Sydney Part 1

After visiting Newcastle, we travelled slowly overnight to our scheduled stop in Sydney. We were due to be there in the early hours on the 20th February staying overnight until 11pm on 21st. The first day, we were due to be anchored in the harbour and would get to Sydney by tender. The tender would take us to the Man of War steps right by the Sydney Opera House. The Man of War steps is also right near the Botanical Gardens, so a good opportunity to take a stroll though them too, if its what you like doing.

I was going to take the train to Katoomba, but the weather was very low cloud and intermittent showers, so I opted to do a hop on hop off bus. I decided I would get off and change to the Bondi Beach tour.

The photos below are of the ‘living’ building which I loved when I came to Sydney in 2017.

I got off at the stop for the Australian National Maritime Museum. This was included as part of my city ticket and also included entrance on to the HMAS Vampire (ship) and HMAS Onslow (submarine). I found the submarine to be very small considering the amount of crew it would have to hold and the beds were tiny!

After completing (there is still a small section of the tour I haven’t done so will find a time to do the whole tour) as much as I could and getting back to Circular Quay, I decided to go back to the ship, have dinner. After Dinner, I got the tender back to shore, and by then it was dark.

As I was waiting the Arcadia was scheduled to dock at the Overseas Passenger Terminal which is located in Circular Quay.

I had planned to do some more touring on the second day (21st Feb), but due to Cyclone Oma, Brisbane Port had been shut, so I spent the morning trying to sort our my onward journey. In the end, I got off the ship and went on a small cruise around the harbour. The weather was, again, raining and very grey.

So overnight in the early hours of the 22nd February, a letter was slipped under the door from reception informing us (all the people who were due to get off in Brisbane) that due to Cyclone Oma, we would not be getting to Brisbane until the 26th. As my second cruise was delayed, I thought that it would be handy to stay on the ship until Brisbane. Unfortunately, it was not possible to stay on the ship till Brisbane as it transpired that it was very possible that they wouldn’t be stopping there at all. Because of this a flight was booked and P&O had booked us all into various hotels. Of course, this delay also meant that I had three days in Brisbane. What I did in Brisbane will be shared on the next blog!

10 reasons to do a World Cruise with P &O Cruises

I wanted to do a different kind of top 10 and rather than being my own opinions, I thought I would ask my P&O World Cruise Facebook group why they chose to do the World Cruise with P&O. After all, its important to listen to our customers, and if they like a certain cruise line, we should share the reasons why.

1 – Great for Solos! P&O are very good for solo cruisers. They have adult only ships, solo cabins and often have meet ups for solo passengers.

My reason for choosing P&O was the itinerary and the fact the cruise went it Brisbane. I’ve also cruised with P&O before and loved the experience. Janine Chrispin, Bristol, UK

I am a solo cruiser and did my first World Cruise 2 years ago with P&O Arcadia. I had such a wonderful time I am hoping I will have the same experience 2nd time around. Jennifer Mitchell, Milton Keynes, UK

2 – Itineraries. P&O offer a range of itineraries and with the World Cruise it is split into sectors giving customers the option to do parts of the cruise to places they want to visit.

It was the places the trip was going and the time of year. We try to holiday in the winter rather than the summer. We had done Southampton to Australia with Princess through the Suez so to go the other way through Panama was great. The fact that it’s with P & O was not a major factor, as we like all cruise lines. We are doing Southampton to Hong Kong. Val Rose, Devon, UK.

We have chosen this P and O cruise because of the dates, the itinerary and because it sailed from the UK. We went on Arcadia last Christmas, we liked the ship but the cruise director was poor. Hoping for a better one for this trip, it would make all the difference. Linda Birchmore, Middle Wallop, Hampshire, UK

3 – Value for Money. P&O offer good value for money with their cruises and there is a lot included in the fare. 24/7 food, gym, swimming, entertainment and of course the opportunity to meet new people.

I happened to come across a sale online with P&O UK, the price was very good as was the onboard credit. It had always been a dream for me to do this cruise. Everything just seemed to fall into place at the right time. We usually cruise with Celebrity and have enjoyed all the cruises on Solstice and Millennium. Of course for me a big plus is no cooking, no cleaning, JOY! First time with P&O UK. Allan Jenkins, Cairns, Australia

4. A brand you can trust. P&O have a good reputation and have built a solid brand. They have a good following and a lot of people trust them.

Only cruised with P&O and at the moment I can find no fault with them so not worth risking another company. Marion Ridsdill Birmingham UK

We have always cruised with P & O and only know what we’ve been told about other cruise lines some good some bad. We’ve always enjoyed our previous cruises so decided on P & O for our first world cruise. Better the devil you know. Joan Grace, Coventry, UK.

5. Departures from Southampton. The choice of cruises from Southampton is possibly the best of any departure port in the world. Southampton is easy to reach by aeroplane, train and car.

We are from the Netherlands and did several (10) cruises with HAL. We wanted to do a worldcruise with HAL but realised we would visit many ports already visited. So we came across P&O. They visit some different ports and, also important they leave and arrive in “nearby” Southampton, language spoken is English and -not least important- the price was very right. Willem Gelens, Netherlands

We wanted to visit Australia again and some of the South Pacific Island nations without the long flights involved. Cruising is therefore the only option. Only a few cruise lines offer this possibility and, of them, we are most familiar with P&O. Ron Fairbairn, Hampshire, UK

6. Friendly staff and crew. Many people cruise with P&O because they find that the staff are friendly, familiar and happy to help and feel that they are visiting family when cruising with P&O.

I had sailed with P&O lots and my daughter worked on Arcadia for a year her first ship and our first P&O. During that year we became part of the family x Love the ship and the people. Dawn Budd, UK

We have always cruised with P & O and only know what we’ve been told about other cruise lines some good some bad. We’ve always enjoyed our previous cruises so decided on P & O for our first world cruise. Better the devil you know. Joan Grace, Coventry, UK.

7. World Cruise Sector Embarkation locations. With the world cruise, there are sectors, so if you are not doing the whole world cruise, you can visit locations that may not be available all year around.

We are sailing Southampton to SAN Francisco. My friend has travelled with P&O on nearly 40 cruises over many years and thinks they are the best company to book with. I am relatively new to cruising in comparison having done four previous trips with P&O plus one with Cunard and one with TUI. My friend wanted me to experience sailing the Panama Canal as well as visit SAN Francisco. Both new trips for me but ones she has enjoyed previously. Wendy Castling, Marske by the Sea near Redcar, UK

We are doing Sydney to Singapore. I have always wanted to visit Australia and the Far East so this way we get to see it in one holiday. The dates worked well for us too. Sandra Harvey, UK

Our reason was basically due to the dates fitting in. We wanted to do a cruise around NZ but didn’t want to fly home from Sydney as one way will be bad enough! Having done a few cruises on P&O we were quite happy to do the long trip home with them. Stephen Skitt, Woolwich, UK

All the words above are genuinely from member of the P&O World Cruise Arcadia 2019 Facebook group.

8. The onboard Language is English. If English is the only language, then you’re in luck with P&O as all announcements are made in English.

9. British themed ships. All P&O ships are English themed and even have an English pub and a traditional British Sail away party. And I mean with flag waving and everything. Its a bit like the last night of the proms!

10. It’s a cashless system. When you check in in the cruise terminal, they take your credit card details and a photo and issue you with a card. This card is important and it is used to open the door of your cabin, check in and off the ship in ports and to pay for drinks, spa treatment and anything that you haven’t pre paid. There is no need to carry any cash on board and you can check your account anytime either at reception or on the cabin TV if it is offered.

If you can think of any more reasons to travel with P&O, please comment below. I would love to hear why you think you should do a World Cruise with P&O.

Noumea, New Caledonia

As we were preparing to leave Lautoka, the captain made an announcement regarding a cyclone weather system (named Oma) was heading to Port Vila, so we were now not going there. I was disappointed in this as it was the port we were going to on my Birthday (February 15th) and I had planned and booked a helicopter ride. The new plan was that we would arrive in Noumea at around 3pm on the 15th and stay overnight and that the crew were trying to get us an additional port in Newcastle, New South Wales for the 19th February. Port Vila was the second port we were going to miss because of the cyclone, and as much as it was a disappointment, its good to see that P&O consider the safety of the passengers over trying to get to a port where a cyclone is forming. Lots of passengers were not happy, though and still continue to moan.

We had a lovely sail in to Noumea and arrived as predicted at about 3pm. We were in a container port, so the only way out was by courtesy bus.

I decided that I needed to get off and thought I would get the bus to the terminal port so that I can access some free WiFi. That was not happening! There was so many passengers with the same idea, that I had no chance of connecting to the internet. I then went across to the supermarket to buy some chocolates for the staff on the ship. I discovered the next time I had internet that I has spent a lot of money and also heard a lot of people feeling like they had been conned with the amount they were charged. I returned to the ship and had dinner in the restaurant and was surprised with a birthday cake from my husband and the waiters sang happy birthday to me.. It was a really nice birthday.

There was a shuttle bus running to Lemon Bay in the evening, so I decided to go along and take a look. Lots of people on the returning coach said that it was very expensive. I wonder if the shop owners up the prices when they know there is a cruise ship in port!

After a brief outing, I returned to the ship and went to bed in preparation for my morning tour.

When I woke up, I was greeted with rain and wind (I am guessing that this was down to Cyclone Oma – it was also very humid so my camera lens kept steaming up so some photos are a bit hazy). For my tour, I chose highlights of Noumea and the Aquarium. The highlight tour included driving around through the old town. The guide was very informative and said the old town was his favourite area of Noumea.

We then drove to the aquarium where we had an hour to look around. The animals looked a bit happier than in the one in San Francisco.

We then headed through town and back to the ship (you can see how windy it is from some of the trees in the photos).

I found Noumea OK. Probably not the best visit due to the weather, but I also found it very expensive and hard to convert from French francs to GBP. I don’t think it is a place that I would go out of my way to visit on its own but it would be nice to return for a day trip on another cruise one day. Next stop is now Newcastle, NSW on 19th february due to the itinerary change because of Oma!

Lautoka, Fiji

We arrived in Lautoka on 13th February. We were due into Pago Pago on 11th (this was a change to our original port of Apia which was changed at the end of December), but due to Cyclone Oma, it was going to be missed. We had been at sea for 7 days since leaving Hawaii on the 5th, having lost a day due to crossing the international dateline (we didn’t have the 11th in the end). We had about 48 hours of really bad seas (force 9/10) and large sea swells of around 6m. We finally docked in Lautoka and it was a lovely sunny day.

Originally, I was going to do an island escape tour to Tivua Island, but due to developing Bronchitis (again!!), I was now on an antibiotic that made your more sensitive to UV, so changed it to ‘Fijian Homestead and History’ tour which was more coach based. It was four hours long.

We left the port and headed out and stopped for a photo opportunity near the ‘sleeping giant’ mountain. Called so because, if you look closely, you can see the outline of a face and its looks like it is sleeping!

We passed several sugar cane fields, which all had railway tracks along the front to take the sugar cane to the refinery, which was near where we docked. It was really nice to see a side of Fiji that you don’t normally see.

After about 20 minutes, we arrived at South Sea Orchid Garden. We were shown a beautiful home which was steeped in history and had a lot of furniture that went back four generations and were either made or brought to the island from family members. We also met the guides grandparents.

We were then shown to a tea room where we were given tea, cake and sandwiches (nothing for me as they didn’t cater for me so I just had water – they offered me juice, but I was fine with the water) and we were then invited to take a look around the gardens at the beautiful lily pond and orchids. We spent about an hour here.

We then headed to Nadi and had an opportunity to shop for some souvenirs, but I found the shop rather crowded as several other coaches turned up at the same time.

carved sculpture outside shops

After Nadi, we then headed to a traditional Fiji Village called ‘Sabeto’.

It was quite strange in the village. The homes seem very basic, yet all the villagers had mobile phones. It was quite weird that mobile phones would be put above the basics in every day life!

In the village, we went to the village hall and had a cava welcome by the heads of the village. I will post a couple of videos on my facebook page of the performances from the villagers.

After the village we headed back to the ship.

I enjoyed seeing a different side to Fiji that you would normally see. The next stop was due to be Port Vila on 15th February which was also my Birthday. Due to Cyclone Oma, it was cancelled and we headed to Noumea instead and would arrive at 3pm 15/2/2019 for an overnight stay.

Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

Well, this port was a bit of a surprise. Due to Cyclone Oma, and use missing two South Pacific ports, the captain announced that on the 19th February we would visit an additional port in Newcastle. The tours team on the ship managed to get together some tours so I opted to do the Dolphin Watch and Port Stevens tour.

On a couple of the Arcadia Facebook groups, there was a couple of grumbles from fellow Australians about going to Newcastle and how rubbish it was. I was then worried that it would be horrible, but was pleasantly surprised how nice it was. We were docked in a commercial coal port, so on fist sight all you could see was the coal sorting frames and containers. Once we were on the coach and heading to Port Stephens, the scenery started to change and it was a very pretty place. We stopped at Birubi Point. Apparently, a lot of the sand from the dunes are exported and a lot of it is exported to Hawaii.

After a brief 5-8min stop, we then headed to the harbour at Port Stephens to board the boat to see the dolphins. Whilst waiting, I noticed lots of people looking up at the tree I was under and they were taking photos. Turned out, there was a couple of cockatiels sat in the tree. Very strange site for us Brits!

When we were on the boat, we took a casual cruise out into the harbour to look for Dolphins. It wasn’t long before we spotted some dolphins. It was quite a big pod of them. They were fishing, though so were not interested in playing for us to see them properly. I will post some photos below. They’re not brilliant, but the boat we were on abide by rules to keep the dolphins safe by keeping 50m away.

We then cruised back to the pontoon stopping briefly to allow passengers to do some ‘boom netting’. Boom Netting is a net at the back of the boat that you can sit in while the boat moves along – a bit like a mobile spa bath!!

We then had an hour drive back to the ship.

I then dropped off some shopping at the ship and caught the shuttle bus into Newcastle town centre. It was pretty much like any town centre. I took a few photos in town and on the way back.

I was surprised how pretty Port Stephens was considering the comments from the fellow Aussie travellers. I would like to think that all ports have something nice to do in, you just have to keep an open mind!

Oahu, Hawaii

We left San Francisco as scheduled on the evening of 30th January to start our journey to Hawaii. We were scheduled to arrive in Honolulu on Feb 4th at 8am. On the 31st on the 12 noon announcement, the captain made the 12 noon announcement that we would be ‘thrashing the waters’ to get to Honolulu as quickly as possible as we has a very sick passenger onboard. He then also asked for everybody’s attention. The patient required blood, so he asked that anyone who had their blood donor card with them, was well and was either O negative or positive and willing to donate to make their way to the excursion desk where they could be processed. A lot of people made themselves available and the ship carried on.

The following day, another announcement was made, this time asking for anyone who was in the blood group and well, and was willing to donate to make their way to the excursion desk. It transpired that the sick passenger had 26 pints of blood donated through the 31 Jan-3rd Feb. We arrived in Honolulu at 23.00 on the 3rd February. Unfortunately the only passenger allowed off was him as their was not any security staff to allow us to get off. The patient was then taken away in an ambulance.

The Honolulu cruise terminal. Plenty of space, toilets both here and at the exit, but no Wi-Fi.

So, as scheduled I got off the ship in Honolulu on day one, February 4th. We had another overnight stay, so I had planned to go to the airport and pick up a hire car that I had pre booked through holiday extras via my personaliser on P&O. I got the taxi to the airport (after struggling to get and uber – that’s another story!) The taxi driver asked me what hire car company I needed to go to, so I checked the paperwork, but there was no company listed and also all it said was to collect at the airport, so I just asked the taxi to drop me at the car hire rental desks and I will see if I could find out what car hire company I was booked with. I approached the Avis desk, and the lady checked the booking on their system and on Budgets, but no joy. She couldn’t see anything having gone through my paperwork either. I just asked her how much it would be for a car hire until midnight tonight and I rebooked through them. I had no other idea how I could find out what car hire company the car was booked thorough so decided to sort it out when I return. Anyway, I collected my hire car and proceeded back to the ship to pick up two friend, Brendan and Rob, who were going to join me on a trip to the Kualoa Ranch and on a tour around the northern part of the island.

Kualoa is a 4000-acre private nature reserve and working cattle ranch, as well as a popular tourist attraction and filming location on the windward coast of Oʻahu in Hawaiʻi. It is located about 24 miles from Honolulu, and 32 miles from Haleiwa. We were requested to arrive one hour before, but due to the mix up with the car, we got there just about 25 minutes early which was fine. I think the reason they requested you get there earlier is so that you spend money in their shop as I really couldn’t see any other reason to arrive one hour early!

Brendan, Me and Rob – official photo!

The description of the tour we chose from the website of Kualoa Ranch is as follows:

“Experience our familiar Ka’a’awa Valley, known as Hollywood’s “Hawaii Backlot,” to see where over 50 of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster movies and TV shows were filmed, including even some of the 1960’s Elvis classics. Hop aboard a vintage school bus and take a photo of yourself at the infamous Jurassic Park fallen tree, find Godzilla’s footprints, see the Windtalkers battlegrounds and visit several other locations including the famous “penguin” road site from 50 First Dates,the road site from You Me & Dupree, the house structure from Mighty Joe Young, and numerous Hawaii Five-0 and LOST areas, like Hurley’s golf course! You might even see a filming in progress! You will also stop at an amazing WWII army bunker, built entirely into the side of the mountain range. There you’ll find movie posters, props and memorabilia from lots of the movies filmed at Kualoa through the years, as well as marvel at the Kualoa WWII artifacts and exhibits”.

We certainly saw everything from above and it was a really nice tour. We drove passed a derelict sugar mill and some hidden bunkers and upto Battery Cooper. Coast Artillery existed as a distinct branch within the Army since 1901 and as a combatant “line” arm after 1920. Its stated mission was to protect fleet bases, defeat naval and air attacks against cities and harbors, undertake beach defense while acting as army or theater reserve artillery, and provide a mine-planter service (more information from a website by clicking the link above)

As we walked further around the bunker, we then came across rooms filled with memorabilia and props of many of the programmes filmed.

Coming outside was a fabulous view of a beach the bus driver and tour guide called ‘Rainbow Beach’.

Rainbow Beach and the road we will follow when we leave the ranch. I also believe that the airstrip was along that road too (the image from Battery Cooper)

Carrying on the tour, we went through lots of pretty land and onto places where the films were filmed. Our next stop was a spot where in Jumanji, they are being chased by a large animal (elephant I think) and into the trees and there was a team member recording people running and cgi-ing in the elephant chasing them. I can’t run, so didn’t do this. There was also a big log from Jurassic park. This location was used for lots of different programmes. Maybe you recognise from some films! Please comment if you do!

We carried on around the tour and came to Hurley’s two hole golf course (from Lost).

Here is a few more photos of the ranch. It really is a beautiful place.

Just as the tour was ending, we went passed some old traditional Hawaiian buildings. They all had different heights of brickwork, which is apparently to do with hierarchy – the hire the brick base, the higher the status of the family members living there.

So the last visit of our tour was to see the pigs that were wild but they contain them now (I am presuming for the safety of visitors. One thing that was pointed out, is that all animals on the ranch are protected and can’t be hunted, so that was nice to hear.

We then had a quick drink and snack in the café and then left to do our tour. I had purchased an app on my phone called ‘Shaka Oahu’. It was a round the island guided tour. Once downloaded, it used GPS so you didn’t need data and as you passed certain points, it told you about the area and what was in the area to visit. It was a really good app and we stopped at several of the beaches on the way round. We were running out of daylight, so we just stopped for photos until the sun set. The tour also too us past the Dole pineapple plant (again – didn’t visit at it was 6.15 when we drove by and it closed at 5.30pm). Here is some photos from the beaches we went to while following the app route. The North Shore really is a beautiful place to go. If you visit Hawaii, definitely consider hiring a car and driving. No need to worry about toilets, they are at every beach (some are just port-a-loos, but that’s better than none!). I also found driving the road easy as the max speed is 45mph and most roads just 35mph, so its a slow drive.

The next day, I got up early and caught the courtesy bus to the local shopping mall and had a walk around the shops (I didn’t buy anything, which will please my husband!). Took a photo from the Mall (it was really hot even at 10am!). I think it was the marina!

I then got the bus back to the ship – we had to be back on board by 11.30am ready to depart for our next port. A couple of images taken from the ship.

We left Honolulu at about 12.30pm (I think there was a few passengers who didn’t make it back on board, so missed the boat).

Goodbye Honolulu

Honolulu was great – still lots to see there, so will return again soon, I hope!

Onwards now, our next scheduled port is Pago Pago and on the 8th February, we will cross the equator. My next blog will be about that and an update on our ports as, yet again, the captain made and announcement on the evening of the 8th February that is affecting our next port!

San Francisco

We had two days in San Francisco but unfortunately I didn’t get off until late afternoon on the first day. I decided to take the hop on hop off bus on my own (I had purchased a Go City Card which was discounted for five attractions (I purchased it online before leaving for the trip)).

It was very fascinating travelling through San Francisco, we were driving through several districts and one that stuck a cord was the Tenderloin district. The tenderloin district is the poorest and has the highest number of homeless and driving through, you could really see this.

The bus also took us through the financial district and to Union Square.

The whole of the tour took around three hours and included going across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was very windy and after getting back on bus for the return trip, I opted to stay at the bottom of the bus. Because the sun not being out, the bridge doesn’t look as colourful as the photos you see. I did manage to get a really nice photo from the Walt Disney Museum (it will be below as it was on day 2)

The bus then returned to Pier 39 where I visited the Aquarium. I found the aquarium pretty sad as the enclosures seem quite small. Take a look at the photos and decide for yourself. Usually, the aquariums that I have been to have been quite big but this one wasn’t very big or nice (in my opinion).

I walked back to the ship to have a last dinner with my table mates as three of them were getting off tomorrow.

On day two, I decided to get up and be off the ship by 10am. I got an Uber to The Walt Disney Museum. I am a big fan of Walt Disney and the very first holiday abroad that I went on was to Florida – it was a competition that my mum and dad won. I even remember the day we got the letter! It was when I was leaving for my last year of junior school (year 6) trip to Swanage. This was in 1984 and most of my brothers had gone on cruises for their year trip, but because of the Falklands War, the ships had been called to duty, anyway, I digress!!

Going into the Walt Disney Family museum was like reading his biography in 3D. I walked around in awe of everything! There was a lot of information and original drawings. Here is a selection of the photos I took (and I took loads!) I will place lots more photos on my Facebook page on my return when I have better internet).

There was a walkway that had ceiling to floor glass and had the most fabulous view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

There was then a spiral walkway that reminded me a bit of Epcot centre and at the bottom was a layout of Disney World.

Walking on through, there was a lot of interactive activities to take part in too. Learning how to operate an animatronic parrot and it isn’t as easy as it looks!

After leaving the Disney museum, I got an Uber to the Union Square in the hope of finding Lombard Street on the trolley. Lombard Street is an east–west street in San Francisco, California that is famous for a steep, one-block section with eight hairpin turns. The trolley stopped near Lombard Street, but it looked too far to walk, so I got back on a different trolley and carried on the route which ended at Fisherman’s Wharf.

One of the museums I wanted to visit was near there so I decided to go visit. This was Ripleys Museum. Lots of strange things in the museum – see photos!

Just a short walk away was San Francisco’s Madam Tussauds. As I had been to the one in Sydney, I decided I should visit this one too. It was pretty much the same as the Sydney one, only a little bit more based on America. I was happy to see that there was no President Trump there!!

I was also going to do the dungeons, but opted not to. I have done the one in London, though.

After I left Madam Tussauds, I carried on walking along the waterfront towards pier 39. Pier 39 is famous for its sea lion colony!

I then took a walk through the shops on the pier, purchased some sweets and chocolates for the crew back on board, had a 10 minute walk outside the Hard Rock Cafe while trying to decide if I could walk back or get a bike taxi. I decided that I didn’t want to let a poor cyclist take my weight so opted to take a slow walk back! I made it back to the ship, but was extremely tired, but was happy with what I had seen in San Francisco.

San Francisco was lovely and is a place where I would like to visit again. So many places I didn’t get to see and do, so I will be back!

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Cabo San Lucas is located on the Baja Peninsula and has gained a reputation for its stunning scenery, near perfect weather, underwater nature reserve and whale watching.

Cabo was the first tender port on the cruise and the first ever for me. In our horizon the night before was information about the tender and, if you wanted to get off in the morning, it was a ticketing process until announced otherwise. I had an excursion booked in the afternoon, so decided to take it easy in the morning and get off around 12pm which (I hoped) would be after the ticketing was finished and you could just proceed to the A deck where you would catch the tender.

In case anyone is reading and doesn’t know what the tender is, it is where you anchor off shore and have to catch a boat (usually one of the life boats with a capacity of around 100) to the shore.

I was waiting for around 10 minutes while the offloaded the passengers on the tender that had just arrived. To get on the tender, there is a requirement to be able to step (unassisted) 18″ (45cm) and to also go down around 8 steps to reach the tender platform. On the tender there was only a few passengers and mostly crew heading to the shore.

As we were cruising to the shore on the tender, we passed a fishing boat and as we went past, a sea lion jumped on the back. Apparently this is quite common in Cabo! Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get a photo.

After I got off the tender, I had a wander around the marina and popped into a shop to buy a t-shirt for my son, a fridge magnet (the collection is building!) and some local treats which I have been giving to my cabin steward and some other staff around the ship. I then went back to the docking area to register and wait to go on my excursion. As I was waiting, I saw a couple of friends waiting to catch the tender back, so asked them to take my shopping back with them to save me lugging it on my excursion and worrying about the chocolate melting. The obliged (thankfully) so I arranged to collect it from their cabin on my return.

So, the tour I had booked at Cabo was originally Snorkel and Sail Santa Maria, but changed it due to the eye infection (I probably would have been OK but didn’t want to risk it). I was now going on a Whale watching tour. Very excited to see some wildlife as I always seem to miss the sightings that others had seen from the ship!

Gopro wide lens photo of the people queuing to get on the tour

Our cruise was taking place on a three deck cruiser and had open deck areas. I opted to sit on the side deck as I could keep myself from the sun when necessary and move from one side of the deck to the other to take photos. Cruising out, I managed to get some lovely photos of Arcadia anchored off port.

We passed the seal and seal lion colony’s basking on rocks by the famous Cabo arch and headed out to find whales. The first sign of a whale is it spouting water which can be spotted from quite a distance, so when spotted the cruiser would head to the area.

I saw a lot of whales! I didn’t get many brilliant photos of them, but will post them below so you can see them. I also managed to get a video which is posted on my Facebook page and can be seen here.

As we started heading back, in the distance we saw a whale splashing around so headed over towards it and managed to see it bridge and a couple of tails of whales – So lovely to see!

Here is a selection of photos, mostly of the scenery.

We then headed back to the port to do the return trip on the tender. When at the ship, it was very rocky trying to get out of the tender which I think was due to the incoming tide.

As we were leaving the port, I was on the deck in front of the gym (brilliant place for photographing the sunset) to see and photograph the sunset. As the sun set, the half a dozen or so other passengers went back inside as it was getting a bit windy.

I stayed up for a further 20 minutes and got to see a couple more whales – that was lovely as it was just me up there!

Next stop on the cruise is San Francisco.

Huatulco, Mexico

After we left the Panama, we headed north in the Pacific Ocean to our first stop in Mexico, Huatulco.

Huatulco is the result of the Mexican Government looking for a resort equivalent to Cancun but on the Pacific coast. There is 22 miles of beaches and around nine bays, most of which can only be reached by boat.

Huatulco doesn’t actually have much of a history as it was only developed in 1982. It has a population of around 38,000 people.

We docked in a small town called Santa Cruz. I opted for a P&O excursion called ‘Land and Sea’.

A view of the walkway to shore from the prom deck on Arcadia

I left the ship and proceeded to the wait point (note that there is a very small gazebo and no sitting area). We were allocated a tour guide and headed off to our coach (it was a bit of a walk and the temperature was around 30 degrees – I did notice that on returning, there were some locals with bikes (the ones with the seating area at the back) to give you a lift back to the ship and were asking for ‘tips only’)).

Once on the coach, we headed to a small market and a place where you were able to taste some typical Mexican drinks (shots) and some (chocolate) with tortilla chips. Passengers were also given the opportunity to try cooked grasshoppers, which is a delicacy in Huatulco.

We spent about 20 minutes at this location, giving us an opportunity to shop (I purchased a fridge magnet to add to my collection). We then headed to a local family run shop where they make and weave their own products.

I purchased a few items from here as presents for some friends at home and in Australia. They had some beautiful tablecloths, but as I am flying back, I was limited on space. We returned to the coach and then headed to the second part of this tour, which was sea based.

Now, as you are all aware, we (the passengers on Arcadia) have been on a cruise ship for around two weeks, we’ve crossed the Atlantic, Caribbean and part of the Pacific sea, and to go on this rather small cruise boat, we were required to wear a life jacket! We were also requested to remain seated (we didn’t as there were photo opportunities from different parts of the boat). I found this a bit strange as we were all seasoned cruisers! Anyway, we proceeded on the boat, out past Arcadia and on a 2 hour cruise to look at around 5 of the nine bays, most of which can only be reached by boat.

It was a stunning trip and I’ll put a selection of the photos up.

There seemed to be quite a few abandoned half built properties that could be seen. The guide said that a lot of people started building and then ran out of money so just left them.

After a couple of hours, we headed back to the Arcadia. I had a wander around Huatulco (it is really small so didn’t take long!).

The above photo of Arcadia was taken from the beach in Playa Santa Cruz where a lot of passengers spent the day swimming, eating and relaxing. I am told that the food and drink is very cheap here and is a nice way to spend the day. They even have a babysitting area for your husband/partner!!

Huatulco is a small town and can also be explored easily independently. There are plenty of tours offered in the area and, as you can see from above, there is a beach, literally, on your doorstep. It is a lovely little town, and we had beautiful weather while there.

It clouded over as we left, so no beautiful sunset.

We have two days at sea before reaching our next port of Cabo San Lucas.

Transiting the Panama Canal

Firstly, you may be wondering what happened to the Aruba blog. Unfortunately, the day after Saint Lucia, I came down with Bronchitis and cellulitis of the eye. I went to the the doctor on the day we docked in Aruba, and was prescribed antibiotics. I am slowly getting better, but, apart from just walking off the ship, I didn’t do much in Aruba. I have a couple of photos taken from the ship as we were leaving as I felt so unwell. I was scheduled to do a water based activity but because of the eye problem, I had to cancel. Luckily the medical centre stamped the back and because of that I got a full refund.

We transited the Panama Canal on Sunday 20th January. We were given a schedule of the highlights in the horizon the night before, but as always it was subject to change. We were also given a small booklet with a brief history of the canal.

The length of the Panama is 80kms (50 miles) from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It takes on average 8-10 hours to complete the transit of the canal. Lake Gatun covers and area of 163.38 square miles and was formed by the construction of an earthern dam across the Chargres river which runs Northwoods towards the Caribbean sea.

The dam across the Chargres River

The Culebra cut is 13.7km long and extends from Gatun Lake to Predro Miguel locks.

The images above are the approach of the first and third of the Gatun locks. At the third lock we had the first of two medical emergency evacuations.

Each chamber is 110 feet wide by 1000ft long. Total volume of concrete to build the locks was 3,440.488 cubic meters.

We then spent a very lazy 4-5 hours cruising the Gatun Lake.

During the cruise of the Lake, there was several activities taking place onboard, one of which was an ice carving (a very strange thing to do in 30 degree heat!).

As we approached the Pedro Miquel locks, the captain announced another emergency evacuation off the ship. After that we proceeded through the lock then onto the final two locks that would bring us in to the Pacific ocean. There was a ship next to us which allowed me to photograph its progress through the lock.

The mules are very important and pull or guide the ships through a very narrow area. There is usually 4 to a ship – two at the front and two at the back. The first mule or locomotive cost $13,217 and were built by General Electric, an American company. Mitsubishi is the current manufacturer of Panama Canal locomotives which cost US$2.3m each!

As we were passing though the Miraflores lock, I could see in the distance a container ship using the newer canal.

After leaving the final lock, we then headed under the Bridge of Americas and past Panama City to continue up the coast to Huatulco.

The canal is an amazing piece of engineering. I think the photos will say more than I can. I have also posted a time lapse on my Facebook page which can be accessed here (there are two parts as we had an emergency evacuation right below my cabin and was requested not to photograph or video the medical disembarkation).

My next blog will be about Huatulco and Cabo San Lucas.