Day 23 – En Route to Bora Bora
Sunday, February 11, 2018
What unit of measurement is precisely 1852 meters? This was one of the fun questions at Trivia this morning. I was astounded to hear, all around the room, murmurs of one mile. “Can’t be,” I said. A mile is 1760 yards. Then all the other guesses poured out – a chain, a league, a rod, a perch, a pole. “I think it must be a nautical mile,” I ventured. “I don’t know precisely but I know a nautical mile is just a little more than a statutory mile.” I was right, and our team went on to win today. Some of the things it helps to know for trivia: gifts for wedding anniversaries, signs of the zodiac, constellations, flower/birthstone of the month, animals of the Chinese year, world’s largest/smallest: island, lake, continent; longest river, largest city, winners of Stanley Cup, Ryder Cup, Olympic gold and when each Olympics was held, Presidents and Prime Ministers, borders of countries we’ve barely heard of (Guinea-Bissau), World capitals, time difference between two capitals and anything the quiz masters can dream up. It’s trivia, but it’s serious stuff. There are sometimes more than 100 people playing which is about 5% of the ship’s population. Considering that there are usually 10 activities at the same time, it’s a lot of people. The only thing with a larger attendance is the evening show – and meals.
I’m happy to be back at sea. We are cruising at 20/21 knots, 20 nautical miles per hour, which is about 500 nautical miles per day. We have 4 days to run until we reach the tropical island of Bora Bora, part of French Polynesia and home to the famous Bloody Mary’s Restaurant and Bar. The ship is offering a tour of the island by ‘fun truck,’ akin to my fun ride back in Aruba, but we will probably just rent a cab and go on our own.
Perfect, Pretty and I were all invited to another Queens Room party this evening, hosted by the Captain and his senior officers. The Food and Beverage Manager (that’s a huge job) came over to chat with us and promised us an invite to his table in the restaurant one evening, an event not to be missed.
We finally have a fourth at dinner, Friendly F from Montreal. Poor Friendly. She missed the boat, literally, in San Francisco. Her flight from Canada was delayed by heavy snow, and we sailed off into the sunset before her plane touched down in San Fran. She spent two nights in the city of —– and then flew on to Honolulu where she came aboard yesterday. Moral – always fly at least one day before you board your ship. Splash out and stay in a fancy hotel and make the most of your extra day. And don’t forget to add travel delay insurance. Mine is automatic with my AmEx card.
Day 24 – A Speck in the Ocean
Monday, February 12, 2018
At noon, the Captain made his usual noon-day announcement, and added a little extra. He wanted to give us an idea of how far removed we are from everything we have ever known. We are a speck in the ocean, the nearest land 600 miles away, the nearest ship even more distant. There is just one aircraft visible on the ship’s radar. The depth of water underneath the keel is about 3 miles, about 5,280 yards, nearly 16,000 feet, more than half the height of Everest. It’s no wonder that the internet is slow.
Vibrant hosted a cabin party this evening. She is traveling alone, but her room has two beds, which doubled as sofas for the party. Her cocktail table groaned with platters of cheese and crackers and fruit. The bar was set up on the desk, wine, vodka, gin and mixers. Potato chips and nibbles from the Lido rounded out the goodies. Vibrant introduced me to Irish sisters, Merry and Nimble, now both US citizens. Merry lives near me in Fort Lauderdale, Nimble in New York. Plans for future get-togethers on land have been made.
Day 25 – It’s a Long Way to Bora Bora
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
No-one wishes to get sick on vacation. This morning I heard that one of the bridge players was sorely in need of a visitor, in the ship’s hospital. I made my way down to the Medical Center, mid-ships on A deck and rang the bell.
“I’m here to see Miss C,” I told the nurse who opened the door.
“Come in,” she said. “I’ll check to see if she wants to see you.”
A moment later I was in Cheerful’s room. Two other private rooms were occupied, and I could see two more empty rooms beyond.
“What happened?” I asked Cheerful. She was lying in bed, wearing a hospital gown and looking more cross than sick.
“I went up to breakfast early and didn’t think I would make it,” she said. “Someone found me trying to walk back to my room and called the medical center for a wheelchair, and here I am.”
She had been x-rayed, poked and prodded. Medication was snaking its way into her body, replenishing her potassium levels, thinning her blood and making her visit the bathroom more often than a baby needs a diaper change.
“Well, we might have to send you home in Papeete,” said the doctor, a woman young enough to be my grand-daughter. “We’ll be watching you here in the hospital, but you should be prepared to fly home in a couple of days.”
“Not an option,” grumbled Cheerful as soon as the doctor left the room. “I’ve no intention of going home from Tahiti. I want to go to Bloody Mary’s and enjoy my bloody mary!”
I left her to the ministrations of the nursing staff, vowing to return a little later, hoping she would be well enough to stay on board. She still had many weeks to go before her scheduled departure from the ship.
The day continued as usual, but I made time to pop back to the medical center once or twice.
“You’re a very sick lady,” announced the doctor after viewing the X-rays. “Have you made plans for going home yet?”
“I’ll be better in the morning,” said Cheerful, her voice firm, her chin resolute.
I told Cheerful about my friend, Pragmatic, in Florida. She was taken ill on a Mediterranean cruise and threatened with disembarkation, but she did not want to go home alone.
“I’m staying on board,” she told her doctors. “I’ll sign a waiver.” She signed, stayed on till the end, flew home with her friends and is living happily ever after. Let’s hope it turns out that way for Cheerful.
Day 26 Thank Heavens for Sunshine
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
The pool deck is crowded once again, bodies in various stages of undress draped on sun-loungers, 70-year-old not-so-perfect chests and backs and legs getting a good dose of Pacific sunshine. When everyone is old and wrinkled, with bulging belly or saggy b—bs, no-one is afraid to expose themselves to criticism. They are all in the same boat, so they might as well enjoy the rays. The more sedate are sitting on wicker armchairs and sofas under the shade of the canopy formed by the upper deck. Everyone welcomes the delicate breeze and the golden sun.
Today is Valentine’s Day. Pretty came on board with a special gift for her mother, Perfect, a champagne cocktail for two. It was beautifully wrapped in romantic paper. Two glasses were brought, and Pretty mixed the delicate brew, told her Mom how much she loved her, and gave her a warm embrace. I love to see Pretty and Perfect interact – they are a wonderful twosome, longtime travelers, the ultimate mother-daughter duo and clearly the best of friends.
I popped down to A deck to see how Cheerful was getting along in the Medical Center.
“It’s a miracle,” she said. “Doctor can’t understand it, but she is going to let me go back to my room after lunch. I have to stay on these medications, but I can stay on the ship.”
Cheerful had made an astounding recovery. I am convinced it was the fear of flying out of Papeete, although it’s a very nice airport. I’ve flown through Tahiti many times over the years, enjoyed Papeete’s open-air lounge, and loved the fragrance of the frangipani blossoms. “But the doctor said I’m not well enough to ride the fun truck,” Cheerful continued. “I was so looking forward to it.”
“You’ll just have to do it next year,” I told her.
That evening, dessert was a sweet confection of chocolate enhanced by a smooth and creamy red heart. Every lady was presented with a beautiful Valentine’s gift – a romantic red rose. Somehow, I gathered three or four and they look splendid in a highball glass in my stateroom.
Day 27 – Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Thursday, February 15, 2018
I woke early, stepped out to my balcony and saw the sun in its glory. Gold and pink and white and magnificent. Poetry made manifest.
Normally, Perfect and I breakfast alone, but Pretty was up early as we are in port today. Agile joined us. We decided not to take the fun truck tour and instead, took a cab to Bloody Mary’s, arriving there in time to have our first drink before lunch and our second drink with lunch. We had the restaurant to ourselves at first, and Pretty said it was the perfect time to visit the men’s room, an item on her bucket list. Ladies, we should all have this on our bucket list, it’s such a giggle.
Apparently, our good friend Foxy, who is not on board this year, told Pretty that the men’s room has a rather stunning feature.
“There’s no-one here at the moment,” said Agile. “I’ll take you in there right now.” Pretty followed Agile into the men’s room and the two of them came back a minute later, giggling away and insisting that I have a look as well. “Well, you at least have to see the photo,” said Agile. One peak at the photo and I was rofl, rolling on the floor laughing. If I tell you what was so funny, I’ll spoil the surprise. Go to French Polynesia, cross to the gorgeous island of Bora Bora and visit Bloody Mary’s. Pop in to the men’s room. You’ll have a laugh that will last a lifetime.
Years ago, I was a tour escort on a Cunard shore excursion to Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, in Viet Nam. Halfway between the ship and the city we pulled into a large plaza where we could use the rest-rooms. The men were in and out very quickly (28 seconds per man on average, according to statistics) but the ladies’ line never seemed to get any shorter. Finally, when the men’s room was deserted, I told the ladies that I would stand watch and they could use the men’s room. They accepted gratefully. Along came a wizened Vietnamese man, wanting to use the facilities.
“Ladies inside,” I told him.
“Not care,” he said.
“Man inside,” I yelled to the ladies, who gratefully remained hidden until the coast was clear.
The man unzipped, did his business, zipped up and left, all in 20 seconds – he didn’t stop to wash his hands!
We had a wonderful time at Bloody Mary’s. We weren’t driving, so we didn’t count our drinks, but I know I drank two enormous spicy cocktails before I switched to an ice-cold glass of sav blanc. Pretty and Agile drank the local beer, and plenty of it. The menu was in French and English, so I tried out my schoolgirl French, ordering crevettes avec pommes frites, fried shrimp with French fries. It was hot and fresh and trés delicieux.
We had our own private fun truck back to the jetty, wandered the pearl shops, admired the trinkets, bought nothing, and took the tender back to our welcoming staterooms, a hot shower and a quick nap before dinner.
Day 28 – Papeete, Tahiti
Friday, February 16, 2018
I woke at crack of dawn. I was having such a lovely dream, but it turned into a nightmare. I remember telling my date (really?) that I expected a long courtship (really?) but he got angry and vengeful and so threatening that I screamed and screamed, louder and louder until I could hear myself and I was fully awake and feeling foolish.
I have an electric kettle in my room, a Cunard innovation, so I made a cup of tea and calmed down.
I went ashore with Pretty and Perfect again today. We have all been here previously, so we were content to walk around a little, visit the fruit and flower market, find a place for a light lunch and browse a while in the pearl shops.
Last year I bought an exquisite pearl necklace and I wanted matching ear-rings. I finally found my store, but they had nothing. However, their sister store obliged, and I am now the proud owner of two gorgeous pearls, each grown over a turquoise seed, then carved to reveal that hidden core.
We ladies sat down at Metro, a café on the main drag, right across from the port. I think I had lunch there last year as well. Pretty ordered her favorite Tahitian beer, I ordered a caipirinha, and Perfect was content with an icy soft drink. We sat a while, sipping in the humid heat, nibbling on a light sandwich, then strolled back to the market to purchase orchids for our rooms on board. We can take fruit and flowers on board, but we may not bring anything off the ship as it might destroy the delicate balance of an island’s agrarian produce and/or economy.
Perfect and I were back on board in time for afternoon tea in the Queens Room. This was the first time we had been to tea as we are usually playing bridge. We were presented with tiny cucumber sandwiches, little rolls filled with smoked salmon, carrot cake, black forest cake and fruit tart, followed by the piece de resistance, a scone with jam and clotted cream plus all the tea we could drink. Everything we tasted was delicious and the harpist played beautiful sensuous music while we sipped and munched.
A folkloric concert was presented this evening, a local troupe delighting the audience with the songs and dances of the French Polynesian islands. Those who attended loved the harmonies and the grace of the performers, but some of us preferred to indulge in our customary pre-dinner cocktail in Café Corinthia. Pretty arrived clutching tonight’s special, courtesy of her favorite airline. Every year she receives two cuddly toys to celebrate the Chinese New Year. This is the Year of the Dog, so she received two tiny white dogs to add to her collection. Such a special thing, to bring gifts on board and keep them hidden until the appropriate day. Something only a grown-up can do.
Day 29 – Moorea
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Last evening, we were in Papeete. This morning we are in Moorea. It’s only 12 miles from shore to shore, but our trip was a little longer as we sailed to the other side of the island and reached our anchorage inside the lagoon. Perfect, Pretty and I enjoyed another tender ride today, being very appreciative of the priority tender tickets we had been given.
We negotiated a ride with Taxi Joe. He thought the fancy hotels on the other side of the island were too far away, and day passes would cost $100 each. Instead, he could take us to a quiet place much closer to the jetty for $5 per person. As he drove on to the property, Tuaohere Beach House, Pretty remarked that she would bet money on the place being owned by Joe’s uncle or the like. We never found out if she was right, and it didn’t matter, because the staff gave us a lovely welcome, moved our table to where we had an uninterrupted view of the water, welcomed us to a sheltered table when the heavens opened and served us plenty of Hinamao beer, wine and croque monsieur.
We were the only foreigners there. We loved being in the presence of the locals who were celebrating family events and having fun. We loved the peace, the silence, the calm. We loved the low-key villas, and the grass and the shrubs.
The owner called Taxi Joe when we were ready to leave, but Luanna turned up instead. She is a tall woman, statuesque, and wore a crown of flowers. She smiled every moment that she drove us back to the tender landing. In three minutes we learned that she is a mother, a grandmother, and the great-grandmother of twins.
Trade was brisk at the jetty, with our fellow travelers buying everything that wasn’t under lock and key. I spoke with a charming boy, just 12 years old, who already speaks French, English, Spanish and a little Japanese. He’s a handsome child and I’m sure he will break a good many hearts before he’s much older.
Aruba claims to be one happy island, but Moorea can make the same claim.
We loved our day.