G’day from Sydney

We were due to stop for a day in Eden, a very small and quiet, but pretty town on the coast south of Sydney. This plan was scratched at the last minute by the ship’s captain due to high seas in the area, and the fact that we were not going to be docked, rather using tender vessels to get people to shore. The captain was concerned that the conditions for that process would be unsafe, so he ended up deciding to go to Sydney a day early.

Not one person on board the ship was upset by this change of itinerary. Everyone was excited to spend an extra day in Sydney. And Eden, though a “nice” town, and a “pretty” area, pales in comparison to what Sydney has to offer. At least that is the way most people felt about it. I am sure the people of Eden were very disappointed.

But not only would we be in Sydney, but we would have almost 36 hours docked at Circular Quay, which is a small cove wedged between the Sydney’s Opera House and Harbour Bridge. It is one of the most spectacular places in the world to spend some time. Hotels and apartments in this area are rented for astronomical rates, so we were all glad to have the chance to be there at no extra cost.

The Volendam docked in Circular Quay, Sydney.

The Harbour Bridge at night

Sydney Opera House photographed from the ship.

Part of the welcoming party, this was with Tony, Carmel and Sylvie.

The Volendam docked in Sydney next to the Opera House.

You have probably realized by the lack of updates, that we have in fact been in Sydney for some time. After disembarking we were whisked away to our salubrious accommodations in the Blue Mountains with my parents. We spent about three weeks there, and we jumped into action on our hit list and quickly found ourselves busy looking for a rental townhouse in Sydney and move forward on various other fronts…. looking for a car, getting health insurance, getting drivers licenses, bank accounts, retrieving our shipped belongings, etc etc (its a loooong list). So the blog has once again fallen well behind.

To cut the long story short, I can tell you that we have indeed found a place to live and all our belongings that were shipped have been delivered, and we are now comfortable and well settled. But it is still a busy time trying to get the last of the loose ends tied up (buying a fridge for example).

There may not be too many more posts after this one, the point of the blog was just to document the journey, but I will try and put up a few more photos of where we finally ended up if I get a chance.

Thank you so much for following along on the journey. Please come visit us in Sydney any time if you can – we have space for visitors. I hope this trip was not a “once in a lifetime” deal because it was way too much fun. We loved spending time with various friends and family along the way. The road trip was incredible. Travel by ship was without any doubt the best decision we made. It was such a calm and relaxing way to travel with a family – and although airplane travel offers almost instant gratification in terms of supersonic speed, we found ourselves often enjoying the slower journey, getting to know a few people, enjoying our time with each other as a family, seeing places here and there when we stopped and just enjoying the ride. For our family, in our circumstances, this was a stress-free and relaxing way to travel.

And now we just have to pay for it all 😉

Nouméa

Nouméa is the capital city of New Caledonia. We’re starting to feel a lot close to Australia as we see many Australian businesses (like banks for example) doing business in the ports as we get closer to Sydney. You also notice Australian foods stocked in the supermarkets. However, in Nouméa, everyone speaks French since it is a French territory.

The city of Nouméa, you can see our ship in dock just behind the buildings.

At a beach in Nouméa, where we spent our morning.

At the beach.

At the beach.

I found some fantastic graffiti in Nouméa. Here is just one example, this is an abandoned shipping container.

Ile De Pins, Nouvelle Caledonie

No prizes for guessing that “Ile de pins” is French for “Isle of Pines”. Also no prizes for guessing that this small island within the archipelago of New Caledonia has lots of pines on it. New Caledonia is of course, a French territory.

This spectacular jewell was one of our favorite stops on this journey. The nickname for this island is “The closest island to paradise”. It’s beautiful beaches were a real surprise, and they were totally uncrowded – until we got there that is. When the Volendam pulled in and dropped anchor, I noticed several yachts rapidly head off into the distance and I wouldn’t blame them. All the people you see in the photos here came from our ship.

From the ship looking to shore. You can just make out a couple of tender boats ferrying people to shore.

People gather in the theater, tickets in hand for their tender boat, waiting for their number to be called so that can be transferred to shore. Mostly this process went relatively smoothly.

Map – click to zoom.

A tender boat heads for shore. A number of tender boats shuttle passengers back and forth to and from shore all day.

A tender boat arrives at the shore.

Blue waters and white beaches welcome us

Snack time at the beach. Riley opted to stay on board today, he loves the kids club there.

Milo on a short walk through the forest to a different beach

Moments away another spectacular beach

An obligatory hibiscus photograph, since I did not include one yet. At this stage we are about to leave the tropics so this will be the last one we’ll see.

While exploring on shore I passed this traditional-style house with thatch roof.

Next stop Noumea, capital of New Caledonia.

Apia, Samoa

Samoa is a different country from American Samoa and this group of islands is just a short sail away. We found it to be quite a lot more developed than American Samoa, at leased based on our limited experience. We docked in a town called Apia, Samoa.

We took a walk from the ship to a nearby “beach” but it was a beach of dead coral, not sand, and therefore not suitable for swimming with kids. So we settled for a swing on their rope swing and later walked into town.

In town we tried to find a cafe to eat lunch in, but with tired and hungry children, couldn’t find anything remotely suitable so cabbed back to the ship for lunch and a peaceful afternoon on board the ship.

Riley on the rope swing, Apia, Samoa.

Milo takes a turn

Our ship, the Volendam

Talia and Riley walking into town.

Getting back on board.

View of Apia from the ship.

Back on board, the following day, the kids club were the only passengers to get a tour of the bridge. I sent Riley along with my iPhone so he could snap some photos. Here he is at the controls.

American Samoa

We are actually now in Sydney, but the blog is way behind. This is because the satellite connection on the boat was very slow, and we chewed up a lot of minutes trying to do things like updating the blog. So there’s a bit of catch up coming your way.

After leaving Kona, it was another 5 day stretch at sea. These sea days were great, because you just go into this timeless mode where every day is much the same. Time becomes of little importance. One day we woke up and instead of endless horizons, we were in the beautiful port of Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Pago Pago, American Samoa

Looking off the back deck

A beach 10 minutes walk from the boat, where we swam in the warm waters.

Harbor views

It’s a pretty undeveloped town. This is one of the local busses, each one has a character of it’s own.

Sea Days

About half of the 23 days were spent at sea. Here’s a few ideas of what we kept ourselves busy with.

Milo relaxes in a deck chair during one of our morning walks. He and I would walk about six times around the ship on this deck most days.

Talia perfects her hula dance.

Milo at the Crow’s Nest, one of his favorite hangouts with a view.

There was entertainment galore to get us through the many days at sea.

A special show/celebration/mock ceremony when we crossed the equator.

Every day there was a lot of creative towel folding by our cabin stewards. This one was a monkey but every day there was a different animal.

One of the organized activities for the kids was making their own pancake breakfast. Here the staff assist Talia.

Kona, Hawaii

Kona is just a small town on Hawaii’s Big Island. Of course it is famous as the only place in USA where coffee is grown commercially. Our visit was just for the day, and we mostly stayed pretty close to the ship so that Talia and Milo could return for their daily nap.

Our ship, the Volendam, at anchor off Kona, Hawaii.

Since we were at anchor off Kona, we had to board tender boats to ferry us to the shore, there is no dock for ships at Kona.

This was our arrival point and the main center of town.

Leaving Kona, we had a party on the back deck to say farewell to Hawaii.

Milo knocks back a banana at the party.

Talia in her Hawaiian head dress.

Talia with Indah. Indah serves food at the buffet daily and enjoys seeing Talia.

Hilo

We stopped for a day in Hilo, Hawaii, a small town on the Big Island. It was raining all day, but we got off the boat and had a walk around the town anyway.

Hilo typically receives 278 rain days per year, and it is the wettest city in USA, receiving 130 inches of rain per year – so I guess the weather wasn’t very surprising. On the other side of the island is the town of Kona, which we will visit in two days. Kona gets very little rain and more than 300 sunny days per year, so we hope for better weather there.

At the dock in Hilo.

Talia enjoys the rain in Hilo

At the markets in Hilo

On board the Volendam

The Volendam is a small to mid size cruise ship. It takes 1400 passengers and 600 crew and we are virtually full to capacity. It still feels spacious though, with plenty of areas for the passengers to disperse. We are on a 23 day cruise from L.A. to Sydney, stopping in Hawaii, American Samoa, Samoa, New Caledonia, Eden (Australia) and Sydney.

Boarding the Volendam in Los Angeles.

Leaving Los Angeles

Breakfast outside on the rear deck.

Inside our cabin. We have a second room like this with a connecting door.

Talia and Milo in the room

Talia in the window

Milo on the Sports Deck (almost the uppermost deck). The large roof sections behind Milo can retract to open the pool area in good weather.

The retractable roof over the Lido pool.

The Lido Pool.

On this deck you can walk all the way around the outside of the ship. Three and a half laps equals one mile. This is a popular place to walk in the mornings.

The second pool, on the upper rear deck.

An epic journey by land and sea with three small children