May 9th, 2016 - Day 1 - Sydney, Australia

We have arrived in Sydney and left the ship at 7:50 AM.  Goodbye Insignia!

Our van we had booked was supposed to arrive at 8:15 AM.  At 8:45 AM we were still waiting but he never showed up.  We had to get some help with our luggage and we went up to the next level to catch a taxi.  We could see our hotel from the port.  The taxi got us to the hotel in 5 minutes for an $8 cab fare.  We thought that was a bargain with all our luggage.

We arrived at the Four Seasons Sydney Hotel and checked in but we were early so the room wasn't quite ready.  We waited in the Club Room and had coffee/tea and pastries.  Originally they said it would be about a 1/2 hour wait but after an hour Pat said let's go outside and walk around so we did.  What a lovely area and lots of shops to walk in.  We were able to find an Australian Koala Bear that Kent had told us Thatcher said that was what we were bringing him back from Australia.  So we had to make sure we had one.

We got back from shopping at 11:30 AM and our room was ready.  We have a beautiful Harbor View Suite  #3308 on the 33rd floor of a 34 story building.  The view is magnificent.    We have a view of our cruise ship as well as they are spending the night in Sydney.  We can also see the bridge and the Opera House.

We unpacked and Jim rested up for our Bridge Walk.  We are to meet at 1:30 PM at the Bridge Walk Station so we left here about 12:45 PM to give us plenty of time in case we got lost.  We got there at 1:00 PM.  We were able to get on a 1:05 PM tour time and it turned out to be just us so that was fantastic.  They said it was like a VIP tour just for us.

They suit you up in specially designed outdoor gear.  We just wore a t-shirt and our underwear under the suit because he said you might get to hot.  We also wore black rain pants over the suit as it had been raining a little.  We were given a safety harness belt where they attach a handkerchief, headset, jacket, and raincoat to your belt. We did a test run up a ladder section to see how we did and explained the safety measures.  We had to fill out a medical form and sign it.  Nothing could be taken up with us on the walk. We also had to go through a metal detector.

This walk was a big deal for Jim to do as he is afraid of heights.

Michael was our guide and gave us facts about the bridge and the history of building the bridge as we walked.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge construction started in 1924 and took 1,400 men eight years to build at a cost of 4.2 million. Six million hand driven rivets and 53,000 tonnes of steel were used in its construction.  It now carries eight traffic lanes and two rail lines, one in each direction, but at the time of its construction the two eastern lanes were tram tracks. They were converted to road traffic when Sydney closed down its tram system in the 1950s.  Only 16 men lost their lives building the bridge.

We latched onto the steel cable in the Climb Base below the Bradfield Highway, where we walked on catwalks below the road-deck until we reached the South-East Pylon.  Here we ascended 4 ladders to the start of the upper arch, surrounded by the hum and buzz of Sydney’s traffic.  With the summit in our sight, we continued along the Bridge’s outer arch on the Opera House side until we hit the top.  We had a summit celebration looking at the 360 degree panorama view of Sydney.  The winds were blowing about 50 miles per hour.  Michael said it was rare that we were the only ones at the top and he said that doesn't happen often.

This was a big deal for Jim and I was so proud of him for accomplishing this.  He told me that I was like a bird just moving so easily.

Helicopters were just a little higher than we were.  We walked under the trains that were under us and over us.

We then crossed the spine of the Bridge to the Darling Harbour side and made our descent back  to the Climb Base.

We could see the Blue Mountains in the distance. Michael said we came on a good day because yesterday and the day before there had been a fire and you could barely see the Opera House.  He said the rained cleared it out today.

Sydney Bridge Facts: 

3 1/2 hour climb

Height: 134m

Length: 1,149m

Stairs: 1,390 steps

Steel: 52,899t

Rivets: 6 million

View: 360 degrees

AND WE CLIMBED IT!

It was 4:30 PM when we got back.  Jim said it was the most frightening thing he has ever done but also one of his top highlights!  I loved seeing the inner workings of the bridge and walking along the cat walks.  The views were spectacular.  It was a great experience and one we will remember for the rest of our lives!

Afterwards we decided to walk to the Opera House Bar for a beer.  On the walk there was a beautiful sunset that lit up the sky pink and blue and with all the buildings around glistening  it was magical.  We went inside and ordered a local beer that is made only for the Opera House and took it outside and sat and looked at the harbor where our ship was, the bridge, an amusement area and the Opera House.  The view was amazing!

We walked back to our hotel and ate on the Club Floor.  They had cheese and meats, hors d'oeuvres, fresh bread and rolls and desserts.  Pat made a open face sandwich and it was really good.

Now back in our room enjoying our view!

Goodnight from Sydney!

May 8th, 2016 - Day 36 - Enroute to Sydney, Australia

We woke up cruising the Tasman Sea.

We had breakfast in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had his usual oatmeal with a banana added and Pat had a yogurt parfait with a chocolate croissant.

We came back to the room as our Stateroom Attendant, Suresh, had taken all the suitcases from under the bed and are now ready to fill up.  We tried to plan for our 2 nights in Sydney so we will only have to open one suitcase and leave the rest closed. We are 90% packed and it went together smoothly.  Hopefully when we put the remaining things in tonight we'll be able to zip up the suitcase.

Jim is watching a Twitter feed of the fight that is happening in Las Vegas: Canelo vs Khan.  Canelo knocked Khan flat out in the 6th round with one punch.

We had a nice talk for over an hour with Kent, Rachel and Thatcher.  When we hung up Rachel told us that Thatcher was crying so hard because he misses us so much that he had a hard time catching his breath.  I feel so sad for him.  It seems like he just wants his world back together and he will see us in 4 sleeps.  We thought he would get over it but he seems to still be sad about us being gone. 

We had lunch in the Waves Grill and we shared a hamburger and French fries.

We spent the late afternoon on Deck 9 Spa Deck and enjoyed reading until it got dark. It was nice and peaceful up there but it got a little cold at the end.

We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had Chilled Chicken and Tomato Consommé Madeline with Shoestring Cheese for his soup.  For his main course he had Oven Roasted Vermont Turkey with Chestnut Dressing  abd Relish of Blood Orange and Cranberry and a side of Mashed Potaoes.

Pat had Goat Cheese and Golden Delicious Tarte Tatin for her appetizer.  For her main course she had The Taste from Red Ginger: Green Thai Chicken Curry with Cherry Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Basmati Rice.

After saying goodbye to Oka, our waiter, we left and went back to our room.

We have completed the packing of what we can do tonight and will carry the rest out in the morning. We have put three bags outside the door so we are done.  Yeah!

We just need to go to sleep and we will be in Sydney in the morning. 

Goodnight from the Tasman Sea!

May 7th, 2016 - Day 35 - Docked at Brisbane

We woke up this morning on the Coral Sea.  We arrived in Brisbane at 10:00 AM.

We had breakfast in the Terrace Cafe.  Jim had oatmeal and Pat had half a grapefruit and a donut which she split with Jim.  This donut had chocolate frosting but we could not taste the chocolate flavor.

Our tour today is Highlights of Brisbane and Lone Pine.  We met our group in the Insignia Lounge at 11:45 AM.  We were on Bus 5.

Jenny is our guide and Michael is our driver. Jenny was a great guide and very knowledgeable. 

On our way out of the port there were lots of cars at the port where they are stored until they are moved to various places where they will be sold.  The job is mostly done by women as they can drive them between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM and then pick up kids from school.  The keys to the cars are kept on each seat.  They put big rocks around the edge of the car park so if someone cuts the fence it would be hard to get the car through.

Coal trains come in to the port each day and approximately 16-17 trains a day.  They have 30 carriages on each train so there is a lot of coal.

On weekends people either go to Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast to get away.  Both are a little over an hour away in opposite directions.  Brisbane is known for their great weather.

2.2 million people live in Brisbane and it is the 3rd largest city in Australia.

Our tour began with a ride around the city for about an hour pointing out different areas such as Fisherman Island and Morton Bay.  We saw the Court House and Suncorp Stadium.    Australia is big into sports.  Lovely area and everything looks so clean.  We saw the Customs House, Chinatown, Brunswick Street, Old Stephen's  Catholic Church, and St. John's Anglican Cathedral.  We saw where the Australian Beer XXXX is made.

Our first stop was at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary for 2 hours and 15 minutes.  It is part zoo and part sanctuary.  Lone Pine has more than 130 cuddly Koalas, which is one of Australia's most iconic species.  Pat held Major, the Koala Bear, and got a picture taken with him.  Major was so soft and weighed about 10 pounds.  It was the cutest little bundle of fur.  The fees paid for the souvenir photo helps fund new enclosures, research projects and eucalyptus plantations so it went to a great cause and made Pat's day.

We saw some sheep shearing where the guy shaved off all the fur on the sheep by hanging over a harness so he does not hurt his back and holding the sheep between his legs.  We felt the wool of the sheep which has a natural lanolin in it.  It was very thick wool.

We walked into an enclosure where you can feed and pet the free-roaming kangaroos in the 5 acre kangaroo reserve.  We saw a few jumping, standing  or laying on the ground.  There were large, medium and babies.  We were able to go up to them and pet them and they were not afraid at all.

We were able to pet emus.  Their feathers felt like straw.  One of the emus was eating food out of a feeder and a bird, the Rainbow Lorikeet, came over to the dish and the emu walked away.  These rainbow Lorikeets fly to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary for the specially prepared nectar meals at the sanctuary.  These animals and birds were so tame.  Pat was able to stand so close  to the lorikeet while he just kept eating.

Also walking the grounds were big lizards about 12 inches long and we ran into a couple of them.  Pat was able to get a close up picture of one.

We also saw dingos, Tasmania devil, crocodiles, birds and wombats.  It was a very nice sanctuary/zoo.

We passed the Toowong Cemetery where our guide said was a nice place to go for picnics and people jog through the cemetery.  She said it was a nice place with beautiful headstones and full of nice memories.

On our way back to the pier we stopped at Kangaroo Point.  It is situated on the southern banks of the Brisbane River.  Kangaroo Point provided a postcard perfect view of the Brisbane skyline and it was beautiful.

We also saw the Wheel of Brisbane, Story Bridge, Portside Wharf and West End.

We got back to the ship at 4:40 PM.

Since we had missed lunch we stopped at the coffee bar on the 5th Floor and had a cookie and some roasted peanuts with a Diet Coke.

We left Brisbane at 7:04 PM.

Tonight we had dinner at Toscana Restaurant at 8:00 PM.  Paulo was our waiter.

Jim had Carpaccio di Manzo:  Aged Parmigiano Reggiano and Arugula crowned with Thinly Sliced Prime Beef Tenderloin and drizzled with Lemon-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil for his appetizer.  For his salad he had Classic Caesar Salad prepared Table-side:  Tender Romaine Lettuce tossed in Homemade Caesar Dressing served with Toasted  Croutons and topped with Parmigiano Reggiano Shavings.  For his main course he had Ravioli con Farcia di Manzo Saltati al Sugo d'Arrosto:  Ravioli stuffed with Slowly Roasted Beef and tossed in a Veal Jus flavored with Rosemary and Tomato.

Pat had for her appetizer Mozzarella di Bufala Caprese:  Tower of Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and Vine-Ripened Tomatoes with Basil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil Emulsion.  She had  Insalatine di Campo con Formaggio di Capra, Pomodori e Olive Nere:  Baby Spinach with Crumbled Sardinian Goat Cheese, Tomatoes and Kalamata Olives in a Delicate Lemon-Oregano Vinaigrette for her salad.  For her main course she had Vulcano di Capellini D' Angelo alla Sorrentina:  Angel Hair Pasta with an Herb-Infused Fresh Tomato Sauce topped with Sorrento Bufala Mozzarella.

For dessert we shared Lemon Sorbet and 3 different types of biscotti: Chocolate, Vanilla and Orange.

Goodnight from the Coral Sea! 

May 6th, 2916 - Day 34 - En route to Brisbane, Australia

We woke up to cloudy skies and cruising on the Coral Sea.  A major event that happened in World War II was the famous battle on the Coral Sea.  Jim knows these World War II facts as he is a history buff of World War II.

We had breakfast in the Grand Dining Room. Jim had oatmeal with bananas and nuts on it.  Pat had a pecan pancake that they delivered when Jim's meal was over.  We actually had to ask where my meal was and then they finally brought it out.  They said mine took longer to make but they should not have brought the oatmeal out until they could have been served both together they said.  I ate half my pancake and Jim enjoyed the rest.

We spent the morning and afternoon up on Deck 9 at the spa area. Pat finished her book that she had started, Marcia Clark's new novel, Blood Evidence.  It was entertaining and a fast read.

For lunch we ate in the Terrace Café. They had a Mexican buffet which we enjoyed. Yesterday Pat wondered why they did not have anything for Cinco de Mayo since it was May 5th but they wait until May 6th here and have it at the same time the US is having it.  We enjoyed chips and guacamole. Jim had a burrito with different fillings of his choice and Pat had a quesadilla.

We relaxed some more and Jim took a nap.  Pat did laundry.  Another exciting sea day for us.  Ha!

For dinner we ate in the Grand Dining Room.

We started out with a glass of champagne and then learned that they had lost Jim's open bottle of 401K white wine so they replaced it.

Jim had Soft Shell Crab Tempura with Roasted Cherry Tomato Aïoli for his appetizer.  For his main course he had Ravioloni di Fontina alla Crema di Tartufi:  Fontina Stuffed Ravioloni with Creamy Black Truffle Sauce.

Pat had Polenta Soufflé with Ragout of Forest Mushrooms and Tarragon for her appetizer.  For her main course she had Baked Coconut Miso Halibut in Banana Leaf with Steamed Jasmine Rice.

For dessert Jim picked the desert for us to share:  Baccarat  - Tahitian Vanilla Charlotte with Wild Berries Compote.  He did a great job. 

Good night!

May 5th, 2016 - Day 33 - Docked at Townsville, Australia

We had breakfast at the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had a Cheese Blintz with Berries Compote.  Pat had a bowl of berries and half a grapefruit. 

Our tour today is to the World Heritage Rainforest Discovery.  We met our group on the pier.

Our guide is Zack and is driving the van.  In the other van is Ross who is the other guide.

There are 200,000 population in Townsville.  8,000 are in the service.  Their main source of income is industry and a little tourist business.  

Saw a funny sign on the road "Don't  Sleep and Drive"

Another sign "Rest if Sleepy"

Zack played a song I think the name might be Three Rivers Hotel by a local artist, Slim Dusty, that sounds like Willie Nelson.

Along the highway we saw lots of Termite Mounds. 

On our 90 minute drive we enjoyed a picturesque drive up the coast before turning inland.

On the ascent to McClellans Look Out in Paluma Range National Park, the road became very curvy and the rain forest denser.

We passed Noah's Ark Creek named after a huge rock that looks like a ark and it sure did look like an ark.

When we arrived Ross was our naturalist and guide as we began our walking tour through the Wet Tropics Rainforest. This was not a ordinary forest, as it has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its exceptional natural beauty, and remarkable ancestry.  All of Australia's marsupials and most of its other animals originated in rainforests, and the closest living relatives can be found in the Wet Tropics.

Ross pointed out various flora and fauna.  Many of the species are found no where else in the world, including green possums, tree kangaroos and tooth billed catbirds. Although the only animal we saw there was the Australian brush-turkey.

There are more than 2,800 types of plants that thrive there, including cycads and some of the world's first flowering plants.  We enjoyed walking through this natural cathedral as some call it.  We saw some hoot vine tall trees and strangler fig trees.  Not sure how to spell this one Quond Dong but going to look it up.  We saw a lot of fungus and a beautiful shell fungus.  We saw buttress roots.  It was a very interesting walk.

We then took another ride for thirty minutes over bumpy and dirt roads to the Hidden Valley Cabins.  We had lunch at a beautiful outdoor area.  Jim had steak and Pat had chicken.  There were great salads...pasta salad, potato salad, 3 bean salad, marinated onions, sliced tomatoes, beets for Jim, and the best homemade bread.  We enjoyed our lunch outdoors among beautiful colorful birds that made so much noise but we loved the sound. Not sure of the name of the birds but they were red, black and yellow.  We heard they might be a Noisy Pitta or Rainbow Lorikeets.

We started our drive back to the port.  We saw a wallaroo on our drive out.  It was whitish.

We stopped at Mount Speck which some say is  named after a horse or others say the rocks were blasted and found specks of tin in them.  There was a creek and waterfall and we saw 2 swimmers swimming in the water. 

Zack played the Slim Dusty CD on the way home.

It took us 2 hours and 15 minutes to get back to the port.

We got back to the ship at 5:10 PM and the shipped sailed at 5:30 PM.  After our group got back they lifted up the steps.

There was a jazz duo singing and playing music as we set sail.

We left Townsville at 5:35 PM.

We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had Iceberg Lettuce with Creamy Goat Cheese and Miso and Anchovy Dressing for his salad.  For his main course he had Canard a l'Orange:  Crispy Duck with Orange Sauce Potato Gratin and Braised Red Cabbage.

Pat had Cantaloupe, Grapefruit and Raspberries with Sweet Coteaux du Layon Wine for her appetizer.  For her main course she had Stir Fried Vegetable Pad Thai with Glass Noodles, Fried Eggs, Tofu and Peanuts.

For dessert we shared Pavlova with Passion Fruit and Caramel Sauce. 

Goodnight from somewhere on the sea!

May 4th, 2016 - Day 32 - Docked at Cairns, Australia

We woke up this morning in Cairns, Australia.  We were happy we weren't whisked away to another island during the night after all the port changes we have had.

We had breakfast at the Terrace Cafe.

Jim had scrambled eggs and bacon and Pat had grapefruit and kiwi.

We had a 8:15 AM tour this morning. We met in the Insignia Lounge for our ticket and then walked about 10 minutes to get on the boat Sunlover Reef Cruises to Discover the Real Reef.  We finally took off at 9:40 AM for our 90 minute ride onboard an air conditioned catamaran.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the great natural wonders of the world.  Located just off the coast of Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef is an awe-inspiring underwater spectacle of brilliantly colored corals and more than 10,000 diverse and unique marine species.

Moore Reef is a showcase of what Australia's most famous World heritage Area, the Great Barrier Reef has to offer.

We made a stop at Fitzroy Island to drop people off and pick people up.  They have a resort here on the Island.

We docked at 11:15 AM up next to a pontoon on Moore Reef where all the activities took off from.  We got our fins, mask and snorkel and life vest.  On board the catamaran they had given us instructions on what we needed to do to get started snorkeling.

The girl that was demonstrating for us was a ham and showed us the good and bad ways to do things when you are in the water.

We decided to snorkel right away so we climbed down some stairs and sat on a wire grate in the water to put on our fins and then we just stepped off into the water.  Such an easy way to get in the water.

The water was cool when we first got in but it was comfortable.  When we staring moving around we would go from water that was warm to cool to hotter then cool and then cold in just a few strokes.

We saw lots of different types of coral.  The one Pat especially liked was a type that looked like antlers.  Jim thought the coral would be more vibrant colors, like he remembers in Hawaii, but they were what Jim called dirty looking and then a few colors interspersed around.  Still it was beautiful looking at the surroundings and seeing the beautiful fish.  Pat got into a large school of fish that were yellow and purple and she was swimming among them right in her face.  Then all of a sudden the helicopter scared them and they started moving all over her body and it scared her a bit.  When she looked up they had settled down and she could swim among them again.

There were hundreds of mini fish moving so fast back and forth and they would just stay together in their school and dart around.

Pat saw a large rainbow color fish pulling food off of some coral to eat.

Pat also started following a spotted fish, a Barramundi Cod, and followed it around and watched.  While doing that she found a group of 5 scuba divers below her so she watched them touch pieces of coral and the guide waved his arms over a giant clam and it opened up.  It was fascinating.

All of a sudden there was a huge fish near Pat and a underwater photographer so she took a picture of Pat with the fish. It will be a nice remembrance of the day.

At about 1:00 PM we got out of the water to go eat lunch since it closed at 1:30 PM.  They had a hot and cold buffet, curry beef, jasmine rice, potato salad, pasta salad, pasta alfredo,  green salad, shrimp, bread and fruit.  Jim found more things to eat than Pat.  Ha!

After lunch we went back onto the pontoon.  We took a 20 ride on the Semi-Submersible. We went into sort of a submarine and we saw coral and fish but not a lot.  It reminded us of the Disneyland ride.

Then we took a 20 minute ride on the Glass Bottom Boat.  That was cool as we went over the coral. While looking at it we looked behind us and we had a clearer view as it was low tide and we could see lots of coral.

At 3:15 PM we boarded the catamaran to sail back to Cairns. It seemed we traveled faster coming up but we are rocking quite a bit so not sure if is just an illusion.

We made our return stop at Fitzroy Island to drop people off and pick people up.

We arrived back in Cairns at 5:30 PM

We had a 10 minute walk back to the port and we were supposed to be back on the ship at 5:30 PM.  I stopped to look at a booth of silk scarves that was in the port near the ship and one of the ship administrators told me I had to get on board so I was not able to purchase a silk scarf.

We left Cairns at 6:05 PM.

Tonight we had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Pat had for her appetizer Lobster and Spring Vegetable Crêpe with Langoustine Bisque.  For her main dish she had Gambus Sautees Provencal:  Sauteed Jumbo Shrimp in Lessatini Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Jim had Cream of Asparagus Soup with Salmon Julienne.  For his salad he had Iceburg Lettuce with Apples, Raisins and Blue Cheese Dressing.  For his main course he had Spaghetti Bolognese and a side of French fries.

For dessert we shared Lemon Crepes Soufflé with Apricot Sauce.

We had a nice dinner talking with Wine Stewards, the Chef, the Restaurant Manager and our Waiter.

Good Night from the Great Barrier Reef Conservation Reserve!

May 3rd, 2016 - Day 31 - Anchored at Cooktown - UPDATE No Stop Here on to Cairns, Australia

Good morning we woke up cruising in the Great Barrier Reef Conservation Reserve.

We had breakfast in the Grand Dining Room.

We both had Swedish pancakes with skewered fruit and we split a sugar coated donut.  Jim added two slices of bacon to his meal.

We went to the Gift Shop and Jim bought Pat her Mother's Day present.  A new jewelry designer, Amy Cronhelm, from Wild Jewels, came on board and she had a jewelry collection made out of New Zealand Paua.  Pat found a necklace that the shells are crushed and then tumbled 7 times and then formed into an organic necklace on a leather strap.  The necklace also can be worn on either side for a different look.  The pieces of shells are larger than quarters and various shapes.  It is a very unique necklace.  These designers, who are sisters, use their profits for educational projects in Northern Kenya.  We like that.

We had two tours today.  The first was to go to Historic Cooktown at Noon and the second was to Black Mountain & Lions Den at 4:45 PM.  We were getting ready to go to the Insignia Lounge to meet our tour but we thought that it was strange that the ship had not anchored yet.

At 11:30 AM we got an announcement from the Captain:  Our Cooktown Port has been canceled for today due to heavy seas.  The weather that is coming up later this afternoon will make it unsafe to tender the boats to shore for the 30 minute ride.  It would be too dangerous and your safety is our number one priority.  So we are now heading toward Cairns and will be there at 5:30 PM today.

So we changed our clothes and got our kindles and went to the spa deck and relaxed.  It was a nice day.  We stayed there all afternoon.  We didn't even eat lunch.

Being up on the Spa Deck made it easy to watch us dock at the Cairns Port  when we arrived at 6 PM.

We had a quick dinner at the Terrace Café.  Jim had coq a vin, a barbecue meatball and some mashed potatoes. Pat had a barbecue meatball, cucumber salad and faro bean salad.

For dessert Jim had piña colada sorbet and Pat had chocolate ice cream. We shared a warm chocolate cake which Jim liked as it was warm. It tasted like coco.

We got off the ship tonight and walked the town of Cairns.  The people in the port are so nice and the town was lovely. We walked through the main designer section but luckily for Jim most of the shops were closed.

We did find a souvenir shop and picked up a couple of gifts.

We came back to the port and used the free Wi-Fi for a little bit as it is a lot faster then onboard.

We tried to call Jimmy in South Korea and we connected with him but was not able to stay on the line to hear each other so we just ended up texting. Everybody else was sleeping that we could call.

Our cabin is right outside a big Clock Tower that rings on the hour.  When we heard it ring in the port I asked the guards if it rings all night they said yes. They said it was not bad outside just inside the port it makes more noise as it echoes. I told them if I could not sleep and was cranky tomorrow I would come see them. They laughed with me. They were very nice.  We just heard the clock in our room strike 10 but after midnight maybe we won't notice it as much with only a few dings each hour.

Goodnight from Cairns!

May 2nd, 2016 - Day 30 - Cruising the Coral Sea

We woke up to another beautiful day on the ocean although it is a little overcast today and windy.

We had breakfast at the Terrace Café.

We were supposed to have a Country Fair that the staff puts on but because of the weather they have postponed it to May 6.

At 11:00 AM we entered into the Great Barrier Reef.

We had lunch at the Terrace Café as they had a special Seafood Buffet.  We both had Salmon Coulibiac with Lemon Butter Sauce and it was really good.  Pat had a spring roll.  Jim had some rice and fried calamari with tarter sauce.  For dessert Jim had some pear and butter ice cream. 

We spent the afternoon on Deck 9 in the  the special spa area of the ship and enjoyed reading and relaxing and looking out over the sea.  We enjoyed a jacuzzi.  There is a great view when you stand on the decking to get into the spa that overlooks the ship...all you see is water.

For dinner we ate in the Grand Dining Room.

We had been given a bottle of champagne in our room so we took it down for dinner and started the meal with a glass of champagne.

Jim had Heirloom Tomato Carpaccio and Sicilian Tomato Basil Press with Cream of Buffalo Mozzarella for his appetizer.  For his salad he had Boston Lettuce with Crumbled Gorgonzola and Sweet Pecans in Raspberry Vinaigrette.  For his main course he had Palermo Style Grilled Swordfish over Crushed Red Bliss Potatoes with Eggplant Caviar and a side of Mashed Potatoes.

Pat had for her appetizer a Chesapeake Bay Crab Cake with Vegetable Slaw and Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce.  For her salad she had Daikon, Carrot and Broccoli Slaw with Asian Dressing and Toasted Sesame Seeds.  For her main dish she had Cappellini alla Emilio: Angel Hair Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Artichokes and Buffalo Mozzarella.

We shared a Strawberry Sorbet for dessert.

Good night from the Great Barrier Reef!

May 1st, 2016 - Day 29 - Cruising the Arafura Sea

We are on the sea today and woke up to a cloudy sky and some rain.

We had breakfast in the Grand Dining Room. We both had a Belgian waffle which they cut into strips and we dipped into  a cream and maple syrup.

Pat did not feel very well this morning and had a bug which she  was hoping she had not picked up anything from another country.  After resting today she seems okay tonight.

At 10:15 AM we had a mandatory guest life boat drill.  This will be the last one for us on this trip.

At 1:00 PM we had lunch in the Terrace Café. Jim had a salad with all kinds of goodies added to it.  Pat had some rice with cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese, and beans added to it.

There was a special message from the captain today.  Local authorities have advised us that activists are planning to blockade Newcastle harbor in opposition to fossil fuel use. There is going to be an armada of kayaks piloted by people opposed to the use of fossil fuel. Protesters are planning for more than 400 people to sail into the port on Sunday, May 8, and are planning for mass civil disobedience that could once again involve protesters attaching themselves to equipment and or vessels at the port.  Because of this problem our port  of call has been changed from Newcastle to Brisbane.  We will arrive on Saturday, May 7th into Brisbane and we will bypass Sunday's, May 8th stop in Newcastle.  Please except our apologies for this change in our schedule. Your safety is our first priority and we thank you for your understanding. 

We had dinner in the Grand  Dining Room.

Jim had Maine Lobster Soufflé with Bisque of Tomato, Lime and Coriander for his appetizer. For his main dish he had Venison Medallions with Ravioli, Celery Root Mousseline and Sautéed Apple and Cranberry.

Pat had steamed Britney Artichokes with Baby Greens and Forrest Mushroom Vinaigrette for her appetizer.  For her main dish she had Smoked Ricotta Risotto  with Sicilian Tomato Tartare.

We enjoyed our dinner at our favorite table #80 and our waiter, Oka. 

Goodnight from the sea!

April 30th, 2016 - Day 28 - Docked at Darwin, Australia

Our view is of the ocean this morning.

We had breakfast in the Terrace Café.  Pat had her fruit and Jim had his oatmeal.

We arrived in Darwin at 11 AM this morning and docked along the pier.

We had a nice conversation with Kent, Rachel, and Thatcher and so sad to hear about their rottweiler, Onyx, having bone cancer with a life expectancy of 4 to 6 months left.  She is the sweetest dog.  It is just heartbreaking to hear this.  She is 8 1/2 years old.

We had lunch at the Terrace Café.  Jim had a piece of margarita pizza and Pat had some hummus and pita bread with some tabouli salad.

Our tour today was to a Darwin Museum and Crocodylus Park & Zoo.  We thought it was a odd combination but it was a great tour.  We met at 1 PM with our guide Jack.

Darwin is named after the famous evolutionist, Charles Darwin.  The city is the capital of the Northern Territory and the gateway to several Southeast Asian countries.

Darwin is a cosmopolitan city that boasts a population made up of people from more than 60 nationalities and 70 different ethnic backgrounds.

Our first stop was to the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.  This museum overlooks Fannie Bay.  We saw some collections of aboriginal, South East Asian and oceanic art and local history.  They had a Cyclone Tracy room that showed the aftermath of the cyclone that hit Christmas 1974.

We enjoyed an exhibit of high school students art and we got to vote on our favorite.  Pat loved a table that was made of a tree stomp at the bottom and the roots of the tree with a round piece of glass on top of the roots.  Jim liked a 4 picture sketch of two people dancing and aged to skeletons at the end.

The gift shop at the museum had a necklace made by a local artist that Jim found for Pat that we bought for Pat's souvenir.  The girl helping us had on a great dress that she made herself.  It was a beautiful floral silk fabric that went  to the floor and reminded me of a sleeveless caftan.  She said the weather is so hot here that she makes her own clothes. Today the weather was 92° and 75% humidity.

Our next stop was to the Crocodylus Park & Zoo.  This park is famous for its work on crocodile research. It is operated by wildlife research consultants.  We were able to observe the crocodiles in the Parks Lagoon as well is in their pens, and we participated in a crocodile feeding.  The crocodiles leaped several feet in the air for their food which was a chicken breast on a string attached to a stick.  Pat was able to have her picture taken holding a juvenile crocodile which had his mouth taped shut.

We were able to walk around the park/zoo and see the other animals they have as well.  We saw Timor ponies, kangaroos, meerkats, dingoes, wolves, birds, wallaroo, wallabies, cassowaries, turtles, ostriches, emus, tigers, ocelots, baboons, and lions.  Pat got a good video of the lions growling at each other.  The lion also tried to spray us to mark his territory but we got out of the way before it hit us.

It was so hot walking around the park & the zoo as we had forgotten our water on the bus.  We had to go in the shop and buy a Pepsi to cool off.  They sold crocodile purses for $1500 and men's crocodile belts for $200.  They were also selling crocodile food but we passed on all of it.

We stopped at a store called Coles which reminded us of a Air Force BX that we have been to in Ramstein, Germany.  Some of the people on the bus wanted to get some Australian wine to take back to the ship.

On our way back to the pier we drove around the city and saw some of the government buildings, courthouse and the main party street.

We shopped at some of the booths inside the pier terminal and found some stone and bead necklaces.

For dinner we ate in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had  Molten Cheese Soufflé with Chive Veloute for his appetizer.  For his salad he had Baby Spinach with Toasted Pinenuts and Warm Bacon Dressing.  For his main course he had Potato Waffle with Steamed Asparagus, Black Truffle Cream and Wilted Spinach.

Pat had Maui Red Onion Soup with Ginger Foam.  She also had the same as Jim for her salad and main course. 

Good night!

April 29th, 2016 - Day 27 - Cruising the Timor Sea

We had to set our clocks ahead one hour last night so we woke up and it was still dark out.

The Timor Sea we are traveling on was so  smooth and had such a deep blue color.

We had breakfast in the Grand Dining Room. Jim had the express breakfast which was eggs, bacon, English muffin and orange juice.  Pat had a half grapefruit and bowl of berries with a sugar donut she shared with Jim.

At 10:30 AM we had a mandatory Face to Face Immigration Inspection with the Australian Border Force Officers in the Insignia Lounge.

We had lunch in the Terrace Café with a quick slice of margarita pizza.

At 1:30 PM we had Connoisseur Wine Tasting with our Insignias Sommeliers.  We sampled the following wines:

1.  Lois Jadot Meursaukt, Cote De Beaune, Burgundy, France 2012 $105

2.  Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Grand Cru Classe, Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux, France 2011 $186

3.  Castello Banfi Summus Tuscany, Italy 2010 $141

4.  Sena Acongagagua Valley, Chile 2012 $149

5.  Moët & Chandon Cuvée Dom Perignon Eppernay, France 2004 $240

We met a nice couple at the Wine Tasting from the Pacific Palisades, Mary and Bud.  She was a divorce attorney and he was a Beverly Hills Dentist.

We read in the afternoon and relaxed.

We had dinner in the Terrace Café. Jim had sweet-and-sour seafood, mashed potatoes and gravy and rice.  For dessert he had some weird kind of ice cream with chocolate on top of it. These were his words.

Pat was not very hungry so she had a little sweet-and-sour seafood, a stuffed tomato with orzo and a little bit of rice salad.

We arrive in Darwin, Australia in the morning so we set our clocks ahead 30 minutes tonight.  Crazy time!  We never knew they were ahead just by 30 minutes.  We may have to look that up when we get home to see why. 

Good Night as we cruise along the Timor Sea!

April 28th, 2016 - Day 26 - Anchored off Komoto, Indonesia

Good morning on our way to Komoto, Indonesia!

We had breakfast in the Grand Dining Room.  Jim had buckwheat pancakes and Pat had a grapefruit and berries and a chocolate chunk muffin.

We anchored off Komoto, Indonesia at 9:00 AM this morning.

We had a tour booked at 9:45 AM which was the forth departure to the island to see Komodo Dragons.  You are only allowed to go on the island if you have a tour booked.  You are not allowed to explore the island on your own.  You were also not allowed to wear red.

The tender took us to the island where we met our guide, Fuji and 2 body guards at the Komodo National Park.  The bodyguards carried forked sticks.

Indonesia established the park in 1980 in order to protect the main inhabitant and main point of interest, the world famous Komodo dragon (Varanus Komodoensis).  In 1986 UNESCO declared this a world heritage site. Since the park first opened it has expanded its responsibilities to include the protection and preservation of all plants and animals within its boundaries both on land and in the sea.

The Islanders call the Komodo dragon Ora or the buaya  durat which means, land crocodile.  The male of the species can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh over 200 pounds.  The female is usually a bit smaller. They can live between 20 and 40 years. They have a sense of smell that can detect their next meal from up to 5 miles away. 

These dragons are extremely strong, with huge hooked claws and a forked tongue that they use in much the same way as a snake.  The Komodo dragon is both fast on the land and able to swim as easily as it can climb a tree.

Their favorite prey is the wild boars and Timor deer found on the island.  The danger of a bite from the Komodo dragon is the deadly bacteria found in its mouth.  If an unlucky prey is lucky enough to escape the powerful bite of this Dragon it will soon die because of the bacteria.  It usually takes a deer that has been bitten one week to die and a wild boar two weeks to die  after they have been bitten.

The poo from a dragon is black if they have eaten a wild boar, it is brown if they have eaten a deer and it is white if they have eaten bones.  We saw the white poo.

The Komodo Dragon is an endangered species and there were only 2,800 on the island.  Out of those 2,800 we saw six of them. We saw one when we first arrived that we saw walking away after our orientation to get out of the sun.  It went under a wooden stilted hut.  Pat told Jim she thought it was their pet dragon in case we did not see any others.

We first saw two caves that we were told were where female dragons lay their eggs.  It takes about 9 months to hatch the baby dragon.  They have to keep the mothers away from the babies or they will kill them when born.  They aren't nice mothers.

We also saw 3 Deer in an area and then 2 Deer in another area walking around.

The hike lasted for an hour and a half.  When we got to what they call the watering hole we saw one baby Komodo Dragon and four large Komodo dragons.  They were about 2 1/2 meters long and were just laying there.  One of them got up and took a few steps and then sat back down.  We were able to walk around this watering hole that did not have any water in it and take pictures of them.

They had a handicraft section selling T-shirts and dragons and jewelry that we walked through. They kept talking to you to try to get you to buy their items.  We went back to the dock for our tender ride back to the ship.  Pat decided she wanted to go get a T-shirt for Thatcher so she went back on the next tender and did some shopping while Jim relaxed in the room.

While Pat was shopping 2 Deer walked by so close as no one was paying any attention to them.  Pat was able to get a nice picture.

We had lunch at the Terrace Café.  We both had a slice of margarita pizza… It is getting to be a habit.  

We set sail at 3 PM on our way to Australia.

We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had 2 appetizers.  Jacques's Favorite Sausage Lyonnaise over Warm Potato Salad & Carpaccio of Salt Crusted Beetroot with Truffle Vinaigrette.  For his salad he had Three Bean Salad with Red Quinoa and Roasted Cumin Vinaigrette. For his main course he had Diver Scallops over Orange Braised Endive with Vanilla Vinaigrette.

Pat had a soup called Brittany Artichoke Veloute with Sour Cream.  She had a Iceberg and Romaine Salad with Tomatoes and Cucumbers in Warn Bacon Dressing.  For her main course Pat had Pasta with Tomato Sauce.

For dessert we shared Chocolate Profiteroles with Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream and Warm Chocolate Sauce.

Good Night from the Ocean!

April 27th, 2016 - Day 25 - Docked in Bali, Indonesia

We woke up in Bali and opened up our door  and it was pouring rain and a beautiful sunrise was taking place.  It rained for 1 minute then it was over.  The cloud must have just been over our boat as the rest of the sky wax clear.

We had breakfast in the Terrace Café.

We had an early tour this morning and met in the Insignia Lounge at 7:45 AM.  Our tour today is Discover Bali.  Yuda is our guide and Agung is our driver.  We are in a bus today.  Our guide Yuda is wearing a Hindu outfit. The government said it was OK to wear this outfit to welcome tourists to Bali.  3 million tourists come to Indonesia a year.

Hindu people do not shake hands as western people do. They put their hands together and bow.  

70% of people are Hindu.  They have the biggest Muslim population in Indonesia but only 2% live in Bali.

Batik is the national cloth of Indonesia and our first stop was to the Tohpati Village at the Popiler Batik Factory for a demonstration of Batik cloth processing.  The silk batik process is done by hand and is very expensive as there are many steps to get the colors on the fabric. They also do stamping on the material which is not as expensive.  The designs are beautiful.  Most of the designs are drawn by men and the women paint them.  Jim had a fish put on the sleeve of his t-shirt and Bali 2016 for his souvenir.

As we were driving there are alters every where.  Offerings are given once a day.  They always include water, incense and a flower.  An offering is like a gift to a friend so you could give coins or candy or anything you would give a friend as long as it has water, incense and a flower with it.  They believe in the Negative & Positive and that everything has an action. 

Black & white check material is wrapped around alters for the positive and negative.

Our next stop was at a 17th Century Hindu Temple Singapadu Temple or Pura Puseh.

At the Hindi temple everyone was given a sarong to wrap around their  stomach to keep  the negative energy out of the temple. 

Listen to your heart & your mouth.

Every thing from the heart up is holy.

Everything from the heart down is negative. 

Sarong means wrapper so you wrap up your negativity.

Singapadu Temple was built in the 17th century and guarded by four statues of Wisnu that rest on carved pedestals.  The temple continues to be used by the local Village community for religious ceremonies.

We stopped at a traditional Balinese House Compound.  Since we had seen one yesterday I won't go into the details as it is the same information.  This house compound looked newer and better kept up.  When a baby is born they take the placenta, umbilical cord and blood and fluids and put all inside a coconut that they have drained the juice out of and bury it.  If it is a boy it is buried on the left side if it is a girl it is buried on the right side of the house and they mark the spot with a rock. 

We stopped at the Bali Bird Park. This  is the largest collection of Indonesian birds in the world, as well as many varieties from Africa and South America. Covering nearly 5 acres of botanicals landscape, the Park provides sanctuary to almost 1000 birds of 250 different species.  The birds are showcased not only in their natural habitat and large walk-in aviaries, but also as free range throughout the park. There was a display of tropical plants and trees which also serve to attract a significant butterfly population.  It was beautiful and we saw birds we had never seen before.  Pat's favorite bird was a red, yellow and black bird with a tail that looked  like leopard print.   

Our last stop was at the Sahadewa  Barong & Kris Dance Stage Chandra Budaya.

The Barong Play represents an internal fight between good and evil spirits.  A Barong (a mythological animal) represents the good spirit and Rangda (a mythological monster) represents an evil one.

Characters were the tiger, the monkey, 3 men, 2 girl dancers, a witch, a bird, Dewi Kunti and her son and God Siwa.  The music was great and it was a nice look at Balinese Hindu culture.

On our drive back our guide Yuda told us he learned English singing songs as a wedding singer from a Canadian girl.  He sang 2 songs for us and he had a great voice.  He was a very entertaining guy.  He told us jokes and it was a fun ride back to the pier.

Pat shopped in the handicraft market near the pier while Jim tried to get on the Internet.  Jim was not successful with the Internet but Pat was successful with shopping.  When shopping at these booths the people just come at you when you walk by pulling you into the booth and trying to sell you something.  You are not given a moment alone to just look.  They keep shoving items at you to buy. 

We had dinner at the Polo Grill last night.

Jim had for his appetizer Roasted Beetroot and Garlic Goat Cheese Napoleon with Champagne and Truffle Vinaigrette.  For his salad he had Honey Smoked Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, and Aged Cheddar Cheese Salad with Tangy Dressing.  For his main course he had Pittsburgh Style Prime Beef Steak, 7 ounces, with Au Poivre sauce and Bernaise sauce and Well-Done Steak Fries.

Pat had Baked Onion Soup with Gruyere Cheese Crust.  For her salad she had Beefsteak Tomato and Sweet Onion Salad.  Her main course was Cajun Style Blackened Salmon with Peach-Saffron Chutney.

We had a lovely dinner.

Good night as we cruise on our way to Komoto!

April 26th, 2016 -Day 24 - Docked at Bali, Indonesia

We woke up cruising the Java Sea and saw another beautiful sunrise.

We had breakfast at the Terrace Café but we just ate a little bit because they were going to have a brunch today in the Grand Dining Room that was a big deal beginning at 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM.

At about 11 AM we cruised into Bali with a lot of fanfare from boats big and small and we saw lots of parasailing.  There was a lot of activity outside on the water.

At 11:30 AM we went to eat brunch in the Grand Dining Room.  There were stations set up with different breads and pastry,  meats, salads, soups, fruit, and a big dessert table.  They had made an Ice sculpture and various other centerpieces made out of fruits & vegetables and bread.  Everything was nicely prepared and laid out.

We met our tour group in the Insignia Lounge at 1:15 PM.  Our tour today was to Bali Terraces & Ulun Danu Temple.  We had a van with seven people in it with a guide and driver.  Our guide said because of where we were going there were two lane roads and a bus would not work as well as a van.

Our guide told us that there are 700,000 people and 1.2 million motor bikes on the Island of Bali.  We could not believe how many motorbikes were on the road.  There was so much traffic and a lot of motorbikes with whole families on them as well as babies and not all wore helmets either.

A fun fact we learned was that they cannot built any buildings higher than a coconut tree.

We started our drive and traffic was quite busy.  The density of the city is 10 people to one square foot where as in Australia it  is 1 person to one square foot our guide said.

For the majority of Balinese people, agriculture is their livelihood.  These people are so proud of their beautiful rice terraces, which are found in the mid western part of the island which is where we drove to.  Villages are mainly found centered around or near the rice fields and every farmer who owns one or more rice plots or sawahs, is compelled to join a subak, an agricultural society that controls the distribution of irrigation water to its members.  The most striking feature of the landscape is the cascading terraces of rice fields.  What is interesting is that they make an offering to the rice gods and have it in the field made of straw and flowers.

We stopped at a Traditional Balinese house compound in the country side of Baha Village.  The Balinese home is often viewed as a living organism.  Much like a human being, it has a head (the ancestral shrine), arms (the sleeping quarters and living room) and legs and feet (kitchen and the rice granaries).  We were allowed to get a glimpse into conventional Balinese life and we found it fascinating.  We saw some alters where they worship.  Every home has a temple.

Their bedroom is set up in the NE part of the compound because North is towards the mountain and East is where the sun rises so it is a sacred site.

There were 2 kids a girl 5 and a boy 7 and a grandma.  I asked if I could take their picture.  I showed them the picture and the little girl started giggling when I showed her.  I also showed her Thatcher's picture and she smiled. Then everyone was taking her picture and she was being a little ham.

We then drove on to Bedugul where it is mild mountain weather due to its location at an altitude of about 4,900 feet above sea level.  We also had a rain storm on our drive.  Luckily we were given umbrellas when we arrived but it didn't last long.

We visited the Balinese Hindu Temple Ulun Danu Temple or Par Bratan. The temple was built in the 17th century in worship of the main Hindu trinity, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, as well as the lake goddess, Dewi Danu. The sight and cool atmosphere of the Bali uplands have made the lake and this temple a favorite place.  It is a major Shivaite and water temple in Bali.  Water temples serve the entire region in the outflow area, downstream there are many smaller water temples that are specific to each irrigation association. Lake Braton is known as the Lake of Holy Mountain due to the fertility of this area.  It was a beautiful temple although we were not allowed to go inside the temple we could walk around the grounds which were lovely.  They also had four deer in a caged area that were well taken care of.  It looked like they lived in a forest.

Our drive back to the ship took 2 hours.  Along the way in the Sangeh area we saw monkeys on the street and swinging in the trees.  We pulled over and took some pictures.  We saw a family of monkeys just sitting on the sidewalk.  This was the Sangeh Monkey Forest or ‘Obyek Wisata Bukit Sari Sangeh’ which is a sanctuary of grey long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis).  The monkey forest boasts six acres of fertile forestland with primordial, giant nutmeg trees which grow to a height of 40m.

The sanctuary is considered sacred, where the macaques inhabit both the woods and the 17th century Pura Bukit Sari, a temple located deep within the greens.

It was a nice drive back as it became dark and we got to see the lights of the town.  We saw a beautiful Chinese Temple all lit up in red lights.  It was beautiful.

We drove by the market in Denpasar and our guide said he lives near there.  It was a bustling place.  What we noticed there were lots of little shops all over the place.  We also noticed they sell little bottles of gasoline for the motorbikes. 

When we returned to the ship we went to the Terrace Café for a quick dinner.  Pat had a Balinese noodle dish as well as some bowtie pasta with red sauce.  Jim had prime rib and mashed potatoes.  Pat tried the Bali Beer Bali Hai.  It was good.

Good night from Bali!

April 25th, 2016 - Day 23 - Cruising the Java Sea

We woke up again to a beautiful view of the ocean.

We ate from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM today!

Breakfast was in the Grand dining Room.  Jim had Swedish pancakes and bacon and Pat had Huevos Rancheros and a chocolate croissant twist although there wasn't much chocolate in it.

For lunch we ate in the Grand Dining Room and had the Taste of the World Italy.  We had a sampler for two of Melon and Prosciutto, Cipolline in Agrodolce with Goat Cheese, Grilled Marinated Vegetables, Tomato-Mozzarella Stracciatella, Ricotta and Spinach Panzerroti, and Fagotini di Bresaola con Ricotta.

At 1:30 PM we had had Italian Wine Tasting in Toscano Restaurant. The wines we sampled were.

1.  Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufins DOCG Tuscany 2010

2. Alfredo Prunotto Barbaresco DOCG Piedmont 2011

3. Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tuscany 2011

4. Gaja Ca' Marcanda Magari IGT "Super Tuscan" Tuscany 2011

5. Bolla Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Veneto 2011

The 5th one was our favorite. 

We went to the 9th Floor and sat outside the spa deck on the Balinese loungers.  While there there was a lightening storm and rain and lots of wind.  We finally left and read in our room.

For dinner we ate in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had for his appetizer Roast Mint Patties of Iberico "Provence  Cafe' Style. He had Cream of Sweet Potato Soup with Chorizo Fritters.  For his main course he had Steak Frittes:  New York Strip Steak, French Fries and Garlic Butter Rosette.

Pat had 2 salads Black Bean and Quinoa Salad with Ligurian Olive Oil and Lime and Assorted Greens with Haas Avocado, Grapefruit and Ginger-Grenadine Vinaigrette.  For her main course she had Organic Free Range Chicken in Creamy Morel Sauce with Rice Pilaf.  This was not her favorite meal.

They sold  the wine we had at the wine tasting by the glass for $25 tonight so Pat had a glass of Bolla Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Veneto 2011.  There was an accident at the table and Pat spilled her wine before she had her main course so Rajesh gave her another glass which was so nice of him.

For dessert Jim had Lime Sorbet and Pat had Grandmother's Lemon Meringue Pie.

Good night from the Java Sea!

April 24th, 2016 - Day 22 - Cruising the Karimata Strait

We woke up to see nothing but ocean and a beautiful sunrise.

We had breakfast in the Terrace Cafe.  Jim had his oatmeal and Pat had her grapefruit and kiwi.

We went to Deck 9 and laid in the balinese loungers by the spa and read.

We had lunch in the Terrace Cafe.  We both had a slice of margarita pizza fresh out of the oven.  We shared some desserts...a sliver of lemon pie and a apple dumpling with cherry sauce.   Pat had Cassis sorbet and Jim had milk chocolate with brownie pieces ice cream.  

At 1:00PM we crossed the Equator so we have ceremoniously transformed from Polliwog into the Secret Society of Shellbacks aboard the grand ship M/S Insignia.  And so possesses my blessing and protection to travel freely the Seven Seas and to pass the Equator un-accosted as long as ye shall remain on this earth!  Signed by Captain Maroje Brajcic and General Manager Yves Segers.

We went back to Deck 9 and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the shade and using the Balinese loungers and reading.  Jim finished his book and loved it.  "When Breath Becomes Air."  He was really moved by the book and you can read his review on Kindle.  The weather was nice about 85 degrees but a little humid but we enjoyed the jacuzzi. 

We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had for his appetizer Petit Salad of Sautéed Diver Scallops on a Bed of Sweet Potato Mousseline. Jim said this was one of the best appetizers he has had.  For his salad he had baby greens with grapes, walnuts and crumbled Danish bleu cheese with a tangy mustard vinaigrette.  His main course was Dover Sole Meuniere in Lemon Butter Sauce with Sweet Leek Puff Pastry and Mashed Potatoes.  They forgot to take out the bones so our waiter, Oka, did it for him.

Pat had for her appetizer Trilogy of Melon with Kirsch, Maraschino and a dash of Champagne.  For her salad she had baby greens with grapes, walnuts and crumbled Danish bleu cheese with a tangy mustard vinaigrette.  For her main course she had Vegetable Lasagne with Tomato Sauce and Genovese Pesto.  This was not her favorite dish.

For dessert we shared Vacherin:  Iced Meringue Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Raspberry Sorbet.  We enjoyed this dessert.

Good Night from the ocean!

April 23rd, 2016 - Day 21 - Docked at Kuching, Malaysia on Borneo Island

We woke up docked at Kuching, Malaysia pier on Borneo Island.

We had breakfast at the Terrace Cafe.  Jim had oatmeal and Pat had grapefruit, kiwi and watermelon.

Our tour to the Highlights of Kuching left at 9:00 AM with Selena as out guide.  She was part Chinese.  We had a hard time understanding her so we did not get much information from her.

The population is one half million

There are 2 parts to the state North & South

South is Chinese people - North  is Malaysia people

There are 27 tribes

50 local languages

City area speaks English, Malaysia & Chinese language in town

Kuching is the capital city of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Located on the enormous island of Borneo, Kuching is often said to be one of the cleanest cities in all of Asia.

The name Kuching derives from the Malay word for cat, and in honor of felines there is a cat museum, and the cat statues are prominently displayed throughout the city.  Our first stop was at the famed Cat Monument.  This gleaming white kitty with its deep blue eyes is the oldest cat statue in Kuching.  It stands proudly on a roundabout on Jalan Padungan. Sitting in front of an ornate and colourful Chinese archway, it offers the purr-fect welcome to the city!

There are several spiritual and decorative Chinese temples around Kuching, including the historic Tua Pek Kong Temple with its 7 story pagodas.  We stopped and visited this temple which dates  back to 1870.  Perched on top of a raised piece of land, the outer wall is particularly bright and impressive.  We could inhale the aromas of incense and see many traditional symbols and statues.  There were people burning bunches of white and yellow paper in the furnace.

I thought this was an interesting story.  Tua Pek Kong was a man named Zhang Li (张理) from the Hakka clan. His Sumatra-bound boat was struck by wind and accidentally landed on Penang island of Malaysia, which at that time had only 50 inhabitants.  After his death, the local people began worshipping him and built the Tua Pek Kong temple there. Today Tua Pek Kong is worshipped by Malaysian Chinese throughout the country.

The Sarawak Museum / Ethnology Museum is a great place to learn about the local culture and history. The ground floor has an assortment of tools, machinery, and stuffed animals.  They also had a snake room and bird room, that were preserved.  We both said that Rachel would not like the snake room or the bird room.  There were large preserved turtles.  There were bones from 2 killer whales and they were huge.  They showed seashells from the region.  Browsing through the galleries show the history, traditions and beliefs of the diverse ethnic groups of Sarawak and Borneo.  These exhibits have been collected, salvaged and preserved for the last 120 years.

The upper level had a fantastic collection of tribal carvings such as masks, statues and totem poles that were over 100 years old and all different varieties.

There was  a replica of a traditional home called the Iban Long House which would typically hold 15 people.  Long houses were typically built near waterways with axe-hewn timber and natural materials such as leaves for thatching.  Long house interiors were always open with verandas running the length of the buildings. The more urns they had the richer they were.  If there was a door between rooms that meant they were sharing the house with family if not it was closed.

We then drove to the starting point of the Heritage Walk which is a trail through town that show many of the Kuching's main attractions. We passed through historical buildings and we walked down narrow covered passages lined with shops.  We saw a Taoist Temple.  People were friendly and smiled.

We then had two hours to walk around and explore the town.

We found a mall called Parkson and walked through it but didn't find anything to buy.  It was difficult to purchase anything in the little shops as you had to have their money which was ringgit and most of the little shops did not take credit cards.

We then walked across the street and found one of the most famous Cat fountains close to the waterfront in the middle of a roundabout on Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman. The cute fountain statue shows mommy and daddy cat standing proudly with their brood of playful kittens.  Each kitten is shown doing something different.

We walked along Kuching’s Sarawak River  which is a popular spot for locals and visitors. It is lined with food sellers in the evening so we didn't see any food displayed during the day just the empty carts.  Across the river we saw the elegant Astana, a white castle-like palace that is home to the state’s governor, as well as the tall pavilion-esque New Sarawak State Legislative Assembly Building complete with its golden umbrella-like roof.  Boats were on the river and it was a very picturesque view.

For dinner we ate in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had Frank's Childhood Pate in Croute: French style Encrusted Pate with Smoked Ham and Pheasant.  For his salad he had Baby Greens with Red Delicious Apples, Toasted Almonds and Pancetta.  For his main course he had Lobster Thermidor "Café de Paris" with Steamed Jasmine Rice.

Pat had Dorado Ceviche and Lime Juice with Cilantro and Heirloom Tomatoes. For her salad she had asked for Iceberg Lettuce with Creamy Goat Cheese Miso and Anchovy Dressing but she got Baby Greens with Red Delicious Apples and Toasted Almonds.  For her main course she had Grilled Lemon Sole with Piquillos Peppers on Tarbais Cassoulet. 

 

For dessert Jim had no sugar cinnamon ice cream and Pat had raspberry sorbetL

Good night from Kuching!  We had an awesome departure from Kuching with a beautiful sunset!

April 22nd, 2016 - Day 20 - Cruising the South China Sea on our way to Kuching, Malaysia

After the amazing thunder and lightening storm  that lit up the sky last night we woke up to calm seas.

We had breakfast at the Terrace Cafe. Jim loves his oatmeal and banana and Pat loves her sugar donut and grapefruit and kiwi.

While sitting eating breakfast we saw a family of dolphins jumping in and out of the water.  There were about six of them.  We have been looking and haven't found much activity in the ocean so that was fun to see the dolphins this morning.

Since it was still the 21st in California and still Thatcher's Birthday we got to wish Thatcher a good night on his birthday before he went to sleep and see his cute little face smiling.  I can't believe how fast he has grown.  

At 10 AM we went into the Insignia Lounge and listened to a Destinations Tour Talk:  Bali, Indonesia with our destinations manager, Luke.  So now we are well prepared for our visit to Bali.  The thing we got out of the lecture is that if you visit any of the temples you cannot go inside only the locals can go inside during prayer time.

We had lunch in the Grand Dining Room.   We both started out with Mexican tomato soup on fire. The funny thing was it was a cold soup.  We shared the sampler Taste of the World:  England.  It is served in a round lazy Susan.  We had salmon cakes with tartar sauce, roast beef with coleslaw, potato salad and soft eggs, spicy shrimp, honey mustard pickled vegetables, minced beef and onion pie, Yorkshire pudding.  It was nice to experience the taste of Britain.

The afternoon was spent reading and napping.

We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Pat had Warm Petit Pate of Chanterelles in Pastry Crust with Robust Port Wine and Shallot Sauce for her appetizer. She had a Caesar salad.  For her main dish she had Spaghetti with tomato sauce and pancetta.  They switched pastas on the menu that they give out the day before so I don't have the fancy name they gave it. 

Jim had for his appetizer the quiche of the day which was another thing they changed on the menu so no fancy name.  He had asparagus soup. For his main dish he had Sweet Barbecue Pork Chop with Vegetables.

For dessert we shared the Lemon Crepe Soufflé with Apricot Sauce.  Jim had a scoop of Salted Caramel Ice Cream. 

Good night from the South China Sea!

April 21th, 2016 - Day 19 - Docked at Maura, Darussalam in Brunei

We woke up in Brunei.  What a cool little country.  The temperature is 94 degrees.

Brunei is a tiny nation on the island of Borneo, in 2 distinct sections surrounded by Malaysia and the South China Sea. It's known for its beaches and biodiverse rainforest, much of it protected within reserves.

We had breakfast in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had the Express breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast.  Pat had blintzes with berry compote. 

We met in the insignia lounge at 9:15 AM.  Our guide is Marvin for our tour today to Mangrove Cruise and Visit to Water Village.

Facts from our guide, Marvin, about Brunei:

Brunei is 2,026 miles and is just a small country

There are 375 thousand people in Brunei

Rich in Oil and Gas

Ranked 5th richest country

They do not flaunt wealth

They do not ask for tips but if they are given a tip they are very gracious.

61 percent are Muslim/Islam and 39 percent are Christian

Average salary is $800-$900 a month

The more education you have and  the career you get more pay. 

Marvin is working to bring tourism to Brunei & said he makes $2000 per month. Doctors make $60,000 and up and are trained elsewhere and are ex-pat. 

Their gas cost is $.32 a liter

They do not have to pay taxes on income or VAT.

Our guide said he could live a week on $20 because he does not have many expenses.

The Sultan contributes two hundred dollars a month for retirement that they can collect at age 55. 

It is a dry state but if you are not Muslim you can go to the Malaysian border, which is about 30 minutes away, and buy liquor and bring it back.  Marvin said they have speakeasies and they are okay to drink at but they cannot serve Muslim people.  You would just need to know a local to be able to drink there as a local could take you to the places that serve alcohol.

No one is allowed to own a gun.  If you are caught with one  then you get life in prison.

The Sultan has his own 5000 soldier army to protect him.

The most money spent in the budget is for military protection.

We boarded our bus for a 45 minute ride to the main town called Bandar Seri Bagawan.  We walked by a Chinese cemetery on our way to the Water Village which is a community built entirely above the water on stilts.  More than 30,000 people live in the village which is an amazing assortment of homes, restaurants, mosques, shops and hospitals, all connected by wooden boardwalks. People have lived in the Water Village for more than 1300 years, making it one of the most historic areas in Brunei.

Some of the homes are quite elaborate and we stopped at one home for a unique opportunity to have a cup of tea and some snacks.  We went and sat on their big porch and was served a big spread of snacks and tea.  32 people live in the home which is comprised of three generations.  We were able to go in the house if we took off her shoes. The place was amazing with jewelry collections, medals from the owners time in the service...he was a pilot and colorful rugs and Louis the 14th furniture style.  Jim bonded with the owner as he had a stereo system that Jim liked and the owner was very proud of it so they talked about his system.  When we first went in the house we didn't think it was that big but you just kept walking and walking and it had lots of rooms and was very big. There were about six children playing inside so Pat took a picture of them and she told them it was her grandson, Thatcher's birthday today and she showed them a picture of him on her phone.  Everyone was so gracious...it was an unforgettable experience. 

We then  boarded a boat off of this families pier and took a ride and cruised the surrounding waterways, which are lined with mangroves. This area is strictly protected by Brunei law, the unspoiled vegetation supports an abundance of wildlife.

On the cruise they say you can see macaques, monitor lizard, crocodiles and countless waterfowl, which feed on the bountiful supply of shrimp, crabs and other aquatic food that inhibit the waters.  We were just able to see some waterfowl and a crocodile that was waiting for a primate to come to the water to eat.

The most unusual animal living in the mangroves is the Proboscis Monkey or Bangkatan, which sports an unusually long nose. These primates are only found on the island Borneo, and Brunei has a thriving population of them. Although they are tree-dwellers, Proboscis Monkeys are proficient swimmers, and we tried to catch a glimpse of one of them in a tree but we were not successful.  We could hear them calling but no luck in seeing them.  We did see a tree limb that looked like a monkey...does that count?

From a distance on the river we were able to see the Istana Nurul Iman (Sultan Palace) in the background of the Water Village.  It was included in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest living residence of a state head and has 1788 rooms.  This massive royal dwelling is several times larger than the Palace of Versailles and the Buckingham Palace.

The Palace is the house of Brunei’s sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. The palace stands on the banks of the Brunei River, several miles south of Brunei’s capital.  Istana Nurul Iman is a massive white construction with golden domes and minarets.  It is quite a sight to see.

We returned back to the bus which was parked at the city center and drove 35 minutes back to the pier.

There were some shops in the Cruise Pier so Pat shopped while Jim used the free wi-fi.

We had lunch at the Terrace Café. Jim had an amazing Caesar salad and Pat had a piece of margarita pizza.  We shared two desserts a strawberry tart and some special type of dessert that was cake like with jam on top.

Tonight we are having dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Pat had  for her appetizer Timbale of Blue Crab Cocktail with seasonal greens and lime vinaigrette.  Pat had yogurt, cucumbers and dill on a bed of greens for her salad.  For her main course she had Jacques Pepin signature dish Supreme de Salmon: poached salmon supreme with rice pilaf and Choron sauce.

Jim had Emmental and Leek Quiche with Mixed Greens and Walnuts for his appetizer.  He had Italian Pearled Farro salad with grilled zucchini, scallions and lime balsamic dressing.  For his main course he had a taste from Jacques Restaurant Coquilles Saint Jacques aux Morilles et Pommes de Terre Fondantes: sautéed scallops over fondant potatoes and morale sauce.

For dessert we shared a Brandy Snap Basket with Cointreau Marinated Strawberries with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 

When we got back to the room we were able to face time with Thatcher and wish him a happy sixth birthday.  We love and miss him so much!

Good night Brunei and Happy 6th Birthday Thatcher!

April 21st, 2016 - Thatcher's 6th Birthday

 Happy Birthday Thatcher!

Bubba and Papa wish you the Happiest 6th Birthday ever!

We love you so much and we are so sorry we have to miss your 6th birthday but we are thinking of you.  

We celebrated your birthday in a country called Brunei today.  We even bought you a special souvenir from here.

You have grown up to be such a fine young boy that we are so proud to call our grandson.

Love, Love, Love, Love, Love you Thatcher!

Much love on this special day!

😘😘😘😘😘😘

🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂

Bubba and Papa