Our South Pacific Cruise is rapidly coming to an end and this is the part that most of us had been waiting for; visiting the beautiful islands of French Polynesia that sit like exquisite jewels in the warm blue and green waters of the Pacific Ocean.
The islands we will visit on this cruise are Bora Bora and Moorea, and then the Pacific Princess will dock at Papeete in Tahiti. With a 7:30 am flight next morning I won't see Tahiti so I really wanted to get a flavour of the other two islands.
Bora Bora and Moorea are part of the Society Islands , an archipelago originally named for the British Royal Society by Captain Cook. There are two groups, the Windward Islands, in which Tahiti and Moorea are included, and the Leeward Islands in which Bora Bora lies. They have been a French colony since 1880.
Because of the time constraints, what these cruise visits do is just give you enough of a taste of each destination so that you can decide to where you would like to return for further experiences. Having grown up in Cape Town where I used to love to swim in the warm waters of the southern Indian Ocean, I was eager to dip my toes into the waters of the South Pacific. So Bora Bora and Moorea - here I come.
Wednesday October 7 Samba at Sea and Bora Bora
We were originally scheduled to arrive at the island of Bora Bora at 8 am and depart at 5 pm for Moorea, but adverse currents and choppy seas over the preceeding five days had forced a reduced cruising speed and that meant we would not arrive in Bora Bora until around noon.
This caused some concern among those who had booked early morning excursions, and lots of scrambling on the part of the staff to reschedule everything. I had not booked an excursion so it did not bother me. I was more concerned with the fact that I had rashly signed up to do a Samba routine in the talent show at 10:30 am and we had not really rehearsed anything.
I woke as usual around 6 am and by 6:30 was sipping coffee and eating a banana nut muffin and yogurt in "my office" on the aft deck outside the Pacific Buffet. We had arranged for Jorge to come and help Richard and I choreograph a short samba routine - really simple stuff but energetic enough to look like we were doing something good. I had my I-Pod with some great samba music and we put together three mini-routines that we thought would be fun.
We went through several variations and by the end of our brief practice i already felt I had had my workout for the day. I went back to the cabin to recharge my I-POd and get changed. Ruby and Jorge decided to put together a tango routine. Cool - so as it turned out of the 6 "acts" 2 were from the Dancers at Sea group.
There is something strangely liberating about being among a mass of strangers who don't know your name, and whom you will never likely encounter again. I think I can almost understand why some people can make absolute idiots of themselves on those reality TV shows without it seeming to bother them. So although I was a bit anxious at first, when it came to actually getting out on the floor with all these strangers watching, I sort of forgot about them and just focused on not falling over when the ship rocked, and having fun.
I even made a joke about not having any Brazilian blood so that this would be a "Canadian samba." Since what I actually meant was that there wouldn't be any of the "frenziedly shake your chest" action that seem to be the most favoured celebrity moves in the Dancing with the Stars samba routines, I should probably have qualifed it further by saying this would be an "age-appropriate Canadian samba" but I don't think fast with a microphone held in front of me.
Anyway we got through the routine and Wendy videoed it on my small digital camera. Having viewed it, i don't think I will post it. Too many things to work on before I will be comfortable having anyone see a video of me dancing!. Having said that, the husband of one of the other performers said he had videoed our dances and said he would mail us a copy. Hopefully he wouldn't post them anywhere without asking first. Oooohhh...
Friday October 2 - the first of 5 days at sea, and the Formal Night dinner
We departed from Hilo shortly after 4:30 pm on Thursday afternoon and set course in a southerly direction across the Pacific Ocean towards Christmas Island. The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of all the oceans and covers two-thirds of the earth's surface. Compared to the distance between our various ports in Hawaii, an average of 100 nautical miles apart, the distance to Christmas Island from Hilo is 1088 nautical miles so it was no wonder that when we awoke early as usual and went up on deck, there was only the ocean to see all around us.
Wendy had scheduled 2 dance workshops each of the 5 days we were to be at sea. Originally planned for 9 am, the Cruise staff moved them earlier to 8:30 so that the next activities in the Pacific Lounge could start on time at 10:30.
Since both Wendy and I are early risers, we were up on deck having coffee and a light breakfast by 7 am. It was quite lovely out on the aft deck behind the Pacific Buffet. Fresh air, a V sign of bubbles trailing behind us and the vast Pacific Ocean all around.
The Pacific Ocean was named by Ferdinand Magellan, the 16th century Portuguese explorer whose fatal voyage (he was killed during fighting in the Philippines) nevertheless provided the proof that one could circumnavigate the globe without sailing off the edge and that therefore that the world was round and not a disc.
Pacifc means peaceful although that is difficult to believe when you are trying to do a Bolero and the ship rolls you down when you are supposed to go up!
When you think of the conditions under which Magellan sailed, and even as recently as when my great-grandparents immigrated by ship to South Africa and Scotland, it is absolutely amazing to think of what we take for granted these days. Forgetting about air travel - which to my great grand-parents would have seemed as bizarre as a time-travel machine seems to us today, we can be out "in the middle of nowhere" and yet expect hot showers, clean laundry, gourmet food - and what to me is quite mind blowing - wireless internet access as good as at home - though at many times the price.
The fact that I can talk to my children on Skype from the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and it seems as if they are in the room next door - impressive - thanks to satellites, wireless routers, and the exponential increases in processing and data storage capacity that have occurred over the past couple of decades
So when I caught myself grumbling that wireless internet access was costing me 40 cents a minutes, 35 c if I had been smart and bought 500 minutes up front instead of 250, I reminded myself instead to say a silent thank you to the thousands of scientists and engineers who made internet access from a ship "in the middle of nowhere" possible with minimal effort on my part. Anyway, on deck in a fresh breeze, I used up some of my precious internet time to check emails.What a great office.
By 8:30 we were up in the Pacific Ballroom, Wendy had her I-Pod connected to the sound system and we were ready to go. Of the two couples in our group, both women loved to dance and their partners were there because they loved their women! So the range of dance abilities went from rank beginner to quite experienced. In order not to lose the beginners - and we all wanted to encourage Bob and Charlie to get as excited about dance as they claimed to be about golf! -the workshops were very basic. We essentially just did the box step in both the foxtrot and the rumba. I didn't mind though as it was additional exercise, although I thought a bit wistfully back to the West Coast Ballroom Dance Cruise rumba and chacha workshops where we learned some quite complex doublespin moves to practice on the dance floor.
The opportunity to join Wendy and the Dancers at Sea on a South Pacific Cruise from Honolulu to Tahiti came up unexpectedly while I was on the Labor Weekend Getaway Dance Cruise. A test of my developing capacity for spontaneity - something I have really been working hard to achieve - I needed to decide on the spot whether to take up an unexpected vacancy that had arisen - the only problem was that the cruise was scheduled to start a mere two weeks after I returned to Vancouver from New York (New York, New York 2009).
I checked my calendar to see if there was anything that could not be rescheduled, decided not to check my budget and my bank balance, and just go for it. So after just enough time back in the city to see a couple of plays, do my laundry and tidy my apartment, I was packed and ready for another great vacation dancing at sea.
South Pacific Ballrooom Dancing Cruise, Parts I to III are coming soon, but in the interim I could not resist posting these two pictures of a day spent in Bora Bora and a day spent in Moorea. On both days, we rented a car and drove around the islands.
Bora Bora is tiny - you can drive around the entire island in about an hour. Moorea is much larger but we still saw quite a bit. In both cases we spent some relaxed time lounging on chairs near the water and admiring the views.
Doesn't the Bora Bora picture remind you of Myst, that fantastically beautiful computer game?
I am writing to you from what the Captain of this ship joking calls "the middle of nowhere." Out somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean.
And spontaneously I decided to act on one of the aphorisms that I am trying to adhere to in this new phase of my life.
"Do one thing that scares you every day."
So when they called for people to sign up for the talent show, I talked Richard, one of our dance hosts, into dancing a samba with me. We met at 8:30 to try to work out a routine of sorts, with Jorge making suggestions regarding presentation and entry and exits.
Then after a quick shower and a change into my flaming-red Latin dance dress and some dangly earrings, I was back up at the cabaret lounge (shown in the picture) by 10 for the show that started at 10:15. The room was crowded. Oooohhh. Yeah- scary.
We were on second. I played Carnavalera from my I-Pod. It's a booming samba with a great beat, and we got through the whole thing with only one minor mistake that I think we covered up just fine. It's all on video so I will see if I can upload it to You Tube and link from there.
So there was my scary thing -and I made it through. I guess that won't count for scary again!