A painted ship . . .

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Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.

The quote is from The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
and the ship is Ruby Princess.

When I took the photograph, Ruby Princess was at anchor off Dravuni Island, Fiji.

Launched in 2008, registered in the Bahamas, 3080 passengers, 1200 crew, 19 decks and her tonnage is 113,561.

We never felt crowded, there was plenty of space for everyone, but the only ‘problem’ was that if we wanted to see a show at 7.30 pm, we had to be seated about half an hour before the show started, because all the shows were popular, and the theatre only held 800 people. Each night they had two shows, 7.30 pm & 9.30 pm.

Ruby Princess arrived in Australian waters on the 23rd October 2019, and this season would be her first season of operating out of Australia.
Maureen & I, and our two friends, boarded on the 8th November for a 14-night cruise to Vanuatu, Fiji & New Caledonia.
As usual boarding went smoothly and we were on board by mid-day, perfect timing for lunch.
Drop hand luggage in the cabins and find our way to the Horizon Restaurant for lunch, our main suitcases would be delivered to our cabin during lunch.
The Horizon restaurant was a self-serve buffet, which could be expanded into a cafe area next door, which was called Cafe Caribe.

The combined area was large enough that we never had to wait for a seat. We used the Horizon Restaurant mainly for breakfast and lunch.

I’ll post photographs later of the various dining areas and the internal area of the ship, in the meantime I’ll post a sample of the passenger areas outside.

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The main swimming pool and outside cinema screen – called Movies Under the Stars, which began every day at 10.0 am and ran until late in the evening.
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The same pool from under the giant screen.
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Quite a lot of the public walk areas on the upper decks had false grass, which helped to be non-slip when wet.
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Part of certain public areas were above the bridge – this picture shows the starboard bridge wing.
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Passengers had access to the area above the bridge.
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Sports areas – this is the basketball area / come whatever you wanted to play. Fortunately I never had the urge to take part in any exercise except walking for about half an hour after breakfast.
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During one walk we managed to get close to the funnel area.
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A lot has changed since I was at sea in the 1960’s  . . .
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A shot of the funnel that we all see.
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At the highest point that a passenger could get there was a walking track – the above shows the put-put golf area.
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The walking track is on the right side of the picture and if you walked around 14 (or was it 16), times you would have walked a mile.
I was happy to believe the noticeboard and not to try and prove them wrong.
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Looking down to the stern and another hot tube and pool. There were a number of hot tubs, but the pools all seemed to be close to a bar . . . . I took my swimming costume, but it never got it wet – well I can’t swim and hold a beer at the same time.
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Play area for children – I don’t think we saw more than about eight or ten children during the cruise, because it was school time in both Australia & New Zealand. We did have passengers from the US, the UK, Canada and of course New Zealand, but the majority were Australian.
Some of the Americans that I spoke to had arrived in Sydney early to ‘do’ Sydney and the surrounding Sydney area, followed by the cruise to the islands.
They would then only transit Sydney at the end of the island cruise and remain on-board for the New Zealand cruise, which was the next cruise destination for Ruby Princess.
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I am assuming that the children’s toy cars are pedal power and not electric powered.

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Plenty of seating for those who wished to watch movies all day. Blankets were provided if you felt chilly.

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The sundeck if you wished to sunbath and watch the movies, or just lie and read.
I took most of the outdoor photographs either on sailing day or the next day and as you see there was haze that I can only put down to the smoke from the large number of fires down the east coast of Australia.
This haze didn’t clear for about three days by which time we were at Lifou, which is a New Caledonia island.

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A painted ship . . . off Dravuni Island, Fiji.

 

 

 

 

Maré – Loyalty to the end

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Once again, we anchored and the ship’s boats ferried people ashore. We didn’t have to climb down the ladder, which is shown in the photograph. At the bottom of the ladder you can see the main exit / entry port. Each time we re-boarded we had to go through security screening i.e  x-raying of bags, and each passenger has to  walk through an airport style scanner. Of course I had the normal physical pat down, without the same insistent ‘I’m going to touch you ‘ apologies that I had in Sydney.

The main attraction for this island seems to be a fabulous beach, which is a short drive from the small town near where we anchored.
The island is basalt rock due to volcanic activity many years ago.

The tender ferried us to a small pier at the right of the picture below, where we were greeted by locals singing.

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I’ve always liked the Pacific islanders singing, whether as part of a local festival or in church on Sundays.  Pacific islanders singing in the Cook Islands – walk the streets in the Pacific on a Sunday morning I bet you can’t but help go to church, even if you don’t believe in God.

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The concrete pier / dock that you see is for small sea going vessel, and it also acts as a breakwater. The pier we used was much smaller.

dsc07275rAs soon as we stepped ashore the small market came to life.

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And you could have your hair braded if you wished, I think for around AUD $15.00.

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Buses waited for those passengers who wished to go to the beach, which has a reputation of being famous for its white sands, and is a place that people dream of when they think of the Pacific Islands. I’d had enough sun, sand and sea while in Lifou.

Maureen & I checked out the market and the surrounding areas.

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The memorial above in French, is to remember a small coaster, La Monique (Monike) , that left this bay on the 31st July, 1953, with 126 people on board. The weather was calm, and she was bound for Noumea.

laThis is the best picture that I could find.

The captain and his twenty-six crew members were from Ouvea, which is one of the Loyalty Islands. The passengers came from Ouvea (19), Maré (12), and Lifou (59), the fifty-nine from Lifou consisted of family member of three large chieftainships of that island. There were also civil servants, a policeman and his family and tradesmen. The nationalities beside those from the Loyalty islands were Japanese, Vietnamese, Europeans, and Kanaks from New Caledonia.
The vessel sailed from Maré Island on the evening of the 31st July and has not been seen since.
The monument is in the shape of a small boat, which faces out to sea at the spot where family members last saw the crew and passengers as they boarded the ship.
The monument does not call to mind the deaths of those on board, because to the people of the Lifou Islands, in their language called Drehu, they do not speak of death, ‘meci he’,  when they speak of the Monique, but of ‘patre he’, which means that they are no longer here, and yet are here never the less. The monument was erected sixty years after the loss of La Monique – 31st July 2013. On the reverse of memorial you will find the details of the tragedy in French and in English.

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dsc07285rI stood with my back to the memorial and took this photo – the place felt peaceful.

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If only I’d known of the swimming pool (you may be able to see the yellow ladder on the right) I’d have brought my swimming gear. The water was warm and crystal clear. I took the photograph from the small pier while we waited for the ship’s boat to come alongside.

dsc07316rAs we sailed from Maré a lonely yacht entered the harbour.

The day after we left the evening theme was the Gatsby era.

Once again we swapped our ‘smart casual’ code for a Gatsby dress code – or as close as we could.

dsc07333cA slight explanation – note the hat that I acquired in Robe, which is a small coastal town in South Australia, a couple of years ago during our road trip.
I was in a small pub and asked for a pint of Guinness.
As I picked up the glass with its white topped head covering the beautiful black liquid I was asked if I wanted a hat to go with the drink – of course I said yes, and received the above ‘titfer’ that’s on my head.
I’d forgotten that the previous day had been St Patrick’s day and it appears that the landlord had a few hats left over. By the way the hat it is made of paper, but doesn’t feel ‘delicate’.
As I thanked the landlord I mentioned that St Patrick was not Irish, but Welsh, and that he had been sent to Ireland as a missionary preach the gospel to the heathens across the Irish Sea. I don’t think he believed me, but I held on to my new ‘Irish’ ‘titfer’ just in case he wanted it returned.

The white belt is from my ‘white’ outfit – the ex uniform from the 60’s, and the braces (suspenders if you are American, which means something quite different to the English) are from the $2 shop at home. In the ‘old’ days ones braces had buttons to secure them to the trousers – my new pair had clips that kept pinging off – had to make sure the waiter didn’t have a full glass as one side pinged.

dsc07338cIsla and Olivia (grand daughters) joined in the Gatsby period – the head gear was made in the Kid’s Club, along with long dangling necklaces.

DSC07337r.jpgJosh (grandson) wanted my hat.

dsc07354rAfter the evening meal I tried to play Turn Back Time  on the piano – I failed.

Mainly because I can not play the piano, which is a small detail for a black shirted musician.

dsc07340cThe Gatsby Gang

dsc07341rMatt (son-in-law) with three great Gatsby kids.

dsc07391rOne more sunset, which in the picture is setting over Australia, and we will see the ‘Heads’ of Sydney harbour, the following morning, which will be the end of our cruise.

Islands in the sun

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Island in the sun

Approaching Noumea, New Caledonia

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Local yacht club – last time we visited New Cal we had lunch in this club and I can recommend their lunchtime pudding, which was a large bowl of ice cream floating in a sea of Tia Maria th– very more-ish if you were staying the night. . . . .

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Being welcomed by a local dance troop.

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Golden Princess berthed at the container port – launched 2001 at 109,000 gt compared to Pacific Jewel, launched 1990 at 70,300 gt. Being that much smaller we were allowed to berth at the cruise terminal.

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 Views of the city.

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Passenger road trains run around the city and the beach area. I think the colour of the train denotes the area.
Maureen & I didn’t go ashore because we’d been to Noumea a few years earlier and I doubted that it would have change all that much. Being on an ‘empty’ ship is a pleasure – smaller crowds, easy to find a seat anywhere are just two of the advantages of not going ashore.
As we sailed we had a small boat following us, which was the pilot boat. On our arrival, it was very sedate, but as we left in blew its whistle and started to do turns on the spot.

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It never went forward or backwards just round and round on the same spot until the pilot was ready to disembark – it got a large round of applause when it stopped spinning and made its way to the side of the ship for the pilot.
Our next stop Lifou, the largest island in the Loyalty Islands.

The name Loyalty island was bestowed on the island by European merchants towards the end of the 18th century to acknowledge the cooperation of the local people. Whaling and timber were the main trade in the 19th century. Today it is copra, and now tourism.

If you have every carried copra, before containerisation, it is not a ‘friendly’ cargo with all the black bugs that infest the ship from the copra.

We anchored off the shore and the ship’s boats ran a service back and forth for most of the day.

dsc07249rThis craft could carry about 140 people.

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Maureen and I were on one of the early boats because we had been warned by our daughter that the prime spots were under palm trees because of the heat. Our daughter’s family had  visited this island last year on another cruise, so we were the advance party to secure the correct area for when the grandchildren and their parents arrived an hour or so later.

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It was a very nice beach and the water was shallow for quite a way out. The coral out crops forced the swimmer to swim instead of wading in the shallow waters because the coral was very sharp. I found it easier to swim out on my back, which of course caused my front to get sun burned, which I paid for over the next few days. Not painful, just peeling.

dsc07236rAs Pacific Jewel swung on her anchor she appeared to be quite close at times. The motto on the stern is ‘Like no Place on Earth’. The swimmers in the water were from the ship.

The coral went out quite a long way – but Australia has some of the best beaches in the world, with little risk of being shredded on coral, yet we all swam in waters that unless you were careful, would give you a nasty wound. More and more passengers came ashore – the beach was only used by the passengers; the locals didn’t bother.

dsc07237r– the black pier is where our boats tied up to take on or drop off passengers.

dsc07234rYou know who, cast a drift on a desert island.

Back on board the theme of the evening was “WHITE”, so one had to make an effort.

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For the Conway readers I must brag a little here – the shorts that I am wearing are at least fifty years old – part of my BI uniform when I was at sea, and I can still get in to them with a little movement of the top button. It surprised me as well . . . . . .As you see with my white hair, I went a little further in to whiteness than Maureen.

dsc07258rGrand-daughters joined in the fun.

dsc07263rThe ship’s children’s dance team helped to get the children in to the swing of things.

dsc07259rSome of us just watched . . . Maureen & Sara (our daughter)

New Caledonia

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Tomorrow (Monday) we board our cruise ship the ‘Pacific Jewel’, older than the other cruise ships in which we’ve sailed, so it’ll be an education. She might be ‘old’ (launched 1989), but she does look more like a ship than a block of flats.

Maureen & I sail, with our daughter, son in law and three grandchildren, for a family holiday afloat, so communication might not be as efficient – or as cheap!

An eight night cruise to New Caledonia, so named by Captain Cook in 1774, because the southern tip reminded him of Scotland.

New Caledonia is now French, but they don’t use the Euro currency, but Central Pacific Franc CFP – I wonder if I have the price of an ice cream left in the tin I use for odd coins from our travels. . .

The last time Maureen & I were in Noumea (the capital of New Caledonia), was in 2002, so it’ll be interesting to see the changes – if any. The Pacific islands work to ‘island time’ . . .and we will have to learn to slooow dooowwwnnn and to enjoy the experience.

jewel-032The Pacific Jewel seem s to have a focus on family fun from ‘rock climbing’ to flying fox from fore to aft, or it could be the other way around.

p_and_o_edgee_2The wire is the flying fox . . . .at my age I might give it a miss.

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Noumea – New Caledonia

From Noumea we sail to the Isle of Pines – see below

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and then on to Lifou Island, again below

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and finally Mare Island before sailing back to Sydney.

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As you see, I plan that nothing will be too strenuous – except in the pool with the grandchildren – a nice break before the madness of Christmas / New Year, and I thought the above pictures would be a gentle reminder for those in a northern hemisphere November. . . . . I can be cruel :-o)

If anyone is interested in the South Pacific try James Michener’s books such as Tales of the South Pacific, The Return to Paradise, and Rascals in Paradise – all three are factual.