Leaving Suva, Fiji today for the vast open sea... A peek at early cruise ship history...

Despite their increasing success, these early cruises, called “excursions”, were difficult to plan with existing ships. Constructed as ocean liners, they did not meet the requirements of the pleasure-seeking market. They offered few amenities aboard. 

Note:  Due to the poor signal, formatting has been difficult for today's post, especially when copying information from another site.  We apologize for the spacing and font differential throughout the post.

With the ship refueled and provisions in the final stages of the loading process, Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas will be departing Fiji around 5 pm.  As mentioned in yesterday's post, we have thousands of sea miles ahead of us.

We can only imagine what it must have been like generations ago for travelers to make their way across the seas, on a much longer and more hazardous journey.

In perusing online I stumbled across this site with the fascinating story of the world's first cruise line.  For those who prefer not to click on links, here are a few morsels directly from that article with photos.

"SS Albert Ballin was an ocean liner of the Hamburg-America Line launched in 1923 and named after Albert Ballin, visionary director of the line who had killed himself in despair several years earlier after the Kaiser’s abdication and Germany’s defeat in WW 2.  In 1935 the new Nazi government ordered the ship renamed to Hansa (Ballin having been Jewish).

The German shipping magnate Albert Ballin was responsible for turning Germany into a world leader in ocean travel prior to World War I. It was Ballin who also invented the pleasure cruise in 1891.

Born in Hamburg on 15 August 1857, Albert Ballin was destined to become a pioneer in making ocean travel a more pleasant, even luxurious experience. 

As a Jew, for most of his life, he would walk a fine line between social acceptance and scorn. But the “Kaiser’s Jew” long enjoyed financial and political prominence before falling out of favor and being branded a traitor to Germany as the First World War and his own life drew to their bitter end in 1918. Born in a poor section of Hamburg, Ballin (pronounced BALL-EEN) had achieved greatness and strongly influenced the passenger ship industry by the time he took his own life at age 61.
A decade before Albert Ballin’s birth, the company he would later head, the Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft (Hapag) had been founded on 27 May 1847, with the goal of operating a faster, more reliable liner service between Hamburg and North America, using the finest sailing ships. At that time a “fast” east-to-west Atlantic crossing took about 40 sailing days. The return voyage, with favorable west winds, required “only” 28 days.
This German postage stamp was issued in 1957 for the 100th anniversary of Albert Ballin’s birth in Hamburg.)  A “packet ship” gets its name from the time when ships were employed to carry mail packets to and from British embassies, colonies, and outposts. The term “packet service” later came to mean any regular, scheduled service, carrying freight and passengers – such as the Hamburg-American Packet Company.

Nevertheless, there was stiff competition for passengers on the North Atlantic route. Internationally, shipping lines in Britain and Prussia (after 1871) fought to attract passengers, but there was also competition within Germany itself between the port cities of Bremen (Bremerhaven) and Hamburg. In 1856 Hapag, under its first director, Adolph Godeffroy, put its first steamship, the Borussia, into service, becoming the first German shipping firm to do so. As time went by, coal-powered steamships would cut the travel time between Hamburg and New York down to just six or seven days."

For our "history buff" readers and for the remainder of the story, please click here.  We found the story interesting causes us to further appreciate the quality of the experiences we've had during this period in our lives with advanced design, amenities, convenience and technology.

During many conversations with passengers on this cruise and others, a common topic of conversation has been how modern conveniences and technology have greatly enhanced travelers desire to see the world in part by cruise ship.
THE FIRST CRUISE SHIP WAS A “PRINCESS”: – The Prinzessin Victoria Luise was the world’s first cruise ship.

For us, it's added considerably to our ability to visit more countries in shorter periods of time.  Although ports of call stops are often for only one day, it gives the traveler the opportunity to get a sampling of the flavor and persona of the city and a country.

However, our opportunities to stay in many countries for longer periods has provided us with a perspective that often proves to be very different than one might experience in a single day or two (such as these two days in port in Fiji).  
If anything, our longer stays while immersing ourselves into the culture and lifestyle of the locals leaves us appreciating and feeling more inspired than when we may spend a mere day in any location while on a cruise. 

Over these past two days, we've had an opportunity to share some of our Fiji lifestyle stories after spending four months on two islands, Vanua Levu and Viti Levu, both very different while possessing the similar friendly Fijian nature of its fine people.

Photos of the ship and her public rooms – as seen in Scientific American.
Fiji consist of 332 islands (of which 106 are inhabited) and 522 smaller islets. The two most important islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, which account for about three-quarters of the total land area of the country."

So off we go, to the Pacific Ocean, finally after almost two years departing the South Pacific.  We've had quite an adventure and yet look forward to the next leg of our journey.

Tomorrow, when we return here to post, we'll be on our way hoping to share the excitement as we head toward Hawaii for three days visiting three ports of call.  In a funny way, it will feel like going home after spending eight months in the islands.

Back at you soon.
Photo from one year ago today, April 30, 2016:
No photos were posted one year ago when the Wi-Fi signal on the ship, Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas.

Limited number of ports of call on this cruise...Long way yet to sail...9368 km, 5817 miles (5055 nautical miles)...

Isle of Pines coral reef is stunning.
The ship docked at the Port of Suva, Fiji early this morning for an overnight stay.  Why they chose this port for the extended stay baffled us until yesterday when the captain explained in a seminar held midday in the Palace Theatre.

Passengers seemed to enjoy the white sand beach and crystal clear sea.
The ship needed to refuel and gather provisions for the upcoming journey consisting of 9368 km, 5817 miles, 5055 nautical miles in order to sail to Seattle by May 15.  We boarded the ship one week ago today and the time is flying by more quickly than we'd expected.

These types of garments are not for me but it's fun to check them out.
The ease of life aboard ship along with a pleasant routine we tend to embrace within the first few days, the days almost pass in a blur.  We probably don't spend more than nine hours a day in our cabin, sleeping, showering and dressing for the day and then for the evening.

There were lots of trinkets for sale in New Caledonia.
Tom and I have the managed the small space in the cabin of 164 square feet down to a science.  We maneuver around one another with a flow comparable to a well-practiced dance where we seldom bump into one another.

After 18 cruises in similarly sized cabins (this is the smallest to date) we've managed to make the most of it in keeping the space tidy, organized and free of clutter.  On this particular cruise, we have a phenomenal cabin steward who's efforts include consistency and organizational skills similar to our own. 

Green themed sarongs.
Each morning as soon as we depart for breakfast she cleans our cabin to perfection.  By the time we return to get our laptops to head to the Diamond Lounge to prepare the day's post, every last item is completed with nary a wrinkle or item out of order.
Tourists typically purchase tee shirts and beach towels.
Today, we arrived a little later than usual when we lingered at the breakfast table chatting with other passengers, all of whom were about to explore Suva for the day.  We didn't arrive in the Diamond Lounge until 10 am when in most cases, we'll be done preparing the post by 11.  This accounts for today's slightly later posting.

A tiny row boat at the ready.
As we've recounted the details of our four-month stay in Fiji on two islands, from September 8, 2015, to January 4, 2016, we giggled over our varied experiences during that period.
Ship passengers peruse the many shops in Isle of Pines New Caledonia.
Whether it was the ants that filled the mattress and pillows on the bed on our first night in Savusavu; buying Kava for the chief when we visited the Vuodomo waterfall; the nightly visits by our neighbor Sewak's adorable dog Badal who happened to arrive while we were dining, hoping for morsels of meat which we always provided; or the trips to the outdoor markets for food and supplies, we continue to relish the experiences, good and not-so-good yet today.
Two sleeping dogs seemed unfazed about the stream of visitors.
Unfortunately, it was on the second island in Fiji that I contracted this lingering intestinal bacteria I'm continuing to purge from my system with carefully selected foods, supplements, and portion control. 
A rusted outboard motor fashioned into a work of art?
Regardless of the ups and downs, we continue to feel a powerful sense of joy wash over us each and every day.  From the couples with who we've become friends aboard this ship; to the many email messages we continue to receive from readers and friends we've made along the way; to the anticipation of the upcoming Alaskan cruise and of course, seeing family and friends in less than a month.
Clouds above the pretty beach in the Isle of Pines.
Today, at 1:30 pm the newer movie, Lion, filmed in Tasmania is playing at the Palace Theatre.  We're certainly looking forward to this movie when our recent stay in Tasmania left us with an appreciation and gratefulness for the three months we spent on the exquisite island.
I haven't owned a muu muu since I was pregnant in 1966.  (That certainly "dates" me!)
Every day as time marches on, we're reminded of our growing past experiences in one way or another.  And yet, there's so much we've yet to see.  The future looks bright and filled with wonder.  May good health keep us on track for that which is yet to come.

We offer the same wishes for all of you; good health and well being.

Photo from one year ago today, April 29, 2016:

Sunset on the last night of our cruise to Singapore one year ago today.  For more details, please click here.

Visiting Isle of Pines, New Caledonia..."New' places to visit...The fun continues with flourish...

View of the shore as our tender pulled into the dock at Isle of Pines, New Caledonia.
This itinerary's ports of call are a little repetitive for us. Having been to most of these ports, we tend to hesitate when considering if its of interest to get off the ship. In many cases, since we don't shop, visiting ports we've visited in the past holds little appeal.

As soon as we disembarked the tender we walked toward the rows of shops.
These two ports of call on this ship's itinerary we'd hadn't visited in the past are:  Isle of Pines, New Caledonia and Mystery Island, Vanuatu both of which we visited over the past several days, each of which we thoroughly enjoyed seeing and now sharing.

Now on our way to Fiji, we have little interest in getting off the ship after spending a total of four months on two of its hundreds of islands and thus, we'll be content to stay on board and enjoy the quiet while other passengers check it out.
An old structure at the beach.
We realized this 24 night cruise would consist of many repeated ports including the arrival in Hawaii in nine days (including crossing the International Dateline).  After spending eight months in Hawaii, we may only disembarked in Lahaina, Maui which we'd visited during our six weeks in Maui in 2014.  Its a fun little town and we'll surely enjoy seeing it again.

A round house at the beach in Isle of Pines.
However, we didn't choose this cruise for its ports of call.  We're using this cruise as a pleasurable means of getting from Point A to Point B; Sydney, Australia to Seattle, Washington, getting us close to our upcoming Alaskan cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia, ending in Seattle, Washington and then on to family visits in both Minnesota and Nevada.

In our old lives, the prospect of an Alaskan cruise would have sent us to the moon with delight.  Now, although enthusiastic over this cruise, its a normal part of our daily lives of world travel, another interesting stop along the way.

An old structure on the narrow beach road.
Don't get me wrong.  We don't take any of these opportunities lightly. But after four and a half years of travel, we've settled into an easy acceptance of new spaces, new places and new adventures which seem to continue in our path as we navigate from one part of the world to another.

We walked this path with other passengers to arrive at the main area of the port of call.
The highlight of our lives surely is in the "new."  New locations, new people, new cultures, new scenery and new wildlife surely seem to set our hearts and minds whirring with excitement. 

Of course, our upcoming return to Africa may be the exception.  Most likely, it will seem new to us after being away for almost four years, having left South Africa in February 2014 and Morocco in May, 2014.  (We won't be returning to Morocco on this upcoming visit instead visiting several other countries on the vast continent).

Helicopter at the local police facility.
As for Isle of Pines, New Caledonia here's a little information from this site:
"The Isle of Pines (French: Île des Pins; name in Kanak language Kwênyii: Kunyié) is an island located in the Pacific Ocean, in the archipelago of New Caledonia, an overseas collectivity of France. The island is part of the commune (municipality) of L'Île-des-Pins, in the South Province of New Caledonia. The Isle of Pines is nicknamed l'île la plus proche du paradis ("the closest island to Paradise"). It has snorkeling and scuba diving in and around its lagoon. Species of tropical fish and corals can be seen in the transparent water.
The island is around 22°37′S 167°29′E and measures 15 km (9.3 mi) by 13 km (8.1 mi). It lies southeast of Grande Terre, New Caledonia's main island and is 100 kilometres (62 mi) southeast of the capital Nouméa. There is one airport (code ILP) with a 1,097 m (3,599 ft) runway. The Isle of Pines is surrounded by the New Caledonia Barrier Reef.
The inhabitants of the island are mainly native Melanesian Kanaks and the population is 2,000 (estimated 2006) (1989 population 1,465).
The island is rich with animal life and is home to unusual creatures such as the Crested Gecko Rhacodactylus ciliatus and the world's largest gecko Rhacodactylus leachianus.
The pic Nga is the island's highest point, at 262 metres (860 ft) elevation. River Ouro is the longest river.


Melanesian people lived of the island for over 2000 years before the island was first visited by Europeans. Captain James Cook in 1774 saw the island and renamed it on his second voyage to New Zealand. Cook gave the island its name after seeing the tall native pines (Araucaria columnaris). He never disembarked onto the island, but as he saw signs of inhabitance (smoke) assumed it was inhabited. In the 1840s Protestant and Catholic missionaries arrived, along with merchants seeking sandalwood.
The French took possession of the island in 1853 at which time the native Kunies opted for the Catholic religion. In 1872 the island became a French penal colony, home to 3,000 political deportees from the Paris Commune.


The ruins of a penal colony can be seen in the village of Ouro in the west of the island. The water tower of Ouro which was built by prisoners in 1874/75 and renovated in 2005 is still used today.
On the cemetery Cimetière des Déportés near Ouro a pyramide-shaped memorial and the graves of 300 deportees who died here between 1872 and 1880 can be seen."

A church or public building?
As illustrated above, there wasn't a lot of possible sightseeing venues in the small village.  The scenery, gorgeous beaches and the shopping certainly bring cruise ships to the area aiding in providing income for the locals as they present their various wares for sale.

Unlike our usual mission to check out the scenery and culture, we found ourselves wandering through the lean-to shops in the popular boutique area which required a bit of a walk on an uneven path.

Hibiscus type flowers growing along the path to the boutique area.
Cruise passengers generally gravitate to shopping areas hoping to discover that perfect item to bring home to family and friends.  We're more interested in observing local crafts and craftspeople. 

In many ports of call, as was the case in both Isle of Pines and Mystery Island (photos coming soon on this island), many of the items offered for sale are trinkets made in China that we've seen in other ports of call throughout the world. 
Regardless, we enjoy ourselves, taking many photos, chatting with passengers on the tenders on the round trip back and forth to the ship and later discussing our varied opinions on what the area had to offer.  
Scene down a private road.
As is the case for most passengers on cruises, they're optimistic and upbeat in describing various ports of call rather than expressing any disdain over any potential lack of appeal.

Last night we had a fabulous evening with two couples we met, one of which we've spent the past two nights.  All from Australia, the conversation was spiked with typical and appealing Aussie speak and good humor which we'll miss as we make our way out of the South Pacific in weeks to come.

We are both doing well, enjoying ourselves while feeling settled and familiar with this cruising way of life while over this extended period.  Once again, it's become "home" to us.
Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 28, 2017:
The workaround for grabbing last year's photo is not working around again due to the poor signal on the ship.  Today's a sea day with everyone is online.  We'll post the missing photos once we move to a new location.  Thanks for your patience.

Updates on a few general items... Cruising right along... Figured out a workaround for "year ago photos"...

The coral reef in the Isle of Pines was exquisite.
Of course, not surprisingly, being unable to post the "year ago photo" was nagging at me.  I tried numerous workarounds only to discover one I hadn't considered earlier finally working this morning.
Tom on the beach in Isle of Pines, New Caledonia.
Me, at the beach in the Isle of Pines.
Later today, we'll go back and add them to the posts we'd missed over the past several days since boarding the ship.  Today is Day 5 on this 24-night cruise and its flying by more quickly than we anticipated. 
View toward our tender boats waiting at the pier to return us to the ship.
Having such an exceptional time seems to contribute to time passing in a blur, although I've yet to have a taste of wine which has been disappointing to resist in the Diamond Club's Star Lounge on deck 5 when drinks flow "free" and freely from 5 pm to 8:30 pm every evening. Tom, a non-drinker when not cruising is taking up the slack.

Resisting the delicious latte is also challenging but I'm staying firm on avoiding anything that could be construed as acidic for my still delicate digestive tract.  I faltered yesterday when I ate sauteed green peppers as a side to my scrambled eggs paying the price for the remainder of the day and night.   No more peppers for me, especially the less ripened green variety.  I learn as I go.
White sand beaches.
Again, at the moment we're comfortably situated in the other Diamond Lounge on deck 14 which is packed with other experienced cruisers such as us who've cruised often enough to be granted this priority status.
Many Australians were wearing these handmade head wreaths in commemoration of Anzac Day.
The complimentary foods changed throughout the day with delightful looking sandwiches, snacks and desserts accompany a wide array of beverages, coffees, teas, lemonade and juices, none of which are suitable for me.  Instead, I sip on the boring plain water.  Oh well.  I stick to the plan regardless of temptations.
Writing in the sand.
The lively chatter helps distract me from potentially dangerous consumables, especially when now I'm sitting here with exquisite views of Mystery Island in Vanuatu (soon we'll get off the ship to explore), friendly people all around us and not a care in the world.
The tropical island musicians and dancers greeted us in Noumea, New Caledonia.
A few items we'd like to share:
1.  The return of the "year ago photo" after finding a suitable workaround.  Over the next few days, I'll be updating the previous posts with this feature.
2.  So far, we've had an excellent response to our invitation to the "Readers Meet & Greet" we'll be holding in Minneapolis on June 9th close to Highways 394 and 494.  If you'd like to attend please RSVP by email, comments or Facebook. 
Noumea, New Caledonia performers entertained us at the port.
3. We're considering a similar event in Henderson, Nevada in July (well after the 4th).  If you are interested, please email us and we'll notify you as to a date, time and location, hoping you'll be able to attend.
4.  Thanks to all our of new readers who stopped by to read yesterday's tribute to our friend Glenn who passed away a few days ago.  And of course, our love and continuing prayers for Staci, Glenn's wife who supported and greatly appreciated the posting of the story.
Another Noumea performer.
5.  Cruising activities tend to be repetitive.  We're continuing to visit as many ports of call as possible to keep our readers engaged as we make our way across the sea.  Please hang in there with us as we continue with the remaining 19 nights aboard this ship.
6.  If you've posted a comment at the end of any day's post and haven't seen a reply from us, please bear with us.  The slow Wi-Fi has prevented us from replying to comments.  I'm hoping to discover a workaround for that feature as well.
The pier where we waited to reboard the tenders to return to the ship.
As soon as we finish up here today, we'll be heading to Mystery Island, Vanuatu and sharing photos in days to come.  Upon return, we'll be stopping at the Future Cruises desk to see what the future may hold for us. 

May your day be filled with ease and comfort.
Photo from one year ago today, April 27, 2016:

Last year at this time, we were on Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas.  This is the Flowrider on that ship.  Later we'll post a photo of the same event on this ship.  For more details, please click here.

We lost a friend, a reader, an adventurer...May he be remembered with great love...

Glenn and Staci had the opportunity to enjoy traveling together.
In many ways, the friendships we've been gifted in our travels have taken on a new meaning.  No longer is it the dinner parties at their homes and ours, the getting together for a barbecue or picnic or a dinner and drinks on the town.

The relationships we've developed over these years of world travel have morphed into an entirely different context.  Our friendships grow in short moments in time; on cruises, at public venues, in small towns and online.

The online aspect is most surprising to us but then, marriages and lasting relationships are often built and grown through the magic of the Internet, which had become a common medium for incorporating new people into our lives.

In no way can we diminish the power and significance of this means of making friends.  Through social media, including chat sessions, Facebook, blogs, and email, we're easily able to develop meaningful friendships through the written word.

Without the benefits of the inflection in one's voice or the expressions on one's face, somehow many of us who are comfortable communicating online, allow ourselves the privilege of becoming close and connected with those we meet along the way in cyberspace.

Such was the case with our online friends, Staci and Glenn whom we met a few years ago via our posts.  From a message online and in an email, dear Staci informed us that Glenn passed away a few days ago due to a brain injury.

Ironically, Glenn had sent us a beautiful email on April 13th which I won't re-post in its entirety with respect for the privacy of Staci and the family.  But today, we will share but a snippet that he shared with us for his love for travel. 

 Glenn wrote:

"Years ago I took off for a year and visited Africa riding hot air balloons over seven countries. I navigated some of the most terrifying rapids in the world under Victoria Falls and kayaked the Zambezi River for a month all the way to the Indian Ocean."

Glenn went on to share his myriad worldwide experiences making valuable suggestions to us for our upcoming return to Africa which we took seriously as we read that April 13th email, realizing his thoughtful suggestions were meant to enrich our experiences in every way possible.  That was who Glenn was.

Now after he has passed he's left the world another legacy, the generous donation of his liver and kidneys that are now ready to be transplanted into as many as three fortunate recipients when a transplant list is often lengthy and unyielding. 

As we continue to travel, we have the "world" with us, enriching us, embracing us and leaving us with memories that neither time nor place can strip away.  Thank you, Glenn, for being a part of those memories. 

May you travel on that river of eternity with the sun on your handsome face, fearless and passionate for the treasures this exquisite planet bestowed upon you and for the treasures you bestowed upon others both in life and in death.

Staci and family; no words can ease your sorrow.  May your hearts and minds flourish with good memories as you work your way through this sorrowful time.  Our thoughts, love, and prayers are with you always.


Photo from one year ago today, April 25, 2016:
No sooner than we stepped off the shuttle bus in Darwin, Australia, we spotted this local zoo staff person promoting the venue to the ship's passengers while holding this baby croc.  Its mouth is wrapped in a rubber band as shown.  For more details, please click here.