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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Madeira 10th January 2019

We docked in Madeira at 10am on 10th January. Considering we had a 13 hour delay and a diversion to Vigo for the medical emergency evacuation, I am surprised it wasn’t later!

I had a trip booked for 12.30pm. I decided to go for a short walk and get some photos of Arcadia in Port. As well as Arcadia, Fred Olson’s Balmoral was also in port. The weather was looking good for the day.

The cruise excursion trip took us to a little fishing village Camara de Lobos. As we approached the village we saw many small colourful boats in the bay just waiting for fishermen to take them out to sea. The streets were narrow and the Christmas lights were still up (but not lit). we were told that the fishermen are sometimes out for days at a time. It was a beautiful little harbour.

Unfortunately we didn’t stop for a photo so this was taken through the coach window.

Viewpoint photos taken from a cliff and the cliff had a viewing platform made of glass. It was cracked on the edge, so I wasn’t going to risk standing on it.

We were then making our way to the second photo opportunity stop. The coach took us through twisting and winding roads to a look out but we were still in Camara de Lobos. The roads took us past a plethora of different fruits and vegetables that is grown in Madeira. The soil in madeira is volcanic rich. The different vegetables are grown at different altitudes throughout the island.

We saw so many things growing including bananas, mangos, papayas, avocados, sweet potato and grape vines. There was also a lot of sugar cane grown which is used mostly for molasses. The reason that Madeira is able to grow so much of a variation of fruit and vegetables is down to the volcanic soil and its richness of nutrients. These were what were growing at lower altitudes and as we went up further into the mountains, it all changed and we saw less of the lush green and it was mainly dominated by sweet chestnuts, walnuts and eucalyptus trees.

We then went on to Santo Antonio. It was a beautiful look out point where we could see Arcadia in port. in the distance of the second photo, you can see two more islands of the Madeira Archipelago.

We carried on our ascent up to ‘Nuns Valley’ which was 3,300ft above sea level.

Nuns Valley is a small parish nestling between almost perpendicular mountains in the heart of the island. Both Eira do Serrado and Paredão viewpoints are excellent locations to contemplate the magnificent views of this parish.

The huge cauldron in which Curral das Freiras is sitting was either formed by erosion, which is the more recent theory, or as many still believe, by volcanic activity.
In 1566 the nuns from the Santa Clara convent fled from pirates attacking Funchal and found seclusion here, where they also brought the convent treasure.

The parish is very isolated, and locals mainly live of what they grow. The local chestnuts are delicious and are used in everyday cooking.

Curral das Freiras was the property of a couple that sold this land to the captain of Funchal, João Gonçalves da Câmara. This captain gave the lands to his daughters when they entered the Santa Clara convent (also built by him). (info taken from here).

Again, apologies for some of the images – they were taken from the coach window. They shows the change in products that can be grown depending on altitude. There is a lot of Eucalyptus trees in Madeira, although a devastating fire wiped a lot of them out three years ago.

While we were up at the viewing point for Nuns Valley, we were ‘treated’ to some cake, tea, coffee or madeira wine. I had asked the tour guide for something suitable and he said there wasn’t, so I decided to just take a walk (after I got back to the coach some other passengers had said the guide was looking for me with a gluten free cake, but they said it didn’t look very nice. I did point out that Gluten free food is an acquired taste!), anyway – I had a good look around and it was a very pleasant view and I enjoyed it. After joining the coach, we made our way down the twisting and winding roads and back to our coach.

Sail away party started at 5.30 in the Aquarius pool and bar area. When I got there, it was well underway!

The sail away is great fun. The entertainment team try their hardest to get everyone up and dancing! Some do, but the majority don’t. They have ‘Great British’ songs playing like ‘I am sailing’, ‘reach for the sky’, ‘Agadoo’ and many more. Great fun watching everyone!

Just after 6pm, we enjoyed a lovely sunset. I thought it was beautiful how just as our ship started to turn, the sunset lit up the coast of madeira. Very beautiful and a lovely ending to a wonderful day in Madeira.

Thank you for reading. I have 5 days at sea now until St Lucia.

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