyaki”. More about that experience later. They asked BGM whether she liked octopus, which she does. BGM, Alex (remember she is the great lady from Toronto who has conducted what everyone says are the greatest yoga classes, and she is also a travel agent) and I took the ships shuttle into the center of town. The main department store (Daimaru) was right where the shuttle dropped us off, but it was not yet open. Because we had to be back on the ship by 3:30, we got an early start. Right across the street from where the shuttle dropped us off was the entrance to Chinatown. BGM had said that cruisers to posted online said that this Chinatown was not very good, but, since we could not get into the department store, we decided to walk through Chinatown. It was fabulous—one of the nicest we have ever experienced, and we have experienced a whole lot. We spent the entire morning in the Chinatown area. There were dozens of great restaurants, and right next to the main street of Chinatown was a huge shopping arcade. We stopped in one place for tea for me (a delicious caramel flavored tea) and coffee for BGM and Alex. We were given two different kinds of delicious cookies. While we were in this store, another passenger from the ship who had been to Kobe many times, walked in and told us that we were in the best cookie shop in all of Japan. We did a lot of walking, I ended up with just short of 18,000 steps and a total of 8 miles, and BGM and Alex (I cannot no longer refer to them as “the girls” without being chastised) were having such a good time, they were practically giggling. I passed up numerous places where I would have loved to eat even though I was not that hungry. I did have breakfast because of my previous experience in Okinawa where everyone else was too busy, doing other things, to eat. So, with the cookies, I was okay with not eating in what was really a great Chinatown including several places serving the famous and great, but very expensive Kobe beef which I never did get to eat. Because there was a possibility that Paul and Pat might meet us for lunch, and because I knew BGM did not know exactly where the restaurant to which we were going was located, I insisted that she ask directions. By happenstance and good luck, and although he spoke very little English, BGM asked a young man (he turned out to be an engineering student) for directions. We never did learn his name, but he accompanied us for a good 35 to 30 minutes to find what turned out to be a tiny “hole in the wall” that no tourist would ever consider going into. I would have never gone in the place, but we really had no choice because it was possible the Farrens could show up even though we were confident they would not. There were seats for about 12 peoples downstairs and another 12 upstairs where we were taken. We invited the young man who navigated our way to the place to join us and he did. When we walked in to the place, we saw three or four people making some kind of dumpling. It turned out that this is the only dish served in the whole place. He ordered for the four of us and what came was three huge platters each with 20 of these “things” (I have no idea what they are called) which turned out to be a kind of very light egg white based very light dumpling shaped item with a piece of octopus inside. We were given little bowls and what looked like a tea kettle but was a broth for the dumplings and that was our lunch. BGM and Alex loved them, raving about the great meal. They were good enough for me to eat about 15 of these “things” but the whole experience was a little surreal. Had Paul and Pat showed up late, we agreed that we would go someplace else for lunch, The two “ladies” loved it so it was okay with me. It is not like I never eat exactly what I want. The rest of the day was spent in Kobe’s best department store Daimaru. For those who do not know, Japanese department stores are, in my opinion, the best in the world. We had previously been to one in Kyoto and Tokyo, and, when we get to Tokyo, our next port, we plan to spend half a day in the same store we had been to on our first trip to Japan. Among other things, the Food Hall in Tokyo contains a duplicate of all of Harrods Food Hall as less than half of the entire food hall. This food hall in Kobe took up the entire basement, about the size of a fully city block. Among other things, it had the most unbelievable French bakeries, and about every food one could think of. There were a lot of prepared foods, but no Kobe beef. I did buy and took back to the ship for dinner, one of my favorite dishes—fresh water eel. Although there are some great sushi restaurants in the U.S. and other cities, the eel in Japan is the best. Oceania had some excursions into Kyoto, a little more than an hour’s drive. Some passengers who toured privately and wanted to go to Kyoto, took the high speed train which took about 30 minutes. A few more people spoke English and there were a few more signs in English, but still it is difficult for tourists who speak on English to get around. HOT TIP: EITHER TRY TO FIND A WAY TO HAVE WIRELESS SO ONE CAN USE GOOGLE TRANSLATE OR THE EQUIVALENT, OR HAVE YOUR ITINERARY WRITTEN OUT IN BOTH ENGLISH AND JAPANESE SO THAT IT CAN BE SHOWN TO TAXI DRIVERS AND OTHRES. THE SHIP’S CONCIERGE CAN DO THAT. HOT TIP 2: ALWAYS LEAVE TIME TO VISIT A DEPARTMENT STORE IN ANY JAPANESE PORT, PARTICULARLY THE FOOD HALLS. We love Kobe and want to come back. We give our experience an A


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