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Trip Report - Antarctica, Galapagos, South Pacific and more


Anna32
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Day 34, Relaxing on Moorea (February 4th)

 

Waking up very early, we made good use of our little plunge pool to refresh and soak in the ambiance of our tropical paradise. Some birds and a tiny lizard were already out and about, before the heat of the day forces everyone to take it easy. This morning there were no clouds in the sky, promising a scorching but less humid day.

 

At breakfast, I got pursued by the omelette lady, who was apparently bored. Okay, don’t mind if I do! Mushrooms and cheese are my favourite fillings, just in case someone is interested. A glass of fresh coconut water and a plate of tropical fruit were the perfect add-ons. I might never be able to eat pineapple in Europe again, the taste here is so much better.

 

We did a little exploring around the resort. Half of the overwater bungalows and all the beach bungalows are under renovation. Those areas are closed to guests, and there isn’t a lot of noise. However it does explain why the hotel doesn’t feel very crowded. In hindsight I am glad I didn’t book one of the overwater huts. The ones I would have wanted, farther off the beach, are closed. The available ones are very close to the beach and pool area - I would probably have been disappointed. Very much first world problems, I am aware of that. Still, I try to be a good travel agent for our little group, so tend to think a lot about those things.

 

Sadly, this was as far as our exploration went this morning. We both felt a post-breakfast nap coming on. Snooze time again! This being a Saturday, the agenda back at home would probably have been similar.

 

Lunch time came around, and then we decided to spend some time at the main pool. We went to see the attendant in charge of towels, snorkeling gear, kayaks and SUPs, all free of charge (or rather, included in the resort fee). He was standing in the shade playing his ukulele. How cliché is this vacation going to get?! Very friendly, he stopped his serenading and handed us two pool towels. The area was not too crowded, we easily found two sunbeds. Out over the reef, dark clouds were beginning to draw closer, and the wind picked up some. So after pool time we headed back to our cabin. Across from it, there is a little sandy area. One of the hens had apparently decided to take a sand bath, and then promptly fallen asleep. She was lying there with one leg stretched out. At first I thought she might be injured or even dead, but when we got closer she just lazily looked at us. Understandable in this climate!

 

I sat outside our own little pool reading, until big fat raindrops begann to fall. The worst of the weather moved past us, though, so it dried up again shortly after. There is a reason for the lush green vegetation here.

 

Tonight was date night: dinner and a show. We had booked a table in the restaurant for the Polynesian music and dance show. The driving beat of the drums and the mesmerizing hip movements of the dancers (male and female) made for a very entertaining evening. For one part of the show, they had audience participation. Fortunately not us, there were enough takers strutting their stuff up on stage. We were happy watching and enjoying our sorbet for dessert. 

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Day 35, Snorkeling fun on the house reef February 5th)

 

Hello from our Pacific Paradise! We had another early start to the day. After breakfast (two eggs over easy and lots of pineapple for me), we went snorkeling. The attendant in charge of gear greeted us in German, and explained the best snorkeling area. Start off from the beach, head between the overwater bungalows, and there you go. 

 

Holger wisely had taken some liquid soap from the room, so we could get the masks clear. Worked like a charm. Heading out, it got very deep right after the bungalows, where the reef fell off. It always takes me a little while to adjust my breathing through the snorkel. When I was finally ready to look down, the first thing I saw was a big shark circling below me. Yikes!

 

I swam back towards the bungalows. Most fishies where on or near the reef. The corals themselves looked rather dead mostly, with some new growth here and there. But there was lots to see, colourful fish, starfish, and clams. We also saw a turtle swimming close by. And another (or the same, who knows) shark, much closer. This time I could clearly see it was a black-tipped reef shark.

 

We snorkeled for quite a while. The water was very calm and it was no problem to stay on the spot and watch all the different fishies. It always amazes me how much you can discover when you just keep looking.

 

We got rid of the salty water rinsing ourselves in our little plunge pool. The water here was lovely, but the sun was really intense, so we couldn’t stay long. I sat outside in the shade reading for a while to dry off. Then, naptime. This is the life!

 

After lunch, Mr. Duck had to go on a little exploration. Not too far, as it was very hot. He was quite proud of himself and his adventures. Somehow he has managed to lose the little feather from the back of his head. He is not the first bald person in the family, but we will have to keep looking for a new one!

 

The afternoon was spent doing some online work. At some point, when our patio was mostly shaded, Holger moved into what he called his „pool office“. He only left it when it was time for dinner. Which was really delicious again. I had the Poisson Cru, raw tuna marinated in coconut milk and lime juice, served as a salad with fresh cucumber. And then two scoops of ice cream, coconut and coffee. After dinner, I have two hours of work meetings planned, so bed time will be a little later tonight.

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Day 36, Another Day in Paradise (February 6th)

 

Okay, this is going to sound familiar. Early morning, wakey wakey. Holger went to grab snorkel gear and towels from attendant. Meanwhile, I was trying to rouse myself. Breakfast. Heavy on coconut and pineapple. Today, the sky is a lot more overcast, and the heat is less oppressive.

 

After a short break, we went snorkeling. There was a little more movement in the water than yesterday. Both from more wind and the jet skis cruising around us. We both saw a shark again, and Holger also the turtle. I was especially impressed with all the colourful fish today. Noticing the vibrant blue and yellow ones made me think about Ukraine and their ongoing struggle. Random thought, but hey Putin, even the fishies in the coral reef stand with Ukraine!

 

When we came out of the water it just started raining. Not heavily, but big warm drops. Since we were already wet, we didn’t really mind. Shortly after, the sun was out again. In this lush paradise, it sometimes feels like a comic book version of reality. Everything a little over the top, if you know what I mean. But in a good way. My mind feels at peace with the world. And apparently I am getting a little bit philosophical today. Who would have thought?

 

Lunchtime saw us ordering our daily helping of Coke Zero (trying to limit my soda intake). I chose the swordfish burger (very yummy) while Holger was happy with his Spaghetti Bolognese. Which, technically, were Tagliatelle, but that was okay by him. All the pasta dishes here are huge portions, so it was siesta time next.

 

Our afternoon was spent resting, reading, and in my case working a little bit. Interesting how you start developing routines after only a few days. We have a kettle in the room, and each afternoon I have been preparing myself a coffee with the instant powder provided. Normally I will have a single espresso after lunch back home. Here, it is „No es café“, the way we have heard the powder called in Latin America.

 

For dinner, Holger had the Poisson Cru - Mr. Duck got very excited about the coconut half on the plate. I had a shrimp and pineapple salad, and we both had room for some ice cream. Tomorrow is our last full day in this resort, before we return to Tahiti on Wednesday to join the Europa.

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Day 37, Last Full Day on Moorea (or is it?) (February 7th)

 

We didn’t break with our routine. Woke up around 6:30. Holger moved into his little pool office, until the sun got too intense. The Europa is on Moorea today, before moving over to Tahiti, where we will catch up with her tomorrow. Her GPS positioning showed her to be at anchor very close to our hotel reef. We went out on the walkways of the overwater bungalows, but weren’t able to spot her. Still, good to know that she is so close already. After tomorrow on Tahiti, she will come back over to Moorea on Thursday - with us on board. So it is not quite goodbye yet.

 

After breakfast we chilled a little in our room, and then moved to the bar for a couple of ice cold sodas. I then spent some time in the hotel pool jacuzzi. Unheated, and very refreshing. Unheated in these parts has a very different meaning to what it would feel like back home.

 

Speaking about home, I have been able to talk to quite a number of co-workers in the last couple of days. Almost everybody was either sick themselves, or looking after loved ones who have come down with something. Not Covid anymore, but all the other bugs that haven’t been able to spread during the last three years seem to be alive and well, and wreaking havoc with people‘s immune systems. I hope everybody feels better real soon! We are sending warmth and sunshine to those who need it!

 

After lunch (burger for Holger, salad for me) we browsed some beautiful black pearl jewelry that a local woman was selling. Holger gave me a lovely drop-shaped pendant ❤️ We also got another unique pendant for a loved one back home.

 

This afternoon, it was time to do our lateral flow tests that we need for our embarkation tomorrow. Another test will be done at check-in, and then we will hopefully be good to go. Even Holger‘s critical eye couldn’t see anything today, so we consider ourselves negative.

 

The afternoon was lazy, reading and chilling. And scratching a couple of mosquito bites that I have acquired over the last few days. Even in paradise someone wants your blood…

 

Our last dinner time came around. We very much enjoyed sitting outside on the terrace in the balmy evening air. Entrecôte for Holger and Penne all‘Arrabbiata for me, and then some sorbet as a fresh finish. Returning to our room, we found our provisional invoice, as well as our transport confirmation to the ferry dock tomorrow. Which in our case means the next stop in our great big adventure is getting very close!

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Day 38, Travel to Tahiti and embark MS Europa (February 8th)

 

Ia Orana from Tahiti! After a final lovely breakfast in the resort, jealously supervised by a gang of Minah birds, it was time to pack our bags and say our goodbyes. Our transfer to the ferry dock was scheduled for 11am, with plenty of time to catch the 12:30 ferry. After 10 minutes of waiting, another taxi showed up with new guests. The lovely driver lady said she knew our driver, and called her. She had some trouble with her car and had send a replacement, who showed up a few minutes later. Everyone here is so incredibly friendly and willing to help. We can certainly learn something about how to treat each other with more kindness back in Europe!

 

At the ferry, we ran into two German couples, who will also board the Europa today. Here on the islands it really is a small world. In Papeete, we were directly marked as tourists, and approached by a taxi driver. In this case fine by me, as we needed to get ourselves and our luggage to the Te Moana Resort, where Hapag Lloyd was offering a Welcome Point.

 

The first crewmember we met was the ship‘s doctor. He administered our lateral flow tests (this time sample was taken from the throat instead of the nose) and asked us to fill out the health questionnaire. We were cleared as negative and good to go. A bus would bring us to the ship at 4pm, in the meantime we could use the hotel facilities or go into town. As it was very hot and especially humid today, we decided on the former and went in search of lunch.

 

We ended up in the same hotel restaurant where we had our first dinner on Tahiti. Today I chose the grilled octopus, and Holger had spaghetti with salmon. Both very good and filling. After that, we enjoyed the air conditioning and the hotel Wi-Fi for a bit. At some point we ran into Carola, the ship‘s guest relationship manager. Very efficiently, she asked about our luggage, and seeing we had no suite number yet tagged it accordingly and told us the magic number: 545. Score! We had booked a guarantee as the cheapest option, and I was fully counting on no balcony. However, we got a great balcony suite that is a little aft of midship on the lowest passenger deck. In terms of the motion of the ocean this will be quite a contrast to the Silver Cloud, where we were up and all the way forward.

 

The bus was there even before 4pm - and so were all the German passengers. I almost had to laugh - we are our own cliché. Carola told us that in port we could bypass the queue, since we had our medical clearance, and go straight onto the ship. That‘s what we did, helped at the gangway by a steward with our hand luggage. Check-in was in the theater. No queue, just hand over our passports, get our pictures taken and receive our room cards. We wanted to get our stuff into the cabin, but got sidetracked by a crewmember offering us champagne and sending Someone ahead with our bags. Sweet! 

 

The champagne was flowing generously, but we limited ourselves to one glass each and went in search of our suite. Wow! The bathroom alone is bigger that our entire cabin on the Golondrina. And the bed has two individual duvets, German style. We were happy!

 

Shortly after us, the first of our large suitcases arrived, followed soon after by the second one. We quickly unpacked and got organized, finishing just in time for the safety drill. Which had us donning our life vests and go to our muster station on the pool deck. Thankfully the drill was brief and we were dismissed to go enjoy the ship.

 

We decided to have dinner in the Lido, the buffet restaurant. I ate all the shrimps! And then some yummy icecream, lemon cheesecake and mango. Even though the commute over from Moorea has been short it still has been a long day, and we are a little tired. Goodnight dear friends!

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Day 39, Moorea again (February 9th)

 

First of all, happy birthday little brother, I hope you have a wonderful day!

 

Bliss! We had a great night’s sleep, and then a very very German breakfast, our first in six weeks. Fantastic selection of breads, cold cuts and salads. I even had a pretzel roll, which was every bit as fresh and good as from our neighborhood bakery. Funny how you start missing little things when you‘re traveling. 

 

Around 10am we decided to go ashore. There was only one other lady in the tender with us. From the sea, the big mountains and green cliffs of Moorea look very imposing. Captain Dag told us this morning that the movie South Pacific / Bali Hai was shot in Cook‘s Bay, where we are at anchor today. If you had to paint an ideal lush tropical island, it would probably look a lot like Moorea. Next to Bora Bora, it is the second most popular honeymoon destination in the South Pacific.

 

It is also very hot and humid, especially today. Ashore, we browsed the little craft market at the tender dock. A few people were offering tours, but not very aggressively. I stopped at a stall where an older woman was selling beautiful pearl jewelry. She was the most „salesy“ of the vendors, but in a nice and friendly way. Her display of goods also looked the most attractive. I asked about pearl bracelets. She showed me a beautiful one in silvery hues, which I really liked. Asking about even darker pearls, she had another one, with big black pearls. I didn’t have to think about it, it was so beautiful, and the price was right.

 

Measuring me, she said she would have to shorten the bracelet by at least two pearls - did I want them as a necklace? Oh yes, even better. She started working on my order and asked us to come back a little later. Since we didn’t feel like doing a full tour we walked around a bit and then decided to go back to the ship for some air conditioning. There was no beach close to the tender landing, we would have to take a taxi, so really nowhere to cool off ashore. Anyway, the tender ride was only five minutes, and the crew offered us some sodas or water while we waited. We are truly spoiled!

 

After resting for a while, we went to lunch in the Lido. They have a grill station, where you can order fish or meats that are freshly prepared for you. I decided to have a bratwurst, staying with my German theme of the day. Very good! To mix things up, I tried one of the local Hinano beers that were on offer. A perfect match!

 

Back ashore, the pearl lady told us that my bracelet sparked the interest of other shoppers, but of course it was reserved for me. No kidding, I would have been very disappointed otherwise! She had taken three of the pearls out, so I went away with three additional necklaces, plus a shell bracelet she presented me with. I was in girl heaven!

 

In the afternoon, I took a shower in our beautiful big bathroom, which makes me smile every time I enter it. Then, I put our Nespresso machine to good use, and settled on our balcony to enjoy the last views of Moorea before sailaway. Oh wait! The Captain came on the horn shortly before anchor up, letting us know we would sail from Cooks Bay into Opunohu Bay to enjoy the sunset and Captain‘s cocktails. Sweet!

 

We enjoyed the transfer from our balcony, and then went to the pool deck for the Captain‘s Welcome. The champagne was flowing again, and I was very happy showing off my beautiful pearl bracelet. The interpretation of „elegant night“ went from evening gown and tuxedo to „What?! I AM wearing a shirt!“ We definitely didn’t feel underdressed.

 

Dinner saw us at the Lido again. This being a festive night, one of the starters was Kaviar with the classic garnishes and vodka on ice. I followed that with a big helping of shrimps, and then lobster with truffled mashed potatoes as my main. Oh my goodness, the food on this ship is divine! Instead of ice cream I put together a cheese plate, and finished with espresso and some of the gourmet chocolates.   The best! The ship is gently rocking us to sleep.

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Day 40, Motu Mahaea, Tahaa (February 10th)

 

Dear fellow travelers, today we are playing Robinson Crusoe, on his island in the Pacific Ocean. We are visiting a motu, Polynesian for „small, uninhabited islet“. The first indication that this wouldn‘t be a sequel to Castaway came when the Captain told us that the crew would need around two hours to prepare the motu for us. No sitting in the sand for this crowd!

 

We relaxed a little after breakfast, and made our way over to the motu around 11am. The transfer was done with Zodiacs. Fortunately we are old pros at doing this. And here - as everywhere else so far - the crew was super helpful. Arriving at the islet, we could already see that this was no simple picnic at the beach. Tables were set with white tablecloth and napkins. Waitresses walked around, offering rum punch as an aperitif. Towards the sea, deckchairs were lined up in the shade under the palm trees. 

 

We grabbed a towel each and found two chairs in the shade. Then we went swimming. The water was warm and pretty shallow. Still, we could see some coral growth that looked a lot healthier than on the reef in Moorea. Everything was close to the surface, so we didn’t even need snorkeling gear. And as always, the longer we looked the more we saw. Fishes were not as plentiful, though. Probably because the water is so shallow.

 

After an hour of swimming and looking at coral I went back on the beach. Then, I saw a little wooden boat in the water with the Hapag Lloyd colours. Going closer, I read the name of the boat: the Kaviar I. And that‘s what it was. Swimming in the warm turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean, the General Manager of the MS Europa presented the guests with Kaviar canapés. Not pre-made, but from a big can of Kaviar on ice, with sour cream and blinis. I think we have now reached the peak of decadence on this entire trip. 

 

The lunch buffet was sumptuous as well. Apart from the obligatory bratwurst, there was filet mignon, seared raw tuna, veal loin and chicken drumsticks. Dozens of side dishes, dips and salsas were spread out. Wine and beer was flowing. I think Robinson Crusoe would have been shocked to see this pop-up restaurant on his lonely island. After we had eaten, a waiter told us that down in the water, we could get ice cream from one of the Zodiacs. We passed. I was a little overwhelmed by the whole affair. Unbelievable to which extent the service went today, and how much effort and planning was put into it. Over the top!

 

At around 2pm, we took a Zodiac back to the ship. A long shower was just the thing to get rid of the sand and salt water. An Espresso from our machine hit the spot and was enough of a dessert for me. Knowing that we are very privileged is one thing. This all-out, in-your-face luxury is quite another. I sincerely hope I will never be able to take any of this for granted, or even expect it. Experiences like this one need to be cherished, but also put into the right perspective. I hope my ramblings are making some kind of sense, as this is more an emotional rather than a rational thing…

 

After anchor up, the Captain informed us that we would now do a bit of scenic cruising around the island of Tahaa, before doing the short transfer over to Bora Bora. Since the island was to our port side, and our balcony is to starboard, I decided to head up to the Club Belvedere, a panorama lounge at the bow of the ship. It was coffee hour, and I couldn’t resist a piece of rhubarb crumble to go with my earl grey tea. Finding a table by the window, I very much enjoyed the views, the beautiful live piano play, tea and cake. And some alone time as well, as Holger was taking a nap. I could also have joined the onboard vicar, who is always present at coffee time for talks with the passengers. But I didn’t really feel like talking, just soaking up the atmosphere.

 

Dinner was lovely, as always. Afterwards we decided to go to one of the bars for a nightcap. I stayed on, as there will be a reading by a well-known German actor of Thor Heyerdal‘s „Kon Tiki“. Not Holger‘s cup of tea, so I will enjoy it on my own.

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Day 41, Bora Bora, French Polynesia (February 11th)

 

Today we are in Bora Bora - a place that inspires dreams and legends. It consists of an outer atoll ring, decorated by countless motus, and an inner island with volcanic peaks. The lagoon is very beautiful, with turquoise water and coral growth. 

 

Almost all of the famous luxury resorts with overwater bungalows and the mansions of the rich and the famous lie on the outer motus. They project an idealized, Disney-like image. The real life happens on the inner island.

 

We went ashore shortly after 9am. The tender landing was in Vaitape, the main village of Bora Bora. It consists mainly of one road, lined with souvenir shops as well as facilities for the locals, like a supermarket and a pharmacy. We found Dany, a local taxi driver, who offered to do a two-hour tour. Just what we were looking for.

 

The weather today was less hot, and we had the occasional shower. Which stopped as abruptly as they started. Dany drove slowly, stopping here and there, to point out a particularly nice view or one of the many tropical fruits growing along the road. We saw coconut, papaya, mango, banana, but also more exotic ones like nui fruit or bergamotte. As a life-long lover of Earl Grey tea, I got quite a kick out of that. At one point, Dany got out of the car to harvest a banana for each of us. Ripe, sweet and still a little tangy. A taste that we just don’t get in Europe. We also saw all kinds of domestic animals along the road. Dogs, chicken, a cat and at one point even a pig in a yard, which was in the process of scratching its back against a palm tree.

 

All of this felt a lot more authentic than what we have seen of French Polynesia so far. Including garbage along the road, long-dead cars in yards and huts that were a far cry from the fancy, thatched-roof bungalows of the luxury resorts. We also noticed the occasional pungent smell. Dany pointed out the different levels of accommodation for tourists. From $10.000 a night in the Four Seasons to $1.000 per month rental huts. All of Bora Bora seems to have suffered greatly from the pandemic, and some of the luxury resorts haven’t recovered. We saw a row of former overwater bungalows that had fallen into complete disrepair. And the world-famous Bloody Mary‘s Bar and Restaurant, the Hotspot of the jet set, was more or less empty at lunch time. „Used to be good, not anymore“ was Dany‘s comment.

 

Returning to Vaitape, we decided to give shopping a try. However, there are only so much black pearls a girl can look at, and the weather had gotten hotter and more humid again. Deciding we had seen enough, we made our way back to the ship, where it was still lunchtime. A bratwurst with fries sounded good. And a little rest even better.

 

In the afternoon, I felt like a dip in the ship‘s pool and hot tub. Which fortunately wasn‘t that hot, but enjoyably bubbly. Flavoured water and fresh squeezed juices were offered by the pool, as well as coffee and tea. Only a few other passengers were hanging out. It will be interesting to see if that changes tomorrow, our first sea day. Even though a number of passengers are on the full world cruise or doing several segments. They have no urgency to do anything whatsoever.

 

Then, it was time for coffee and … waffles! If you don‘t fancy coffee and cake in the Belvedere, there is always waffles at the Lido pool. Today‘s special was Banana Split, but they also have all kinds of other toppings. If that doesn‘t float your boat, you can go to the buffet for some bouillon and snack bowl. I have yet to investigate what that is, exactly, and will report back here. If all else fails, there is 24/7 room service, which - among others - has a cheese plate, fruit salad, mousse au chocolat or ice cream. Are you hungry yet?

 

The rest of the day was spent relaxing. We were reading and looking at our pictures of the day. A propos reading: there is a wonderful small library on board, with some comfy chairs and a big globe in the middle of the room. It is one of my very favorite places here. Maybe later, we will go to the classical concert. A pianist and a flutist will be playing Schumann and Schubert.

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Day 42, At Sea enroute to Aitutaki, Cook Islands (February 12th)

Sea day! After a row of more or less busy port days, a day at sea can be very relaxing. The whole ship seems to be taking a breath. The pace is more leisurely, and gazing out to sea and watching the waves is an acceptable pastime. We started the day with an espresso from our freshly serviced machine. It had been malfunctioning yesterday morning (shock horror!), but the capable maintenance crew put it back to order.

 

At breakfast, a lot of people were partaking in the free Prosecco on offer. After all, it is also Sunday. We didn’t, as that would have put us straight back to bed. Instead, we enjoyed a cappuccino and some scrambled eggs with salmon and shrimps. Wonderful! Afterwards, I went to a talk about the Cook Islands, to prepare for our visit in the next few days. After spending the last 10 days or so in France, we will now be moving over to Great Britain. Strange and also a little bit sad, how much the Europeans have shaped this vast region, where 80%+ of the population are not of European descent. Especially the missionaries have caused a lot of damage to local culture and beliefs. Pretty hostile behaviour for such Christian-minded folks. 

 

Next up was a talk about coral reefs by the onboard biologist. We have noticed a lot of damage to the reefs we have been snorkeling at, so were interested in her take. She said most damage has been done by El Niño, the last one in the winter of 2015/16. in Moorea, a Tsunami has caused additional destruction, and the reefs are regenerating very slowly. Our suspicion is that the islands also add to the stress by pipelining sewage into the ocean. We will have to ask the biologists when we catch her - she didn‘t do a Q&A right after her talk.

 

Our afternoon was very lazy. Lunch, and then a nap. As I had been taking it easy at lunchtime, I felt like an afternoon snack. And, remember, I still had to find out what the advertised „snack bowl“ was. Imagine my happy surprise to see my much loved jumbo shrimps make an appearance! You could take a pre-made bowl (which I did, just adding one tiny shrimp) or put together your own from a variety of fresh ingredients. There was also soup, or ice cream and cake for the sweet tooth. And coffee, tea or bar service, if one required it.

 

Even though we had between 4 and 5 Beaufort and waves up to two meters, the ship was very stable and comfortable today. Very hard to imagine that we have 4.500 metres of water under our keel.

 

At 6pm sharp, the ship‘s bells were ringing, and the Captain came on the horn. He ordered each of us to grab a glass from our cupboards and step into the hallway as we were. Blockparty! Or, as I would call it, meet your neighbours with champagne. A lot of people appeared in various stages of dress. Quite a few bathrobes and swim trunks made an appearance. As did the Captain and all of the senior officers. We stood in the hallway chatting for about 30 minutes, before everyone disappeared again to get ready for dinner. Great fun!

 

Dinner saw us at the Lido again. There are so many culinary options on board, but for our everyday meals, we prefer the casual comfort of the buffet. There is enough variety to keep everyone happy, and enough routine to feel comfortable. And shrimps. Those shrimps, along with the cheese board and the truly excellent bread would be enough dinner for us without any of the other offerings. Tonight, the special were truly excellent lamb chops.

 

Returning to our cabin, we found the snorkeling gear we ordered hanging from our mailslot. Tomorrow in Aitutaki we will go swimming and snorkeling in the lagoon.

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11 hours ago, silkismom said:

Question---is this ship mainly for German speaking guests, or is information also in English?

The MS Europa is mainly for German speaking guests, but the staff will try to accommodate non German speakers.

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Day 43, Aitutaki, Cook Islands (February 13th)

 

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Dr. Seuss was certainly thinking of Aitutaki when he wrote his book! A breathtakingly beautiful atoll with water shimmering in all shades of turquoise imaginable. And - at least it seemed to me - far less commercialized than Bora Bora.

 

The MS Europa is at anchor directly outside of the Aitutaki lagoon. There is only a small gap, less than 10 meters would be my guess, where boats can enter the atoll. The water is extremely shallow in some places. This morning, only one tender boat at a time could enter the lagoon, with a maximum load of 40 pax. None of us are thrill seekers, and we can all do without running aground in the South Pacific. The crew was doing their absolute best to turn around the tenders quickly but safely.

 

At breakfast we sat next to the Cook Islands officials, who had just cleared our ship and then got invited to the buffet. Must be interesting to go onto all the cruise ships. We watched the tenders speeding through the narrow gap into the lagoon for a while. Apparently it is absolutely not guaranteed to make a landing here. I asked Captain Dag, and he told us in his 30 years at sea today is only his second time making a landfall, out of four tries.

 

Our tour today was „swimming and snorkeling on Honeymoon Island“. Coming ashore, the only option if you didn‘t book a ship‘s excursion would have been the minivan shuttle to the beach, $20 return. Two boats were waiting for our group. To our surprise, they were wet landing boats. I almost lost a flip flop trying to get in, but fortunately my water shoes were in the backpack. With a 250 horsepower engine, our little boat sped across the lagoon and we reached the snorkeling area in around 10 minutes. 
 

We snorkeled for about half an hour. The area was around five meters deep with some nice coral growth. We saw a lot of colourful fish and also some giant clams. Nothing too spectacular, but very nice. The reef looked somewhat healthier than in Moorea. Then it was time to continue to Honeymoon Island. For most of us. Holger decided to keep snorkeling and asked for pick-up after our visit to the island. He was the talk of the boat after that. People kept asking me if my husband was okay, was I not worried? Nope, he‘s a big guy and can look after himself. As it turned out, he was never lonely. Other boats kept seeing him and enquiring whether he needed a lift. No one gets left behind!

 

Honeymoon Island was a little spot of coral beach with some palms growing on it. The biggest danger was a coconut falling on your heads. Some terns were flying circles across the island, probably breeding there and not happy about our visit. All in all very romantic and aptly named, though after a nice picnic and some frolicking in the sand all the honeymooners will probably be glad to be picked back up again.

 

Back on the ship we showered off the salt water and sun screen. Then we went in search of a snack and ended up poolside at the waffle station. We had a nice chat with a well-traveled lady. She has also been on Silversea, as well as Seabourn - it was quite interesting to compare notes. Oh, by the way, the waffle station also does iced coffee and iced chocolate in the afternoons. After I had been very good with no desserts yesterday I had my fair share today. Will try to do a low-carb dinner tonight.

 

Erm, that plan went out the window faster than you could say „pacific cruise“… The daily pasta special was truffle pasta. Sooo good! All the cooks in the Lido had to wear tiare leis, which gave off a sweet smell. Manuel, the grill station chef, was not enthusiastic about this, complaining that the service staff didn’t have to wear the leis. He was plotting to get rid of it quickly, when no one was looking. To be fair, all the cooks found a fast way to lose them.

 

After dinner, we decided to try Gatsby‘s, a 1920ies Speakeasy themed bar. I tried a Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail, rum-based with a great balance between sweet and bitter. Holger ordered a Dirty Martini.

 

Good night, and Congratulations to all Kansas City Chiefs fans on yesterday’s Super Bowl win!

 

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18 hours ago, silkismom said:

Question---is this ship mainly for German speaking guests, or is information also in English?

I thought this might be helpful.
 

International cruises

Our international voyages (English/German) on the EUROPA 2 and on the HANSEATIC inspiration ensure that English-speaking passengers feel comfortable from the moment they step on board. All of the documentation, e.g. confirmation, travel documents, handbooks, programmes of the day, menus, announcements and lectures as well as the safety drill and Zodiac instruction will be provided in English. We offer at least one shore excursion in English in each port of call. Approximately three months prior to the start of the cruise you will receive information about the shore excursions available in English.

More information about our international cruises on the EUROPA 2 and the HANSEATIC inspiration can be found in our English catalogues. All other catalogues are only available in German language.

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Day 44, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (February 14th)

 

We woke from the sound of the tender boat above us being lowered. It passes right by our balcony, so a good thing our curtains were still drawn. Opening them, we could see the green hills of Rarotonga, with an overcast sky.

 

The Captain told us we needed to be very careful stepping from the tender platform over to the boat, as there were deep swells. Apparently a normal situation for Rarotonga. Watching the tendering procedure from our balcony, I could see that it had to be well orchestrated. Two crewmen stood on the platform and two in the tenderboat. When they said „now“ you had to step over, with two stabilizing from the back and two gripping you under the arms. Very safe, but the timing had to be just right.

 

Our morning was spent reading and enjoying the ship, as our tour only started after lunch. When it was time, we decided to go a little earlier, as the tendering procedure took a while. Holger went in smoothly, and then it was my turn. I waited. And waited. The tender was bouncing up and down, and sometimes several meters away from the platform. Fortunately the crewmen were very calm, and when my „now“ came I could easily step over into the small boat. 

 

The ride over wasn‘t really bouncy, it was just the swell close to the ship making things tricky. Ashore, we thought we were very early. However, everyone was already there, and so were the two Defenders for our „Rarotonga by Landrover“ tour. Obviously, for a ship full of Germans it‘s perfectly normal to be ashore at 1:30pm when the instruction on the ticket says take the tenderboat at 1:45pm from the ship. I have been asked whether this ship caters only to German guests. Hapag Lloyd offer dedicated cruises that are also marketed to English-speaking guests. However, culturally if not language-wise you will definitely be confronted by the Teutonic spirit, so be prepared!

 

We climbed into the back of one of the Landrovers, where we sat on two benches facing each other. Our tour guide was a local islander introducing himself as „Crocodile Gumbee“. He told us the tour would be half off-road and half on normal roads. And then we were off. Our first stop really took us off-road, and we had to hold onto the rails above us. After a relatively short drive, we reached a beautiful viewpoint, where we could see „The Needle“, a volcanic plug that sits in the middle of the island. Fishermen use it as a landmark, when they go far out into the ocean to catch the elusive snake mackerel.

 

Our tour led across the island through lush countryside and beautiful ocean vistas. Rarotonga has a lot of similarities with Bora Bora (and in all probability many other islands around here), however overall it looks in better shape. The Cook Islanders are proud patriots and really enjoy showing tourists their paradise.

 

Our guide spoke a lot about the history of the islands, and how important Anglican missionaries had been to turn „savages and heathens into the friendliest people on earth“. Turns out the Cook Islands have a strong missionary culture themselves, still today sending out people near and far to bring the gospel to those who need it.

 

Our last stop was a Marae, a sacred Polynesian site where the clan chiefs used to conduct important ceremonies. Today, only a few stones are left, but these sites have an important meaning for the islanders.

 

Going back to the ship was the same adventure as leaving it earlier. It felt as though the four seamen almost lifted me across. They work incredibly hard and always seem cheerful. My deepest respect to them!

 

For sundown, all guests were invited to come to the bow of the ship, that was opened for this occasion. Cocktails and champagne were flowing. A slight breeze was blowing, and at one point we got a few sprinkles of rain, immediately followed by a beautiful rainbow over the ship. What a lovely way to start the evening.

 

We enjoyed a light dinner. It has been a hot and humid day, and we both felt a little exhausted. Tonight there will be a swing concert in the theater - as tomorrow will be a sea day I guess I can extend my bedtime.

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Day 45, Sea Day enroute to Nuku‘alofa, Tonga (February 15th)

 

Last night, our bedtime chocolate was a Niederegger marzipan heart, because of Valentines Day. Very special to get such a wonderful treat from home in the middle of the Pacific. The swing concert by the Fly Boys was also very good. They do swing versions of current songs, and are great entertainers. 

 

Today is a very lazy day at sea. After our morning coffees, we at least managed to sort our laundry and put it in the bag to be cleaned. There is no self-service laundry on board, and my ambition to hand-wash all of our underwear is very limited. Yesterday, we already had two shirts and one jacket ironed, which got terribly wrinkled on the road, That‘s our household chores done, for everything else we are terribly spoiled. My greatest ambition for today is to finish the current Clive Cussler thriller I am reading.

 

At around 10am, we passed Palmerston Atoll. Her, an Englishman and his four wives lived around two hundred years ago. They had plenty of children, and their descendants are manifold all over this planet. Some still live on the atoll. Captain Dag told us he had invited them over to our ship, and also wanted to supply them with provisions. However, they are still very worried about Covid and declined. They all came out to the beach and waved to us as we passed by, and the Captain tooted our horn.

 

Between 10:30 and 11:30 the navigation bridge was opened, and we went to visit. It was very interesting to see all the nautical equipment and talk to the officer of the watch. We were also allowed to go on the outer bridge wings, were docking maneuvers are supervised. The card plotter still showed Palmerston Atoll in great detail.

 

After lunch (excellent Gazpacho and Thuringian bratwurst for Holger) we took a nap. Because sea day!

 

Cleaning up for the evening, we decided to go to the Belvedere for the solo concert of one of the guest artist- a harp player. His instrument was already brought on board back in October of last year, and he will get it back in June this year, when the ship will be in Europe again. He is only on board for this segment. The concert was absolutely wonderful. He showed us what a versatile instrument the harp can be.

 

Tonight, we have a reservation at Pearls. This speciality restaurant is included in the cruises fare and offers a kaviar-themed menu. You heard that right. Kaviar. It was heaven! We normally only indulge in kaviar once a year, on Christmas Eve, and really enjoy it. What a treat we had tonight. The different courses were beef tartare, lobster, spaghettini and veal involtini, all paired with kaviar. The menu will change on the 21st, and right then and there we asked for a second reservation next week. We are prepared to be flexible, and already looking forward to it.

 

Holger called it a night, but Mr. Duck and I decided to go to the White Night Pool Party. Dress code is something / anything white. The band was playing, the ballroom dance couple that we have on board did an opening show, and the champagne was flowing - again. Mr. Duck approved! He even put a little white shawl on for the occasion. Good thing that tomorrow will be another sea day. Wish you all were here to celebrate with us!

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Day 46, At Sea enroute to Nuku‘alofa, Tongatapu, Tonga (February 16th)

 

Today we had a late start. Maybe it was all the champagne last night, who knows… We are getting closer to Tonga, and also the International Dateline at 180 degrees longitude.

 

Grateful for another sea day, we slowly settled into the day. First order was to stow away our laundry, that got returned last night. After breakfast we sat for a while in the library, reading and gazing out to sea. The sky was a little cloudy, with the occasional shower. 

 

We didn’t feel like a lot of activity today, so took it very easy. The Lido had fresh Fin de Claire oysters for lunch, a real treat. 

 

Nap time was interrupted at 4pm by the Staff Captain with a nautical update. Good thing, otherwise I would have slept right through dinner. I took a shower and got ready for the evening. At 6pm, we were invited to a First Timer Cocktail with the Captain and Senior Officers. It was for those guests sailing for the first time on this ship. We were surprised to see almost 100 people there. For most of them the deciding point was the itinerary through the South Pacific.

 

We had a rotation system with the officers coming round to the different tables. That way we learned a little bit about the different departments. Champagne was flowing again, but after last night I limited myself to one glass. 

 

For dinner, the daily special was a Kurobuta pork chop. This Japanese variety of pig is basically the Kobe of pork, or so the chef told me. It was delicious and very filling.

Later there will be another storytelling evening with the guest actor and his wife. They are our cabin neighbours, so I will try to go.

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Day 47, Crossing the International Dateline (February 17th)

 

The day that wasn‘t. For us, at least. Over the last six weeks, we have gained 11 hours. Now it‘s payback time, with interest. We gain another hour, at the same time losing 23 hours. Now, we are 12 hours ahead of Germany. No Friday for us, it is Saturday already. For the rest of our trip, we will stay in this timezone, which is also New Zealand time.

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Day 48, Nuku‘alofa, Tongatapu, Tonga (February 18th)

 

Okay, Saturday that used to be a Friday, let’s do this! I don‘t know what is more unusual, the fact that we lost a day, or that it‘s raining, and our sailors are on the pier in foul weather gear.

Nuku‘alofa is the only port on this itinerary where we dock at a pier (apart from Papeete and Auckland). So no tender operations. Instead, the crew is busy with loading and unloading stuff.

 

Tonga has been severely hit by the Tsunami following the eruption of an underwater volcano in Vanuatu a few years back. The infrastructure hasn‘t been fully rebuild, and it probably will take time. 

 

The dock is situated in downtown Nuku‘alofa, so we decided to try our luck walking for a bit. Coming down the dock, we passed a plaque commemorating the generous Chinese donation of the dock to the people of Tonga. We have seen this in many, especially politically independent island nations. The Chinese „donate“ pieces of infrastructure, in exchange for fishery rights or votes in the UN. Same is true for many islands in the Caribbean. Quid pro quo, I guess.

 

It was raining on and off, so we borrowed one of the ship‘s umbrellas. On the way into town, there were some souvenir stalls, and locals who were offering tours. Our main priority for today was different: wifi. The last couple of days the ship‘s internet has been hit and miss. And my brother had gone through our mail at home and sent through some items that needed our immediate attention. We were hoping to find a café with wifi in the city center.

 

Cafés we found several, all filled with locals enjoying a leisurely Saturday brunch. But none of them had internet. Ho-hum. And it started raining again. Slowly walking back, we came across a little tented stall from the local post office. They were selling souvenir stamps. And promoting a wifi hotspot. Yes! Talking to the very friendly lady, she asked us to come into the post office store. There she set up each of our devices with the password, and we were good to go. For the next hour, the little post office was our office, and we got all urgent things done. Anything else can wait until we‘re in New Zealand. For three dollars US per device and hour, we were happy campers. To our amusement, some other guests from the ship came in and asked about internet. Whenever they heard there was a cost involved they immediately turned back. With the amount of money we are spending on this trip, that kind of attitude seemed pretty ridiculous to us. But we‘re not judging, everybody has different priorities.

 

After our office hour was over, we were very pleased to have taken care of everything important. Exploring a little more, we slowly made our way back to the ship. Close to the port were a couple of official-looking buildings. Since it was Saturday, nothing was open. We also found a memorial for WWI, in which soldiers from Tonga participated. It was well looked after. These island nations are full of patriotic pride in their wonderful countries, and rightly so.

 

The waters around the dock area are very clear and shallow in some places. A local pilot is therefore essential. The beaches on the island are quite a distance outside of Nuku‘alofa, and with the weather being very changeable today we decided to head back to the ship after our walk. 

 

Interestingly we seem to have taken on new passengers in Tonga. We saw three or four locals in the Lido restaurant after our departure from Nuku‘alofa. I guess if there is space, this is the easiest way to get from one island to the next.

 

Tonight we‘ll have a concert by Orange Blue. They are a German band who have been around for over twenty years. I have to admit I only know one of their songs, but will definitely go to see their show.

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Day 49, Kabara Island, Fiji (February 19th)

 

Fiji. Another destination that evokes dreams and stirs the imagination. We will be visiting four islands in this nation, the first being Kabara today. Technically, we have half a sea day, as we will only arrive around noon. During the morning we could already see a number of the Fijian islands we were passing, both to port and starboard. Most of them are either uninhabited, or have a couple of hundred islanders, living in small villages.

 

Today will be a Zodiac landing, with the disclaimer that we will only do it if it is safely possible. The Captain voiced some doubts last night, as the weather forecast wasn‘t advantageous. However, today is dry and sunnier than expected. We will have to wait and see. So far, we have been very lucky with our landings on this trip.

 

At lunch, we were checking out the Zodiac operations and the island from the ship. The landing zone was a white sandy beach, from which you could swim. Snorkeling seemed difficult, as any reef structure was quite far out from the beach. Getting in and out of the Zodiac didn’t look too bad. However, my left shoulder has been acting up for a day or so, and I was seriously considering whether putting additional strain on it for a couple of hours on a beach would be worth it. Since we have three more stops in Fiji, and I want to give my shoulder some rest, the verdict was „no go“ for me.

 

Holger decided to stay on board as well, since snorkeling didn’t look promising. We did enjoy the atmosphere and also the weather, which was much better than forecasted. And spending time on the beautiful MS Europa is never a hardship.

 

By the way, the new guests that we spotted arriving yesterday in Tonga are Fiji officials, who will accompany us for our tour through Fiji‘s islands, and make sure we adhere to any government regulations. Nice work if you can get it!

 

I enjoyed the dusk hour on our wonderful balcony with a drink from our mini bar. Soft drinks and beer in the cabin are complimentary, and refilled every day. A nice breeze was blowing, and it was warm without being oppressive. One more of those moments to be filed away, and retrieved for future stress relief. For me, those are often moments where I am gazing at the endless ocean. In the words of Ankerherz, I am „gedanklich am Meer“ (with my thoughts at the sea). 

 

For those that don‘t know Ankerherz, I will briefly explain. They are a small independent publisher of mainly maritime-themed books. Their name translates to „anchor heart“. Also, they do a lot of community work, and have been instrumental in helping to keep many of us sane through the pandemic. I have met some truly wonderful human beings through this community, and some of them are following our adventures daily. You are all in my heart, and I am very happy I am able to take you along! ❤️

 

While I am at it, I would also like to thank all of those reading my daily reports. Journaling was one of my ambitions for this trip. I have a secret aspiration to be a writer, but never seem to find the time. Now, I realize how much I enjoy my daily musings, and also to share them with those who are interested. At first I was a little worried that it could seem like I am bragging about our big trip. But since I am an avid reader of travel blogs myself it felt like I could give back, in a small way. Anyway, enough of the navel gazing, it is almost dinner time.

 

Tonight the board band will play 80ies tunes in Gatsby‘s Bar. Maybe I can persuade Holger to go for a nightcap.

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