Fred. Olsen World Cruise 2018: Turkey, Greece, Italy And Spain

We’ve called to Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain since I last checked in with you and I didn’t really do much in any of the ports. I’ve had so much writing to catch up on and because I decided to buy half of Asia, I’ve been trying to sort out my cases and decide what to pack and what to carry off myself. I was also starting to feel tired of tours. We have explored so much on this cruise, I just wanted the last few days to be at my own pace.

I love Kusadasi, it’s a shoppers paradise and I decided to spend my morning walking around the bazaars. I’d planned on buying 2 Turkish lamps, but instead ended up with a lantern. I decided it would be easier to get that home and it’s very pretty. I know I shouldn’t have bought anything else, but these things happen. Once my shopping and walking was complete, I met Marian for lunch at Gayret, a restaurant mainly offering seafood but they also have an extensive vegetarian menu, ideal for Marian. I ordered the chicken shish and it was nice but the meat was a little fatty. I think the cat that came and sat beside me knew I wasn’t going to eat it all and she kept staring at me and putting her paws on my leg. I gave in, wrapped up the meat and persuaded her to follow me to a quiet corner, away from the restaurant, where she could enjoy her feast in peace. I can never say no when there are animals involved and she was clearly hungry.

During our call to Piraeus, I decided to stay on the ship. I’ve been to Athens before and I thought it would be a good time to take advantage of a quiet ship and start some packing. I spent the morning sitting in the sun. I knew there wouldn’t be much more of it once we started heading towards Italy and I wanted to enjoy just a few hours of doing nothing. I was quite content, until a bee the size of a small bird decided to chase me off my sun lounger. That wasn’t fun! Once I’d had enough of the sun, I took myself down to Deck 6 for what would probably be my last Poolside lunch – they close it once the weather starts to go downhill – and I ordered my usual, chicken kebab with hummus, yogurt and pita bread. It was delicious.

In the afternoon I decided to start tackling the suitcases. I use SkyFlite cases and on this cruise I managed to fill 5 of them. By early afternoon, the cabin was a complete mess and my head was ready to explode, but I did manage to completely pack 2 cases. In a computer game I’d expect that to be an “achievement unlocked” moment, so to celebrate I ordered myself a drink from the bar.

My plan for Civitavecchia had been to pack and work, I’ve been to the port more times than I can remember and there’s really not a great deal to do there unless you go on a tour to Rome. I’ve been there and done that so I just went ashore for a few hours and had a walk around. I then came back to Black Watch and continued with more packing and more writing.

Livorno was our next port and I left the ship just before lunch. The shuttle was quick and the drop off point was the usual place, outside McDonald’s. I walked along the main street, stopped for lunch and then decided I’d take a walk to an area I’d not explored before. I was shocked, it was another large shopping area but there were hardly any tourists, it was perfect. If you leave the shuttle and head right, you’ll find it. I stopped at a lovely bar called Casablanca and had a drink before walking back towards the shuttle stop. I took a brief detour before getting on the bus and again found some lovely side streets with beautiful waterways. It felt a little bit like Venice, but it wasn’t quite as impressive. I actually really enjoyed my afternoon in Livorno. Next time I’m there I’ll head back to the same area and see what else I come across. Having no plan is sometimes the best way to enjoy many ports, especially those in Europe. You can often come across some real hidden gems.

Our final port of the cruise was Malaga and it was so cold! I threw on some jeans and a jacket and Marian and I went in search of tapas. There were dozens of restaurants to choose from, but we finally settled on a place named Pepa y Pepe. The food was good, I ordered chips with garlic sauce, fried mushrooms and fried prawns. I especially liked the mushrooms and the portion sizes were just right. On our way back to the shuttle area, we stopped for a drink at a bar called Cafe de Estraperlo. I loved it. It was just opposite where the shuttle buses were waiting. The man running the bar is called Mark and he was so lovely. A place worth stopping if you’re ever in Malaga and just want to relax and people watch with a light and delicious snack.

We’re getting closer to Southampton by the minute, we’re in the Bay of Biscay now, and I’m incredibly sad. This has been a real experience of a lifetime and I’d love to stay onboard and do it all again. Black Watch feels like home and we’ve made so many new friends, I don’t want to say goodbye, I hate saying goodbye. I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m back on another Fred. Olsen ship. I just can’t seem to stay away! I’ll update you soon with some blogs about the onboard experience and what it’s like to be on a ship for almost 4 months, but for now, this is my last live blog of the World Cruise! 😦 

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Posted in Destinations, Fred Olsen Cruise Line, Uncategorized, world cruise

Fred. Olsen World Cruise 2018: Jordan, Egypt And The Suez Canal

We spent seven days at sea after leaving Mumbai and by the time we reached Jordan even I was itching for some dry land. We’d booked ‘The Lost City of Petra’ tour before joining the ship and it was a full-day tour.

Everyone was on time, I think we may have even left a little bit early, and we were soon on the road and heading from Aqaba to Petra. It takes around 2 hours to get there and it’s quite a nice drive. We spotted several bedouins, numerous camels and passed through several towns that were alive with people going about their daily business. The nicest of all the towns was the one right next to Petra, I enjoyed the drive through there. It was full of hustle and bustle.

Petra was originally known as Raqmu and it lies on the slope of Jabal Al-Madbah in a basin among stunning mountains that form the eastern section of the Arabah Valley. It is believed that the are was settled from 9,000 BC, but possibly established as the capital city of the Nabataean Kingdom as far back as the 4th century BC. The city was built on trading and it became very lucrative, so much so, the Greek dynasty attempted to ransack the city in 312 BC.

One of the things I found most incredible was when Petra’s importance declined and an earthquake destroyed many structures, it was virtually abandoned. Only a few nomads would graze their goats there and it would be 1812 before the ‘Lost City’ was reintroduced to the world, thanks to Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss geographer and traveller. Can you imagine that? A place so incredible, yet it just disappeared. Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985 and it is also known as the Red Rose City due to the colour of the stone.

If you ever visit Jordan, please add Petra to your sightseeing list. All the images and video in the world can’t prepare you for your first view of the Treasury (Al Khazneh), which was built as a crypt and mausoleum at the beginning of the 1st century AD and also featured in the Indiana Jones movie ‘The Last Crusade’. The walk seemed to go on forever and then all of a sudden, there it was at the end of the siq. I was in absolute awe. It really is an incredible sight. The walk there wasn’t too bad, I was excited and intrigued, and it was on a downhill slope, but the walk back really did get me. I don’t know how far it is exactly, but it’s at least 1.4km from the visitor centre to the treasury. It was hot, humid, dusty and uphill – I was a mess! I was so pleased to get back to the top and drown myself in a freezing cold bottle of water. I wouldn’t advise anyone attempt the walk unless you are absolutely sure you can make it there and back. You can take a horseback ride or horse and cart, so don’t worry, you won’t miss out on anything, just please be prepared for the heat, humidity and a long trek.

We didn’t have time to explore everything that Petra boasts, but at least now I can say that I’ve seen some of the ‘Lost City’. It really was magical. Even the walk is unlike anything I’d ever seen or done before. I felt like I was in the middle of a movie set.

Black Watch sailed overnight and we woke up the following day in Sharm el Sheikh. This was another new port for me and my first time on Egyptian soil. I couldn’t wait to get out and explore.

There was a free shuttle bus service offered to the Old Market, so that’s where I went and where I decided to stay. There were numerous beach clubs on the short drive, but if I’d wanted a beach day I would have made the journey by cab to Na’ama Bay. I just wasn’t in the mood. Anyway, back to the Old Market. I instantly loved it. I jumped off the coach and off I went in search of a new adventure and (possibly) some new treasure. You could easily get caught up in the atmosphere in the Old Market and end up spending a fortune and that’s what I did. I enjoyed walking through all the little markets, down the side streets and then around the mosque.

The Sahaba Mosque is an Ottoman-style architectural masterpiece. It’s breathtaking. It was designed by Egyptian architect Fouad Tawfik Hafez and construction began in 2011 at a cost of 30 million Egyptian pounds. It sits right in the heart of the Old Market and it’s two 76 metre-long minarets are the first things you’ll see as you enter the area. I love the sound of the call to prayer and I was lucky enough to be right outside for one them. I sat and enjoyed the hypnotic sounds. The mosque is the second largest in Sharm el Sheikh and can accommodate 3,000 people.

After a busy day of exploring and shopping, I returned to Black Watch to get ready for the evening entertainment on the outer decks. A local group came aboard to give us a show and it was quite good. Not entirely what I’d expected, but I enjoyed the music and the atmosphere.

We left Sharm and made our way back into the Red Sea and then through the Suez Canal. What an experience that was! Completely unlike the Panama Canal and there was sand for as far as the eye could see. A few hours before we exited into the Mediterranean, we passed civilisation on the port and starboard side. I absolutely loved it. You could hear the children laughing and playing, and the call to prayer echoed all around us. It was magical.

The Suez Canal is a 120 mile-long artificial sea-level waterway that connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea and unlike the Panama Canal, it has no lock systems. It was constructed between 1859 and 1869, to offer a shorter journey between the North Atlantic and northern Indian oceans by avoiding the South Atlantic and southern Indian oceans. Essentially, the canal reduces the journey by approximately 4,300 miles and extends from Port Said to Port Tewfik.

It was touch and go for a few hours as to whether our call to Alexandria would be cancelled or not, but thankfully, it all went ahead. We docked in Alexandria and we were on our way to Cairo before 08:30. We were told that the drive to Cairo from Alexandria could take up to 3.5 hours but luckily for us, just 2 hours later, I got my first glimpse of the Pyramids of Giza. I was quite overwhelmed. I’ve been interested in Ancient Egypt for as long as I can remember and to finally be there was just something else.

Our first stop was for a panoramic photo opportunity of the 3 pyramids and it was amazing. I couldn’t believe that I was actually standing there looking at them with my own eyes. The Giza pyramid complex contains many different structures but ultimately, it’s the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, and the Sphinx that we all go there to see. The Great Pyramid is the Pyramid of Khufu and it is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids. We spent several minutes taking hundreds of pictures before moving on to the smallest of the pyramids, this one was Menkaure’s and we were given the opportunity to go inside. You have to walk down quite a steep ramp and you have to keep your knees and back bent – it is so cramped! Although it wasn’t the most comfortable experience and I have no idea how people actually worked down there, I can now say that I have been inside one of the pyramids! How lucky am I?

Our next stop was a little further down the valley, at the Sphinx. The Sphinx has the head of a man and the body of a lion and although its construction date is not certain, it is believed to bear the likeness of Pharaoh Khafra. It measures 73 metres long from paw to tail, 20.21 m high from the base to the top of the head and 19 metres wide at its rear haunches. It is the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt.

Also included on our day in Cairo was a visit to the Egyptian Museum, again somewhere I had wanted to visit for as long as I could remember. The ancient artifacts inside are absolutely mesmerizing. To think that I was standing right there, among so many ancient structures. Who knows what secrets they hold! We didn’t have enough time in the museum, I would have appreciated at least an additional hour, but we did get to see something I never thought I would – King Tutankhamun’s treasure room. Sadly, you couldn’t take pictures inside (so I borrowed the below) but the room housed his famous mask and sarcophagus and other treasures including jewellery and his canopic jars. I still can’t believe that I stood within just inches of these ancient pieces of history. I was face-to-face with King Tutankhamun’s gold mask.

We’ve had quite a few port days and I’ve been “trying” to make a start on my packing, so I’m a little behind on my blogs, but I’ll be back soon with updates on our Mediterranean ports.

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Fred. Olsen World Cruise 2018: Cochin And Mumbai

Our first stop in India was Cochin and Marian and I were booked on a tour to see the backwaters of Alappuzha by houseboat. We left the ship early as the drive to join the boat took almost 2 hours, but in the end it was absolutely worth it.

The houseboat was quite big and offered seating space on 2 levels, I opted to stay downstairs as everyone else went upstairs. It meant I could wander around and take my pictures without getting in the way of anyone else. Alappuzha is referred to as the Venice of the East and it has always had an important place in the maritime history of Kerala. Although the houseboats you see now are predominantly for tourism purposes, they are actually a reworked version of the Kettuvallams of olden times.These boats used to carry rice and spices.

Our cruise along the backwaters lasted just over 2 hours and it was very good. The scenery was stunning and we watched numerous women washing clothes along the banks, cleaning fish and even washing their hair. We passed a few religious sites, small local stores and people that were just going around doing what they would usually do. There were a lot of other boats on the river, some of them were beautiful and very big, while others were small and more modest. I even spotted one that had tinted windows.

Once the boat tour came to an end, we made our way towards a local resort for lunch. It was an Indian buffet and it was delicious. You have to have Indian food when in India, so I was very happy. I had dhal with Kerala rice and lightly spiced squid. I also grabbed a few popadoms which were to die for. Incredibly tasty and very light. After lunch we began the drive back to the ship. It was a good tour and definitely something worth thinking about if you’re ever in Cochin. As we sailed, I also managed to see the famous Chinese fishing nets, they were quite impressive and as I’d been told by several people that they were a “must see” I was happy that I spotted them on the starboard side.

Mumbai was our next and final port in India. Here we had a tour booked with a local company called Reality Tours. They are all about responsible tourism and the tour we opted for would take us to the Dharavi slum and Dhobi Ghat in the morning, and then sightseeing in the afternoon.

We met our guide and driver (Jitu and Pradeep) outside the port gate and off we went. Our first stop was Dhobi Ghat. This is a massive open air laundromat that that was built during the British Raj in 1890. Every day, 7000 workers scrub, bleach, dry and press thousands of items of clothing and other linens, mostly for hotels and restaurants in the area. It’s right next to the Mahalaxmi train station. I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire life. I think I stood for a good few minutes with my mouth ajar because I just couldn’t take in what I was looking at. The workers, or dhobis as they are called, hold the world record for most people hand-washing clothes in a single location.

Our next stop was Dharavi, the reason we had booked the tour. Marian and I both like to experience the real side of the places that we visit and I know for a fact that she and I were the only 2 people from our ship that came back and said we had walked the streets of Dharavi. I know it’s not for everyone, it was quite hard to swallow at times, but I think it is so important to experience real life when you travel, instead of sticking to the main tourist routes, resorts and whatever else they throw at you. We stopped at several businesses within the slum, including a recycling area, soap making shed, plastic shredding factory and a pastry factory. Now, when I say factory, I mean a very small space where everything is at a bare minimum. We also walked through some residential areas and in places the gaps between buildings was less than 2 feet. It was so difficult to navigate, the paths were slippery, covered in mud, rubbish and there were people coming in all directions. It was a HUGE reality check. The people were very friendly, especially the children, and there was a real sense of community.

Dharavi is the largest slum in India (3rd largest in Asia) and is home to 1 million people. The people living there share a space that is roughly half the size of New York City’s Central Park and 1,400 people share 1 toilet seat. They have water for only 1 hour per day and up to 8 people often live in a house that’s smaller than the average inside cabin. It is very cramped (one of the densest areas in the world) and not very sanitary, but this is life for all of those people. India has approx 2000 slums and 42% of the population live in them. I left Dharavi feeling like I’d been punched in the face. If you’re interested, you can book tours with Reality Tours online (and for various locations across India) and 80% of what you pay goes right back into the community. Donations can also be made online.

We walked through Dharavi for 2 hours and when we left, we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant that our guide knew very well. We wanted to sample the kind of food that people living in Mumbai eat every day, so we ended up at Shree Thaker which is on Dadisheth Agyari Lane. I’d give you directions but I have no idea where to start, Google it. The food was incredible. We enjoyed a delicious Indian Thali that was never-ending and the cost was just 500 rupees per person. That’s about £6. The restaurant has won many awards, including ‘Best Gujarati Thali’ for the last 11 years and TripAdvisors Certificate of Excellence. I can’t really tell you what I ate, I was just lost in the aroma and flavours of all the food, but it was all vegetarian and the puree bread was as light as a feather! I also lost myself in the dhal and the sweet curry that had a subtle coconut taste.

For the rest of the afternoon we visited a few temples, stopped at Chowpatty Beach, several markets and the Bombay Panjrapole. The latter is a cow sanctuary that is right in the heart of Bhuleshwar, which is a local market. The cow is a sacred animal in India and it is believed that the Gods live within the cow, so for a small donation you can feed the cows and calves and by doing so you are actually feeding the Gods. It’s all about good karma.

India was absolutely fascinating. I enjoyed it so much and I hope I get the chance to go back again one day. I’d love to experience other parts of the country and just have more time to immerse myself in all the things I really enjoyed there, especially the food! The people were incredibly friendly and it just felt like a nice place to be. I also loved all the colours, everything was bright and that’s because they believe bright colours bring happiness and create more positive energy.

We’re sailing for Jordan at the moment and the ships security team and the additional security team we picked up off the coast of Sri Lanka have been on pirate watch 24/7 for the last few days. It’s all very exciting. I’ve never experienced anything like it and I love sitting on deck in the dark every night – it’s much easier to see the stars. It’s very rare for cruise ships to be approached by pirates, but it never hurts to take precautions and, like our captain said, we’re probably in the safest place in the world right now and I absolutely believe him.

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Posted in Destinations, Fred Olsen Cruise Line, world cruise

Fred. Olsen World Cruise 2018: Myanmar And The Shwedagon Pagoda

We were due to arrive in Myanmar early because of a medical issue with a passenger, but due to tidal restrictions and issues with the port authority, we had to stick to our original time of 6PM. Marian and I decided to stay onboard in the evening, as we had a long tour booked for the following day, so we had a leisurely evening and retired to bed early, ready for a day of exploring.

I’d booked our tour for Yangon with Tours By Locals. Sometimes, I don’t want to be restricted by the size of the ships tour group, so this worked perfectly for us. I did a little research online and then found Htay on the Tours By Locals website. His charge was $150 for 2 people for a 11 hour tour – perfect. He and his driver met us at the port and off we went.

Our first stop was at Thanlyin market. Thanlyin is a town not far from the cruise port and it’s typical of day-to-day life for the people that call Myanmar home. We didn’t stay at the market long, we just had a quick walk around to get a feel for it and see what was on offer. You have to have a pretty strong stomach for some of the food sections, the smell of dried fish can be a little overpowering when the temperature is above 34 Degrees Celsius.

Botataung Pagoda in downtown Yangon was next on our list. It’s currently being restored, so the lovely gold leaf wasn’t visible on the outside, but it certainly was on the inside. The stupa is hollow and that is one of its biggest attractions. You can journey through the maze-like walkway and admire hundreds of ancient relics that were at one point sealed inside the earlier pagoda – the original pagoda was completely destroyed during WWII. What you see today was built after the war. It was wonderful and the gold leaf interior is highly impressive. The original pagoda was built by the Mon around 2,500 years ago and it is believed to house the sacred hair of Gautama Buddha.

We jumped back in the car and started making our way towards Bogyoke Aung San Market in central Yangon. The market was originally built in 1926, when the British ruled Myanmar, and was then called Scott Market. After Burmese independence in 1948, it was renamed to Bogyoke and has since had a new wing added. It’s a massive bazaar, you could easily spend several hours there. It wasn’t entirely what I’d expected, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I managed, as usual, to come away with several bags of goodies. I love wooden carvings, especially masks and statues, so when I came across one particular stall, I went wild. There were other vendors selling similar things, but this lady had exactly what I wanted. I bought 2 wooden wall hangings and a beautiful cedar wood statue of Ngahtatgyi – a Buddha that I am told has victory Mudra which means Buddha won over the devil. I still need to do more research on it, but it is beautiful! I know the below isn’t the best picture, but I don’t want to take it out of the wrapping until it is safely back in England. Other things to buy in the market included the traditional longyi, jewellery, paintings and souvenirs. 

During the morning, we’d come to realise that the air conditioning in the car wasn’t working very well, so while we were shopping, our driver got rid of the original car and came back to pick us up in something very similar, but with working air-con. It was SO hot, I can’t tell you how happy I was that we finally had cool air. With a pleasant temperature inside of around 17 Degrees Celsius, we made our way to a local restaurant for lunch. It had a nice outdoor area, but we decided it would be best to stay indoors and out of the midday heat. We ordered so much food between the three of us. I ordered tempura soft shell crab, stir-fried green beans with shrimp and coconut rice. Marian had a vegetarian combo that included traditional soup with lentils and then a tofu curry with rice, and Htay ordered chicken curry with rice and soup. We also shared a starter of tempura vegetables and each had a drink. The food was delicious, I never knew green beans could taste so good. I didn’t want to stop eating, but when we had all finished and we received the bill, the grand total was just $26. Incredible.

The Chaukhtatgyi Paya Reclining Buddha was our next stop and I was so excited. I’ve seen so many pictures of this over the years and I couldn’t wait to see it with my own eyes. It is magnificent, that’s the only word I can use to describe it. If you’re in Yangon you must go and see it. It’s a little off the beaten track, so make sure you do your research before you leave and get full directions. I’d imagine a local cab driver would know exactly where to find it and of course, your organised tour will likely include it. The Buddha is 66 metres long and is one of the largest in Burma. It’s housed in a metal shed, not what you’d expect and why it can be difficult to find if you’re exploring on your own. The eyes are stunning. If I remember correctly they are made of glass and it was the eyes that first caught my attention. The crown is encrusted with diamonds and many other precious stones. It really is a sight to see and it’s bigger than the one in Bago.

Our final stop would be the Shwedagon Pagoda and we certainly saved the best for last. I could not believe my eyes when we entered the complex, it is out of this world. The official name is Shwedagon Zedi Daw and it is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, thought to have been around for 2,600 years. The 326-foot-tall pagoda is believed to contain important relics of the four previous buddhas of the present Kalpa – the period of time between the creation and recreation of a world or universe – and they include a piece of the robe of Kassapa, the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Konagamana and eight strands of hair from the head of Gautama.

The base of the stupa is made from bricks which are covered in gold plates and above that are terraces that can only be accessed by monks and other males. If we continue up the stupa, we then come to the bell-shape and above that, the turban. Next is the inverted almsbowl, inverted and upright lotus petals, banana bud and then the umbrella crown. The crown is tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies, sapphires and other gems, and 1,065 golden bells. A flag-shaped vane comes before the very top where you will then find the diamond bud, which is tipped with a 76 carat diamond.

The Shwedagon Pagoda consists of hundreds of colourful temples, statues and stupas. It’s not just one lonely pagoda. I think that is what completely blew my mind. I felt like I had stepped onto a movie set, it didn’t feel real. I can’t describe to you what it is like, but I’m sure if you have been before you’ll know exactly what I mean. As an example, you have many images of Buddha, including Gautama, Padashin, Kassapa, Padamya, Saedawmu and Kakusanda. There are also other pagodas, including the Naungdawgyi pagoda and the Htidaw pagado, and then you can also find King Singu’s Bell and King Tharyarwady’s Bell.

Surrounding the base of the Shwedagon itself are small shrines that represent days of the week. There are 8 days in Myanmar astronomy. Wednesday is split into 2 days. Until 6 p.m. it is Wednesday as you and I know it, but after that time and until midnight it is Rahu’s day . I was born on a Monday, making my planet the moon and my animal the tiger (ta nin la), so I found Monday and poured water over the Buddha and made a wish. I’m told it’s to bring good luck.

After a long, tiring and very hot day, we returned to the ship, grabbed a quick dinner and retired to bed. We had to be up early on day two for our ‘Local Life In Thanylin’ tour and I hadn’t slept well the night before, so I was exhausted.

Our Thanylin tour started with a visit to a Buddhist Monastery (Bone Payan) and that was quite interesting. There were several novice monks there (children) and they were quite cheeky, too. One boy kept sticking his tongue out and then smiling as if he were shy. It was interesting to stop there and see how very basic things are. You know, the monks can’t eat after midday until the following morning. I don’t think I could do that.

Our next adventure was a trishaw ride to the market we had briefly visited the day before. I loved it. It wasn’t the most comfortable experience, but joining the busy street traffic and riding along taking everything in was exactly the kind of thing that I like to do. We had some free time at the market, so Marian and I went off in search of local snacks. By local I mean crisps. I love crisps and although there was still an abundance of dried fish available, it wasn’t quite doing it for me. I ended up with a bag that contained 10 small bags of sweet corn puffs and they are delicious! I’m not sure any will make it back to the U.K..

We left the market, again by Trishaw, and rejoined our coach for our visit to a local village. There we were greeted by another temple that housed a massive sitting buddha. When we were there, some monks were reciting Buddhist mantra. They each have to do this for 1 hour and it lasts for 24 hours. It was quite hypnotic. We also visited a lady and her newborn baby and then enjoyed fresh coconut water before heading back to the ship. It was a good tour and I’d definitely recommend it if you want to step away from the pagodas and see what life in Myanmar is really like. You could also go on a horse and cart if you didn’t quite fancy the trishaw, but as I am allergic to horses, I stuck with the trishaw there and back. 

We’re back at sea now, heading for Cochin in India. Later today we will make a short stop to pick up our security team. Once we leave India we will be heading for pirate waters, so I guess it is better to be safe than sorry. They will stay with us as we head through the Red Sea and towards the Suez Canal. 

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Posted in Destinations, Fred Olsen Cruise Line, world cruise

Fred. Olsen World Cruise 2018: Singapore And Kuala Lumpur

Singapore was a port that we decided to do on our own. I was looking forward to visiting, but it wasn’t the most important on the list and we didn’t want to get jammed up with a tour. We researched a few places and once through immigration we hit the road. Our first stop was Chinatown and the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple, Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, founded in 1827. It was absolutely incredible! I’d never seen anything quite like it and the colours were beautiful. The temple is a national monument and it’s built in the Dravidian style.

Next, we made our way to Little India to see the Sri Veeramakalimman Temple and it too was stunning. This temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess and destroyer of evil, Kali, and it was once named Soonambu Kambam Kovil. We decided this time we would go in. I was given a pashmina to cover my shoulders and Marian and skirt to cover her legs. It was beautiful inside and there were a lot of people there praying. I took a few photos, but I was as keen to leave as I was to enter. I sometimes feel like I’m intruding when people are there trying to worship.

We spent an hour or so walking around Little India, buying some savoury treats as we went,  before jumping in a cab and heading for Marina Bay. By the time we arrived, we were hot, tired and hungry. We looked inside the rather posh shopping mall and walked around the bay, taking photos of the museum and everything else as we went, but before we knew it, it was time to start thinking about heading back to the ship. Our call time in Singapore was very short, especially given that it took a month to get through immigration, but our main goals had been to see the temples and we did just that. It was a good day, but I would like to visit again and check out everything I missed. Raffles was closed for refurbishment.

We left Singapore and made our way to Malaysia for a day of exploring in Kuala Lumpur. That was a port I was very excited to see. Before leaving the UK, I did some research and came across a man named Kernail. He owns a taxi and has some excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. We’d been in touch a few times before the cruise, to arrange times and an itinerary, and as promised, he was there waiting for us when we left the ship. His car was fully air-conditioned – perfect given it was absolutely roasting outside – and he provided us with water, juice and wipes.

We left the port and began the drive to the Batu Caves, both Marian and I were very excited to see this as it was top of our list for our time in Kuala Lumpur. It took just over 1 hour to get there and it was incredibly busy. Batu Caves is a limestone hill which is home to three major caves and several smaller ones. The 100-year-old temple features many statues and idols within the caves and limestone formations that are thought to be around 400 million years old.The temple is a very important landmark for Hindus and the Cathedral Cave is the largest and most popular, followed by the Art Gallery Cave and the Museum Cave. The cave is dedicated to Lord Murugan and boasts the world’s tallest statue of him, standing at 42.7 metres! It is a fascinating place and you should definitely visit if you get the chance. There are 272 steps to the main cave and I have to admit that I didn’t walk up them. It was so hot and humid, I would have been a wreck by the time I got to the top. Marian, however, did make the trek up – gold star for her!

Although I didn’t go in the main cave, I did go inside the Ramayana Cave. It’s much smaller and accessed via flat ground, so it was perfect for me. A story is told inside from beginning to end and it’s quite impressive. I didn’t understand it all, but I’m sure if I do more research on it, I’ll know it all in no time. On my way out of the temple, I noticed a lot of monkeys and one was carrying a tiny newborn baby. It was so sweet! It couldn’t have been more than a few days old. 

We jumped back in Kernail’s car and he drove us around the city. I felt like we went everywhere! Some of the places we stopped at included the King’s Palace, National Monument, Chinatown and the Petronas Towers. We also made a stop at the city shopping mall so we could have lunch. I decided to have Indian food and not only was it delicious, it only cost around £3.20. I had tandoori chicken with dhal and naan. Before heading back towards Port Klang, we made one last stop and that was at the Central Market. We got there just in time. As we left the car it started thundering and raining, so it was a perfect excuse to do some indoor shopping. There were lots of different things for sale, including clothes, bags, jewellery and souvenirs. It was a bustling place spread across 2 floors. I really enjoyed Malaysia, it’s definitely a place I’d like to visit again. There was so much to do and the culture there is the kind of thing I always crave.

If you’re ever in Kuala Lumpur, please consider Kernail as your driver and guide for the day. He was excellent, I can’t say enough good things about him. He did everything he said he would do, he made sure we were hydrated and back to the ship on time and he even bought us some local souvenirs each as a parting gift. He’s a lovely man and you’ll definitely be in safe and reliable hands. You can contact him via email: or on WhatsApp: +60 13 394 8560

Our next stop is Yangon and we were supposed to be arriving there tomorrow evening but due to a medical emergency onboard, we’ll now be arriving early tomorrow morning. I doubt I’ll do much tomorrow as our tours are planned for Wednesday and Thursday, the port is apparently in the middle of nowhere and it is going to be incredibly hot, around 37 Degrees Celsius! I like the sun, but this Asian heat is really tiring me out at the minute. I’ve never felt heat and humidity quite like it. 

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Posted in Destinations, Fred Olsen Cruise Line, world cruise

Fred. Olsen World Cruise 2018: Darwin And Komodo Island

Darwin was our next port and our day was going to involve the Jumping Crocodile Cruise. I’d researched this before we left on Black Watch, but it can take 90 minutes to get there if traffic is bad, so I decided that the best thing to do was book directly with Fred. Olsen.

We left the ship at 9AM and we were soon on the highway, heading way out of town and to the wetlands. We arrived in just under one hour and as soon as we got off the coach, we were offered complimentary cold drinks. Just what we needed as it was another blisteringly hot day in the Northern Territory. Before long, we were in the boat and ready to head off down the Adelaide River and look for crocodiles. 

Within minutes we were face to face with a 4 foot monster and he was a beauty! They use buffalo meat to tempt the crocodiles and they do so by tying it to the end of a pole and then dipping it in the water. The crocs feel the vibrations and that’s what attracts them and brings them towards the boat. We met several individuals, including Stumpy (he only has 1 leg) who is approx 70 years old, his girlfriend Candy who is 20 years old and a smaller female they call Beyonce. We also caught a glimpse of Trevor, he was responsible for the loss of at least one of Stumpy’s legs. They had a fight over Candy and although Trevor may have won in the battle of the males, Stumpy was still the one who won the lady.

The power these animals have is incredible, it’s easy to see why they are an apex predator. Not much would stand a chance against even a 2 metre female. At one point, Beyonce went to grab the meat but missed, so her top and bottom jaw slammed against each other. The noise it made was incredible. Pure force. It actually made me jump. I think Beyonce was my favourite. She was the smallest of them all, she was a beautiful colour and she was actually quite shy. She kept disappearing beneath the surface of the water and popping back up when we least expected it. Shy or not, she gave me a great smile in the picture below! Although Beyonce was a little on the jittery side, the other crocs certainly weren’t shy, as soon as the meat was in the water they made their way over to see what was going on. I’m sure they were also checking out the tasty looking chunks of meat (us humans) that were sitting on the boat. Our driver/expert commentator said that they do have the ability to find their way aboard if they decide they want to. Needless to say, everyone was on lookout, just in case!

It was a fabulous tour, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and I’d highly recommend it if you’re ever in Darwin. These are completely wild animals, if they don’t want to come over and see what’s going on, they won’t. It’s that simple. During the tour, our driver also told us that the plastic crocodile outside the entrance to the Jumping Crocodile Cruise (below) is a replica of the largest crocodile ever found and killed in Australia. In 1957, a lady named Krystina Pawlowski killed the animal with one clean shot – it was 8.63 metres in length. The kill earned her a place in the Guinness Book of Records, but it also filled her with deep regret. She’d taken the life of this beautiful and unique creature and this single episode would spark the next chapter in her life, crocodile conservation. I don’t know the entire story, but our driver said that she tried incredibly hard to protect the species and study their behaviour, mating and feeding habits and more. She died in 2004.

Our next port was Komodo Island and I was booked on the Komodo National Park and Pink Beach excursion. I was excited to get ashore as Komodo was always a place I knew of, but never thought I’d get to visit. The scenery was stunning and the tender ride ashore was flat calm. It was perfect. We’d been on the beach next to the ranger station for less than 5 minutes when we spotted a baby Komodo. He was about 2 years old and not bothered in the slightest by our presence, however we were fully aware of the fact that he was there.

We left the beach behind and began our jungle trek to a watering hole where the dragons are usually found. We walked for about 45 minutes and then came across 3 adult Komodo Dragons – what a sight! They were huge! At least 3 metres long and they seemed to be relaxing and taking shade from the sun. We stood for a while taking pictures and as we walked, we noticed another large dragon hiding in the bushes. The rangers were soon there to make sure we didn’t get too close to it!

Komodo Island is home to around 2,500 of the dragons, but they can also be found on 4 other Indonesian islands: Rinca, Flores, Gili, Motang and Padar. Between these islands there are another 2,500. There are more males than females, a ratio of 3 to 1 and they can live for up to 50 years. On average, the female will grow to around 2.5 metres and the male to 3 metres. If you can’t tell by the size which is male and which is female, a good thing to remember is  the male has a bigger head.

On our way to the jetty to join the boat for our trip to the Pink Beach, we spotted another dragon and a very small Scorpion! I almost stood on it. I’d never seen one before so leaned in for a quick photo, but I didn’t get too close, just in case!

The Pink Beach was actually pink and it was gorgeous. We had to use a small boat to get from our larger pirate boat and to the beach, that was…interesting! I put my feet in the sand, dumped my bag and grabbed a snorkel. It was so hot, I was desperate to get in the water. I walked in and the water was freezing! I’d expected it to be warm. There were bits of dead coral everywhere and they were quite sharp, so instead of walking further, I put on my mask and snorkel and just started swimming. Within less than 30 seconds I was face to face with the most incredible sight I have ever seen. There was live coral and hundreds of fish surrounding me. I was gobsmacked. I hadn’t expected that at all. I knew they said it was a good beach for snorkeling, but what I was looking at was something I never dreamed of. I always thought you had to go deep sea diving to see something that beautiful, but there I was, staring at it. I wish I’d had an underwater camera! I spent 2 hours in the water, admiring everything that was in front of me. At one point, I just floated and remained as still as possible, at least 40 fish started coming toward me, checking me out. There was one small fish – he was a silver colour and shaped a bit like an Angel fish – and he swam right up to my mask. I thought I was going to cry – not a good idea when using a snorkel – because it was so beautiful and completely unexpected. If you ever go to Komodo and the Pink Beach is an option, PLEASE go! You absolutely must! Words and pictures can never truly relay the feeling you have when you can see something like that with your own eyes. You have to either swim to the shore from the boat or take a very, very small boat (about the size of a bath tub) from the main boat and to the beach, so make sure you can do this before booking. Komodo is now one of my favourite ports of the cruise and if I ever get the chance to go back, I’ll be fully prepared. I will NEVER forget that day for as long as I live. 

After all that excitement, we lifted our anchor and began our journey towards Singapore. We arrive there tomorrow and then it’s Malaysia right after – a busy 2 port days ahead! Again, both are new for me, so I’ll be out exploring. I’ll be doing more updates on the ship and everything onboard in the coming weeks, just for anyone that is interested in learning more about Black Watch and the Fred. Olsen experience, so watch this space. I’m loving every moment onboard and every moment ashore! This is THE trip of a lifetime.

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Posted in Destinations, Fred Olsen Cruise Line, world cruise

Fred. Olsen World Cruise 2018: Sydney, Brisbane And Hamilton Island

After a rough and restless day at sea, we finally arrived in Sydney on February 27th. I’d never imagined ever being lucky enough to visit Australia, but there I was, right in the heart of it and best of all, I had 2 days to explore.

Marian and I left the ship as soon as our deck was called for immigration and we were on the ferry to Darling Harbour before 10AM. We docked at White Bay, as the Queen Elizabeth was also in port and she’d taken the prime spot at Circular Quay, but the ferry journey was only a few minutes in each direction and actually quite enjoyable.

Marian had visited Sydney several times previous to our call on Black Watch, so she was my map and guide for the day. We started by walking from Darling Harbour to Circular Quay. It was hot, but not too uncomfortable for exploring, and before I knew where I was, I spotted the Sydney Opera House. It was very impressive, but smaller than I’d imagined it to be. I took dozens of pictures of it and the QE before we continued towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The bridge was beautiful and as it’s identical to the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle upon-Tyne, it reminded me of home. We wandered around the Circular Quay area for a while, taking different shots of the bridge and Sydney Opera House from various angles before we made our way towards The Rocks.

Sadly, there were no markets on during our visit to The Rocks, but still, it was a charming little place to explore. I bought myself a boomerang (as you do when you’re in Australia) from the small aboriginal gallery inside the shopping centre and then I stopped again to buy a t-shirt. I liked the area, it was peaceful and a little slower than the rest of the city. There was so much construction going on in some places that it felt chaotic at times and people were rushing around in all different directions. From The Rocks, we made our way towards a restaurant called The Ship Inn. It’s opposite the train station at Circular Quay. They had pizzas for $10 and we were both hungry, so we stopped to fuel up. I’d definitely recommend a bite to eat here if you’re peckish during your exploring.

We continued being adventurers after lunch, with a cab ride to Bondi Beach. It had to be done. I wasn’t looking for a beach day, but when in Sydney, a visit to Bondi is obligatory, right? It was smaller than I thought it would be but it was beautiful and surf was definitely up, I’ve never seen waves so high when the weather is so calm. We walked in one direction along the road and along the beach in the other. I can actually say that I have walked along Bondi Beach, I’m so lucky! We looked in a few stores as we went and continued to take dozens of pictures. It was so hot there, I was very pleased that I’d thrown a bottle of Australian Gold sun lotion in my bag before we left the ship. That’s the only sun cream I’ve used for the entire trip, even the post-tanning moisturisers are incredible, I’ll never use any other product.

Our Uber arrived to pick us up from Bondi and we were soon on our way back towards the city. We had decided to go out in the evening, so we wanted to head back to the ship and freshen up before hitting the town. We didn’t stay out too late, but we did enjoy a few drinks at Cargo in Darling Harbour. How could you not enjoy this view?

Day two was taken at a slightly slower pace. We’d had so much fun and excitement on day one and we had to be back onboard the ship for 4PM. We got the ferry back across to Darling Harbour and set off looking for somewhere good to have lunch. We ended up in a food court in a local shopping mall and decided we’d go with Mexican food at Mad Mex. It was my first burrito experience and I can tell you that it was a good one. I devoured every last piece and then off we went in search of Birdcage Alley. I’d heard about it before I left on the cruise and was desperate to see it. It’s on Angel Place and not exactly easy to find, but if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s worth looking for. It’s called ‘Forgotten Songs’ and it’s an art installation of 50 birdcages, suspended in the air, that commemorates the songs of fifty birds that were once heard in Sydney, before they were gradually forced out by European settlement. The songs from the birds play overhead and they change as day turns into night. It’s something totally unique and I really did like it. There was a small restaurant in the same alley, so you could sit and listen to the sounds of the birds as you enjoyed food and drinks.

Our departure from Sydney was spectacular. We may not have had the best berth, but we got to sail out under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and it was truly magical. The images you see of Sydney Harbour will never do it justice, you have to see it with your own eyes. Sadly, the sun was so low in the sky that it caused issues with images, but I did manage to grab a few decent ones as we left. I could never have seen everything in 2 days that Sydney has to offer, but I’m happy that the places I wanted to see and visit, I did. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to go back there in the future and see more.

A sea day followed, a very hot and sunny sea day, before we arrived in Brisbane. I couldn’t wait to get off the ship, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was calling my name.

We used the free shuttle service into the city and then jumped in a cab to the sanctuary. We had planned on using the Koala Express ferry service, but we didn’t want to waste time and I was desperate to get there. We arrived, paid for our tickets and in we went to see the animals. I’ve wanted to see a koala since I was a small child, so you can imagine my delight when I turned to my left and there were at least 11 of them! I was so happy. I didn’t let myself get sidetracked, however, as I knew we had to get to the other section to queue for the chance to hold a koala, before there were too many people. We waited in line ( spotted a lady taking a very fat Wombat for a walk) and soon enough, it was my turn to step forward and meet my new best friend. He was a chunky little thing and very heavy! When the woman put him into my hands I thought I was going to drop him, I really hadn’t expected him to weigh so much. He was so placid and even though I was absolutely desperate to lean forward and kiss him, I managed to keep myself together and not intrude on his space. Our cuddle only lasted for a few short minutes, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever experienced in my life. I love animals and I feel so privileged to have been able to go there and do that. I really wish I could have brought him back to the ship and taken him home.

We left the koalas behind (only briefly) and off we went to feed the kangaroos. I’d thought you’d just lean over a fence and feed them, but no, you actually go inside their field and walk around with them. They were everywhere and the area they live in is vast, I couldn’t have possibly walked around it all. They’re not locked in, there’s tons of space for them and they also have a section beneath trees that is out of bounds for us humans. I guess this is where they can go when they want some shade, and peace and quiet from the intruders. The kangaroos were also very placid, there was one that looked like he could kill a grown man with one punch, but even he was quite laid back. I fed them, stroked them, took pictures with them and they were completely unphased by it. It was beautiful.

After the excitement of the kangaroos, we went back to see more koalas and some of the other animals before leaving and making our way back towards the city.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was established in 1927 and is home to more than 100 koalas. The koala can live for upto 14 years in captivity, which is longer than their life expectancy in the wild, and they have a main diet of eucalypt leaves. This low calorie diet means they need at least 20 hours of rest every day and when I was there, most of them were sleeping. The animals there are clearly well-cared for, that was evident by their appearance and in the way I watched them being handled. The people working there clearly love the animals very much. I thought I had a good job, but if I could do what they do, I’d apply without hesitation. It must be incredibly rewarding. Lone Pine is also home to the Tasmanian Devil, Wombat, Dingo and Platypus, and there’s a reptile section coming soon. If you’re ever in Brisbane, PLEASE visit!

Our next stop was Hamilton Island and we stepped out onto Deck 8 to be hit in the face by two things: humidity and stunning scenery. I can’t describe how beautiful the Whitsunday Islands are! Our original plan had been to visit Whitehaven Beach – voted the second best beach in the world – but sadly, our timings just didn’t line up. Instead, we took the tender across to the marina at Hamilton Island and then the shuttle bus to the resort side of the island, where we could access Catseye Beach. It was exactly what we needed. We’ve spent so many days exploring and walking for miles, all we wanted to do was relax and take in the atmosphere of the beach. It was very hot and I spent most of my time on the beach sat under a palm tree for shade, but I was quite content in my spot and happy watching people in the water.

Ninety-minutes or so after we arrived, we jumped on the shuttle back to the marina. We were both hot, hungry and thirsty, so we walked along to the Marina Tavern for lunch. It was quite busy and there were cockatoos everywhere! They were so lovely to look at and you could even stroke the odd one or two, but they were so naughty! They stole food from one man’s plate and then when a lady walked away from her table of food they swiftly swooped in and stole the lot! I even caught one of them casually sitting at the end of a table eating a chip. It was so funny.

Lunch was devoured and we made our way back along the marina, calling in several shops as we went. We did browse while we were in the shops, but we were mainly going in to take advantage of the air conditioning. It was just so hot. An hour or so passed and we spotted a tender in the marina. The dream of air conditioning and an ice cold Shirley Temple won and we hopped aboard and made our way back to the ship. We’d had a lovely day, but we were tired and hot.

We’re at sea now and will be for another day before we reach our last port in Australia, Darwin. It’s still incredibly hot outside, there’s just no air, and even the evenings are humid and sticky. I’m not sure how I’m going to survive once we get to Asia!

Everything on Black Watch is still as good as ever and I’ve started looking at places I can hide on April 24th, so I can stay onboard! 😉

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Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Line, world cruise

Fred. Olsen World Cruise 2018: Auckland And Bay Of Islands

We arrived in Auckland on the Wednesday morning (February 21) and the ship was cleared and I was on the gangway before 10:30AM. I didn’t have much planned, I wanted to explore under my own steam and as we remained in port for 2 days, I didn’t have to rush to fit everything in.

I started the day slowly, walking from the ship and along Queen Street, where you’ll find everything from Gucci stores to souvenir shops. I had shopping in mind, but it was local crafts I was in search of, not over-priced designer bags. I found 4 shops that I really liked and they all offered locally made arts and crafts, including wooden maori masks which were screaming at me as soon as I walked through the door. I left with 1 mask, a few t-shirts and some crisps from the supermarket. I was quite content with my morning but on my way back to the ship it poured with rain. I spent 20 minutes taking shelter before it stopped and I could finally drop my bags off in the cabin and then continue with my exploring. My first stop in the afternoon was St Paul’s Cathedral, a beautiful church nestled in the heart of the city. It was stunning both inside and out and offered 5 minutes peace from the hustle and bustle of the city. As I left, the Sky Tower was staring me down and although I have a terrible fear of heights, I knew I had to be brave and experience it. I purchased my ticket for NZ$29 and up I went. The ticket gives you access to the Sky Deck at 722 feet, Main Observation Level at 610 feet and the cafe. The views are absolutely stunning! I was so lucky that there was a break in the weather and while I was up the Sky Tower, there was barely a cloud in the sky. You MUST do this if you visit Auckland. I am so glad that I did it! You could spend hours up there if it’s your kind of thing, but even though I did enjoy it, I was aware that my feet were much further from the ground than I’d like them to be. I explored both levels, took some photographs and admire the views, then I made my way swiftly back down. 

Sky Tower Fast Facts

  • It took two years and nine months to build, at a cost of NZ$85 million.
    It’s 328 metres high
    Has 1,267 stairs from the base to the Sky Deck
  • It’s primarily constructed from 15,000 cubic metres of concrete, 2,000 tonnes of reinforcing steel and 260 panes of glass
  • It should remain standing in the unlikely event of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake occouring within 20 kilometres of the tower

Day 2 was also a slow day, I went out the evening before and didn’t get back to the ship until late, but it was OK, the day would involve a comfortable seat on the hop on hop off bus. I’d arranged tickets for this with CruisingExcursions before Marian and I left on the cruise. All we had to do was show up, get the bus ticket and off we could go. It was seamless. I’d definitely recommend this as an advance booking option. We opted for the Red Tour which starts just opposite the cruise ship terminal (opposite Princes Wharf next to the big Phillips sign). We drove to Bastion Point Lookout, Kelly Tarlton’s, Parnell Rose Gardens, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell Village and then left the bust on Queen Street. It kept pouring with rain, otherwise we would have also went on the Blue Tour, but the rain was so heavy at times that you could barely see out of the windows. I enjoyed the tour we did and I really liked the charm of Parnell. It was quaint, more laid back than the city and had an abundance of shops, bars and restaurants. It was a nice suburb and an ideal option if you want to escape the fast pace of Auckland for a few hours.

Just to note, the Blue Tour includes stops at Auckland Zoo, Wintergardens, Eden Garden, Mt Eden and a few others, so it really is worth doing if you have the time and the weather is on your side. You can purchase your ticket directly from the CruisingExcursions website and then when you arrive for the tour simply give that to the person issuing tickets. The will then issue you with an Explorer Bus Pass which also includes a return ticket for the Devonport ferry and you can get discounts on other city attractions, including the Sky Tower, Auckland Zoo, Auckland Museum and Eden Garden. It’s absolutely worth doing and the ticket is valid for 24 hours.

We sailed from Auckland late on the Thursday night and the next morning found ourselves at anchor in the Bay of Islands. To go out on deck and find that your ship is surrounded by dolphins is something we can usually only ever dream of, but that morning, for us, it became a reality. I’ve never seen so many! They were there to greet us and we lavished in every single sighting.

The tender service was much smoother here than it had been at Easter Island and we were thrilled. Marian and I left the ship on the first tender for independent passengers and off we went to explore Paihia. It’s a charming little town but it was incredibly busy and there was so much to do! We started with a walk around the town (which took around 20 minutes) and found a shop that was bursting with beautiful clothes. Needless to say, we stayed in there for some time and both left with bags filled with new garments. We also had a walk around the small arts and crafts market that had been set up on the village green. There were lots of beautiful things and nearly all were locally made, but some things were quite expensive. Next, we made our way along to the rocky beach to look for shells, we stayed there for a while, searching for treasures and admiring the view. It was perfect. We could see the ship, people parasailing and the ferries going back and forth, and for a while, we had the whole beach to ourselves! Perfect. 

We left the beach and strolled back into town and found a vegan/vegetarian restaurant where we had lunch. Marian is vegan, so we always try to look out for something and honestly, I don’t mind trying something new. I ordered a black bean and cheese tortilla with sour cream and a side of beetroot – don’t ask about the beetroot – and it was delicious! We were both satisfied, Marian had a tofu and satay sauce sandwich with veggies and she enjoyed that, too. We left with full tummies and decided to walk the opposite way to where we had already been and as we turned the corner we were greeted by the sight of a stunning beach. We walked along it, picking shells as we went and took some time to once again just admire the view and appreciate the fact that we were there. We used this as a good way to end our day. Considering Paihia is such a small place, we managed to explore for almost 6 hours. If we’d been there a little longer I would have taken a ferry to one of the neighbouring islands. Maybe that’s a reason for me to go back!


We had the most incredible sail away from Bay of Islands. The view was stunning in every direction and a beautiful sunset ultimately followed. I enjoyed our time in New Zealand very much. I feel like I got the chance to see 2 very different sides to the country, but I know there is still so much more to explore. This World Cruise has been absolutely incredible so far, but I am starting to worry that it might spark even more of the wanderlust inside me and I’ll need to think about doing this all again, in the not too distant future! I am completely hooked and living every single moment of it.

We’re now heading for Sydney! I know, I still can’t believe it! It’s going to be fantastic. We’ve got 1 more day at sea before we arrive there and I’ve spent the last day and a half soaking up the sun on deck and talking to the wonderful new friends that I’ve made since being onboard. The ship is home, the crew and passengers are now my friends and family and right now, I’d not want to be anywhere else! 

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Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Line, world cruise

Fred. Olsen World Cruise 2018: Papeete And A Wedding Vow Renewal Ceremony

We arrived in Papeete a day before schedule, we had to take some shelter from the bad weather and we weren’t the only ship in port. We docked at around 9PM, but it was absolutely pouring with rain, so Marian and I decided to stay onboard, sleep and wake up refreshed the following morning for our 4×4 jeep safari tour.

The day started well, even though it was still grim and very humid, but once we reached the Neptune Lounge (to meet for our tour), we were told that unfortunately the national park had been closed which subsequently meant our tour had been cancelled. We were both disappointed but as we were dressed and ready to go, we left the ship and started walking around Papeete. We made our way towards Papeete Market. It was only a short walk from the ship, no more than 5 minutes and we just made it inside when the heavens opened. The market is extensive and across 2 floors. There are people selling everything from fresh fish and vegetables to magnets and clothing. The atmosphere was electric and I thoroughly enjoyed walking around and admiring everything. One thing I will say is that Tahiti is expensive and I didn’t find the people to be very friendly. Maybe I was spoiled by the smiles and happiness in Peru, but I didn’t get the same vibe in Papeete, at all.

We stopped for some lunch and drinks and before arriving back at the ship, we found out that we would be staying in port for another night – our calls to Bora Bora and Rarotonga had been cancelled. I can’t even tell you how disappointed I was to hear that news. Both ports were 2 of the biggest highlights of the trip for me, and many others, but sadly, what can you do about the weather? It’s always better to be safe. With this news, Marian and I decided we’d head back to the ship, shower, have dinner and then head out for the evening. In between torrential downpours, we hopped from one place to another before finally ending the evening across from the ship at a local nightclub. In all, we’d had a great time in Papeete, but we were still sulking from the news of the cancelled ports.

We sailed from Papeete on Wednesday February 14th and we were straight back into miserable weather and rough seas. Captain Mattsson gave us noon updates every day on the weather and the issues it was causing us. All we could do was head for our next port and hope for the best. As I’ll explain soon, it all worked out very well!

On February 17th, we attended Denise and Christian’s wedding vow renewal ceremony. It’s not something I’ve ever been invited to before, but it was such a lovely way to spend the afternoon. We’ve made a lot of friends on this cruise and to be invited to such a personal event was incredibly humbling. There were tears which were then followed by laughs and a pleasant afternoon tea in the Black Watch Room. We all had a wonderful afternoon. Thank you to Denise and Christian for the invitation and for allowing Callao (my Alpaca) to be guest of honour, she also had fun, until someone pulled her head off! She made a full recovery, don’t worry, and the ladies that knit on Deck 7 are busy making her some leg warmers.

We crossed the International Date Line on the 17th, so basically, we went to bed on Saturday the 17th and woke up on Monday the 19th – crazy! I still can’t quite wrap my head around it all, but at the same time, I was struggling to keep up with days and time changes anyway. We went from being 11 hours behind the UK to suddenly being 11 hours ahead.

We’re at sea again today and we were expecting to be for the next 2 days, however, at noon, Captain Mattsson announced that we will be arriving in Auckland now on Wednesday morning (that’s Tuesday night for many of you) and everyone is thrilled about that. We’ll now spend 2 full days in Auckland before leaving for Bay of Islands. I’m so excited! I’ve never been to New Zealand, so I’m looking forward to exploring and having some land time that is hopefully rain free.

On the 26th of February, we’ll be halfway through the cruise and up to now, missed ports and all, it has been AMAZING! I’ve never experienced a cruise like it and we have met some wonderful people. I’m sure I’ve missed a few names and I will make up for it, but I’d like to just take a few minutes to thank the following crew members. They have all, in some way, made this cruise great and have went above and beyond the call of duty for us and many other passengers. Without them, this trip wouldn’t be the same: Manny, Mr Wilson, Alvin, Putu, Aaaron, Annie, Alex, Debbie, Herman, Captain Mattsson, Captain Danielsen, Anna, Honey, Arie, Tanu, Suchanya, Anthony, Made, Red, Pop, Mary Michelle, Aries, Derek, Joy, Paul, Raul, Gordon and Kik.

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Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Line

Fred. Olsen World Cruise 2018: Easter Island And Pitcairn Island

We spent several fun-filled days at sea before reaching our next port of call, Hanga Roa, Easter Island, Chile. There was sun, cloud and a tug-of-war. Yes, you read that correctly, a tug-of-war. Passengers, for obvious reasons, weren’t allowed to take part, but we could bet for the team we wanted to win – all of the money taken that day will be donated to the RNLI. There were several teams of 5 from various departments, including deck, housekeeping, senior officers, bar, galley and engine room. It was a very hot and sunny day, but the decks were packed several deep with people cheering and shouting. The overall winners were the group of senior officers, but the deck girls gave a lot of the teams a run for their money. The girls from the bars, they didn’t stand a chance, they were almost pulled off their feet! It was a fun way to pass a few hours. We also had a tropical deck party with BBQ that evening. 

On February 6th, we arrived just off Hanga Roa, Easter Island and it was a beautiful morning. The tender service started early and Marian and I were on our way not long after 10AM. Once ashore, we met with Roberto, he was our local guide for the day and he was superb. We jumped in his Jeep and he took us to a local store to buy water before we began our journey into the Rapa Nui National Park. The park itself is actually spread across the island (there are 4 sections), but you have 1 ticket that allows you access into each place. The tickets are $80USD per person and can only be paid for in cash. You MUST keep it safe as you will need to show it at each place you visit. We started with a stop at Orongo. This is one of the most important places on the island and its history dates back many, many years. It’s also where scientists discovered rapamycin – a drug used across the world to help with organ transplant rejection. Orongo was originally a ceremonial village at the centre of the Birdman Cult in the 18th and 19th centuries. Their annual ritual was to bring the Manutara egg back from the nearby island of Moto Nui, but the egg had to be undamaged. Many islanders fell to their deaths during this race, but some simply stood back, watched and waited for their turn the following year, when the leadership was passed over.

Our second stop was at Rano Raraku and I was blown away. I’d not researched Easter Island much before leaving on the cruise, but I had looked at enough to know what points were of the most interest to Marian and myself. I wasn’t prepared for Rano Raraku, I don’t think anyone could be. It’s known as the Moai Quarry and there are moai statues everywhere, around 397! Many of them are standing, although you can only see the heads and shoulders as the majority of each statue remains underground for preservation reasons. The stone here was used for 95% of the islands moai statues and it is an incredible sight. One of the most famous moai at Rano Raraku is Tukuturi. Unlike the other statues, he is presented with a beard and a kneeling posture, whereas most others are upright. It is believed that the statue represents a riu singer and it is likely that it is one of the last moai ever made.

We left Rano Raraku behind and made our way to Ahu Tongariki, which can actually be seen from Rano Raraku. Here, there are 15 moai that have been restored, including an 86 tonne moai that is the largest ever to be erected on the island. The moai here were toppled during the country’s civil war and in the 1960’s a tsunami swept the ahu inland, so they’ve had their fair share of misfortunes, but today, they stand with pride, overlooking this wonderful island. They are truly incredible.

We ended our day with a stop at Anakena Beach where we got to see the Ahu Nao-Nao moai. There are 7 in total but 2 of them have badly deteriorated. The beach is stunning and the restaurants were full of people enjoying local cuisine. There were also several people on the grassy areas enjoying BBQ’s and family time.

When our time ashore came to an end, we made our way back to the tender area. There had been issues throughout the day because of sea conditions and it was clear that we were in for a bumpy crossing back to the ship. We got off lightly compared to some. The crew really had a difficult time with that tender operation and I take my hat off to every single one of them. They worked incredibly hard to ensure the safety of everyone. It was a challenging day for everyone onboard, but we sailed off into the sunset and started our journey towards Tahiti.

We sailed by Pitcairn Island on the 9th and it was a beautiful day. We’d all just assumed we were sailing by and continuing on our way, but no. We stopped close to the island and several islanders came across to us with bags full of local arts and crafts. They boarded the ship and set up stalls on the aft deck. It was a nice treat for us all, we hadn’t expected a market on the deck or the talk about the island that then followed. We were incredibly lucky. The Pitcairn Islands are a group of volcanic islands that form the last British Overseas Territory in the South Pacific, the only inhabited island is Pitcairn. Pitcairn is the least populous national jurisdiction in the world, approx 50 people currently live there. I met one gentleman who was the islands doctor, vet and dentist. It was fascinating and the people seemed very happy living there, but it’s very remote. They get supplies every quarter and I understand that the only livestock they keep on the island are goats and chickens.

We left Pitcairn behind and we’re continuing our journey to Tahiti, we have 1 sea day left before we arrive. The weather turned overnight and we have rough seas and rain today – I hope it settles before we arrive in Papeete and then stays away so we can tender in Bora Bora. 

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Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Line, world cruise
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