AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND. 29th AUGUST:



Our arrival into Auckland was right on schedule and was bittersweet. 

Having been told it was going to be a bleak day weather wise it was a pleasant surprise to encounter clouds clearing to some bright blue and by the time we were off the ship the temperature had risen enough to not need jackets.
It was tainted by a sad and teary farewell to our bestie travelling friends Paul and Michelle as their world cruise came to an end and they go back to reality.

No words can describe the fun having these two mates on board with us has added to our trip. I can’t believe we won’t be dining with them tonight in the dining room and planning our nights entertainment. Only hope it’s not too long before we plan another adventure together.


James and I headed off the ship found a coffee shop and after my first flat white in a long time we booked an uber and headed to Te Atatu Peninsula to my mum and dads place.

Happy to find them both looking well and we soon hopped into my brothers car that he had left there for us to use and we headed back towards the city but veering off to go through the new tunnel and then onto Cornwall park for a delicious lunch.

Cornwall park is a beautiful space with lots of great walking and new lambs were spotted out and about on the hills.



We took the long way home through Mt Roskill, Hillsborough, Blockhouse Bay and Titirangi and enjoyed relaxing before my brother Graeme and his two sons Alistair and Nicholas came over and we left for dinner at a Thai restaurant. We had bought two bottles of wine with us off the ship that we had bought in Italy to help wash down the lovely meal.

Graeme bought us back to the ship and it was nice that mum and dad got to see our home for the last 100 days.


Back “home” James and I had a cuppa up in the bistro and as the Sea Princess left her dock for the final few days sailing across the Tasman to Sydney I went out on deck to take a photo of the city of sails and waved goodbye to a lovely day and our friends and family that we left behind.

BORA BORA, TAHITI, FRENCH POLYNESIA 23rd AUGUST

BORA BORA, the pearl of the pacific, ( black pearls that is), Heaven on earth, paradise, what ever superlative you want to use is not wasted on this dream location. Again we arrived in, about an hour late due to our late departure from Papeete but Captain Aldo said we can stay an hour later to make sure we get our full time here, guess no one is minding if we get in a little late in Auckland especially those having to disembark there.
We had another private tour booked here with our friends from the cruise critic forum and it came highly recommended and BOY were we in for the day of our lives! 

Bora Bora would have to win the most natural beautiful spot we’ve been to and almost the closest to home makes it a special way to finish off what has been an impressive, amazing cruise.

We were met onshore after tendering off by Patrick and his team and were one of three outrigger boats they were hosting for the  day, each taking 12 people.



Quickly we were off to swim with sharks!!! Sting rays!!! and snorkel over coral reefs with beautiful tropical fish in the clearest turquoise waters surrounding lush green vegetation and rising majestic mountains.

What a feast for the eyes, the soul and all senses. We felt we were in a dream and the dream lasted all day.








Over the whole day we circumnavigated the whole island. 

After our three spots for snorkelling and swimming where whenever Patrick needed us to come back to the boat he called us from his shell horn we were off to a beautiful lagoon where Patrick called us over for the opening of the oven for a traditional Hangi style lunch, of suckling pig, chicken with spinach, BBQ fish, plantain, taro, breadfruit, bananas all helped down beer, wine, champagne, soft drinks or juice. 

Then it was time for a bit of traditional fire twirling before we were sadly told it was time to leave. 

A sad but happy group enjoyed the trip back to harbour and we waved our fantastic guide goodbye.

Day not quite over yet! My darling James helped me choose a pair of Tahitian black pearl earrings as my souvenir of our great day and of course I had to wear them for our sail away as the sun went down and we partied on the back top deck as Bora Bora became a distant speck on the horizon but not in our hearts. 

 










PAPEETE, TAHITI, FRENCH POLYNESIA: 22nd AUGUST

As our incredible trip starts to wind down with only a few ports of call left before we farewell all our New Zealand friends and we make the trip across to Sydney we certainly enjoyed arriving in French Polynesia to Papeete.

Unfortunately due to the bad weather we experienced for a few days we arrived over six hours late into port.

We were fortunate that our private tour was able to be accommodated with the later arrival and we were greeted by William our guide for a tour in his comfortable air conditioned van around the island. We were a group of six so extremely easy to stop and see all that William wanted to show us.
Beautiful gardens and waterfalls, a blow hole as we circumnavigated the island we saw lots of the coastline with surfers, paddle boards and locals going about their day. The sand is black here in Papeete and even the locals have been singing the praises of our next stop Bora Bora with its white sands and lagoons.
We ended our day having a walk along The waterfront past the roulette food vans and onto the Bora Bora pub for a beer before walking onto another bar offering pitchers of beer with Paul and Michelle and back onto the beautiful and always friendly Sea Princess and we were all tucked up in bed before the ship finally left dockside late due to refuelling in the shortened time in Papeete. 


The boat in the background the one The Packer family owned, not sure if they still do.

A very friendly greeting by the locals.











EASTER ISLAND, 17th AUGUST


As five out of six ships don’t make it in to anchor off shore and tender their guests off to the island, we counted ourselves extremely lucky that we were able to go ashore.I was even more fortunate as I had excruciating đŸ˜– tooth pain from a crown. Although I had plenty of pain killers was worried it would be Tahiti before I could get it seen too.

The ship organised for us to be off on one of the first tenders and we were met at the port with a sign bearing our name and a lovely driver whom stayed with us to help translate first at the local hospital where we were told no chance that day, and luckily one of the patients told our driver that the private dentist was in town.

So off we went into the local village, down dirt roads with two room cabins surrounded by chickens, dogs and children all running wild.


We stopped in front of one of these cabins and there inside was a waiting room and a completely professional dental hospital.


How lucky was I ! 

The dentist was able to see me half an hour later and after accessing the crown needed a little filing down etc with a script for a few painkillers etc and a hug from our lovely lady dentist we were off to fill script and relax with coffee in town before starting our organised ship tour that afternoon. Couldn’t believe how incredibly lucky I was and was quick to go and thank the staff onboard who made it all possible.
We found a lovely little cafe in town and enjoyed a couple of coffees and toast.


The township and surrounding villages have a wonderful island feel and a nice relaxed charm. 

Our tour guide Chris originally from Virginia but a long time resident, was full of information and gave us a great commentary as we visited Orongo village and Ahu Akivi.
Below picture of the 7 Moai, the only ones of the 900 on the island facing the ocean.
 They think they represent seven young explorers and there is evidence of sacrifices having taken place there as well.



Orongo Village is actually a sixteenth century ceremonial site including the bird man cult. It is very nearby a large crater which was very impressive and totally belied its size.








Tendering in can be quite a challenge and kudos to the pilots on our tenders for getting us in safely. 





Local outrigger crew out for a paddle.

LIMA, PERU: 9th -12th AUGUST.


We arrived early into Lima to allow immigration to be completed for those leaving us for Machu Picchu. But it still was just before midday that we were off the ship.
We had a ships tour booked for our first day here and as usual there’s always a Cathedral or a Monastery to be seen.

This one in the Plaza Mayor had some great crypts as well.


Note all the police on horseback in the background. The president was having a meeting in the presidential palace and they were expecting a protest/ strike from the teachers to come into the square.


Above the Presidential palace.


Below photos from inside the Cathedral.


 



Next we moved on to the church of the saints. Below is Saint Rosa.




We were very fortunate to visit Casa Garcia- Alvarado belonging to the same family for over 100 years and the gorgeous Anna Marie welcomed us into her home and we enjoyed Pisco sours and nibbles in her courtyard. 




Onto Miraflores and the park of love, with great ocean views along the way. 





We stayed here in Miraflores instead of taking the tour bus back to the ship as we were only a few hundred metres from the Central Restaurant where we had a 7:45 pm booking. 

Instead we spent the next few hours in the Lacroma mall, you can’t see it from the road as it’s built under the road and carved into the hillside with the same ocean views. As it got darker the lights of the city came on and transformed the skyline. 



Our dinner was in a very discreet looking building which you could easily pass by.

It was some experience and the menu for our 11 course tastings was all about the different elevations from the sea to the mountains. This year the Central restaurant was voted fourth best restaurant in the world. 










Then it was time to go home to our beautiful and always friendly Sea Princess.
Our second day we slept in and took the ships shuttle into Plaza Salavery and looked at the shops. We weren’t really into doing much more today as we’re both at the end of a cold and were expecting to be leaving for San Martin, Pisco that evening but as it turned out the port authorities in Pisco have closed the port due to bad weather coming and we’re staying another night and day here. 

This will give us the opportunity to maybe grab an uber and do a few extra tourist sites. 
Day three came along and with news from the at. We would be departing sometime early the next morning Saturday 12th.

We took the ships shuttle into the Plaza shopping centre drop off and hired a taxi at an hourly rate to take us to the Larco museum and Huaca Pucllana.

The Larco Herrera museum founded in 1926 was fantastic, set in beautiful manicured grounds with prolific bougainvillea flowering all over the walls etc. 

inside was an incredible collection of Peruvian gold and silver jewellery, textiles and huaco ceramics. Fascinating and you are also able to view their storage collection as well. 





The above photo is of nose rings they used.


After about an hour and a half here we went to Huaca Pucllana ruins, the remains of the Lima Culture. It was developed over the period 200 tom700 AD. 

It is an adobe pyramid of seven platforms which are now completely surrounded by the suburb of Miraflores.

Here the Wari culture is also evidenced along with multiple tombs and remains of human sacrifices as well.






All very interesting and we were glad we made the most of the extra day to get a bit more in. 

We sailed away in the very early hours and hopefully we will make it ashore at Easter Island. Only one in five ships make it in for tendering, so we’ll see how we go.

Due to our extended visit in Lima we had to miss Pisco and also have cancelled scenic cruising around Pitcairn island. Nothing can control the weather and its best to be safely harboured than getting smashed by weather. 

Next stop EASTER ISLAND, as long as the sea plays nice.

MANTA, ECUADOR: 7th AUGUST

ECUADOR, the home of the Panama hat, Rainforest, fishing, coffee beans and TARANTULAS!!!!

It’s less than two years since the area around Manta where we docked early this morning was devastated by an earthquake and there are still plenty of visual reminders that this is a city struggling to recover and any money bought in by the tourists is greatly appreciated.

The people we encountered were friendly and helpful. 

Travelling the roads from the town to Pacoche reserve we drove past many villages that again as we have voyaged around the world on this trip, reminded us of how lucky we are to have been born where we were, the housing as in many third world countries is barely more than one or two rooms and often in disrepair.

We have much to be grateful for and yet we really enjoyed visiting here and will put it on our list of places to revisit.



We were on a private tour again today and it has been one of the highlights of the trip to share these tours with so many lovely new friends and share lots of laughs with them all.

Our first stop was along the foreshore where they sell the fresh catches from the sea. Massive Tunas, swordfish and other species including lobsters and prawns. 

Cheap, cheap, cheap.

Tuna going for $45 a pound elsewhere $3 here.

You can buy your whole fish at one stall and go to the next area where they will cut it up for you. 



This is Mauro our guide explaining how the market works.



Maybe Angela is negotiating her cut and price! Lol.


Along side the fish market they were building and repairing the local fishing boats. 

These are all built by hand using only the most basic of tools, handsaws and hammers. Each boat is usually a collective ownership of around five or six families.

These bigger fishing boats usually pull behind them two or so smaller boats.


What a great visit we had to this reserve. Trekking through the rainforest while it was lightly raining and misty gave it a tremendous atmosphere and we encountered cocoa beans, papaya, avocado, orange trees, wild coriander ( cilantro) we heard growling monkeys, birds and saw a tarantula in its hole. Unfortunately I didn’t get to photograph him in time but I wasn’t that keen to get that close to be honest. 

But the photo below is of his hole and if you enlarge it you should see two of his legs. 

Above is the local reserve guide showing us the plant they use to make the Panama hats with.


Cocoa beans above. 

This tree is what is called the ivory tree and they used the pods for want of a better word to make buttons in the days gone by but now tend to make little decorative pieces for the tourists. 
Next we visited the National train museum and memorial of General Jose Delgado. I admit I’m going to have to google and read more of his story as I was so busy taking photos and being impressed with the room the memorial was in that I didn’t hear all what Mauro was telling us about his good life.
Then it was down the hill to Montecristo the town famous for the weavers of the Panama hat. Neither James and I had considered buying one but to find out we could fold them and wash them and should last a lifetime, then finding one each that we liked we happily handed over our money for the chance to own a piece of handcrafted millinery as a wearable souvenir. 

They come in these light weight balsa wood boxes. Hecho a Mano reads made by hand in Spanish.

Each hat by a master weaver can take up to five months to weave for the best quality ones. 




This incredible statue stands on the roundabout heading into Montecristo.

I always like to try and get a photo of our ship in port and here she is surrounded by fishing boats in Manta harbour.
Considering we passed the equator in the early hours of the morning and docking at five am we expected it to be much warmer here than it was.

It really only rained when we were in the rain forest though. 


 Above and below is the market place in Montecristo, though we bought our hats in a shop recommended by our guide ( probably his families) 


Tomorrow is a day at sea and then it’s Lima, Peru, where we farewell just over 200 guests including Paul and Michelle as they go off on their two night experience of Machu Pichu. 

We have our special dinner booked for Central restaurant there, voted fourth best restaurant in the world, an 11 course tastings with wines to look forward to.

This morning some guests left for a five night Galapagos island experience.

PANAMA CANAL, PANAMA,: 5th AUGUST

So so different to the Suez Canal, The Panama was a marvellous day watching with great interest the wonderful engineering that is the workings of The Panama Canal.

With our late departure from Cartagena our transit through the canal started a little later which was probably fine by all of us onboard as we were able to get up and breakfast before finding our positions to watch the first loch approach.

During the day we again as we did with the Suez, moved around from side to side, back to front and relaxed by the pool and enjoyed several dips in as it was a steamy hot day.

It was basically a full 12 hours from start of our transit till 8:30 pm when Captain Aldo came on speaker to say we were officially through and into the Pacific Ocean again and about to farewell our pilot boat.

 The first lochs were the Gatun lochs and there were three we needed to transit through.

The photo below is of our approach and our first opportunity to see the canal in operation. 


And then it was our turn. 


It’s a tight fit!!! Literally inches to spare each side.

We were still using the old transit. The new one which opened last year is for the newer bigger ships that they’re now building and only goes one way at a time.


In between the three lots of lochs we had to go through there are lakes and islands with lots of beautiful rainforests and crocodiles! 


We were lucky to see one of the lochs completely empty as they were doing maintenance on it and it gives you a great chance to see the depth and a real perspective of the massive gates. 



 Our last gate opened just as dark was falling.


After we were through it wasn’t long till the lights of Panama City came into view. 


One freaky cloud with an evil face appeared.


Below are a few more photos from our day. 

The first is a photo of our ship passing under the Americas bridge. 

Next stop MANTA, ECUADOR.



 


Note the workers walking along the gates in below photo.