My last day in South Africa and my second safari experience. I went to the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, which is roughly 1.5 hours from Richards Bay.
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi is 96,000 hectares in size and offers an abundance of wildlife, flora and fauna. It’s a small country compared to Kariega and it protects the wildlife of Zululand.
Our visit landed on a very hot and humid morning with temperatures peaking at around 31 Degrees Celsius. For safari, that’s not great as the animals, just like us humans, search for shade to stay cool. However, we spotted wild boar, baboons, dung beetle, white rhino, zebra, antelope, water buffalo, warthogs, kudus and more. So, I think we did quite well. Almost everywhere we looked there was something to see, including the beautiful reserve itself. We did also see giraffe, but ironically, they were at the reserve next door.
The rhino at Hluhluwe have not had their horns removed. Our guide explained that the base of the horn, which is below the skin, is the heaviest part, so even a dehorned rhino is still at the mercy of poachers. Sadly, this reserve has lost a lot of rhino to poachers over the years. It must stop!
All I’d wanted to see were the African elephants, I was desperate and anything else was a bonus. Hluhluwe gave me exactly that. These majestic beasts were everywhere! Herds with their young passing just feet in front of us and not threatened at all. It was absolutely incredible. I became quite emotional. I didn’t get the perfect herd photo I’d been craving as the vehicles at this reserve have roll bars and a material roof, so there was never any real clear line of sight, but I did get to see them playing in the mud and at the watering hole. We saw no less than 30 of them. I can’t put into words how magical it was. I came to South Africa, I saw, and I definitely conquered. I returned to the ship happier than anyone else onboard, I’m sure of it.
Safari sightings are never guaranteed and that’s why I booked 2 for our time in South Africa. If you’re thinking of doing a safari tour, I’d highly recommend booking more than one, if you have several ports that offer it. It gives two opportunities to see as much as possible, which both of my tours have proven.
The next 3 days for us will be spent at sea before we reach our first port in Madagascar.
The last few sea days have been very hot. The temperature peaked at 32 Degrees Celsius today but thankfully, there was a breeze. It was nice to watch the ice carving at lunchtime (although it was melting so quickly) and sample the spiced rice with chicken that the chef was cooking on the open deck. Without that breeze, I doubt many of us would have stayed out to enjoy it. I gave in and retreated to the air conditioning at around 1:30pm.
While I’m here, I want to mention Room Service to you. We have all used it as some point I’m sure, and the team on Boudicca have been brilliant. I tend not to eat a lot of bread at home, but I’ve become slightly addicted to the Traditional Club sandwich since being onboard. I don’t even have to tell the guys my order anymore, they tell me what I’m ordering and where it’s going. That’s service!
On one of the sea days I woke up at 3:30am, I just couldn’t sleep, so I got ready and made my way out onto deck. It was so peaceful, not another soul anyway to be found. I sat and just took a few hours for myself, watching the sky get lighter as the sun came up. Moments like that are priceless in my eyes.
We’re in Madagascar tomorrow, well, the island of Nosy Be and I’m going to go and see the lemurs. I’ll be back soon.
Yesterday, Boudicca dropped anchor off the island of Nosy Be, Madagascar. It was a lovely morning and I was soon on a local speedboat heading off on my ‘Nosy Komba – Isle of Lemurs’ tour. The journey took around 20 minutes and it was such good fun. Our group was last leaving the ship and much smaller than the others. They were on much larger boats that couldn’t quite go at our speed. Of course, we waved as we passed them! 😉
After a shallow wet landing, we started making our way through Ampangoriana village and up towards the Black Lemur Sanctuary. There were fewer lemurs than I’d expected, and it was very crowded, but it was lovely to see them jumping through the trees and I did take the opportunity to feed one male lemur some banana, once he’d perched himself on my shoulder. Just to note, male lemurs are black, and the females are a light brown colour. We spotted more males than females.
Once we left the lemurs, we walked through an area that was home to various birds, tortoise species and lizards. It was steep in places and very hot, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. At certain points, a breeze was coming through the trees and I relished in it.
Before heading back to Hell Ville for our tender back to the ship, we stopped for refreshments on the beach and enjoyed some music and dancing from a few locals. It was a very pleasant tour and we all enjoyed the boat ride to and from the island. Our guide was also very good and super friendly, not sure it would have been the same without him.
Today we’ve been docked in Diego Suarez, on the northern tip of the mainland. I decided to explore under my own steam but there wasn’t a great deal to see. In hindsight, I should have booked a tour. Nevertheless, it was nice to wander around and see the locals going about their daily business. I stopped for a cold drink before heading back to the ship and sat watching the world go by. Tuk Tuk’s were speeding around here, there and everywhere, and local women were wandering the streets selling fresh fruits and savoury cakes.
I’m back onboard now and we’re supposed to be having a sailaway party later. I’ll share some updates on social media if we do. Remember, you can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
I’ve spent most of the day sitting in the sun. After 2 hot and humid port days, I was ready for some relaxation time. I like to sit on the wing on Deck 7 aft, there’s usually a nice breeze so you can enjoy the sun but stay relatively cool. I can’t sit for too long, though, I get restless, so I’ll sometimes go for a walk to stretch my legs and get the blood flowing again. I wandered up to Decks 9 and 10, briefly stopping to take advantage of the cool water misters at the Marquee Pool. I love those things! Such a good idea for warm days.
I’ve packed my bag ready for my tour tomorrow, but the weather forecast isn’t looking too good at the moment for our 3 days in the Seychelles. Thunderstorms are predicted. I really hope it changes, I’m going snorkelling and to various beaches!
We’re now 4 hours ahead of the UK. The last few time changes have been made at noon rather than in the evening. I much prefer doing it this way. I know it technically makes no difference, but I like it.
Until next time, I’ll leave you with Captain Sartela’s noon comment:
Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and beer belly, and still think they’re sexy.
NOVEMBER 13-15 – MAHÉ & PRASLIN ISLAND, SEYCHELLES
I’m a day late with my blog, I’m sorry, but I just haven’t had enough hours in the day. So, to update, we left the Seychelles yesterday and we’re now at sea heading for the Maldives. I’ll update my 3 sea days as usual on November 18th.
We docked in Victoria, on the island of Mahé, on the morning of November 13th and it was time to start our Seychelles adventure! I did the ‘Moyenne Island & Snorkelling’ tour and we boarded our private catamaran just across the dock from the ship. It was huge and very comfortable. Shaded seats inside and then sun hitting the outer areas. Before reaching Moyenne, we stopped briefly to feed bread to the fish, it was brilliant and there were hundreds of them. We moved a little closer to Moyenne and then dropped anchor. We could snorkel first from the catamaran or board a small speedboat and be taken across to the beach, the order in which we did things was entirely up to us. I decided to snorkel first. The water was lovely and warm, but it wasn’t very clear, and the current was so strong. Needless to say, I didn’t see any fish from the water, only from the boat above, so I made my way across to the island.
Moyenne Island is located within the Ste Anne Marine National Park, and it has been a flora and fauna reserve since the 1970s. From 1915 until the 1960s, the island was abandoned until its purchase by Brendon Grimshaw, a former newspaper editor, originally from Dewsbury in Yorkshire, England. There is an entrance fee to visit the island. It was absolutely gorgeous, just how I’d imagined this part of the world to be. The beach (named the Jolly Roger) is only small but because people tend to walk through the island, it was never crowded. The water is also quite shallow for some way out into the islet. I spotted a young girl sitting on a small sandbank at least 60 metres away from the beach and when she stood up to come back, she wasn’t even waist deep.
After a few hours to snorkel and enjoying the beach, we made our way back to the port and our awaiting Boudicca. I absolutely loved the tour and would definitely recommend it be something you think about booking.
On day two, following a short walk around the town of Victoria and a visit to the Sir Selwyn Clarke Market, we made our way up to the viewpoint. We could see dozens of other islands in the distance, Boudicca was to our left, a beautiful reef to our right and directly in front was Eden Island, where we’d have lunch. We could also see Praslin Island, which would be our next call.
Bravo! is right on the waterfront and has a varied menu offering everything from pizza to local curry. I was really looking forward to trying a local dish, so I went for the prawn and chicken curry with rice and a papaya chutney. It was excellent. Hints of lemon grass came through the coconut flavour which dominated the dish. Not too spicy. I cleared my plate.
After lunch we made our way to the north of the island and it was beautiful. So much scenery and some stunning beaches. We stopped at Sunset Beach, Beau-Vallon and Carana Beach. Each was stunning, but quite different and unique in its own way. I’ve seen some gorgeous beaches over the years, but these were truly something else and the water was bursting with tropical fish. I was kicking myself for not taking my snorkel.
We also stopped at a beach that technically has no name, but is locally known as L’ilot Beach, as that’s the name of the small island just at the edge of the bay. Not many people know how to get there, so we were very lucky to have Marlon with us, a guide from the Seychelles Tourism Board. He was brilliant and knew all the best places to visit, and the secluded little secret spots. This particular beach is accessed via private land, hence not many tourists get the chance to see it. It was like something out of a movie. Just before we left, a huge fruit bat flew above us. It was a lovely end to what had been a fabulous day on Mahé.
Yesterday morning we set off on the shortest cruise from one place to the next that I’ve ever experienced. It took around 1 hour to get to the anchor point off Praslin Island from our berth in Victoria.
Our first stop was at Cote D’or Beach and it too was impressive. Miles of soft white sand, clear water and some shaded areas beneath the palms. Paradise and nothing less. I dipped my toes in the water but didn’t swim. We had a lunch reservation at a local restaurant, so I just enjoyed the view. I’d swim at Anse Lazio later in the day.
Lunch consisted of a buffet at a beachside restaurant named Pirogue and it was quite substantial. We had various salad choices plus fish and a chicken curry. I had curry and it hit the spot, but I didn’t have a lot, there was snorkelling to do.
Finally, we arrived at Anse Lazio, voted one of the best beaches in the world. Having already been spoilt by many others, I was excited to see what made this one so special. It’s absolutely gorgeous, but I did think some beaches I’d seen the day before were better, I suppose it’s all personal preference at the end of the day. The water was very rough, but once you got over the waves breaking it was relatively calm and warm. I did go snorkelling, but visibility wasn’t great because of the swell kicking all the sand up. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed it, being in the water with some friendly fish and cooling off from the mid-day heat. It’s not a huge beach and it was quite busy but not crowded in the slightest.
My time in the Seychelles has been everything and more than I expected it to be. It’s a stunning part of the world and the people are very friendly. I’d love to come back again one day and see more of the islands.
AT SEA (November 16-18)
Three days at sea, absolute bliss. We’ve had scorching heat and pouring rain. We also had a lovely rainbow this morning after our torrential downpour. We’re definitely in the tropics.
We crossed the equator again on the 17th, going back into the Northern Hemisphere. The Crossing of the Line celebration was good fun. It was shorter than the last one, but in the hot morning sun, it was very much appreciated. I followed it with fish and chips from the Poolside Grill.
I ventured to the spa yesterday and had my eyelashes tinted and my hair braided. I’ve only had French plaits once in my life and I was desperate to do something with my hair to keep it out of my face and off the back of my neck, so Lorraine transformed my locks. I have a facial booked soon, my first ever.
I have a new cabin stewardess now and she turns the toilet paper into a little boat every morning and evening. I like her creativity. There was a big crew change in the Seychelles and onboard, many of the crew that were already here have been moved to different areas of the ship. It’s taking some time to get used to it, we were all settled into our routines and then new faces appeared. Nirin passes each afternoon to say he misses us. 😦
We’re in the Maldives tomorrow and I’m off to Kuda Bandos for a resort island experience day.
NOVEMBER 19 – MALÉ, MALDIVES
Today has been absolutely AMAZING! We’ve been at anchor off Malé in the Maldives, but I’ve spent the day on the resort island of Kuda Bandos and it was so beautiful.
I spent almost 4 hours snorkelling and there were hundreds of different fish. Several bad-tempered Picasso triggerfish chased me off whenever I got too close, although in some cases I was nowhere near, but they still decided they didn’t want me there. A small black and white fish did the same thing and he really made me laugh. I was huge in comparison, but he let me know I had to keep going.
When we first got off the boat, we could clearly see a small black tip reef shark in the water, and I spent hours looking for more. Finally, I spotted one, so I ran off into the sea after it. The first time I’ve ever jumped into the sea to try and film a shark! Sadly, he was too quick for me and I only managed to get a grainy shot of him swimming away – you can just see him in the below.
I really have had the most incredible day. I could have stayed longer and snorkelled until I turned into a prune, I could also type you an entire book, but I wanted the images to tell the story. I love being in the water and seeing all the marine life.
I’ve burned the back of each leg, it’s very uncomfortable at the minute, so I’m going to go now and apply copious amounts of after sun in the hope that it cools. I can’t face wearing trousers, so back to shorts I’ll go. I also managed to slip on marble tiles and fall flat on my backside and left arm. Thankfully, there was no one there to see my ungraceful landing, but boy did it hurt! Maybe I should just go to the bar and get a glass of medicine and sit down for the rest of today? 😉
AT SEA (November 20th)
I’m using today as a day of rest. I think I over-estimated my fitness level yesterday and my entire body aches. Between the snorkelling/swimming for several hours, chasing a shark around the island for 45 minutes, burning my legs and falling over, I’ve just stopped for today. Even moving my arms hurts, more so my left as that’s the one that took the brunt of the impact when I fell.
I’ve sat chatting all morning on deck, had lunch, ironed some clothes and for the rest of today my plan is to just enjoy the sea view. I want to be able to move again tomorrow without feeling like my muscles are restricting me, as we’ll dock in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
NOVEMBER 21 – COLOMBO, SRI LANKA
Boudicca is docked in Colombo today, in Sri Lanka. We’re back here for 2 days in February and I have tours booked for both days, so I used today as a chance to explore the city at my own pace and see what it’s all about. I love the hustle and bustle, and the hundreds of tuk-tuk’s whizzing around. I was only out for a few hours as it’s incredibly hot and I was roasting. I stopped mid-way back to the ship for a fizzy drink and to cool down for 10 minutes. I didn’t see much during my walk, I had no plan and no idea where I was going, but that was fine, I wanted to see where I ended up and I did pass the Presidential Palace, I think! I enjoyed it. I needed a day of aimless easy wandering and I succeeded.
Although I wasn’t out too long, I managed to spend most of the dollars I had with me. I bought some trousers, a necklace and my gorgeous wooden elephant. She’s quite heavy, I had to have a crew member help me carry her up the gangway. I knew I’d get my baby elephant onboard eventually.
AT SEA (November 22-23)
It absolutely poured with rain yesterday, there wasn’t a single minute of sunbathing to do. It was OK, though, I sat on deck with friends and they patiently tried teaching me a card game they enjoy playing called ‘Phase 10’. I think I’ve got the hang of it, but all will be revealed when I sit down to play without help.
I ventured back into the spa for a facial, my first-ever and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Elisa is amazing! I have rosacea, so it was tailored for my skin and it feels great. While the mask soaked into my face, I was given a hand massage which just added something extra to the overall experience. I had the Thalgo Discovery Facial which is one of the express moisture options and it’s infused with marine ingredients. It lasted for 30 minutes and for me, that was just the right length of time. I could relax without the worry of falling asleep.
Last night, we had a private party with some friends in the Owners Suite. What a night! All I can say is that it’s a good job the only neighbours they have are in the suite downstairs and they too were at the party. We laughed, we ate, and just had the best time. It was a formal evening elsewhere on the ship, but we went casual and enjoyed our own little shindig with pizza and fried chicken. I think it could end up being a regular event.
Lunch for me yesterday was in The Secret Garden. The selection is always varied, there’s always at least 2 vegetarian options, and I love the pasta sauces. They’re simple but full of flavour. I went in just before they opened so I could take a few pictures before everyone dived in to eat.
We’re in Port Blair for 2 days from tomorrow and I think we have a themed party night at some point, so I’ll check in with you again very soon.
NOVEMBER 24-25 – PORT BLAIR, ANDAMAN ISLANDS PLUS SEA DAY X1 (November 26th)
Our first day in Port Blair meant a tuk-tuk adventure through the city and our first stop was at the Celluar Jail. This was a colonial prison used by the British to exile political prisoners. Several notable independence activists were imprisoned here during the struggle for India’s independence, including Veer Savarkar and Yogendra Shukla. We didn’t spend long at the jail and there was a lot of construction going on, but it gave us a brief glimpse into some of the island’s history.
From there, we went to the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose flag hoisting point. The man himself hoisted the first time Tricolour flag of Indian Independence on 30 December 1943. At this time Netaji Subhash Chand Bose was commander in Chief of INA and Hon. President of Indian Government which was recognised by 18 countries.
I really enjoyed the tour and at 2 hours in duration, it was just enough in the heat. It was my first time in a tuk-tuk and it won’t be my last. I was going to get the shuttle bus into town in the afternoon, but it was too hot. I decided to save my energy for our Indian themed night onboard. It’s my favourite of all the Fred. Olsen theme nights because the ship always looks so beautiful, plus I really enjoy the music. I didn’t stay until it finished, I was tired and had to be up early again the following for my tour to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Dweep, formerly known as Ross Island.
Dr James Pettison Walker arrived in Port Blair in March 1858 and Ross Island subsequently remained under British occupation until 1942. The island was then occupied by the Japanese until 1945 before the Allies reoccupied it and later abandoned it. I picked this tour because of the history and the fact I thought it would be different and interesting to see, and it was.
The boat ride took 15 minutes and we were soon walking through this now dilapidated town. During the British occupation, it had all the facilities for a civilised colony, but the now ruined buildings include the Chief Commissioner’s House, a church, hospital, swimming pool, bakery and troop barracks.
It’s a lovely island and the buildings being reclaimed by nature are hugely impressive. We spent almost 2 hours exploring, I was shattered by the time we left. It’s a vast area to walk around and several sections were uphill and very uneven, so keep this in mind if you’re thinking of visiting. We also had to wait a while for the boat from Port Blair across to the island.
During our walk, we passed the bakery, hospital, officers’ quarters, market and more. It was visually impressive in many respects, definitely the right tour choice. It’s simply the land taking everything back. A bit like Kolmanskop but rather than the desert pouring back in, the trees are taking it back.
There were also lots of birds and deer to spot. At the end of the tour we were given coconuts to drink from, so drink it I did, and then I fed the meat to the deer. You can actually be fined for feeding the animals on the island, but he was clearly hungry, so I gave it to him. Our guide said that it was OK, they’re not too strict about it with the deer because it’s so dry and not a lot of grass was growing, so they were being fed and hydrated from the coconut.
We’re at sea now, heading for Thailand and then Indonesia – we have 4 port days back-to-back. I’m going to leave the sea day update empty for today, so I can get everything ready for my upcoming adventures. I also have some work I need to get finished as my second piece for World of Cruising is due very soon.
NOVEMBER 27-29 – PHUKET, THAILAND
My goodness, I’m tired. Between non-stop outings and the heat, I could crawl into my bed and sleep for a week. Anyway, enough of that, let me tell you about fabulous Thailand.
We’ve been docked in Phuket for 3 days and they have been fantastic. On the first day, I went on the ‘Phuket Highlights & Lunch’ tour. Our first stop was Wat Chalong, one of most stunning temple complexes I think I’ve ever seen. There are several temples and we didn’t have time to visit them all, but I was more than impressed by what I did manage to see. There were many monks wandering around and they were happy to stop and say hello.
Next on our itinerary for the day was a viewpoint stop which was also right next to an elephant temple/shrine. Honestly, I have no idea what the area was called but I love elephants, so I was in my element at the shrine. There were no live elephants, just in case you were wondering. Only statues.
Our final stop of the day was at the Rawai sea gypsy village. It’s more a street than a village and there was only half a dozen or so houses, from what we could see. Nevertheless, it was alive with energy. There were dozens of fresh seafood stalls and directly opposite, many restaurants. You could pick menu items or buy a fish or whatever took your fancy across the street and the restaurant chef would cook it for you to your exact liking, for an additional charge. We wandered around the village, looked at all the seafood and even managed a bit of shopping. We also had lunch here before we left and although it was absolute chaos (I think the restaurant was slightly overwhelmed with several tours all arriving at the same time) and some of us waited a long time for our food, it was well worth it. I ordered shrimp in a yellow curry paste sauce with rice and vegetables and it was one of the nicest shrimp curries I’ve ever eaten, plus they were absolutely ginormous! We left the village soon after, but not before the heavens absolutely opened. We’ve had some quite intense rain and storms during our time here.
On day two, six of us shared a cab to Patong Beach. It took about 55 minutes to get there from the deep-sea cruise port, but the fare was only $70, that was for a round-trip. We had 4 hours in Patong, so we enjoyed the beach, did some shopping and then stopped at a local restaurant/hotel for some lunch. It was a nice change of pace and scenery. Nothing too strenuous and we all had a good laugh on the way back.
Today, on our third and final day in Thailand (this sector) was another one filled with adventures. We had a scenic view of Phang Nga Bay from our speedboat before zooming right through the middle of it and on to James Bond Island (Khao Phing Kan). This is where they filmed scenes for The Man with The Golden Gun. It was stunning, as was the entire boat journey through Phang Nga. I’d HIGHLY recommend you do this tour with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines on your visit. It’s an all-day option.
Leaving James Bond Island, we sped through the mangroves and caves, and came to Ko Panyi, a 200-year old sea gypsy village. The community here is predominantly Muslim and with the exception of the mosque, the village is built entirely on stilts. The football pitch is a floating pontoon, so if the ball is kicked out of bounds it likely means a swim to retrieve it. There are approx. 1600 people living in Ko Panyi and to explore it all would have taken over one hour. We looked at the school, mosque, cemetery and walked through some of the streets. It was nice to see this thriving community that live way out within the archipelago. Life for them appeared peaceful and very happy.
Our final stop was Rang Yai island where we had lunch and just a short slice of free time to enjoy the beach. Lunch was buffet style and included rice, chicken and coconut soup, beef stir fry and more. Just to note, the landing at Rang Ya is a wet one and the water comes to at least the knee when going back to the boat.
Thailand really is a spectacular place and I’m utterly charmed by it and its people. The trip today was different to everything else I’ve experienced since being here. I feel like I’ve had a bit of everything to uncover and enjoy, and enjoy it I have, immensely. I’m already looking forward to coming back next year when Boudicca revisits. In fact, it’s the kind of place I’d like to live. Although, I’d need some serious air conditioning units.
We’re in Indonesia tomorrow and my snorkelling tour has been cancelled because of large numbers of jelly fish in the water. So, let’s see what the day brings!
NOVEMBER 30 – SABANG, WEH ISLAND, INDONESIA
My tour in Sabang was cancelled. They’ve had a lot of rain here in recent days and it has increased jellyfish numbers in the water, so the local tour provider advised the snorkelling trip should be scrapped.
I didn’t book anything else, I decided to just have a leisurely walk ashore. The locals really went above and beyond for our day here. We had a big welcome performance for which our Captain was the guest of honour, and other live music throughout the day.
I left the ship and walked along the seafront. There were lots of colourful buildings and the locals were all waving and saying good morning. They were clearly happy for us to be here and I felt very comfortable exploring on my own and very welcome. The odd motorbike rider or tuk-tuk driver would stop and ask if you wanted to do a tour, but they accepted your reply when you said no thank you. I can’t stand it when in some ports they just don’t give up and then follow you around. The people here were very respectful of you and your answer.
I didn’t get right into town, after walking for a good 35 minutes in the heat I was boiling. I stopped for a rest on a bench and then made my way back. It was pleasant. I enjoyed the stroll, having no plan and just watching people go about their daily business. I also made it back to the ship in time to hear the call to prayer echoing around the port. There are 2 mosques quite close to the ship and the sound from both was hypnotic.
AT SEA (December 1st)
My day started incredibly early. I woke up at 4:20am and put the TV straight onto the Bridge Cam. The sky was electric, flash after flash of lightning. I got up, washed and dressed, and made my way up to Deck 7. I was hoping to do a time-lapse video of the storm but sadly, by the time I got upstairs it had all stopped. Typical! I did get to enjoy a very quiet ship, though. I took advantage of a photo opportunity with a passenger-less pool deck and the swimming pool lights reflecting off the aft decks. Isn’t she pretty!
I decided to spend my morning wisely and before 8:30am, I’d tidied my cabin, put up my Christmas decorations, did a load of washing and some ironing, read part of my book, wandered around the ship and had breakfast. I was ready for bed again by 9am, but I resisted. I put up all the Christmas decorations that I have, but it’s not enough, so I’m now on the lookout for more and a nice tree. Wish me luck! I put my tinsel around the picture, Santa Claus on one porthole and a small tree in front, my little tree ornaments around the edge of the room and, of course, my advent calendar is on the wall beside my bed.
I’ve spent the afternoon getting everything ready for tomorrow (we’ll be in Singapore) and chatting with my fellow all-rounders. I also had a browse in the shop and a peek at the photographs in the photo gallery. It’s been overcast all day and we’ve had some quite heavy showers. It’s not been a day to enjoy the great outdoors unless you had some cover. I did have some excitement. There was a bird on Deck 9 forward and he was having a difficult time getting his bearings. I don’t know what type of bird it was, but it was very pretty and just couldn’t see the glass. It was the glass that was keeping it trapped, to an extent, in the same place. I decided to get a towel and my idea was to grab him and move him further along the deck, so he could either rest or take flight. By the time I returned with the towel, he’d gone and I was a soggy mess. I imagine it’s probably still onboard, somewhere.
DECEMBER 2-3 – SINGAPORE
My first visit to Singapore was last year on Black Watch and I crammed as much into one day as I physically could, so I decided to take this visit at a more leisurely pace and do something different.
Yesterday, I went across to Sentosa Island on the Singapore Cable Car, which is celebrating its 45th year. It seemed like a great idea until I boarded it. I’m terrified of heights, but I keep putting myself through these things! It was worth it, though. I had a great view of Boudicca and a fabulous view across the island. The cable car network extends across Sentosa Island and then into the city. If you have time, get an unlimited pass. This way, you can experience them all and also use it to get between attractions on the island, in the harbour and in the city. It’s worth it.
The weather forecast for the day wasn’t good, but when I arrived on Sentosa it was hot and sunny, so I made my way directly to Universal Studios, which was my main reason for going over to the island. I hadn’t been to a theme park in years and I felt like a child when I swiped my ticket and entered. It was Christmas for as far as the eye could see, I was in my absolute element. The ride wait times were quite long, so I had an easy walk around the park first and thought I’d do the rides on my way back, that way I’d covered all of the other fun things to see and do. It was like being in a magical kingdom, I loved every second of it, and the Christmas music that was being played all over the park. My favourite themed section was Jurassic Park. I am a big fan of those movies and I loved the way it had been designed, and all of the dinosaurs, of course. Second to that was Ancient Egypt, that was hugely impressive!
Sadly, my itinerary wasn’t meant to be. The heavens opened and it absolutely poured with rain. Not long after came the incredible thunder and lightning and it went on for several hours. Sentosa was completely washed out. I’ve never seen a place go from Times Square busy to desert empty so quickly. It was actually quite fun, though. Dodging the torrential rain, hiding from the fork lightning and trying to get to the monorail to get back to the city – there was no way I was getting in a cable car in that storm. The monorail is free from the island back the Harbour, so it was a no brainer, and very quick.
If you want to do something different on your visit to Singapore, I definitely suggest Sentosa. You need a full day (maybe more) and aside from Universal, there are also several beaches and other attractions, including Adventure Cove Waterpark, Butterfly Park & Kingdom, S.E.A. Aquarium, iFLY Singapore, Palawan Beach, Mega Adventure Park and Wings of Time. Some attractions are free, others require payment.
My plan today had been to do the hop-on hop-off bus, but I wasn’t feeling too good this morning and the sun was very intense, I couldn’t stand it. So, I decided to spend some time in the mall, and I’ll do the hop-on hop-off bus when we visit again in January. Nothing has been lost.
Vivo City mall is right next to the cruise ship terminal – you don’t even need to go outside to get from one to the other – and it is huge. I went in last year and completely lost all sense of direction. I thought I must try harder this time and I was better, but I still ended up off course. I’d passed a food court on my way in that had an Indian food counter. I decided that’s where I’d go for lunch, so I did some shopping and then made my way back to where I thought it was. Could I find it? Could I heck. I went around in a circle 5 times and eventually gave up and went to KFC. I passed KFC 5 times on my Deja-vu journey of Vivo City, so I took it as a sign. I had completely lost my bearings. I have no idea where that food court is. I was quite disappointed, I really wanted some Indian food but by the time I did lap 5, I was hungry, tired and losing patience with myself. I WILL find it next time.
We have 2 days at sea now before we arrive in Semarang.
AT SEA (December 4th & 5th)
I’ve been super busy over the last 2 sea days, they’ve sailed over – pardon the pun!
We had a get-together in The Observatory for those of us doing the entire Grand Voyage and it was the perfect opportunity to meet other people that I’ve not seen or spoken with since our first party at the end of October. There were free drinks and lots of nibbles, including prawns with a sweet and sour sauce, satay chicken with peanut sauce, smoked salmon sandwiches, scones and mince pies. I could have happily stayed there all morning and ate my way through everything. We’ve now also been given our own dedicated section in the Morning Lights Pub each morning for tea and pastries, and in the Four Seasons at lunchtime. I thought that was a very nice touch. It means we have specific times and places to catch up with one another.
I had my first pedicure experience in the Atlantis Spa, so my feet are ready for more pavement-pounding excursions. I’m really not a spa person, but I’m enjoying my little pampering sessions with Elisa, she makes me feel very relaxed and comfortable. I booked the Luxury Pedicure which is a 60-minute treatment. It begins with an aromatic foot soak, followed by a heel scrub, cuticle care, nail filing and shaping. Once this was complete, Elisa rubbed a magic potion all over my feet and lower legs, placed my feet in bags and then into heated booties. I had these on for around 5 minutes before she removed them, cleaned the lotion off and then moisturised my skin and painted my nails. I’m very pleased with the results and although I can’t stand feet or people touching my own, I enjoyed it because of Elisa. She’s just amazing.
The Poolside lunch special today was Indonesian Stir Fry. I’m not a great fan of stir fry, but I could smell it being cooked and when I ventured down to Deck 6 and saw the chef making it, I was sold. It was really good! Not too spicy, so I could enjoy it without feeling like I was being cooked from the inside out. I can’t do spicy food.
Oh, before I forget. I now have a real Christmas tree! Well, not real as such, it’s not an ACTUAL tree, but it was a gift from a fellow passenger, and I love it. My cabin feels (almost) complete now for Christmas.
I have a 10 hour tour tomorrow to Borobudur Temple, so my next blog will come on our sea day. I’ll likely get back home tomorrow and fall asleep!
DECEMBER 6 – SEMARANG, JAVA, INDONESIA (+ December 7th Sea Day)
I’m a day late with updates. I was exhausted after my tour yesterday and by the time I arrived home it was time to shower, change and meet friends, although it was only for an hour. I’d been awake since 2am. We had a huge electrical storm and the crashing of thunder woke me with a start. I couldn’t get back to sleep after that. We’re at sea today and Lombok tomorrow, but let me fill you in on Semarang.
I went on the 10-hour Borobudur Temple tour. We left the ship at 06:45 and hit the road at full speed. It takes approx. 2.5 to 3 hours to get to Borobudur from the port and we had a Police escort there and back, to get us through the traffic quicker.
Borobudur is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Central Java, built during the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty, that is a shrine to the Lord Buddha. There are nine stacked platforms, six square and three circulars topped by a huge central dome. There are around 500 buddha statues decorating the temple. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, following a huge restoration project between UNESCO and the Indonesian Government.
Temperatures reached 33° Degrees Celsius and humidity was at 99%, but we were all raring to go and explore. I decided to break away from my group and go at my own pace. We entered from the east side and slowly started the ascent. The temple is beautiful, covered in intricate carvings, and buddhas are scattered everywhere, some with their heads and some without. I went level by level, eventually conquering all 150 steps and reaching Nirvana, the highest point of the temple. It was very busy and incredibly difficult to get photographs without dozens of people also being in them, but I persevered.
After the temple visit, we were due to meet back at the restaurant on the east side for our buffet lunch. I retraced my steps back to where we had entered the complex and was told by a guard that I had to exit on the west. I tried to explain I was part of a group, but we were both lost in translation. I could see the restaurant and coaches from this point, but eventually, I gave up and made my way west to the official exit. Nothing looked familiar and there was no one around to ask for directions, so I followed the signs marked ‘to the temple’. It had to be taking me east, I told myself. I walked and I walked, and then I came across 5 Sumatra elephants. By this point I was tired, hot and the sweat was running down my face, but this was the reason I’d been sent this way, someone didn’t want me to miss the elephants. They were beautiful, happily walking around and munching their food. I sat watching them for 10 minutes before continuing on my journey. I’d completely forgotten in those few moments that I had no idea where I was or how to get back. I was just lost in the sight of these majestic beasts.
I carried on walking for another 20 minutes and finally, I spotted the coaches. I’d arrived. I sat down and gulped every last drop of Sprite from the bottle I’d ordered. I was so thirsty. Once I’d cooled down, I went and helped myself to some food. It all looked very nice, but the only thing I found that I liked were the fried noodles, so I had an extra spoonful, as I’d skipped breakfast. As we ate, we were treated to traditional music and dance from several locals and it ended our tour perfectly.
It was a fabulous day. Tiring, but certainly worth it. Another option that I’m adding to the ‘recommended by CruiseMiss’ tours list.
I’ll check in with you again in a day or so. We have 5 port days back-to-back from tomorrow and I’m booked on tours for each, so please bear with me. I’m using today to catch up and get everything ready for my tours.
DECEMBER 8 – LEMBARK, LOMBOK, INDONESIA
Every single day of this cruise is nothing short of incredible. Yet another fantastic tour today, this time via a local boat from Lembar and across to the islands of Gili Nanggu and Gili Sudak.
We stopped at Gili Nanggu first and had our first snorkelling experience of the day. The coral was fantastic, and the fish were beautiful. I could have stayed there all day. The only downside was the jellyfish. They were only small but there were hundreds of them close to the shore and I must have been stung at least 40 times. They felt like tiny pin pricks. By the time I left the water, my entire upper body was tingling. I’ve showered since and my arms are still stinging. They weren’t even big monsters, either. They were about the size of a crisp, but they were also clear, so I couldn’t see them, only the shadow they cast on the water at the last minute. They were in my face, my hair, everywhere!
At Gili Sudak we could snorkel again, but, unfortunately, my own snorkel was letting in water and the spare masks the guides had were also letting in water. I relaxed on the beach instead and that was fine by me. The scenery was gorgeous, and I found a hermit crab and several starfish during my trek. I tried my best to photograph the starfish (excuse my shadow) but he had covered himself in sand and was difficult to see because of the sun. I did try with the GoPro, but he was too near the surface, so he just blurred.
We had lunch on the island and just like all the other buffets we’ve had since being in this part of the world, it was very good. I had fried squid, rice, sautéed vegetables and barbecued fish. We had an incredible view. It was a lovely place to be and a nice way to end our tour.
DECEMBER 9 – KOMODO ISLAND, INDONESIA
My first visit to Komodo Island was during a World Cruise last year on Black Watch. I went to see the Komodo dragons and then to the Pink Beach. The dragons were impressive, but it was the Pink Beach that stood out for me. The coral and the fish were out of this world, I couldn’t get out of the water, I was completely transfixed by the beauty. At that time, I didn’t have an underwater camera and I was gutted. I couldn’t share any of that incredible experience, so yesterday I made sure I changed that, when I went back to the Pink Beach.
I didn’t recognise the island at first. Last year it was so green and lush, but this time it was dry and brown – the rain hasn’t arrived yet. The one thing that did let me know we were in Komodo were the local kids. They jumped in their boats and came across to the ship to sell their crafts and ask for food, a few parcels were thrown down for them by passengers. They were happy and smiling, swimming around the ship and pulling alongside the tenders to greet us and hopefully make some money. They just wanted to see the people that had arrived to visit their island.
The beach wasn’t as pink as it was last year and boarding the boat was a somewhat challenging experience that I didn’t enjoy, but I couldn’t wait to get back in the water. We had 2 hours at leisure, and I spent all of that time swimming with the fish. My photographs still don’t do it true justice, you need to see if for yourself to really appreciate it, but for my fellow marine-life lovers out there, I do hope you enjoy what I managed to capture.
We’re heading for Bali at present and will dock at 3pm this afternoon. We’ll stay in Bali until the 12th, although, we will move from the berth tonight to an anchorage position until tomorrow night. I have 2 days of tours to enjoy and I’m very much looking forward to them. I’ll be back soon.
DECEMBER 10 – 12 – BALI, INDONESIA
Bali has been a great adventure and a head-first dive into the culture of the island. It’s an amazing place.
I went on tour yesterday to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud and Ubud Market. The Monkey Forest is beautiful, a real safe haven for numerous flora and fauna, and the monkeys, of course. They were everywhere and quite placid, not bothered too much by our presence. There are more than 1000 monkeys in total and they’re split into different groups across the forest. This allows them to have their own territory, just as they would in the wild. The forest is also home to three temples, one of which we got to see during our walk around.
Ubud Market was a nice experience and I’m glad I can say I’ve been. I had heard a lot about it from friends and I was excited to get in there and do some shopping. I liked the hustle and bustle, but the sellers were inflating their prices dramatically. I bought myself a beautiful wooden elephant wall mask and that was it. I refused to pay the prices they were asking for things such as bracelets and clothing. Instead, I went back to the small stalls at the port and bought what I needed from there. The prices were much better, and more importantly they appreciated the business. I don’t mind paying a little more, but they were really trying to con people at some stalls in Ubud and I don’t like or appreciate that. The sellers at the port are a little more ‘full on’ with their selling tactics, but it’s they just want to make a living. If you politely say please just leave me to look, they will.
On our way back to Benoa, our guide dropped us at a restaurant for lunch. He’d recommended it as an alternative to spending 3 solid hours walking around the market in the heat. It was just on the outskirts of busy Ubud and what a gem it was. Gorgeous inside and out and the food was five-star. I ordered the Ayam Kasalan (a mild curry infused with coconut and lemongrass) and I cleared my plate. The restaurant is called Semar Kuning.
Today, I went on the ‘Scenic Bali’ tour and our first stop was at the vast royal temple of Pura Taman Ayun, a beautiful temple built back in the 1600’s. The grounds are breath-taking and there was a real sense of calm throughout the complex. It’s surrounded by a wide moat and was the main temple of the Mengwi kingdom until 1891, when it was conquered by the kingdoms of Tabanan and Badung. Extensive restoration work was carried out in 1937 and it is without doubt one of the most attractive temples in Bali.
We then went on to a traditional Balinese compound. The home of a local family, basically. It was nice to see the home and how the family live and pray. Every family compound has its own small temple, each village also has a temple, and so on. There are more than 4000 temples across Bali from family to public. Just incredible. Their religion really is a huge part of their lives. Most in Bali are Hindu and from what I’ve seen during my time here, they practise what they preach.
Our final stop was at a vast rice field with lovely views. When we come back to Bali in January, I’ll be stopping at the big one! Today was enough for me and I was flaking in the heat by the time we’d made it to the family compound. We arrived back to the ship almost 45 minutes earlier than we should have, but there were no complaints. We’d seen what we’d booked to see, and I think everyone just wanted to get back into the air conditioning of the ship.
We have 2 sea days now and I’m ready for the break from tours. I just want to relax. The heat has exhausted me over the last few days and I know it’s only going to get hotter once we reach Australia.
AT SEA (December 13 & 14)
I’ve spent our two sea days relaxing and reading my book. I needed some downtime after five hot and hectic port days. We also went through Australian immigration this morning and I’m so glad they did that onboard this time, instead of when we arrive in Broome. It makes things much easier and means we can just go straight off the ship in the morning and start exploring.
The Christmas decorations are now up throughout the ship and I’ve photographed a few of my favourites to share with you, including a seriously impressive gingerbread house. It’s huge and takes pride of place outside the Four Seasons restaurant on Deck 6. It even has a little train track around it.
We had a special Asian lunch buffet today in the Four Seasons, Tintagel and Indian Ocean restaurants. It looked amazing. I love a themed lunch and there was so much choice! Various dishes from Indian, Indonesia, Philippines and more. There was also an offering of delicious exotic fruits, some of which I’ve enjoyed since being in Indonesia, and a variety of dishes for those that don’t want to indulge in the Asian offering.
We call to Broome tomorrow, our first Australian port of many and another new one for me. I enjoyed Australia very much last year and I’m looking forward to being back, although, slightly terrified about the heat! 34° is forecast for tomorrow and it’s even hotter in other parts of the country.
DECEMBER 15 – BROOME, AUSTRALIA
We’re in Broome today and my goodness, it’s hot! Actually, hot really isn’t the word, it’s like being on the surface of the sun. It was 30 Degrees Celsius by 8:30am this morning and it got hotter and hotter. Temperatures across Australia are incredibly high at the moment, some places have seen 50+ and of course, that really doesn’t help the bushfire situation. I feel so sorry for the people and animals that are being affected.
I didn’t book a tour for this port. I used the shuttle service into town, but as it’s Sunday, a lot of places were closed. I had thought about going to the beach, but there are a lot of box jellyfish around, so there really was no point. I can’t go to the beach and not get in the water. I’ve basically used today to re-stock on things such as shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, as the supermarket was open. Plus, with the heat, it was uncomfortable being outside for too long. I’ve never been so grateful for air-conditioning in my entire life.
I will say that where we are docked offers a stunning view. The water is a gorgeous shade of turquoise and on the way back to Boudicca, I spotted 2 huge turtles in the water. The hills are also an intense shade of pink and red, it really is beautiful. i just so wish I could have taken advantage of the beach. In hindsight, I probably should have went on a tour.
We have 3 sea days ahead before we arrive in Perth and I’m so looking forward to my tour there, I just hope the temperatures drop a little as currently, it’s plus 40+ Degrees.
AT SEA (December 16-18)
It’s been quite choppy out there for the last few days and the air temperature dropped by around 10° overnight on Monday. It’s been a hugely refreshing break from the searing heat and humidity, so we’re lapping it up because we know it won’t last. Sitting in the sun has been far more pleasant.
A few nights ago, some passengers decided to make a snowman, but it’s definitely not your average snowman. He looks great, but also slightly terrifying. I’m surprised it wasn’t taken down by security or the deck boys. Someone is obviously in the Christmas spirit and told them to leave it alone. Just for the record, I had nothing to do with it, but I did enjoy sitting watching it come to life.
I had breakfast at the Poolside Grill this morning and my poached eggs were perfect. I ordered Eggs Benedict but without the Hollandaise sauce, I’m not a big fan of that stuff. It’s the first time I’ve had breakfast there this cruise and it won’t be the last. It’s a simple menu offering mainly egg based dishes, fruits and cereals. A lighter and healthier option.
Chicken stir-fry was the special on Monday and I had to try it. It’s not something I usually eat, but they’ve been really tasty on Boudicca and I can’t say no. Maybe because I can smell it when I’m sitting on Deck 7. The smell hypnotises me and before I know it, I’m sitting with a plate full. I also like watching the chef make it.
I’ve started putting my Christmas presents out around my little tree, there’s no way I can put them under it, and I heard Christmas songs around the ship for the first time today. It’s my first Christmas away from home and it does feel very odd, but I’m looking forward to the festivities onboard next week!
Fremantle is our port tomorrow and I’m heading to Rottnest Island for the day, hopefully to find the Quokkas!
DECEMBER 19 – FREMANTLE, AUSTRALIA (plus December 20th sea day)
I’m a day late as I didn’t get back to the ship yesterday until after 6pm. I went over to Rottnest Island for the day and it was something else!
The ferry ride takes approx. 45 minutes and both of our crossings were quite rough. I can’t say everyone enjoyed it. I didn’t particularly enjoy the crossing back to the mainland. Anyway, as soon as my feet touched the island, I went in search of the famous Quokka, the happiest animal on earth. I didn’t quite get my ‘quokka selfie’, but I did try. They’re used to humans, so they will approach you and rummage through your bags if they think you have something they can eat. I spotted one enjoying a dollop of ice cream that someone had dropped. They’re native to the island, but outside of a sanctuary, you only find them in the wild in Western Australia.
We had just under 3 hours of free time to explore, so I spent time enjoying the quokkas, the birds, the stunning beaches and a quick lunch. I had planned to snorkel here but decided before leaving the ship that today would be a ‘dry’ day. It was cold and windy, and I didn’t think walking around in wet clothes was a good idea. I soon regretted that when the sun came out. The water was out of this world.
Following our free time, we had a 1.5-hour private bus tour around the entire island. There was no way we could have explored it all on foot in the time we had. We admired Geordie Bay, the lighthouse, Salmon Bay, Catherine Bay and more. This has to be one of the most impressive places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. It’s simply breath-taking. Please put the island on your ‘MUST do’ list if you’re ever in Fremantle, you won’t be disappointed.
We’re at sea today and we’re rocking and rolling, it’s quite a heavy swell and it’s been keeping us company since late last night. The air temperature is also quite low, but I’m sure we’ll be hiding from the heat again in no time, and the pools have been emptied. I’m keeping my update for today short and sweet as I’ve quite a lot I need to do. I’m hoping to bring you some slightly different and exciting content in the coming weeks, so I need to try and get those arranged. Wish me luck!! I’m basically on a mission today to book in appointments and then prepare for my RIB ride tomorrow morning – sea conditions permitting.
DECEMBER 21 – ALBANY, AUSTRALIA
Boudicca is docked in Albany at the minute, Western Australia’s oldest town. It’s a quaint little place and walking through the town felt like stepping back in time. There are a lot of modern buildings, but they maintain the older buildings from many, many years ago.
I had mentioned yesterday that I was doing a RIB tour this morning, but because our call time here was quite short, I decided to cancel it and re-book for 2 other of our Australian ports. Turns out I made the right choice, as it was quite choppy this morning and the RIB’s were only out 15-minutes before they had to turn around and come back to the ship.
I didn’t book a tour; I just used the shuttle bus service. Our call here has been relatively short, so I physically didn’t have time to do everything or check out any of the lovely beaches. I wandered around the town, stopped at the farmers market and then had pizza. I also managed some clothes shopping (obvs) and stocked up on essentials, like crisps and Fanta! It was a nice way to pass the time and it hasn’t been too hot.
I’ve now got 2 busy sea days ahead of me. I’m hoping to share some things with you that are not normally explored, so watch this space…
AT SEA (December 22 – 23)
I’ve been a very busy cruiser over the last few days, trying to cram in as much as possible to share with all of you lovely people, so let’s get to it.
Yesterday, Christmas came early for me as I went below deck to see Boudicca’s incredible engines. I was like a kid in a sweet shop. I felt hugely privileged to be standing there, watching these beasts power our lovely ship through the Southern Ocean. Boudicca has 4 main engines for propulsion, 2 powering each propeller, and they are MAN B&W engines. They were spotless. The power these things generate is unbelievable. The young engineer and I couldn’t verbally communicate, that’s how loud they are, but with hand gestures he managed to explain certain aspects to me. For example, to the right of the image you can see a round white vent, this leads up to the ships funnel. It was good fun, we had a giggle during our adapted moment of charades.
There are also 6 auxiliary engines for power, and they include MAK M20’s, Vasa 32 Wartsila’s and 2 Vasa 24 Wartsila’s. The latter are the smallest and they’ve been on the ship since she was built in 1972, how cool is that? It was pretty incredible to see them and given their age, they looked to be in rather good condition. They don’t make these engines anymore, so parts are hard to come by. I imagine at some point they will be replaced with something more modern, but for now, they’re staying put, sitting downstairs with pride of place like yeah, we’re the originals!
I also had the chance to see the steam generator for the galley, one of the water desalination tanks and the engine control room. It was amazing, just amazing. I went for my spa appointment grinning like the Cheshire cat. The image below shows the panel for controlling the heat and air conditioning onboard.
I decided to try the Thalgo eye treatment this time as I’ve not been sleeping well recently, and my eyes are so puffy every morning. It was relaxing, but also quite weird. Elvisa cleansed my eye area and then massaged some cream beneath my eyes and then on the eyelids and across my eyebrows. Next, she placed a mask over my face that looked like on of those virtual reality devices. This machine essentially massages the eye area and pressure points. It was very relaxing, and I could see an instant difference. This morning, there was definitely evidence that it had worked. I had to share some photos with you so you could see it, but apologies for the close-up!
All this hard work and pampering had me eager to get into the Four Seasons for the special curry lunch and I filled my plate. I really enjoy Indian food and they had 2 of my favourites, onion bhaji and tandoori chicken. It was so moreish, but I resisted temptation, well, I had to, in a way. The Maître d’ approached me with a bowl of fresh strawberries just as I’d thought about getting up to get more chicken, and I could hardly say no, so I enjoyed those with a sweet orange mouse. I was stuffed to the brim. I wobbled out of the dining room.
Today I spent some time with our Executive Chef in the galley. I had planned to do some time-lapse videos of service, but we both agreed I should go back for a dinner service one evening and really capture the hustle and bustle of this incredible space, and the team of chefs when they’re at their finest moment. So, on that note, watch this space. The young man below was preparing the vegetables for tonights soup.
When I was in the galley, I’d spotted one chef plating up some chilli con carne, so that’s what I then ordered for my lunch. It came with jalapenos and guacamole, but I don’t like jalapenos and I can’t have anything with avocado, so I asked for my meal without those but with extra sour cream. Oh, it was good! It was really good!
There’s a crew competition on at the moment. Some of them have been making the most incredible Christmas themed lanterns out of rubbish, basically, and some of them are insanely good. I voted for number 3, I think the message around the outside of it speaks volumes about the world we live in today, plus, it looks very impressive.
For the rest of today I am doing nothing. We’re at anchor off Kangaroo Island tomorrow and I know the next few days of festivities are going to include too much food, too much partying, too many late nights and whatever else comes our way, so I’m taking the rest of the day on a as it comes basis. Having generously been given some wrapping paper from the girls at guest services (because I’m SO unorganised) I may go and wrap a few presents, once I’ve been back to see them to borrow some Sellotape! 😉 I know, I’m so demanding!
DECEMBER 24TH – PENNESHAW, KANGAROO ISLAND, AUSTRALIA
Well, it’s Christmas Eve, that came around quickly! We’ve been at anchor off Kangaroo Island today, but it’s been a bit of a funny day. My tour was cancelled and then because of the swell, the crew had to relocate the pontoon several times. It meant that independent passengers without tickets for the tenders didn’t get the opportunity to go ashore until noon. Not the end of the world, as we’re here until 7pm. Still plenty of time to explore.
I hadn’t been feeling 100% all morning, so I decided in the end to stay on Boudicca. I didn’t want to get all the way ashore to then realise I should have just stayed on the ship and taken the day easy. I don’t want to feel under the weather tomorrow. Don’t worry, I’m not unwell, I’m just not feeling like myself. I’m hoping I’m not getting cold because of all the temperature fluctuations we’ve had in the last 2 weeks.
So, what have I actually spent my time doing today? Well, I’ve trekked the decks taking some photographs of the Christmas decorations on cabin doors. Some of them are brilliant and make mine luck utterly pathetic. Never mind.
I’ve also wrapped the rest of my presents for people and I’m now looking forward to enjoying some of the evening before having an early night. Santa Claus won’t visit my cabin if I stay up until the morning hours. 😉
December 25th – At Sea – MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
This was my first Christmas away from home, so naturally, I was quite apprehensive. Some days it felt like Christmas and other days it didn’t, it was weird. I just didn’t know what to really expect.
Christmas morning was great fun. The sun was shining, and we had a deck party from 11am. Everyone was out, enjoying the mulled wine and egg nog that was going around the decks. There were games, music, dancing and more. I really did enjoy myself and it was nice to sit on the deck and exchange gifts with passengers and crew. Now, it felt like the big day. It was a great atmosphere and the crew went above and beyond to ensure everyone got into the Christmas spirit, even the few scrooges around the ship managed to crack a smile and whisper ‘Merry Christmas’ as you passed them on the stairs or in the lifts.
There was a lovely Gala Buffet in the afternoon, complete with a chocolate fountain and various meats, cheeses and nuts. It all looked amazing. They were also serving glazed ham in the dining room and I was so tempted but decided to save myself for dinner.
Our main Christmas meal was served at dinner time and the tables in the restaurants looked lovely. We had crackers to pull and jokes to read, and a menu that offered something for everyone. Of course, I had to order a traditional turkey dinner and I’d also made a request several days in advance for some Yorkshire puddings. I couldn’t have my Christmas dinner without them, and the galley team were more than happy to oblige. I also asked for extra sprouts and I’ll be honest, that was the first time I’ve had sprouts on a ship that were cooked exactly how I like them. There’s nothing worse than a hard sprout but these were perfect. I know, you’re probably not bothered in the slightest, but I REALLY like sprouts.
In all, I thoroughly enjoyed my first Christmas at sea and haven spoken to a lot of people that have celebrated at sea before, they all said how good the party on Boudicca was. They hadn’t expected it to go on for as long as it did, or for the crew to get right into the heart of it and let their hair down. They were all throwing each other in the pool, dancing with passengers and generally having a great time. It was nice to see them enjoy the day for a while without the thought of work.
DECEMBER 26 – 27 – MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
Our arrival into Melbourne was cold and grey, but the sun soon came out to play. I used the shuttle service into the city from the port. It’s $15 for the initial card, but you can top this up as you go, and use it on the trams within the city. Although, there is a section of the tram network that is free.
It was bedlam. Boxing Day sales were in full swing and the streets were crammed several deep with people hunting for bargains. I stopped off at one mall complex, walked in, turned around and walked straight back out, I couldn’t face that many people. I walked back through the city, dodging the crowds, stopped for some lunch at Mad Mex (one of my favourite places to eat in Australia) and then made my way towards the shuttle pick-up point. This was conveniently right next to Southbank, a beautiful waterfront area on the opposite side of the bridge to the bustling city. I took a walk right along the river front, admired the view and then stopped for a drink before heading back. It was nice to explore under my own steam. I hadn’t realised that there’s a nice mall there. If I’d known, I would have stopped to look as this area wasn’t as busy as the city centre.
Boudicca is docked within walking distance of South Melbourne beach, so when I spotted that the weather forecast for today was going to be warmer and less windy than yesterday, I knew where I’d be going, but then I changed my mind. It’s a huge beach and the waterfront is gorgeous. There are shops and restaurants to enjoy along the way, but I just wasn’t in a beach mood by the time I decided to head ashore. Instead, I decided to use the rest of my credit for the bus and go back into the city, this time in the opposite direction to yesterday. I walked, stopped for lunch, browsed some shops and then made my way back. It’s quite hot out there now and I was ready to come home and enjoy a Diet Pepsi on deck.
AT SEA – December 28th + HOBART, TASMANIA – DECEMBER 29 + AT SEA – December 30th
The last few days have been busy, busy, busy. I’ve been doing more behind-the-scenes things so I can share them with you, but we’ve also visited Hobart since I last checked in.
Let’s get going. So, on the 28th, I was kindly allowed to go and visit the ships main laundry. I was desperate to get in there and give some recognition to these people that we never see, yet they’re always there, making sure we have clean bedding, clean towels and everything in between. It was smaller than I expected it to be, but it was a hive of activity. Towels were being washed and dried in the HUGE industrial sized machines, there were 2 people pressing garments that passengers had sent down, a man who was repairing crew uniforms and a young man pressing the napkins. It’s a non-stop operation that continues around the clock. I’d arrived at relatively calm moment – clean bedding day was the 29th. Before I left, I thanked them for all of their hard work and assured them that it doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s easy to sit down at dinner every night, unfold your clean napkin and enjoy a delicious meal before retiring to your clean bed, without giving any of it a second thought. We should all remember the lad’s downstairs making all of this happen and how very important they are.
We docked in Hobart yesterday and finally the sun came out! I began the day with a RIB ride around the harbour and it was brilliant. Perfect sea conditions, probably the best so far. We stopped at a few points along the way and were given information on the area, but there was also plenty of time to enjoy the thrill of speeding through the water at 30 Knotts. I’ll definitely be doing it again. I’ll also take my phone with me next time to get some clearer photos – lighting wasn’t too good for this budding photographer.
During the RIB tour, we passed Roseberry mine, Signal Station, several residential areas and a zinc factory. It was nice to see everything up close. We also had the opportunity to go under the Hobart bridge, that was exciting! At one place we stopped, we noticed an old shipwreck. We didn’t know anything about it, but our Coxswain, Scott, kindly put some information together for us to read. It turns out that the rusting vessels were old landing crafts from World War 2. They were taken to Incat shipyard for repairs, but after being deemed unrepairable, they were taken to the shoreline and left as breakwaters for the road behind.
After the RIB tour, I walked into town and spent a few hours exploring and having lunch. We’d arrived at the end of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and everywhere along the waterfront was crammed with people. It was a nice atmosphere, but the main town was almost deserted. Not that I cared. I actually came back to Boudicca a few hours before the back onboard time because we had a special show on the aft deck from the Hobart Police Pipe Band. I really wanted to see them, so I cut my shoreside time short, made my way home and took my seat for the performance. They were excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
We’re at sea today and I have been up to the bridge, just to check we’re on the right heading for Sydney. It’s quite windy out there, so I couldn’t get any video footage, but I will try again. I spoke with the 3rd Officer and she was telling me all about the equipment. She explained the auto-pilot system, showed me our predicted route into Sydney and pointed out the all-important button for the ships horn. She also explained the thruster system, noted the panels on the bridge for monitoring the ships’ 4 engines and mentioned a very small device that notes the ships degree of list. I’ve not been shown that before on any ship. It was really interesting. Today, we have a head wind, so the gauge was virtually at zero. Very cool!
Below shows our current location and one thing that is noticeable today is the smell of the bushfires in the air. There’s also a thick haze across the sky. So sad. I feel so terribly sorry for the people and animals that have been affected. It’s roughly 20 Degrees Celsius today, but by the time we get to Sydney tomorrow, it’s set to peak at around 35!
Some people have asked if the behind-the-scenes things I’ve been doing are available to all as a tour and sadly, they are not. I’ve been granted special permission to access these areas in order to bring you some info and images, so we can all enjoy it. As I’m sure you can appreciate, taking a group of people into these areas is not practical and it’s not something any ships tend to do. Regardless, I hope you’re enjoying it all.
DECEMBER 31 – 2 – SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
Sydney was an absolute pleasure! It was my second visit, but it included the iconic New Year’s Eve celebrations this time.
We arrived late morning on December 31st and it was very hot and muggy. We could also smell the bushfire smoke in the air and for a brief time, we’d had a blanket of it covering us as we sailed towards to the port – it was very eerie. Nevertheless, our sail-in was spectacular and compared to how it had been there in previous weeks, we were very lucky to arrive on what was a relatively clear day in the city.
I stayed onboard on the 31st because the ferry services were only running for a few hours, so I relaxed and prepared for the evening ahead. It was a formal evening and there was a gala dinner offered in the main restaurants, so I donned my glad rags and off I went to the Tintagel for what was a very nice surf and turf dinner. I left the restaurant shortly before 7:30pm and made my way out onto the open decks to meet up with friends and get ourselves ready for the fireworks. There had been a lot of people in Australia who were against the fireworks going ahead this year, for obvious reasons, and I could fully understand where they were coming from. We’d all been talking about it onboard and said that if they were cancelled at the last minute, then they were cancelled. Simple as that. A big part of me was surprised that they went ahead, especially as the wind in the evening picked up dramatically.
Midnight crept ever closer and then, the countdown started. It was a spectacular sight, it really was. I’d spent hours researching options for viewing points and getting in and out of the city, deciding at the last minute to stay onboard. I’m glad I did. We had a brilliant view of the harbour and could see 95% of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I’ve watched Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks on TV for as long as I can remember, but to actually be there was something else. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’ll never forget it.
After a night of celebrations, it was time to drag myself out of bed and head ashore. Boudicca was docked at White Bay, but there was a complimentary ferry service running between the ship and Darling Harbour. I boarded the ferry and off I went. It was warm and sunny, but not uncomfortable for exploring, so once we arrived at Kings Wharf, I started my walk towards Circular Quay. Surprisingly, I could vaguely remember the route I had taken last year when I visited on Black Watch, I only had to check Google Maps once to make sure I was heading in the right direction.
Once I made it to Circular Quay, I stopped for some lunch before beginning what would be a five-and-a-half-hour trek around Sydney. I went everywhere, including along the dock at the International Cruise Terminal because there was no ship in port. That was a nice change and I managed to get some nice images of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.
I stopped to buy a drink and watch the world go by for 10 minutes before heading into The Rocks area and then along George Street and back into the city centre. Before boarding the ferry back home, I walked along the front in Darling Harbour, it hadn’t changed much since last year and it was packed with people enjoying the start of a new year. There’s so much to do in Sydney, but I did everything I’d wanted to do. Had the weather been a little better, I would have taken the ferry across to Manly and enjoyed the beaches there. Yes, it was warm and sunny, but in the wind, it was quite chilly. One can’t enjoy the beach with goose pimples.
I was well and truly shattered by the time I got back, and in the evening, my legs and feet were aching. I treated myself to a night of relaxation time with a movie and room service.
AT SEA – January 3rd
We’ve had a sea day today and in between washing, ironing and topping up my suntan, I’ve been back to the Atlantis Spa to see Lorraine and have the BIG chop. My hair has been so dry and coarse for weeks because of the sun and saltwater, and I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I have a habit of growing my hair very long and then having it cut to shoulder length, and that time was way overdue. It’s one or the other for me, there’s nothing in the middle. I’m so pleased with it (it’s nice to not look like a scarecrow anymore) but Lorraine was far too happy about chopping it all off! 😉
We’ll be in Brisbane tomorrow and I’m booked on the ‘Gold Coast on Your Own’ tour. We should get around 4 hours of free time and having never been to the Gold Coast before, I’m very much looking forward to it. Time to charge the batteries, pack the bag and then meet on deck with friends to enjoy what I’m hoping will be a spectacular sunset.
JANUARY 4 – BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA
Brisbane was heaps of fun. I went to the Gold Coast for the day.
I boarded the Kangaroo Bus and off we went. It took one hour and thirty minutes to get there and when we exited the coach it was 30+ Degrees. The first stop just had to be Surfers Paradise beach. It’s huge! It goes on for miles in each direction, and it was packed with people enjoying the summer break. I could see where it gets its name from, some of the waves were pretty big and it was a bit too rough for me to want to swim. I was happy just sitting on the sand. When I felt like I was starting to boil from the mid-day sun, I moved on.
I walked around the shopping streets and stopped for lunch before going back to the beach for a while and then back into the town. I have no idea what came over me, but I decided at the spur of the moment (literally 20 minutes before I had to be back at the coach) to get another piercing in my left ear. I had that done at Celebrity Ink. It was weird, a huge tattoo and piercing parlour in the middle of a shopping mall! It gets great reviews and many of their tattoo artists are world renowned. I’m happy with my little stud and thanks to Chef Neil, I have pure sea salt to clean it. Talk about above and beyond!
AT SEA – January 6th and 7th
I’ve spent our 2 sea days doing my chores and relaxing. I had 2 unscheduled days, basically, no set places to be or things to do. I’ve lounged in the sun, ate my way around the ship, coloured my hair, prepared my bag for my outing tomorrow in Townsville and managed to get the rest of my washing done. Honestly, you really need to use your sea days wisely on trips like this. They become your job/rest days, but they don’t last for long. You blink and the day is gone.
We had a seafood lunch buffet yesterday and if there’s one thing Fred. Olsen knows how to do properly it’s seafood. It was amazing! Lobster, crab claws, shrimp, clams, you name it they had it. It’s always one of the most popular buffets and the main dining rooms were quite busy from the second the doors opened.
I’ve been craving a burger for days, so I had to make a stop at The Grill. They do really nice burgers onboard, never greasy, and this one comes with a red onion marmalade and brie. Although, I swap out the brie for mozzarella, it melts better than the brie and is there anything better than melted mozzarella? I don’t think so.
We’ve enjoyed some scenic cruising today, through the Whitsunday Islands. It’s very humid now and it briefly rained, but the sun is trying to break through the clouds again. It’s stunning out there. So many gorgeous islands and most of them are uninhabited. it’s nice to sit on deck and just watch the world pass us by.
Townsville tomorrow and I have a date with some local wildlife.
JANUARY 7 – TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA
Boudicca has been docked in Townsville today and for a short stay, I’ve crammed in quite a lot! I really enjoyed my time here, it’s such a nice place and there’s so much you can do.
My first stop was the Billabong Sanctuary which is an approx. 20-minute drive from the port. I had a private tour here and spent my time learning all about the animals with a wonderful man named Ray. This guy knows everything about the animals at the sanctuary and it was a privilege to be hosted by him. I also met Bob, the owner of Billabong. He and his wife officially opened the sanctuary in 1985.
The first animal cutie I met was Wonda, the bear nosed wombat. She was huge and happy snoozing on the bench as Ray told me all about her and wombats in general. They have a hard shell-type plate at the bottom of their lower back, and this helps to protect them from predators. They can shuffle their bum into the entrance of their burrow, blocking it completely and protecting the softer tissue with that hard plate. I felt it. It was solid!
I also met Banjo, an older koala who was quite content sitting in his tree, waiting until it was his turn to meet the visitors. The koalas at Billabong only work for 30 minutes a day and only 3 days per week. They have photos taken with visitors and there are feeding demonstrations. Ray explained that legally they can show the animals 6 days per week, but they don’t like to do that here. Animal welfare is top priority.
Kangaroos, crocodiles, wallabies, and numerous bird and reptile species can also be found at Billabong, but you must not miss the friendly Dingo’s! I was fortunate enough to go inside their enclosure and it was such a nice experience. They were super friendly, I even had kisses at one point. There are 2 females and one male, and morning walkies is at 11am. I’ve walked around all day with a muddy dingo paw across my foot, they were that excited to say hello when Ray opened the gate.
The sanctuary offers daily shows, including crocodile feeding, hands-on with reptiles (education-type classes), koala feeding, turtle feeding and more. Check out the website for full information as even the kids can get involved with Little Rangers programmes to learn more about animal conservation.
From Billabong it was back into Townsville and to The Strand for lunch, but first a quick stop at Castle Hill to admire the view.
There are several restaurant options in The Strand, but I went to Cbar and it was superb. Make this your lunch option if you visit, you’ll not be disappointed. The menu has a varied selection of fish, meat and vegetarian dishes and the view across the bay of the beach and across to Magnetic Island sets the tone perfectly. The owner also told me that it wasn’t uncommon to see turtles, reef sharks and whales in the bay. How’s that for dinner and a show!
The food at C Bar was something else! I ordered starter dishes, instead of one big meal and my taste buds were blown! The tempura soft shell crab with coconut curry sauce was exquisite. The nicest soft-shell crab I’ve ever tasted, so much flavour! I also ordered scallops with a butter bean puree and they too left me wanting more. Even the beer battered chips were moreish.
We’re sailing for Cairns soon and I have more packed days of exploring to enjoy.
JANUARY 8 -10 – CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA
Cairns is now on the list as one of my favourite places in Australia. There’s so much to see and do, and we had the perfect berth, right in the heart of town and within walking distance of numerous bars, restaurants and shopping centres.
If there’s one thing you must do when you visit, it’s take a trip to Kuranda, the village in the rainforest. Kuranda is the world’s oldest living tropical rainforest and is home to the Djabugay people. The rainforests here are protected and were added to the International World Heritage list in 1988, to ensure their preservation.
I started my visit with a trip on the SkyRail. I am terrified of heights, as I’ve already told you, and although the views were spectacular and the sounds coming from the rainforest below hypnotic, I really didn’t enjoy the ride. I don’t know why I keep putting myself through these things. Maybe I’m scared I miss something, but that’s it for me now, I am not doing another SkyRail. I was that person that smiled at the people in the passing cabs, then shut my eyes and prayed for mercy once they’d gone. Anyway, there are 3 SkyRail stations. The first is Red Peak and here you can do a short rainforest walk with a ranger and learn more about the vegetation and tropical climate. The second stop is Barron Falls which allows the perfect opportunity to admire its namesake and you absolutely must alight here and go and see this incredible natural wonder. It’s stunning. The third stop brings you to Kuranda, and this is where the fun really begins.
The village is packed with markets and dining outlets, but there’s so much more going on for you to enjoy, including the butterfly sanctuary, art galleries, the Koala Gardens, bird world and a fossil and gemstone museum. You need to allow yourself a full day to do everything.
There are several markets, but the original one opened in 1978 and the Honey House was the first store to begin trading. The honey they produce is delicious and you can see the bees in a glass fronted hive. They are free to come and go as they please. Make sure you stop and sample some of the honey they produce and if you can’t resist, buy a few bottles to take home. My favourites were Blushwood and Moreton Bay Ash.
I spent most of my time enjoying the markets and some of the art galleries. I stopped near the Koala Gardens for lunch, at a restaurant named Frogs. They had lots to choose from, including huge burgers and share-size pizza, but it was the curry that caught my eye. I had a small serving of spinach and chickpea and it was very nice.
My next visit was to the Koala Gardens and just as I entered, the heavens opened. It wouldn’t stop raining for the rest of the day, but that didn’t matter. I had my umbrella. There’s lots of different wildlife here, including kangaroos, crocodiles, koalas (obviously), nocturnal creatures and reptiles. You can also pay to hold a koala and have your photograph taken, which I did. He was so sweet, but half asleep. It was so humid that most of the animals were asleep, taking a break from the heat and just relaxing.
I sheltered from the rain before making a break for it and exploring the other markets and slowly making my way towards the Kuranda Railway Station, which was constructed in 1915.
I had a Gold Class ticket which meant my journey included drinks and nibbles. It was probably the most spectacular train ride I’ve ever been on. It takes one and a half hours to get from Kuranda to Freshwater and the views at points are breath-taking. There’s so much natural beauty. The best view is at Barron Falls where the train makes a 10-minute stop for photographs. Barron Gorge National Park was established in 1940 and it’s considered one of Queensland’s most picturesque parks. The best views are from the left side of the train, if travelling from Kuranda.
Construction began on the railway in 1887 and there is 37km of track between Kuranda and Cairns. It took 1500 men to build the railway, most of Irish and Italian descent, and the ascent brings you to 327 metres above sea level. Most of the carriages today date back to the early 1900s and they are made from Silky Oak timber. It’s just remarkable.
Cairns as a city is a nice place to explore on foot, most things of interest are within walking distance and you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to food and shopping. I spent some time walking around and I came across a tree on Abbot Street that was alive with sound. As I got closer, I could see that it was full of fruit bats. They are protected here, but apparently the locals aren’t too keen on them. They are noisy and they smell. The tree they call home overhangs the street and it looked lovely, it was a nice photo opportunity, but there was no way I was walking down it. The fear of being pooped on pushed me into the heat of the sun on the opposite side.
During my walk, I essentially went around in one big circle, starting at the Esplanade and ending way out on the other side of town on McLeod Street. A stroll along the Esplanade is a must. The tide was out when I went on my walk and there was a dozen or so pelicans relaxing on the sand. I also noticed that the sand seemed to be moving, and it was! There were hundreds of little crabs foraging for food and dragging what they found down into their little home holes.
I Googled ‘cheap eats in Cairns’ and a place called The Roti Shack popped up. As our back onboard time was 1:30pm today, I decided my main focus would be lunch, so off I went in search of the above. I had a chicken curry roti with curried potato and rice. It was the nicest roti I’ve had outside of the Caribbean.
We have one day at sea now before our first call in Papua New Guinea.
AT SEA – January 11
My sea day between Cairns and Alotau was uneventful. I spent most of it trying to figure out HTML coding for something on my blog and fixing a software issue on my camera. The camera is now fixed, but I’m still no further forward with the coding. That, quite literally, was my day. On that note, I’ll just jump straight to our first call in Papua New Guinea.
JANUARY 12 – ALOTAU, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
I’ve always wanted to visit Papua New Guinea to learn more about the tribes and their history and now, here I am! We have 3 calls in all, but our first was today.
We are docked in Alotau which is the capital of the Milne Bay province. The town and the surrounding water comprise the site of the 1942 battle of Milne Bay, where the invading Japanese Special Naval Landings Forces encountered its first defeat in the Pacific during World War II. This was mostly at the hands of the allied forces, predominantly the Australians.
I booked the ‘Milne Bay Village Life’ tour and it was fantastic. Boudicca had a traditional welcome from several locals on the quayside and after a few minutes enjoying that, I was on my tour bus. We had 2 guides plus our driver, and they were a fountain of knowledge. They had an answer to every question that was asked and clearly take great pride in their work and their origins.
We passed the local airport and made a stop at one of the world’s largest palm oil plantations, but the highlight of the tour by far was Bibiko Village. We were welcomed to the village by way of a traditional Kundu drum ceremony which is part of the Tawala culture. It was so energetic. Those performing were from a neighbouring village which is a 2 hour walk away!
The area is vast, and you can enjoy walking around the grounds, chatting with the locals and admiring the huge war canoe which sits to the back of the village. Everyone was incredibly friendly and happy to chat with us about their culture and way of life. Our guides had told us all about the cannibalism days, when tribes would kill the men from other tribes and keep their women. They even joked that their ancestors would pass around messages to other tribes in the area telling them not to eat the legs of the men, as the meat wasn’t very lean. They were very open when it came to telling us about their ancestors and how they lived in those days. After all, this is the historic cannibalistic hinterland.
I was also surprised to learn that although there are over 80 languages spoken across Papua New Guinea (each tribe having their own) the official language is English. Another interesting thing our guide told us was that the men can make decisions on various things, but it’s the women who have the final say on everything. Woman is boss here.
During our time at Bibiko, we also had the chance to learn about the foods the local people eat and how the Western world has influenced them over the years. We sampled mango, papaya, yam, pumpkin, taro and even a fresh fish soup. Things such as the yam, pumpkin, Taro and banana are all steamed together in the same clay pot which is covered with leaves from the trees to keep in the heat. It was very interesting because although it was all cooked together, the flavours didn’t seem to mingle, not to my taste, anyway. Fire is still created by rubbing wood together and they demonstrated that during our time there. It quite literally took one man less than 35 seconds to get an ember burning and once he added the dry inner of the coconut, he soon had a healthy fire. That would have taken me at least the entire day!
Papua New Guinea has not disappointed me and I’m now even more excited for our next ports. It’s a poor place and it can be somewhat of a culture shock, but the people are incredibly friendly and very welcoming. I felt quite relaxed and at home. I absolutely recommend this tour if you visit. It’s a MUST.
AT SEA – January 13
Before I give you an update on my sea day, I want to share with you the efforts of those onboard to raise funds for the Australian Bushfire Appeal. A few days ago, we had a fundraising event on the aft decks of Boudicca which also included a silent auction for a navigational chart of Australia, signed by the Senior Bridge Officers. I’m delighted to tell you that Boudicca guests and crew raised a whopping £3,500!
Fundraising efforts continued at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ head office with a dress down day, raffle and bake sale, taking the total raised to £5,000.
We all felt we had to do something. We’d been so incredibly lucky during our Australian trip and we left Kangaroo Island just days before the island was devastated by fire. They lost half of their koala population and several people were killed.
The funds raised onboard Boudicca and at head office will be split equally between the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, which has taken in hundreds of native wildlife and injured koalas, and the South Australian Bushfire Appeal.
Struggling to find time to go back and forth to the guest launderette, I sent a bag of clothes to ships laundry the day before yesterday and it was delivered to my cabin last night. I was tired and couldn’t be bothered to deal with it, so I left it until this morning to put away. I sent several t-shirts and below is how they were returned. I love it, so neat and tidy. I’ll send them again just for the presentation. I’m easily pleased.
I went along to the cooking demonstration earlier today by Executive Chef Niel Myles. He was cooking dishes from The Grill menu, Boudicca’s speciality restaurant offering steak and seafood. I love The Grill and it was nice to find out more about the ingredients used and the cooking methods. I try to cook at home, but I always make a mess of everything. He made it look so easy and managed to cook scallops, steak and seabass within just a few minutes. If that were me, I’d either have them way undercooked, or so overcooked they would be inedible. I’m not gifted with culinary skills, I’m only good at eating the food.
I’ve also been to Reception and RSVP’d to my invitation for a special party that’s coming up on the 16th for Platinum and Diamond Elite guests. I’m very much looking forward to that. We’re promised some exciting entertainment. Watch this space…
It’s poured with rain for most of the day, but we’ve all got our fingers crossed that it stops by the time we reach Madang tomorrow.
JANUARY 14 – MADANG, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
There’s so much poverty here, more than 80% of those in Madang are unemployed, but they are some of the most welcoming and happy people I’ve ever met. Everyone waves as you pass, they will shout ‘hello’ and ‘welcome’, and the kids can’t contain their excitement at seeing these visitors from distant lands.
It’s been another incredible day in this amazing country. My tour today was changed slightly at the last moment. There is an ongoing land dispute at the village we were supposed to visit, so we ended up going to a village named Siar, which is on the northern side of Madang.
Although I went to a village in Alotau, it was very different to Siar. Here, we were right in the heart of the community, surrounded by homes and people going about their daily chores. There were dozens of children running around, all excited to see us and desperate to have their photographs taken. I asked 3 younger children if they wanted to do a selfie. They didn’t really understand, but once they spotted themselves on the screen, they were giddy with excitement. Further along the village, several other children asked if we could have a photograph, they were shouting and telling all of their friends to join in. I had to use every ounce of strength in my legs to stop myself from falling over, they virtually mobbed me. It was hilarious and we all loved it.
Our group enjoyed a traditional dance from the villagers, but it was far more relaxed than what we’d experienced in Alotau, not quite as energetic and far less aggressive – that’s the only way I can describe it. That’s why I booked village tours, to see and experience the different traditions and tribes. Just because it’s the same country doesn’t mean it’s all the same thing, one community can be very different from the next.
We were also given a canoe carving demonstration, shown how they make the local alcohol (Kava) and offered food treats of corn on the cob, yam, potato and more. All of the food had been cooked together in a pot with coconut meat and milk – delicious!
We were welcome to try the Kava, but it didn’t look very appetising and in 90% humidity and 31 Degree heat, it was the last thing any of us wanted. Kava root is used to make this drink which has sedative, anaesthetic, and euphoriant properties.
I don’t know what the original village we were supposed to visit is like, but I left Siar with the feeling I got an honest look at traditional life for hundreds of thousands of Papua New Guineans. Most of the village properties in Siar are thatched roofed wooden huts, one looked like it was about to fall down, but this is home for them.
I feel hugely privileged to have been there and welcomed by the community. I got the impression that many of the children had never seen Westerners before, they wanted to touch us, speak to us and give high fives.
Papua New Guinea is one of those places in the world that I wish everyone could visit. Maybe if we all had the opportunity in life to experience cultures far different from our own, people would be more tolerant of each other and ultimately the world would be a nicer place.
JANUARY 15 – WEWAK, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Wewak was another interesting port in Papua New Guinea, but sadly, I didn’t see a great deal of it, which I was hugely disappointed about. I had a terrible thirst and headache all morning and I just couldn’t stand the heat and humidity. I did get the shuttle bus into town, but I wasn’t there long. There was little shade and I think my body was telling me to go home, so I did. I spent the rest of the day in the air conditioning or if I did go on deck, I sat where there was a slight breeze and some shade.
We did have some locals on the dock who were singing and dancing in their traditional tribal wear. They were brilliant, but their outfits were quite scary compared to others we’d seen on the island. Their style of dance, to me, was also far more aggressive, almost like they were gearing up for battle. I thoroughly enjoyed the enthusiasm and effort they put in for us.
AT SEA – January 16-18
We had a tug of war on our first sea day, but it was postponed briefly due to a massive downpour. The teams were introduced and then our Cruise Director stopped play just before the heavens opened. We did manage to have it in the end and although they didn’t win the overall competition, the bar staff won 2 rounds for the first time in years! The winning team was the Chief Officers who knocked the engine boys off the top spot. It was great fun.
Oceans is Fred. Olsen’s loyalty club and a few days ago I went from Gold to Platinum, so I was invited to an exclusive cocktail party. It was fabulous, we had canapés, drinks and our Executive Chef was cooking garlic prawns at the live cooking station – they were amazingly good! If there’s one thing Fred. Knows how to do it’s put on a good party and the ones I’ve enjoyed on this cruise have been brilliant. We also had a cabaret show with several crew members showcasing their vocal talents. I’ll be bringing you the Crew Show in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on my Facebook page for the video!
During our time in Papua New Guinea, our chef went ashore and bought a variety of fresh local fruits, so they were the star of the show for our Asian buffet. Everyone was desperate to try the different offerings. I’m still hoping to get my hands on a coconut. Wish me luck!
A Deck 6 fashion show and ‘surfing the line’ party were yesterday’s highlights and what a fabulous time everyone had. It was very funny, and a rain cloud was nowhere to be seen. Not only were we treated to seeing our Captain and our Cruise Director modelling matching dresses (I almost choked on my drink when Captain Degerlund strutted his stuff along the deck in his dress and ladies’ orange hat) we enjoyed an afternoon of live music, rum punch and dancing. We didn’t actually cross the equator, hence the name of the party. We sailed along it for the entire day, so our location was 0 degrees north and 0 degrees south – the first time I’ve experienced that on a cruise. We won’t cross the equator until we sail from Bali and head for Singapore.
It’s 33 Degrees out there today and there’s barely a breeze. I managed to enjoy the sun for one hour before admitting defeat and freshening up. My task for the rest of today is to transfer files to my hard drive, I have thousands of video and image files that need to be backed up, so that’s going to take me some time. I must also stop by the photo gallery to pick up some pictures I ordered, and I need to exchange some money at reception, ready for our call to Ambon tomorrow. I barely brought any foreign currency with me. I much prefer to exchange onboard when I cruise with Fred. Olsen because they give you a very fair rate. One of the only cruise lines that does, in my opinion.
JANUARY 19 – AMBON, MALAKU, INDONESIA
Boudicca has been docked in Ambon today, the capital city of the Indonesian province of Maluku. Ambon was actually the first city in Southeast Asia to be recognised as a UNESCO City of Music, in 2019.
It’s quite a small place and as it’s Sunday, so a lot of things were closed. Nevertheless, I enjoyed our time here. It’s what I’d call a ‘real’ place. There’s nothing flash and fancy, and no huge department stores on every corner. It’s an honest look at life in this amazing country.
We received a very warm welcome from the locals, with live music going on throughout the day on the quayside. There were even banners up right along the main street welcoming us all. I’d never seen that before.
I walked around for a few hours, stopping at the local market to admire the seafood, spices and vegetables. Most places in the market would only accept local currency, so shopping there was out of the question as all I had were US dollars. I enjoyed the walk and speaking with the locals, everyone is so incredibly friendly. I wish all people in the world were as welcoming as they are in Indonesia.
The main street is just a short walk from the ship, so I had a wander up to the main town square. I did want to see the Christina Martha Tiahahu Monument, but it’s a one hour walk and I wasn’t jumping for joy at that in 40 Degree heat. Sometimes you have to be sensible and appreciate what you have right in front of you, so that’s what I did.
I was stopped no less than 20 times today by locals who wanted to take a selfie with me. Of course, I always said yes, but it got to the point where I could barely walk 100 yards without someone asking for a photograph. I should have asked why, really, but I’m guessing it’s because of my rosy cheeks. Who knows?
We are hoping to have a BBQ on deck tonight, so I’ll share that with you tomorrow. I can’t wait!
AT SEA – January 20th
We had a very nice Indonesian BBQ on Deck 6 last night. The smells wafting around the decks wouldn’t let anyone walk away without at least having a look. There was a varied choice of foods, including beef skewers, grilled fish, sausages, fried rice, spiced chicken and spareribs. Everything looked so nice, especially the exotic fruits that chef Niel has been buying over the last few days. They’d opened some of the coconuts and the meat inside was so thick. I managed to resist, but then a friend onboard whipped one away for me and I sat and enjoyed it while listening to the lovely keyboard sounds from Martin Fernandez. I love his style and he’s a nice person to sit and chat with.
Today, I’ve been back behind the scenes for you, this time learning all about Boudicca’s food stores. Levy is the ships storekeeper and his job is one of the most important onboard, he is responsible for ordering all of the food provisions and keeping a check of stock levels to ensure the ship doesn’t run out of anything. It’s a massive responsibility and I can appreciate how challenging it must be on cruises such as the Grand Voyage. Obviously, not everything is as easy to get in some ports as it is in others.
I had a peek inside the stores, fridges and freezers, and they were packed with vegetables, seafood, condiments, flour, potatoes and more. You name it, it’s onboard. I can also confirm that the freezers work, my goodness! I’d been out on deck earlier and it was 33 Degrees in the shade, going into the freezer was a massive shock to the system, but I could have stayed in the fridge all day and kept cool.
Everything was super tidy and easily accessible. They’ve been making space as we’re due to take on more supplies in the coming days. It’s incredible how much food we consume, and in a relatively short space of time. To give you an example, this is a rough idea of what was devoured in approx. 15 days:
Fish – 3,905.19kg
Beef – 1,282.46kg
Poultry – 4,101.04kg
Vegetables – 11.44 tonnes
Fresh eggs – 30,280 pieces
Milk – 6,110.00 litres
Cheese – 689.77kg
Another Gala Buffet was the lunch highlight today. We were spoiled, yet again, with a huge variety of seafood, but it was a particular chocolate cake that caught my eye. It looked AMAZING!!!! There was a slice already cut, but it was the entire cake that I was tempted to walk away with. Absolutely delicious!! The cakes onboard have been incredibly good. Everything onboard has been very good, I can’t fault the food at all. I don’t think anyone can.
Passengers who have been attending the art classes displayed some of their works today outside The Secret Garden. All I can say is that there are some seriously talented people onboard. They are fantastic! I especially like the one of the man in the middle of the image below, and the turtle to the left of him. Actually, I really wished I’d known they were doing paintings like this as it’s something I would have enjoyed getting involved with. I’ll be keeping a much closer eye on these classes from now on, maybe I can showcase some of my own work, although, I doubt it would be as good as these!
We’ll be back on Komodo Island tomorrow and I’m off to visit the local village of Kampung. I can’t tell you how hard it was not to book to go back to the Pink Beach, but then again, we’re expecting rain tomorrow, so maybe it was meant to be.
JANUARY 21 – KOMODO ISLAND, INDONESIA
We’ve been back to Komodo Island today and my tour was to Komodo Village (also known as Bugis) just on the other side of the island from where they take you to see the Komodo Dragons.
It was a short boat ride to get there, no longer than 20 minutes, and our group was very small, only 8 of us including our escort. Perfect.
The village is home to around 1000 people and it’s like stepping back in time. These people literally have nothing, they’re not even allowed to grow fruits and vegetables because the land is owned by the government and it’s prohibited. I find that very sad. Most of the men here are fisherman, some are also wood carvers and they carve the Komodo Dragons to sell to the tourists that visit the village, and those that visit Komodo National Park. The island has no electricity, the locals rely on a generator that is switched off each evening.
We started the tour at the local primary school and the children were so full of energy, they were excited that we were there, and they were desperate for photographs and selfies. Education here is provided for free until a certain age and after that, it’s the parents responsibility to find the money to pay for further education, so that the children can hopefully attend university one day. If the family does not have the money, the children will likely become fishermen, just like their fathers.
When we left the school, we were supposed to have 2 hours walking around the village, but it was so incredibly hot. There was no shade and nowhere for us to rest, so as a group we decided to cut the tour short. We’d seen what we wanted to see and met many of the lovely locals, there was no point dragging it out for the sake of it. Plus, I was quite worried that someone might end up with heat or sun stroke, which would have ruined their tour.
Before leaving, we did continue a short walk and passed the island cemetery and many of the local houses, these are mostly made from wood and the majority of them look like they are about to fall down. The houses are of a Panggung design, which means they are raised from the ground and hollow underneath. This is mainly to prevent flooding if there is a very high tide and to stop animals and Komodo Dragons from entering the houses.
This was the only tour I hadn’t been on in Komodo and I’m incredibly glad that I finally got to do it. If you visit places such as this and don’t leave with a massive appreciation for what you have in life and, to a degree, how easy life is for us in the west, then there is something seriously wrong. You know, when we were in Cairns, I passed a family and the youngest girl was having a tantrum because she didn’t like the game her father had bought for her. She was crying, shouting and screaming, and saying she just wanted to throw it in the bin. I come here and meet these children who have absolutely nothing, but you put a pencil and a notepad in front of them and they are the happiest souls on earth. It’s such a contrast. Travel really does open your eyes and I also think it makes you a far better human being. Well, it has made me a better person, and it’s made me far less tolerant of many people.
JANUARY 22-24 – BALI, INDONESIA
One of the things I like most about this cruise, as an all-rounder, is having had the chance to visit some destinations more than once, including amazing Bali.
We’ve been back for 2 days and I’ve been here, there and everywhere. My trips this time were with Tours by Locals, I’ve used them before and highly recommend them if you want to have a day of exploring that you can essentially create yourself. There are set tours as well, but mine were crafted to take in the things I really wanted to see and enjoy. My guide’s name was Nyoman and he was absolutely brilliant, a real fountain of knowledge and very accommodating. I made a few changes to the original itineraries simply because of the heat and humidity (I was struggling), but it wasn’t an issue.
I’ll take you through each place we stopped at and give you some information. I’ll not tell you everything because that would then leave nothing for you to learn on your own visit to Bali.
Puja Mandala is just a 10-minute car ride from the port and it’s an exceptional place to visit. Known as the domain of worship, there is a Catholic church, Protestant church, Islamic mosque, Buddhist temple and a Hindu temple. Each of these places of worship stand side-by-side across a two-hectare site and it’s a wonderful example of religious tolerance and people living together peacefully.
The Uluwatu Temple, known locally as Pura Luhur Uluwatu, sits on the west coast of Bali, right on the coast and at 70-metres above sea level. It’s literally on the edge of a cliff. I couldn’t enter the main temple area, this is reserved for locals that wish to pray, but it’s definitely worth visiting. The views are stunning, and it has a sense of calmness. The temple is regarded as Sad Kahyangan (one of the six holiest places of worship in Bali) and is dedicated to Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa (Supreme God of Indonesian Hinduism) in his manifestation as Rudra. The complex is also home to Macaque monkeys and they’re not always very friendly. If you visit, please keep your valuables safe! Apparently, if they snatch something from you, they can be persuaded to return it if you offer them fruit. They’re definitely not stupid!
Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) is Bali’s most iconic landmark and it can be seen from miles around, it is huge. The statue depicts the Hindu God Wisnu riding the mythical eagle (Garuda), the national emblem of Indonesia. It stands at 120-metres tall and is higher than the Statue of Liberty.
In Hindu mythology, Lord Wisnu is seen as the protector of the universe and Garuda represents loyalty and selfless devotion. Kencana means gold and both Wisnu and Garuda are adorned with golden crowns. It was designed by Balinese artist Nyoman Nuarta, took 25 years to build and is made from copper and brass. The GWK complex covers a 60-hectare area and there are numerous other statues to admire, cultural performances to enjoy, shopping and dining options.
Tukad Cepung Waterfall is one of the most unique spots in Bali and if you’re fit and active, you must visit! It’s located near Ubud and sits within a cave, so there is a good walk down to get there and there are some quite steep steps. The journey down was fine but getting back up took me a little longer. My legs are aching today. Anyway, back to the waterfall. Once you reach the bottom, you have to walk along the riverbed to reach your ultimate destination and that for me was heaven. It was so hot, but the water was cool and refreshing. I squeezed my way through a very small gap between the rocks and on the other side, there it was. It is magical, truly breath-taking! It’s become a famous Instagram spot in recent years because of its location and beauty. The sound of the water falling, mixed with the birds chirping was so peaceful. I could have stayed there all day. I felt very calm and at one with nature.
The Tegallalang Rice Terrace is another impressive thing to see if you’re in the Ubud area. This is not Bali’s biggest rice field, but it is the most scenic. It’s famous for its terraced layout, which is a traditional Balinese irrigation system known as Subak. There is a small cost to enter and as the fields are owned by numerous families, you may be asked to make a small donation at each field. The rice fields are part of the Cultural Landscape of Bali Province UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Batuan Temple is a Hindu temple located in Batuan Village. It was built in 1020 AD and is a Puseh Temple based on the concept of Tri Kahvangan taught by Mpu Kuturan around the 10th century. Tri Kahvangan includes 3 main temples:
Desa – to worship the God Brahma (the Creator)
Puseh – to worship the God Vishnu (the Preserver)
Dalem – to worship Lord Shiva (the Destroyer)
The temple, known locally as Pura Puseh Batuan, is the oldest in Bali and is another must see during your time here. The people in the village take great care and pride in preserving Batuan Temple, its architecture and environment. It’s typically Balinese in architectural style and features 3 courtyards. You don’t need to spend a lot of time here, taking just 30-minutes out of your day is enough to walk around, admire and take some photographs. You will be provided with a Kamben Bali (sarong) to wear during your visit. This is to show respect and to honour the temple.
The Batuan Temple is within the district of Sukawati and it’s only 5 minutes away from Sukuwati Market, known locally as Pasar Seni Sukuwati. It’s mainly visited by locals, but if you want to do some shopping for souvenirs, clothes or artwork, this is the place to visit. Prices are far cheaper than those in Ubud and if you aren’t put off by the locals asking you to browse their items, you could pick up some lovely things for a very good price. It’s row after row of stalls selling just about everything you could imagine and there are street food vendors selling cold drinks and snacks.
As I said at the beginning, I’ve loved our time in Bali and I’ve been fortunate to see so much. This is definitely a place I want to visit again, next time spending even more time out in the beautiful countryside.
AT SEA – January 25-26
Alan is back onboard! My friend from the beginning of the cruise. I’ve spent the last few sea days catching up with him and helping him with his iPad and Wi-Fi connection. It’s so nice to see him again, it’s like he never left. We’re going to plan another date at The Grill.
There’s a man onboard whom we call Mr Grumpy, he refers to himself as Humbug, he’s another all-rounder. He’s always complaining about something and nothing. To be honest, he’s a very nice man. Most of his grunting is done in a joking fashion, he has a lot of interests which I enjoy hearing about and I like chatting to him, but there are times when he gets on my nerves and when he does, I tell him. A few days ago, he was back at it, huffing and puffing. I said please will you shut up, you’re getting on my nerves, it’s too early in the day for this. He winked, I smiled, and I suddenly had a brilliant idea. He likes to paint and it’s the only time he’s quiet, so I gave him a task. I said to him you are only happy when you’re painting, so please will you paint me a picture? Maybe something from your wildlife photographs, that will give you something positive to focus on for a while. He agreed and I thought to myself excellent, five minutes peace. Yesterday morning, I came on deck and there he was with brush in hand. My plan backfired in a way. He had been there all morning when everyone else was sleeping, so by the time he finished we were all up on deck and he was back to his usual grumpy self, but look what he did for me. Isn’t it lovely? We’ve called him Charlie.
We had a predominantly Indonesian menu in the main dining room an evening or two ago, and it was fantastic. I can honestly say that I have no complaints about any of the food onboard, it’s been very, very good. I ordered the ‘Ketoprak’ to start which is glass noodles with bean sprouts, green beans, tofu and peanut sauce. For my main course it had to be the chicken skewers with rice and picked vegetables. My table is right next to the window and as I sat eating, I was watching the sun go down behind the mountains. It looked beautiful and I was desperate to get outside before all the light had gone. I ate my food like I’d never been fed in my life and flew up to Deck 7. I just couldn’t miss it.
Did you know that Boudicca has a Flower Shop onboard? I thought I’d share it with you because it’s not something you see on many ships these days, and it seems to be quite popular. I’m not a flower person myself, but if I were, I could go in and speak to the florist about flower arrangements and gifting a bouquet. You can order anything from lush and lavish to something as simple as a single rose.
There’s another crossing the line ceremony today but as I’ve watched it several times now, I’m going to the spa for the ‘Happy Feet’ treatment. I had this on Black Watch last year and my feet were so soft, I really did like it. I’ll give you an update on that during our next sea day.
Before I go, I must tell you that I was reunited with my FFC (Fred. Fried Chicken). I absolutely love the stuff and it’s the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten, on land and at sea. I’m slightly addicted, but I’m managing to control myself, for now.
For the rest of today I have work to do, people to hunt down and arrange appointments with, a spa visit, my hair to wash, my bag to arrange for tomorrow and I must back up the rest of my files. I need to do all of the above and then get to The Secret Garden tonight before it opens for dinner, so I can photograph the Chinese buffet before everyone rushes in for dinner. If I make it, I’ll share it with you very soon. We’ll be in Singapore tomorrow and I’m off to Gardens by the Bay & SkyPark.
JANUARY 27 – SINGAPORE
I’ve visited Singapore several times and never made it to Gardens by the Bay, so that’s where I went yesterday during our day in port.
We were forecast rain, so our guide decided we’d stop at the Sands SkyPark first, which was also on the itinerary. That turned out to be a wise decision.
The views across the city are impressive and even though it was quite cloudy, we could still see for miles in each direction. I’d told myself I wasn’t going to do any other trips that involved heights, but I really did want to see the view for myself. I was a bit wobbly, but as long as I stood back and didn’t look down, I was composed. The SkyPark is the only area that’s available to enjoy at the top of the Marina Bay Sands for people that aren’t guests staying at the hotel.
We left the SkyPark and made our way to Gardens by the Bay. It covers a huge area, you’d need at least two or even three visits to see it all, so the focus for our tour was to visit the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. In the image above, you can see them both on the left side.
The Flower Dome is insanely beautiful and in 2015, it entered the Guinness World Records as the largest greenhouse in the world. It features several gardens, including the Australian Garden, South African Garden, Californian Garden and the Mediterranean Garden. It is 1.2 hectares in size and can accommodate up to 1000 people at a time. Inside, the temperature is set to a cool 23 Degrees Celsius, mimicking the semi-arid subtropical regions from which the plants are from. This also makes it comfortable to explore and you need to allow yourself at least 45 minutes to see everything and enjoy the sights. It’s one of the most beautiful flower gardens I’ve seen. Until February 23rdthe Flower Dome is showcasing more than 70 Dahlia cultivars alongside hundreds of other flower and plant species.
If you buy a bundle ticket, which is what we had, you can also enter the Cloud Dome. This greenhouse shows plants, ferns and orchids from the cool-moist Tropical Montane region and the highlight is the 35-metre tall mountain and waterfall. The humidity inside is between 80% and 90%, which is exactly what these plants need to thrive and flourish. It’s very different to the Flower Dome, but just as impressive and interesting. The Lost World is the highest point and you can enjoy walking high above the mountain, admiring various species of plants that are usually found at 2000 metres above sea level.
The above comes with an admission cost, but you can walk around Gardens by the Bay free of charge. The Supertrees are certainly worth seeing and as I had some time left before our group had to meet, I decided I’d find a short trail and explore more of the grounds. I walked up 5 steps to begin my adventure and down came the rain. It absolutely poured and was soon followed by loud claps of thunder. It stopped me in my tracks, I would have been drenched within minutes.
All I can say is I now have a reason to go back. I’m annoyed at myself for taking so long to visit in the first place. Visiting Singapore yourself? Add this to your list of things to see/do.
AT SEA – January 28th
We’re cruising the beautiful deep blue sea at the moment, heading for Thailand, and I’ve been up since the early morning hours. I like to enjoy the ship when everyone else is sleeping. It’s quite eerie when you go down to make a cup of tea and the restaurants and bars are in complete darkness, and everywhere is silent. I had to laugh at myself, though. I came out on deck with a cup of tea and as I went to sit down, I spotted a pair of legs on the stairs out of the corner of my eye. Thank goodness I’d already put the cup on the table because I almost died from fright. Don’t worry, the legs were attached to a crew member, it wasn’t a ghost!
Alan and I had another tech lesson at 6am this morning. We’ve established that he needs to upgrade his phone and we need to book another session of iPad learning. You know, I think I might start my own classes onboard, teaching people how to use social media. I’m serious. The amount of people that hunt me down to ask about Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is crazy.
We had a very nice Chinese buffet a few days ago. I said I’d give you an update on that. There were noodles, fried rice, chicken with cashews and pak choi, and several other Chinese-style dishes. It all looked very nice. I really have been impressed with the variety of food. The galley team have done a great job sourcing so many local ingredients to give us all the chance to enjoy the flavours from this part of the world.
I had a ‘Happy Feet’ treatment with Pear in the Atlantis Spa and it was very refreshing. I like Pear; she makes me laugh. She’s the Fitness Instructor onboard, but she also does a few spa treatments that involve massage. I sat down and she applied the ‘magic potion’ to my legs and feet. Once it was dry and my feet had soaked for a few minutes, she massaged each leg and each foot. There was only myself booked in for the treatment and as she said my muscles were so tense, I had a few extra minutes of massage. She said I need to do exercises to help release the muscle tension in my feet, so I’m doing as I’m told. Well, I will at some point.
There was some unscheduled entertainment on deck this morning and I was so engrossed in what they were doing, I missed the Secrets to Beautiful Skin seminar in the Lido Lounge. I’ll not say too much about it now and I’ve deliberately covered the paper because I want you to see it when they’ve really started bringing it to life. I’m promised by the Chief Officer that it will look great when it’s finished. As I’ve been on quality control of it for an hour or two this afternoon, I’ll now agree. Watch this space…
I had some ‘me time’ today. I sat on deck with my laptop and watched a movie. That’s how I like to relax. Having been up so early and spent seven solid hours writing, sending emails and going around the ship to tick jobs off my list, I just wanted to sit and do nothing for a while. I’d also eaten too much at lunchtime, so that stopped me in my tracks. I’m really enjoying the curries onboard. One of our head chefs is from Mauritius and a Mauritian chicken and potato curry was on the menu, I could smell it as soon as I walked into the Four Seasons, so I had to try it. I could say I had 2 servings because my first attempt at plating it up to show you looked like a 3-year-old child had dropped it from about 60 foot in the air, but that would be a bare faced lie. I had 2 plates because it was so good! I’m not that person who asks for a plate of salad. It’s almost dinner time and I’m still very full.
Thailand tomorrow (so excited) and I’m on the ‘Cultural Phuket’ tour. It looks like it’s going to be another hot and humid day.
JANUARY 29 – PHUKET, THAILAND
Our second visit to Thailand was just as pleasant as the first, but we only had one day in Phuket this time, so I did the ‘Phuket Cultural’ tour. It included stops at the Big Buddha, Chinpracha House and Wat Chalong. To be honest, I only booked the tour to see the Big Buddha as it was the only trip that offered it. I didn’t know much about Chinpracha and I’d already visited Wat Chalong.
Chinpracha House was built in 1903 by Prapitak Chinpracha (Tan Ma Siang). He was born in Phuket in 1883 and at 20-years old, he built the house. It’s in a Chino-Portuguese style and it’s a perfect example of how a wealthy Phuket family used to live. Our guide informed us that he made his fortune from tin mining. It’s still lived in by the sixth-generation descendants of Prapitak Chinpracha. Most of the furniture came from China, but some was also imported from Europe, such as the Italian floor tiles. If you like antiques and architecture, then this is a must-see place during your visit to Phuket. I felt like I’d stepped back in time, it was incredible. So much to admire and enjoy.
Wat Chalong was in the midst of a celebration and the grounds were filled with market stalls selling food, clothing and electrical goods. There was even a food stall selling deep-fried critters, such as crickets, grasshoppers and worms. As I’d visited back in December, I decided to spend some time trying to get more external images, but it was difficult because of all the stalls. I also did some shopping and left with three new blouses.
Big Buddha was the highlight for me, that’s why I booked the tour, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s huge! It was built for the ninth King of Phuket and construction began in 2004, it’s still ongoing. The Buddha depicts Gautama in a sitting position and is 45 metres tall. It’s made of concrete and covered with Burmese white jade marble and faces towards Ao Chalong Bay. The marble is so bright in the sun that I was blinded, I couldn’t take my sunglasses off otherwise I couldn’t see. I thought the views from here were just as impressive as the Buddha. The statues official name is Phra Phutta Ming Mongkol Akenakakiri, which in English essentially means the glorious honourable Buddha on top of the hill of Naga. There are dress codes in force, but I wasn’t stopped and asked to wear a sarong because I had shorts on. It’s not so much that you ‘must’ cover up here, but you can’t enter in very short shorts or things like vests or strapless tops. Sarongs are provided free of charge.
They had an information point at the Big Buddha, but I think they need to tell their assistant that it’s rude to sleep on the job! I wanted to read some of the booklets, just to see if there was anything in English that I could buy to take away with me, but I didn’t have the heart to move her. She was in a very deep sleep.
AT SEA – January 30th
We’re heading for Myanmar now and having a much cooler day at sea. It’s a refreshing change.
Last night there was a small party at the Marquee Bar for Platinum and Diamond-Elite guests. It was a nice set up with free drinks and numerous canapés. Captain Degerlund also made an appearance and thanked everyone for their continued loyalty to Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines before mixing and mingling with people. I didn’t stay too long, I felt quite cold, there was a strong breeze up there. The crew have put in such a great effort for all of the different events and gatherings, there’s not one that I haven’t enjoyed.
We had yet another dinner menu with a difference last night. The dishes were mainly Thai offerings and I had the Nasi Goreng which was delicious. I haven’t really had the chance to taste local foods in some places because of tours and what not, so to come home after a day out and be offered a menu that gives us a chance to sample some of the more recognizable dishes is a nice treat.
I’m going to stay on the subject of food for another minute, it really has all been so very good and I find it quite exciting. I always look forward to popping into the buffet and reading the menus. I like to see what new things await and what things I can try that in some cases, I’ve never seen or heard of before, let alone tasted. We had more fresh local fruits today at lunchtime, including Rambutan and Mangosteen. I’m hoping and praying that we have some special menus during our time in India. Oh, before I forget, I had a caramelised apple pie for dessert after my lunch today. Naughty, but nice!
Pear was in the Lido Lounge this morning giving a talk on fluid retention and swollen ankles. It was very interesting. She gave advice on how to bring the swelling down and what exercises you can do to help combat the problem. They were quite light exercises, too. Simple things such as specific leg movements, some of which you can do sitting down. I used to suffer terribly with swollen ankles when I first started cruising. I think a mixture of the heat and lots of walking used to bring mine on, but thankfully, I’ve not experienced it much in the last 3 years. I think everyone in the room found it very helpful.