A Travellerspoint blog

Continuing South to the Coral Sea

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Up before the sun-rise which was less colourful than others we've experienced. Bit of weather about and the ship is moving up and down in the swell.
Heather's lecture provided an update on the topics previously covered and then gave us an introduction to the "Rape of Nankin". She provided an overview of the atrocities committed by the Japanese and equated them to in scale and brutality to the 'Holocaust' in Nazi Germany. One hell of an 'eye-opener'.
William Roberts took us through the final battles in the Pacific covering the invasion of Okinawa and the desperation of the Kamikaze or 'Divine Wind'. He provided some horrifying figures of the ratio of killed to captured on both sides of the conflict. There was only one Japanese captured for every 100 killed.
After lunch we sat in the Princess Theatre for a DVD presentation on the cruiser HMAS Diamantina part of the Naval History display in Brisbane. This was followed soon afterwards by a meeting with the senior Hotel Staff, the Hotel Director, the Food and Beverage Director and the Customer Services Director. Very interesting people and roles they play.
Finished off a busy afternoon in the theatre with a series of John Denver numbers from Trevor Knight who played it straight, no gimmicks, no attempted comedy just good singing and great choice of songs.
The dining room was very colourful tonight with all the waiters in 'Italian' striped shirts. Our two looked very cheeky and we had a good time.
After dinner was the International Crew Show. For a warm-up and to fill in the 45 minutes between the theatre filling and the show starting they handed out about 200 balloons. These were enthusiastically tossed around the theatre while the music included "The Wheels on the Bus", "Head, Shoulder, Knees and Toes" and other kindergarten tunes. Quite a riot and as much fun as has been seen on board. The show featuring singers from various sections and one of the room-service waiters who did the metal rings magic routine. There were some very funny skits featuring the Cruise Director and his staff.

Posted by greynomadm 21:40 Comments (1)

Port Day in Rabaul

Monday, 9 April 2012

View 2012 Cherry Blossom on greynomadm's travel map.

A spectacular and interesting approach into the port of Rabaul. Paul and his charts were very helpful in picking out landmarks. We sailed along St Georges Channel to the East of NorthEastern tip of New Britain. Then turned Westward and entered Simpson Harbor and tied up at the wharf which is situated to the SouthWest of where Rabaul used to be. The harbour is a flooded crater of a long ago volcano. It is ringed by at least five volcanoes of which a number are still considered 'active'. They are named 'Tovanumdatir' (North Daughter), 'Bai Kombiu" (the Mother), 'Rabalanakaia', 'Tuvurvur' and 'Turangunan' (South Daughter) to the NorthEast of the wharf and 'Vulcan' to the South.
We joined Francis (from the Cruise Critic group) and the other 27 people on her tour. By 0830 we were ashore and had met up with the local tour guide. We were then distributed amongst three mini-buses and a twin-cab 4X4, all of them air-conditioned !!
I'll get this out of the way, all the roads we travelled were littered with potholes and some of them so big and deep that the vehicles were reduced to walking pace or less. There just isn't money to repair and maintain the roads and continued land-slides of volcanic ash after heavy rain makes it almost impossible.
Our first stop was the look-out at the Vulcanological Observatory which provided us with spectacular views of the volcanoes ringing the harbour and the ships riding at anchor. Our guide, Melissa, pointed out a number of tunnels dug into the side of the mountain during the Japanese occupation.
From there we drove out to where the old airport lies under about 20 meters of volcanic ash. There are signs of trees and other vegetation re-establishing on what looks like a large grey desert. We walked a short distance to the hot springs where the vents of Mt Tavurvur still gives rise to a definite sulphurs stench.
On the return leg we stopped at what remains of the Command Bunker used by the Japanese High Command during the 1939-45 War. It is a massive structure and has survived intensive Allied bombardment and the efforts of the 1994 volcanic eruption.
We drove out of Rabaul which has been largely abandoned although we observed many signs of habitation in the ruins of hotels, schools, churches and other buildings. On our way to Kokopo, which is the new Commercial Centre, we stopped at what are called the Barge Tunnels. Here there are massive tunnels still containing remnants of landing barges which were dragged up from the harbour on a rail track. The tunnels and barges remain but volcanic ash and land-slides have obliterated any sign of the rail track.
On to the town centre of Kokopo to stop at the War Museum where a vast array of war related debris is on display. Some items have detailed explanatory signs but most do not. All items are presented as found with no attempt at restoration. Many are damaged beyond recognition. I only viewed the outdoor space as there were too many of us for the small photographic display area.
Back on the bus to the resort for lunch. The place is situated on a bay with a sandy beach and it is a prime 'dive' site for WWII sunken Japanese war ships. The lunch was served at long tables and comprised of a chicken and pineapple curry, rice, a coleslaw and fresh bread. For afters there were chunks of fresh fruit that had been perfectly ripened.
Lunch was followed by a cultural display which consisted of about a dozen local men who danced and sang. Like the cultural event in Bali, it was very repetitive and each time I thought it was finished they started up again. I've got to acknowledge they dance for a long long time in the blazing sun and looked good for another round at the end of it.
Back on the bus and we continued Eastward towards the new airport then turned South to visit the Rabaul (Bita Paka) War Cemetery. A very well maintained breathtaking area of headstones and bronze plaques recording the burial of a diverse range of allied servicemen, many annotated as 'Known Unto God'. There was also a small section for those who died in 1915 during the capture of Rabaul from the Germans.
We all clambered back on the bus in a somber mood and headed back to the ship. First thing we did after boarding was have a shower to remove the volcanic dust which pervades everything. A very pleasant evening meal and we returned to the cabin where Jenny has nodded off an I'm trying to record these events.
A very full and quite exhausting day but very enlightening.

Posted by greynomadm 20:32 Comments (5)

Crossing Into the Southern Hemisphere

Sunday, 8 April 2012

We were due to cross the equator at 0600, but we were over 30 nautical miles to the North according to Paul's GPS. We estimate the time is likely to be 0800 before we get there. Paul has been a constant; every morning he sits outside the Terrace Grill - cup of coffee, a heavy, large, old pair of binoculars, his GPS and the charts for this part of the ocean. His charts are marked with the course taken by previous cruises in the area. Each point on the trace is annotated with the date and time and the ship's speed. Depending on the scale of the chart he plots the position every half hour, every hour or every three hours.
After breakfast I attended William Robert's lecture covering the development of submarines from their earliest experiments to the end of WWII. He also branched out and provided details of the capture of Rabaul from the Germans in WWI by an Australian force.
While Jenny attended her craft group, I went along to Heather's talk on the two Prime Ministers of Papua New Guinea and some comments on the problems facing the country. After her talk I asked her to translate the Japanese writing on the Happy Can of Coke we acquired in Yokohama. She asked to keep the can for a day or two and she'd see what she could work out.
After lunch, which also featured a BBQ outside the Terrace Grill, Jenny went off to watch a movie and I actually managed to get a few chapters read.
There were more Easter decorations in the dining room and a special greeting on the Menu from the senior ship's staff.
After dinner off to the Princess Theatre for a variety show featuring the vocalist Jennifer Ward and the three top members of the Cruise Director's staff. They all sang surprisingly well and all but upstaged the featured artist. As always the band was rock solid.
Rabaul tomorrow with a tour organised through a contact from Cruise Critic, could be interesting.

Posted by greynomadm 21:17 Comments (1)

Through the East Caroline Basin

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Easter Saturday and the Easter Eggs have been delivered. On arriving at the end of the stairs on deck 14 I was confronted with a massive display of huge intricately decorated Easter Eggs. There were more along the servery in the Horizon Café and after breakfast we watched the pastry cook and staff setting up a display in the Atrium on deck 5.
Attended Lindsay's lecture on the port of Rabaul which was followed soon after by William Robert's description of the most intensive naval battle at Leyte Gulf.
Lunch on the Lido deck and I observed that there were a significant number of Eastern and Central European wait-staff. There must have been a number of them in the latest crew replacement batch. Young men and women from the Ukraine, Bosnia, Latvia, Romanian and Slovakia to name a few. Our past experience has been that these jobs were mainly filled by Indonesian and Phillipino crew.
Jenny went off to a Ukulele Workshop where she was used as the demonstration model to prove Michael Young's boast that he could teach anyone. She had such a good time she even bought a Ukulele to be delivered to our home address. I attended a photographic workshop but it was badly located, overcrowded and focused on the compact 'point and shoot' end of the market.
A most enjoyable evening meal and a Jeffry desert. Very romantic full moon over the ocean on the port side. Tried photographing it without success.
Jenny's off to watch a show in the Vista Lounge, I don't care for it so might see if I can read a page or two of my book.

Posted by greynomadm 19:54 Comments (2)

From the Mariana Islands Into Micronesia

Friday, 6 April 2012

The ship is exhibiting a gentle swaying motion as we continue to head in a South-South-Easterly direction. The dawn is not spectacular but highlights the buildup of cumulous clouds along the Eastern horizon. We were about 9º North of the equator at 1400 hrs.
Passports are being collected along with the entry and exit cards for our day in Rabaul. The PNG immigration officials are aboard and will process all that paper-work while we're underway. It appears we'll be paying a US$50 each entry visa fee.
Heather's lecture covered the US Military deployment in area and included the arrival of the US Marines in Darwin. This deployment and other mutual defence treaties being negotiated are largely symbolic but have raised some concerns in the region.
William Roberts continued his series by covering the push North by the US and Australian forces going as far as yesterday's island of Guam. Many of the minor atolls and islands were bypassed while others capable of landing aircraft were taken at considerable cost. The island of Saipan was particularly costly.
We had lunch with two ladies we'd met in the first few days and had seen around the ship. They are a very funny pair who keep in touch via Skype. Henny is from WA and originally from Holland, Maddy hails from the North East USA. Jenny had bought each of them some small Easter eggs and they were both thrilled to receive them.
Dropped in on Lindsay the port lecturer to give her some feedback on our experiences in Guam. I wasn't too surprised to hear that she'd been given a hard time for any and everything that beset the people ashore. She always starts her lectures with a warning that the information is the best available at the time. She doesn't get paid, spends a lot of her time preparing and there ungrateful individuals blame her when they don't listen or don't ask.
Dinner was a new experience tonight. I asked Jeffrey to make recommendations so all three courses were a complete surprise. He thought it was a great joke. Max, the other guy at the table, had his birthday today so we had a cake and sang the song.
Tonight's entertainment was a repeat performance from Michael Young on the banjo. The act was a lot more lively than before and he incorporated a jam session with the individuals in the band. One of the better efforts.
Our position is now 9º 34' North of the equator so we have a bit to go before we are in the Southern hemisphere again. All down-hill from her.

Posted by greynomadm 21:47 Comments (0)

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