Shimizu & Mt Fuji

 

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The photo was taken from our balcony as we approached Shimizu in Japan, we were very fortunate that it was a clear day. We decided not to do any excursions, because we only wanted to see Mt Fuji and from reading Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic web sites, I knew that if we couldn’t see it from the town, then there was little chance of seeing it even if we were half way up the mountain

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Of course, as we moved alongside I knew that we had a shopping centre quite close . . .

DSC01214rLike many of our fellow passengers we wondered over to the shopping area and the Ferris wheel. It was obvious that Shimizu was a popular place for private boats.

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DSC01233rThey do say that size doesn’t matter, but this one looked a fine vessel, not sure if it offered trips round the bay, or if it was a private yacht.

DSC01228rOf course talking of size – you can see the Diamond Princess alongside.

The  above three pictures were taken as Maureen and I took in the views from the top of the Ferris wheel – not expensive for a single rotation, but when we were at the top the wind strengthen and caused the whole structure to shudder & sway some what . . . ..

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Taken as our seats on the Ferris wheel reached the top.

DSC01221rAnother shot of the ship as we started our descent.

DSC01235rTaken from the ground level.

DSC01217rThe shopping centre, which was not all that large, also catered for the children.

DSC01201rEveryone seemed to be clicking cameras and they all pointed at Mt Fuji – we just couldn’t help taking more and more photographs. It seemed to hold a fascination for everyone.
DSC01252rAs we sailed from Shimizu I remembered an old Japanese sage saying, during my time at sea when on the Japanese coast. If you see Mt Fuji as you leave you will return to Japan – each time we sailed from Japan I managed to see Mt Fuji, except the last time when we sailed at night, so I was unable to see the mountain – this would have been in the late 1960’s.

I didn’t return to Japan until the late 1980’s, (by air) when working for another company, and didn’t see Mt Fuji during that trip – in future I think I’ll stick to a simpler use for old sage, and mix it with onion for stuffing a Christmas turkey.

MGI forgot to mention that our guide in Osaka, Toichi, took out his felt tip pen and created the above in Japanese script.

The top one is ‘Geoff’ and the bottom is ‘Maureen’. When we arrived home I showed the piece of paper to my grandson, who is studying Japanese at school (he’s thirteen).

He looked at it and shook his head and told me that he could only recognise the bottom three syllables on the left. He said they represent the sound of ‘more’, so I said how about Mau as in Maureen?

 

 

 

 

A Diamond that fades. . . .

Anchored Nha Trang

I took the above picture of Diamond Princess at anchor off Nha Trang, which is in Vietnam.
Maureen and I boarded Diamond Princess in Sydney, in mid-March, for a twenty-two-day cruise to Japan.

The Diamond was positioning to Japan, to be based in Yokohama for the northern summer cruising season.

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Our ports of call would be Darwin (northern Australia), Kota Kinabalu (née Jesselton ) in Sabah, Malaysia, Phu My (Vietnam), which is the nearest port to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) for such a large vessel. The road trip from the port to Ho Chi Minh is about 90 minutes.
Our next port was Nha Trang, still in Vietnam, and again we were too large to go alongside so we anchored off and went ashore by tender.
Hong Kong followed, and then it was Osaka, Shimizu (Japan), and finally Yokohama (for Tokyo).
We’d sailed in the Diamond Princess two years earlier from Sydney to Singapore, so we were looking forward to a similar great experience as we made our way to Japan.
The price was right for us to upgrade to a mini-suite, our first time for this type of cabin. Nothing is ever called by its real name any more, so on the ship our cabin was referred to as our ‘stateroom’.

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Two televisions, one to watch in bed and the other from the settee. You could have different channels if you wished. Plenty of storage space for hanging clothes, and enough shelves for other items. The hanging space was large enough for us to stow our suitcases without interfering with our hanging clothes. We also had a safe.

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Plenty of room in the bathroom, or to use a naval expression – the Heads.

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We had a good size balcony; the picture doesn’t do it justice.

The shore side that can be seen in the above picture is part of Circular Quay, Sydney.
Our departure from Sydney began at 4.00 pm on the 22nd March, and as we sailed down the harbour to the ocean, we were followed by a P & O vessel, which used to be the Dawn Princess when Maureen and I sailed in her during a New Zealand destination cruise last year. The Dawn Princess was passed over to P & O Australia and renamed Pacific Explorer.

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You can see everyone is ‘rugged up’ for our departure, yet a few days later the temperature in Sydney was in the mid 30’s c.

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Pacific Explorer as our consort.

DSC00247rPassing out of Sydney Harbour (North Head shown above), as we enter the Pacific Ocean.

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The pilot boat coming alongside to ferry the pilot back home to Sydney.

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Full ahead and we leave the Pacific Explorer in our wake.

The following day we met another Princess vessel, the Sea Princess, which was offering short four night cruises from Sydney as ‘tasters’.

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Sea Princess 77,499 GT is smaller than the Diamond, which is 115,875 GT.
Sea Princess is a sister ship of the Pacific Explorer (née Dawn Princess), which is why she looked familiar to me as she passed us on the way to Hamilton Island.

On sea days, I never get tired of watching the sun rise, particularly when we turned west at Cape York towards Darwin, after transiting the Great Barrier Reef.

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Sunrise that lit our stern

Diamonds of Japan

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Three guesses for our next destination. I was eighteen when I first visited Japan and have always wanted to take Maureen, so when a positioning cruise came up, at the right price, – I booked Diamond Princess. 

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We sailed in the Diamond Princess from Sydney to Singapore in 2016 so hopefully it’ll be like coming home. If you like days at sea, which we do, look for a positioning cruise because they are nearly all cheaper than a standard cruise, as long as you don’t mind flying home.TYO VoyageWe sail from Sydney to Darwin, Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia), Phu May (the port for large vessels visiting Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) in Vietnam, Nha Trang (Vietnam), Hong Kong, Osaka (Japan), Shimizu (the main port to see Mount Fuji in Japan) and Yokohama (also listed as Tokyo) The transit time from Sydney to Tokyo will be twenty two days.

Once in Yokohama many of the passengers will leave the ship and be replaced by a large number of local Japanese for a coastal cruise, which will also call at Busan in S. Korea.

When I made the booking I offered to the cruise company that we would do a back to back i.e buying a further cruise, as long as we didn’t have to move cabins.  They agreed, so we have extended our time onboard by a further seven days for the coastal cruise.

JapanWe sail from Yokohama to Busan (S.Korea), Sakaiminato (Japan), Tsuruga, Akita and finally Yokohama where we leave the ship and fly home.

I’ve not been to S. Korea, nor the western side of Japan, so this trip will be new for both of us.

The passengers will be predominantly Japanese, so it should be an interesting trip. I’ve been dragging the old grey matter in an effort to remember a few polite Japanese greetings. When I was at sea, the company for which I worked, traded between the Persian Gulf, Japan & China so I made a point of learning some Japanese and Cantonese. The Cantonese didn’t help much on the China coast, because they didn’t speak Cantonese outside of Hong Kong!

We are hoping that we will be able to repeat the pleasant time that we had in 2016, when sailing from Sydney to Singapore. I doubt that the same piano player, Paul Burton  will be still around, he was very popular.

We sailed from Sydney in 2016 on the 23rd March, and this year (2018), we sail on the same ship on the 22nd March.

This will be our second Easter at sea, and on the same ship – 2016 Good Friday was 25th March, which was in Melbourne, and this year it is 30th March, when we will be at sea.

Easter Sunday 2016, was in Adelaide, and this year we will still be at sea. It’ll be interesting to see if Easter at sea is acknowledged as a Christian celebration, or just a choco-holiday.

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The picture shows 2016 Easter on the Diamond Princess, but as the ship was in port, passengers had the choice of churches in Melbourne & Adelaide.

 

 

 

Princesses bearing gifts – beware.

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I’ve known a number of PrincessesIsland, Diamond, Dawn, Majestic and have booked future time with Golden (see above picture) & Diamond (again) – see picture below.

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My wife & I enjoyed our time so much with each Princess we thought it only right that we share our good fortune with our friends around the world.

To encourage our friends to join us, I told them that they would receive USD $25 each (USD $50 per cabin) to spend on their second cruise, if they accepted my invitation to join us on a particular cruise.
I also told them that I would receive USD $25 for each person that I persuaded to sample the charms of a real Princess.

Two friends from New Zealand and two friends from the UK flew to Rome and joined us for the twenty-eight-day

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Majestic (see pic above) voyage from Rome to Singapore, which we all enjoyed. I have e-mails confirming that our New Zealand friends had accepted the ‘refer a friend’ bonus in February 2017.
On returning home we persuaded five local friends to join us for a cruise from Sydney to Tasmania later this year, and I told them of the USD $25 that each would be credited for their second cruise. Four of our friends accepted the invitation in March 2017.

A couple of weeks ago I contacted the cruise company in Sydney and asked why the bonus for persuading my Kiwi & Pommy friends was not showing on my account, because I wished to use my share of the ‘encouragement bonus’ for the Tasmanian cruise. I received an answer and have posted two parts of it below –

Unfortunately our refer a friends program has been discontinued as of the 11th May 2017. This means that we are unable to provide you with the benefits of the refer a friends program.

Remember my UK & NZ friends accepted in February . . . and four of our Australian friends accepted in March.

Please also be aware that the program was only applicable for guests who referred guests who lived in the same country. For example as you live in Australia the benefits could only be applied to friends who also live in Australia. The program was also set up for the past passengers and non past passengers to travel on the same cruise.

I couldn’t find any mention of the closing of the program on their web site, and as recently as last week I received an e-mail advising me that one of our Australian friends (the fifth one) had accepted the USD $25 offer! In fact, I have e-mails confirming that all my Australian friends have accepted the refer a friend offer. Now I must tell them that they will not be receiving the promised bonus.
The other concern is that one can only persuade Australian friends, yet the web site states Australian & New Zealand friends . . .and still has the refer a friend active link on the main web site.
I persuaded one couple that a Princess is worth more than a mere Celebrity – even though they have already experienced two Celebrities, and didn’t wish to change – but friendship prevailed, and now I must cancel their promised cash bonus.

I can accept that the UK couple are not part of Australia / New Zealand, but as the web site specifically mentions Australia / New Zealand as a refer a friend ‘catchment’ area why have the NZ friends not been credited?

As a global popular Princess why would you place restrictions on possible future sales just because someone has friends outside their home area?

Our Princess promises that we will ‘Come back new’, but I doubt that the nine friends that we introduced will come back at all . . . and if they chat to their friends statistics tell us that each one will negatively influence between ten and twenty-five others against a certain princess. The negative influence is not a deliberate act, but comes out in general conversation.

To paraphrase Warren Buffet – it takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to lose one.

I sent an e-mail to my Princess, about the whole ‘refer a friend’ system and I received a reply, which stated – Your comments have been noted.

Considering the overall cost of cruising, the amount of money involved is very small, but the principle is huge.

The haves and the have nots. . .

We sailed from Thailand for Vietnam’s southern main port of Ho Cha Minh (used to be called Saigon), and once again we couldn’t get too close to Ho Cha Minh city because of our size. We berthed at Phu My, which is a 90 minute drive from Ho Cha Minh city via the fleet of buses waiting for us.

This time I took more care of dashing from the cabin to the balcony and the sudden change of humidity. Phu My is a ‘working’ port and it brought back memories of my time at sea in the ’60s.

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Just before sunrise as we approached our berth.

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The start of a new day.

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The ‘giraffes’ have woken up, and are watching us arrive.

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The port is waking.

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A local barge waiting to go alongside.

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As we swing around in the middle of the river to face seaward for our departure I notice that the opposite bank is undeveloped. Using the ship’s thrusters we are able to turn on a sixpence (five cents for the younger readers) without the help of tugs that stood by just in case.

DSC05369rWhile we turned in the river I watched a ship coming down stream and getting closer and closer (I took a set off pictures just in case), as she rounded the bend in the river she gave a long blast on her whistle and altered course to starboard to pass down our starboard side as we had completed our turn. The one long blast is the international signal that a ship is altering course to starboard so that everyone in the area is aware of that vessel’s movements.

Because my wife and I had been to Ho Cha Minh during a previous holiday we did not return to that city on this trip. The local council offered a free shuttle service from the ship to the local town.

After we left Phu My on our way to Singapore I noticed the high number of local fishing boats, which brought the title of this blog home to me.

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DSC05332rcThe sea was calm, the Diamond Princess had 2900 privileged passengers who dressed for dinner, while those fishermen that we past hung their washing on a long rod attached to the stern of their homes.

I wondered what they would do if the weather changed for the worse – I doubt that we would feel the change. Our twenty seven foot stabilisers would help keep our 115,000 gt vessel steady, so as not to upset the fortunate passengers.

The following day we arrived in Singapore, just before dawn.

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Sea Fever

I was fortunate to attend HMS Conway, which was a training ship (see picture below) to supply officers for the merchant and Royal Navy – most us went in to the merchant service.

The college began in 1859, and I attended ‘Conway’ between 1960 and 1962. During my time we lived in barracks because the old ship had run aground and broken her back in 1953 while being towed through the Swillies, which is a very dangerous stretch of water  between the North Wales coast and the Isle on Anglesey. She was on her way to dry dock in Birkenhead, but never made it.  . . .

Conway-01After leaving Conway in 1962, I went to sea, and my first ship was a tanker, the Ellenga, with a gross tonnage of 24,246 gt. At that time she was quite a large vessel.

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Tomorrow we sail from Sydney harbour aboard the Diamond Princess, which is just under 116,000 dwt and nearly five times the size of my first ship.

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The above was taken last September, (2015), and the small yellow / green ship is a Sydney harbour ferry. The black vessel is a tanker bunkering the Diamond Princess moored alongside the Sydney Cruise Terminal, where she will be tomorrow when we join her.

For many of us who went to sea as young men (I was eighteen on my first trip) never lose the love of the ocean. One old Conway, John Masefield, captured the feeling of the sea when he wrote Sea Fever.

Sea Fever

By John Masefield.  HMS Conway 1891-94.

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

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South China Sea in 1967 at the start of a typhoon.
Cargo ship ‘Pundua’, built 1945, 7,295 gt
I think I prefer
Diamond Princess, built 2004, 116,000 gt
Tomorrow, thanks to our daughter & son-in-law, a hire limo will transport us for the expected hour’s run to the cruise terminal. Our check-in is 11.30 am, so all being well we will have lunch on board.