[Written before we arrived in Vancouver]
So, OK, some of you know I came on last September’s cruise reluctantly. I couldn’t imagine spending a month trapped on a ship that was bobbing across the ocean. How boring, like being imprisoned in a resort for weeks on end.
I know a lot of people like resorts. Maybe if I had loads of money I’d find the occasional stay in some exotic resort alluring. But frankly, from my limited experience I get the impression they’re pretty much same-same wherever you travel. Same solicitous service. Same great food. Same comfortable beds. Same high-class accommodations, entertainment, etc. But for local flavour, they’re not a very interesting option.
When I travel I want to be surprised. I want my tastebuds awakened to new flavours. I want to experience something a little more exotic than the kind of comfort I can experience right in my own home, which just happens to be a resort condominium of sorts. (I always find that designation a bit curious when applied to my home. Shouldn’t a “resort” have guest services like food and a well-informed concierge rather than just swimming pools, spas, a gym, and fabulous views?)
At any rate, here we are on our third cruise in a year. The current trip counts as two because it’s really two, back-to-back cruises – Sydney to Honolulu, Honolulu to Vancouver. And my guilty little secret is that I’m having a ball and feeling a bit sad that tomorrow we have to return to ordinary life.
The first part of this cruise we shared the ship with about a thousand Aussies. They were a friendly lot who all seemed to be having a great time. In Honolulu the demographics changed, and we became a ship with a handful of Aussies and a whole lot of Canadians and Americans.
A few things have changed along with the demographics. The casino has been a lot more popular since we left Hawai’i. The entertainers are receiving a lot more standing ovations. And the demand for Vegemite and VB (Victoria Bitters beer) has slacked right off.
Here are the four couples and one woman on her own who shared Table 106
We’ve been at a new table since Hawai’i. The other Canadian couple tried us out one night and decided the Windjammer was a more attractive option. We’re sorry about that because we enjoy talking with them when we see them around the ship. The others have stayed with it. That’s given us the real pleasure of getting to know Art and Cheryl from Seattle (far right in the photo), Jean from Florida (blue dress), Orlando and Linda from Texas (on the left), and Robyn and Jim from Queensland (standing behond Jean).
The latter proved to be the biggest surprise. In that first round of introductions, Jim said he and Robyn were from Australia. I heard America in his accent and wanted to know where he grew up.
“Idaho,” he said.
“Where in Idaho?” I asked.
“Twin Falls,” he replied.
“Twin Falls? That’s where I grew up.” Turns out Jim spent most of his school years in the local Catholic school so the only time our education paths crossed was in 1963-64. That was my senior year, his junior, and the one year we were both students at Twin Falls High School.
What are the odds of two people from Twin Falls, Idaho, who live in Queensland, Australia, and British Columbia, Canada, meeting on a cruise ship sailing out of Honolulu?
Whatever the odds, it’s a delicious happenstance that might even have wider implication. Robin suffers terribly from hay fever when he’s in both of the states where he has relatives, South Australia and Victoria. When we arrived in Sydney, his hay fever stopped completely. That’s made us wonder if we should consider looking farther afield for a home in Australia.
Before we left Canada last September, we often talked about the kind of community we’d want to live in – small enough that we could get to know people easily, large enough to offer points of connection, open enough to accept newcomers, green enough to connect us with others with an interest in sustainable living, close enough to an airport and/or train station that we could travel easily, and close enough to the people we love that we could visit them easily.
Turns out Robyn and Jim live in a community that just might fit all those criteria. Their home is in Witta, but their hearts – particularly Robyn’s – are in nearby Maleny, a town Robyn describes as “the best place in the world”. Tucked into the hills east of beachside Caloundra and just over an hour north of Brisbane, Malany is a community that attracts retired professionals and back-to-the-landers.
When Woolworth’s (the Australian grocery chain, not the American dimestore) wanted to build a supermarket in Malany, townsfolk united to keep them out. Eventually they lost the battle – but not the war. Bumper stickers changed from, “I won’t shop at Woolworth’s” to “I STILL won’t shop at Woolworth’s”.
Depending on priorities, the few people we’ve met who know the community describe it as a greenie haven or a charming, cottage-filled mountain retreat. It piques our interest. We’ll definitely check it out.
One of the first things we noticed when we began this leg of the cruise was that we had, by our new cabin steward’s definition, suddenly become “VIPs”. Robin had signed us up for the Crown and Anchor Club, entry to which is pretty easy since one cruise is all that’s required. That made us eligible for a few perks, including toiletries (instead of just soap and shampoo) and soft, warm robes. Every now and then a special treat has appeared. Last night it was a plate of petit fours, which we haven’t yet eaten.
A couple of days ago – a day too rocky for me to appreciate it – we were invited to a special luncheon for “consecutive cruisers”. (Oh, why did the day when wine flowed freely also have to be my only seasick day of the whole cruising adventure?) That same evening there was a pre-dinner reception for Crown and Anchor members. I’d taken some magic pills handed out by the purser’s desk so didn’t have to refuse the champagne.
One couple had been on 101 cruises with Royal Caribbean. Money and time must be plentiful in their lives.
As to what else there is to see and do on board the Rhapsody of the Seas, the photos below will give you a taste.
The Centrum is a soaring atrium in the centre of the ship
Cooking demonstrations took place in the Centrum
Little pirates take the stage as part of the ship's children's program
The casino was pretty empty during the first half of the cruise and hopping with people once Aussies were replaced by Canadians and Americans
When harbours are too shallow, passengers hop a tender to go on land - here, in Rarotonga
Robin managed to scale the rock wall and ring the bell - alas, I wasn't there to capture his success
There was high quality entertainment every night during the cruise
Cathryn with her trusty laptop in one of the many comfortable lounges
And did I mention the food? Lots of it, temptations around every corner, nearly every hour of the day?