A Travellerspoint blog

A Day in Guam

Thursday, 5 April 2012

View 2012 Cherry Blossom on greynomadm's travel map.

A very mild day as we arrived at the port for Guam. Arrival was due at 0800 and we were ready to go ashore as soon as cleared. The predictions from Customer Services were that it could be two hours or more to be processed through US Border Protection (Customs and Immigration).
Batching was achieved by allocating Group Number Cards in the order that people reported to the allocation desk. Groups were then called forward as soon as the backlog was processed. The ship tied up at 0813 and we were ashore at 0905 - much more efficient than expected.
There was a complementary shuttle bus to take us the 30 minutes into town. We were dropped off at the Hyatt and sought out the "Trolley Bus". These were advertised at $10 all day to ferry us around the dispersed shopping malls. The $10 ticked was discontinued on the first of April and the alternatives were $4 per leg per person or $25 for a 5-day multiple use. I opted to buy two of the $25 tickets to provide maximum flexibility.
First leg was to the GPO (Guam Premium Outlet) where the main feature was a Ross store - mainly clothing and quite cheap. Jenny selected a few items and then we realised that the queue for the check-out stretched the full length of the store. She returned the goods to the rack and we got out of there to catch the Trolley Bus shuttle for Kmart.
Kmart was huge and sold lots of great gear at a good price but it was almost impossible to find anything because of a lack of signage. We did manage to put about $50 worth of things in the trolley including a watch and a top for Jenny. They were also selling a 6-pack of Heineken for $5.99 and a 30 can cube of light beer for $18.99. We checked out through what had to be the slowest Kmart check-out in the world.
Back on the Trolley Bus shuttle heading for the Micronesian Mall or so we thought. Turned out we were back at the GPO !! Had a look around the food court there and decided to give it a miss and got back on the Trolley Bus shuttle but stayed on when it arrived at Kmart.
We eventually arrived at the Micronesian Mall and spent a bit of time looking and not buying any of the stuff on sale. I had hoped to find a 'cheap' local market but it turned out to be a fancy place with Macy's as the focal point and manly up-market boutique stores filling the available space. Onto the Trolley Bus shuttle again and back to the Hyatt for the bus back to the ship. Back at the dock-side by 1445 quite happy to be back in the air-conditioned comfort of our 'home' afloat.
Dinner was of the usual high standard and Jeffry had his bit of fun with my desert, he piled a double dose of the special pineapple dish and added two scoops of ice-cream. He so enjoys himself and it comes at no cost to me other than an expanding waistline!!
The entertainment was in the Vista Lounge and featured Grey Hayes who told some stories, did some impressions - some good others not so. He sang some of Slim Dusty's material, he claims to have worked with Slim for years. Again, I wouldn't pay to go and see it and he was good enough for me to hang around to see if it improved.
Three sea days to Rabaul.

Posted by greynomadm 21:37 Comments (0)

Crossing the Philippine Sea

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Woke up to the alarm clock this morning as the body adjusts to the time change. The sunrise was short of spectacular but it did get me up on the lido deck to observe the deck-hands setting up the sun lounges. They were placed in generally a straight line and then a supervisory person set up a string-line and adjusted the who row precisely. It must surely break their hearts to see the disorder created by the passengers who probably have no knowledge of the amount of care and attention that was required to set them up. During the night, all the sun lounges are stacked up and secured until about 0600 when they are unstacked and the whole process is repeated.
Heather's lecture provided a brief history of Okinawa and the presence of the US military on the island. The conflicting pressures this creates as almost 75% of the US presence in Japan is concentrated on Okinawa. The locals rely on the bases for income but they resent having to bare the majority burden of having them there.
William Roberts continued his coverage of the gruelling advance along the islands Northward towards Japan. Most of these battles were fought ferociously with devastating casualty rates on both sides. These specks of land have escaped my knowledge and are largely unknown except to the survivors of these battles. At the same time there was the advance in Papua/New Guinea, Westwards along the North coast and onto New Britain to take out Rabaul.
A quick lunch, not because we had anywhere to go but the couple beside us were less than pleasant and we got out as quickly as possible. I'm writing this blog and wondering how I'm going to utilise my remaining Internet credits. I could try to use them for Skype calls but I'm not convinced that it would work during normal daylight hours as the satellite link is heavily utilised during the day and early evening.
Went along to the Vista Lounge for a chat with the Chief Engineer. He's an Irishman who has been at sea for 35 years and has a wealth of stories to tell. His cheerful attitude and sometimes cheeky delivery made his one of the best sessions we've attended. He went well over time but no-one left the room.
Another great dinner and another Jeffry special desert. Show Time tonight was the production show "Piano Man" by the Princess Orchestra and the Dancers. A full hour of high energy song and dance numbers without a break. One of the better night's entertainment,
Port day tomorrow in Guam. For those who are concerned about the proximity of the storms that have hit Japan, nothing to worry about, we are well clear of it.

Posted by greynomadm 21:35 Comments (1)

The Ship Visits Iwo Jima

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

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The temperature is milder this morning but there is still a cold wind making it uncomfortable on the open deck. At about 0930 we passed the island of Kito-Iõ Shima on our port side. A significant chunk of uninhabited rock rising some 800 m above the sea.
At 0945 I attended Heather's lecture on the triple disaster that hit Japan on 11 March 2011, the earthquake, the tsunami and the nuclear meltdown. The impact on the people and the economy has been enormous.
Just before noon we were within sight of the island of Iwo Jima and spent the best part of three hours sailing clockwise around 3/4 of the island and then reversing the direction. William Roberts provided a commentary over the ship's PA system. The island is considered a national shrine by both the Japanese and the Americans. In around 36 days 30,000 young marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen lost their lives. Additionally there were many times that number of non-fatal casualties.
As the commentary continued and we sailed past this sacred piece of land, I became quite irritated with the lack of respect shown by the passengers and the ship's photographers who were using the island as a backdrop for happy snaps. I had expected some commemorative mention, a minute's silence or the playing of taps. A lack of respect I think or I must be getting old.
Spent the remainder of the afternoon with my head down and eyes closed for about 50% of the time. Up at 1615 to prepare for the Captain's Cocktail Party, these are for the repeat cruisers and there are so many they've had to stage four parties to fit us all in. There were around 800 Gold level, 300 Platinum level and 200 Elite level passengers.
Off to dinner and 'fun' with Rex and Jeffry. Those two have certainly contributed to our enjoyment over the past four weeks. The 'entertainment' was comedy vocalist Morgan Kent who tried to be funny and also tried to cover a number of Rod Stewart songs. He also tried to get the audience involved with sing-along, standing up and clapping on command, we were not a very compliant crowd.
Clocks forward an hour tonight which brings us back to Sydney time, last change till we get home.
Looking around the ship and observing the number of passengers that have limited mobility I have this idea that it will be a growing percentage of cruisers into the future. Cruising is by far the most convenient form of travel for this group and while the ship generally caters for them I feel there's a niche that could be turned into a feature. Special tours, more accessible dinning options and expanded reservations in the theatre and lounges. I think it could be a marketing differentiator.
Another sea day tomorrow and we'll be well into our fifth week. We're at latitude 22º 43' as I write this so we're within the tropic of Cancer and heading for the equator again.

Posted by greynomadm 06:20 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Heading for Home - South Toward Iwo Jima

Monday, 2 April 2012

Failed to perform our usual routine this morning. Something to do with yesterday's activity I guess. Finally made it to breakfast just after 07:00.
Filled in some time and made my way to the Princess Theatre for Lindsay's lecture on our next port of call - the island of Guam. Sounds like it will be a little slice of the USA with a touch of Japan.
William Roberts continues to draw a large crowd and he detailed the various battles that marked the war leading to the encircling of the Japanese stronghold of Rabaul. I continue to be surprised at the number of women that attend his lectures, I didn't think that it would interest them.
A leisurely lunch as there are no activities of interest until Heather's session at 1545. She devoted the best part of an hour to Questions from the audience and provided in-depth answers on a broad range of topics regarding Japan. As she said by way of introduction, it isn't until you've visited a place that you can raise meaningful questions.
Formal night in the dinning room and our waiters looked very smart again. The meal was excellent again and Jeffry's desert overflowed the bowl again comprising of three scoops of ice-cream, a squirt of whipped cream with a cherry on top and drenched in a strawberry sauce containing whole fruit. I really don't need it but he has so much fun building it for me.
Tonight's show in the Princess Theatre was Michael Young - a multi-instrumentalist. He played a number of instruments ranging from a tin whistle and a South American ceramic flute to a ukulele and a balalaika. His best instrument being the banjo. He plaid most of the usual suspects. The stand-out performers though had to be the ship's band who have to back a different show every night with only limited rehearsals, they fit in seamlessly and make it sound as if they've been together for years.

Posted by greynomadm 13:38 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Yokohama & Tokyo

Sunday, 1 April 2012

View 2012 Cherry Blossom on greynomadm's travel map.

During the night the sea abated and was almost dead calm for our arrival in Yokohama, there was still a stiff breeze and the temperature wasn't much above 10 °C. We were well received with the fire-boat spraying a welcome and some energetic drummers greeting us at the terminal.
Breakfast over and we were amongst the first ashore and onto the complementary shuttle-bus provided by the Port Authority. The bus dropped us off at the Yokohama railway station. There are no less than 8 lines serviced by this station with many of them operated by different private companies.
In due course we purchased tickets to Tokyo on the Tokaido Line. This was a very efficient local subway line which terminated in Tokyo. We had thought that it would be simple to find the Tourist Information and obtain a Tokyo map to guide us around the place. This station is the ultimate nightmare with something like 14 private lines in addition to the JR (Japan Rail) services. The station has two levels and multiple exits and not much in the way of English directions.
Bravely or foolishly we ventured outside and crossed some roads and found the place pretty much deserted - Sunday and before 10:00. We chanced upon a Police Kiosk and asked one of them for directions to the Tourist Information. Well, for the next 10 minutes we had the full attention of three of Tokyo's finest. They looked up a telephone book (?), made a number of phone calls and kept apologising. Finally they suggested we go back to the nightmare station.
We headed back in the general direction and walked down into a 'subway' - saves crossing roads. To our surprise we were NOT back at the station but in the Yaesu Shopping Mall - completely underground and bursting with 86 'fashion' outlets, 49 'restaurants', 13 'cafés' and 21 'services' shops !! Most of them open by now and very busy !!
We chanced upon the mall's information desk where two of the loveliest, smartly dressed young ladies provided us with maps and direction on how to find the TIC (Tourist Information Centre). We followed their directions and eventually arrive on the surface again and just a short walk from the TIC. Once again we were greeted most politely by a young lady whose indicators showed she was at least quad-lingual - including English. She loaded us down with more paper and more destination options than we were ever going to do justice to.
Map in hand we headed for the Imperial Palace and arrived at the entrance to the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. An impressive area with many trees and huge stone walls and impressive moats but try as we might we didn't find the actual 'Palace'. Some time after 12:00 we headed off to find our way back to the station. We boarded the Tokyo Metro at the Takebashi Station and after following the advice of a local we lost the connection to Tokyo Cental and wound up walking a considerable distance underground again.
The intention was to travel at least a part of our trip on one of Japan's 'Bullet' trains. We bought some rather expensive tickets on the "Nozomi 111" with a final destination of Hiroshima. We got off at it's second stop at Shin-Yokohama station. What a fantastic ride, smooth, quiet, comfortable and FAST !!
This stop was some distance from our destination so we boarded an 'all stations' train on the Yokohama line which delivered us to Yokohama station. By this time the shuttle bus service had ceased and we found our way to the Minatomiral line for a four stop ride to Nihon-odori station - being only 3 blocks from where the Sea Princess was berthed.
We could have gone aboard at this time but we would not be permitted off again because of the strange immigration control process in place. Those who returned before 15:00 handed in their passports which were processed in bulk over the next two hours. Those of us who decided to stay out later couldn't board until 1700 and were individually processed by immigration.
I'd decided we'd visit China-Town which is located close to the wharf area, So we spent the best part of two hours walking the packed streets and lanes of the local China-Town. This must be one of the busiest and most colourful of the China-Towns we've visited.
Finally we staggered back aboard the ship and into the dinning room. No 'entertainment' for us tonight, Jen's worn out and I wanted to watch the ship leave her berth.
I've spent the best part of two hours composing this and I'm starting to feel the impact of the day's outing. In closing I need to mention the courteous, unsolicited, friendly and helpful assistance we were given by at least a dozen strangers. We'd never have made it around without them.
We are now on the homeward leg with just two weeks to go, we've visited places and experienced sights we'd never thought we'd see. Hugely impressed and humbled.

Posted by greynomadm 13:47 Archived in Japan Comments (2)

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