October 7 – Fifth day at sea [uploading from a wireless hotspot in Port Vila, Vanuatu – slow connection so I’ll likely not get everything uploaded, but here goes…and it’s actually October 14th in this part of the world]
Tomorrow we reach land again, this time in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Unlike our mariner ancestors, who sailed weeks between land sightings, our longest stretch between ports is five days.
Residents of Pago Pago are American nationals but not American citizens. We know that because of the lecture we heard David Levesque give yesterday. He is a Renaissance man among the lecturers we’ve had the good fortune to hear so far. We first saw him as a comic violinist on the stage of the Frans Hals Lounge, backed by the ship’s talented band.
There’s a live show every night. All have been good, but we’ve had our favourites. One was a dulcimer player so skilled he earned a rare standing ovation. Last night’s was Thien Fu, who left Viet Nam as a refugee and has mastered juggling and American-style comedy. There have been singers and dancers and comedians, including an Irish woman who now lives in Australian and delivered an evening of belly laughs.
Recent movies, complete with popcorn, run every night and are repeated on the closed-circuit TV in each stateroom. There’s a piano bar where a guy named Randal attracts around a hundred people every evening with his contests to “name that tune” or sing along with oldies. In the Ocean Bar a talented pianist named Stryker
plays pre-dinner music before heading up to the Crow’s Nest to play some more. A Philippine band plays dance music in the Ocean Bar for hours every night, and a Hungarian string quartet provides five hours of music in the Explorations Café from six to eleven.
Then there are the special events such as the crew’s shenanigans to mark the crossing of the equator, theme nights like the County Fair, and the much-anticipated Chocolate Extravaganza.
Robin and I attend nearly every lecture offered. They explore the culture and history (natural and political) of the route we travel. Most are excellent; all are interesting.
Robin is racking up the “Dam dollars” by participating in all kinds of team events. Every morning he plays table tennis. This afternoon he won a tournament among the eight regulars. He won another fistful of Dam dollars by putting a hole in one in a golf tournament. He’s added other wins with his afternoon trivia team, which always comes in at or near the top of the more than twenty groups that compete.
We’ve participated in meringue and salsa classes (that’s dance, not food), but it’s going to take a lot more of those before this non-dancer catches up to her dancing partner.
We both still make rounds of the Promenade deck. Stories, Podcasts and music keep me going as we sail through the hotter climate of the tropics.
While we often spend our days in different activities, we are always together for meals and evening events. We enjoy a ritual pre-dinner drink of wine and a chance to complete the day’s sudoku and catch up on the day. Robin suggested we move our ritual out to the deck a couple nights ago. The glow of the setting sun made that simple punctuation to our day feel like magic.
Last night we climbed to the top deck of the ship to hear a talk on the constellations. Tropical high humidity hid most of the stars, but there were enough for David Levesque to point out some of the major groupings. My big surprise was to see the waxing moon lit from the bottom instead of the side. We have rounded the curve of earth.
Breakfast and dinner we join strangers or new friends around the open-seating tables of the Rotterdam dining room. Lunch we usually have in the Lido cafeteria since we often have plans before or after that squeeze the time. That’s about the only thing that’s squeezed about our meal times. We limit ourselves to three meals a day, but we could easily join the Eating Champions who grab snacks at the Explorations Café between meals, chow down at afternoon teas, graze their way through the food offered at theme events, make a stop at the burger/pizza/taco bar, and end the day with a hearty late-night snack for the 11-12 p.m. crowd in the Lido.
When we come back to our comfortable stateroom for the night, we’re always met by yet another towel creature, folded with skill and creativity by the Indonesian steward who spoils us thoroughly. We are not surprised to learn he’s been ten years with Holland America. He does his work with skill, grace, and dignity.