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This Side Of Paradise

Thirty Days to Aukland, New Zealand

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Our closest friend, Chris, retired after a particularly grueling career and, as a retirement celebration, he and his wife (my best friend, Cher) wanted us to join them on a 30 day cruise through the South Pacific to Aukland, NZ. Would our friendship survive? Would we be forced to avoid them by day 10 on the 480 passenger ship, Regent Seven Seas Navigator? Would Chris attempt to throw me overboard and spend the rest of the time in the brink before being hauled off by authorities in Aukland? Or, would Cher and I decide to give the boys one cabin and we'd take the other just to save our sanity? None of my trepidations happened and we had a wonderful time - not without wrinkles, not without arguments, but at least nothing chargeable by the authorities!

Our initial problem, however, was booking the cruise. Our friends had already thrown their hats in the ring weeks before us but they were waitlisted for any category of cabin. This particular voyage was a World Cruise and many of the passengers had committed 5 months of their lives to the trip years before - gambling that they would still be alive on the sail date. Cher & Chris were gambling that passengers would fall by the wayside making room for them to board. It looked grim for us as we were far down the list of potential customers.

We had just returned from a fabulous trip to the Middle East on the same cruise line. Since company CEO's normally have to contend with disgruntled passengers and lawsuits, I emailed Regent's Big Cheese to praise the company and the staff on this particular voyage. It was a holiday so I didn't expect a response immediately, if at all. Within 5 minutes, I had a nice reply. Can you see the light bulb over my head? Since I had his attention, I responded "Now that we're best friends....." and pitched how we wanted to get on the second segment of the World Cruise. Ding - a response. "What category do you usually book?" I replied. Ding "How does cabin 721 work for you?" Voila! Booked! Since our friends were now on "Guarantee" status which meant that they would not get a cabin assignment until a bit before we boarded, they were not pleased with our oneupmanship!

Our itinerary looks exhausting but sea days made the journey very relaxing.

January 21, 2017 San Diego, California
January 22, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
January 23, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
January 24, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
January 25, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
January 26, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
January 27, 2017 Honolulu, Oahu
January 28, 2017 Lahaina, Maui
January 29, 2017 Nawiliwili, Kauai
January 30, 2017 Hilo, Hawaii
January 31, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
February 1, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
February 2, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
February 3, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
February 4, 2017 Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands
February 5, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
February 6, 2017 Rangiroa, French Polynesia
February 7, 2017 Papeete (Tahiti), French Polynesia
February 8, 2017 Bora Bora, French Polynesia
February 9, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
February 10, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
February 11, 2017 Pago Pago, American Samoa
February 12, 2017 Crossing The International Dateline
February 13, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
February 14, 2017 Lautoka, Fiji
February 15, 2017 Suva, Fiji
February 16, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
February 17, 2017 Cruising The Pacific Ocean
February 18, 2017 Bay Of Islands, New Zealand
February 19, 2017 Auckland, New Zealand

Posted by Culinerrion 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged san_diego california Comments (0)

San Diego, California

It Never Rains In Sunny California

We flew into San Diego from Atlanta in between Pacific storms hammering the California coastline. We ubered to the Marriott Renaissance Downtown as we had points and just needed to flop before going more upscale to our pre-cruise hotel. There was a brewery around the corner where we ate dinner. Who knew that San Diego is second to Portland for beer culture?

We were fortunate to have flown in when we did as the next day there was horizontal rain and howling, gale-force winds from Los Angeles to San Diego. We managed to stagger around after checking into the US Grant Hotel which was part of the pre-cruise package. The US Grant is a vintage old dame, holding on to the glamor of a bygone era. The rooms are a bit small but posh, comfortable, and quiet for being in the center of the city. The best part? I noticed Itzak Perlman checking in! I gushed like a groupie, and, thankfully, he was very gracious.

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What can I say about breakfast at the Grant Grill? Usually this is a throw away meal with your standard fare. Not here! Imagine.....Roasted Cauliflower Quiche (marble potatoes, stilton blue cheese, melted red onions, pine nuts, rosemary cream). Or, imagine this.....Tart Cherry Ricotta Buttermilk Pancakes (muscovado ricotta impastata, oatmeal crunch). Yes, I'm obsessed with food. In my younger years, I read cookbooks for fun. Now I read food blogs!

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Fortified after our robust breakfast, we rushed to Macy's when it opened in order to get some cold weather gear. We had packed for the South Pacific not anticipating COLD San Diego. This was prescient as the first four days of the cruise continued to be cool and we needed every layer we bought.

At 11:00 we met our fellow travelers in the lobby for our transfer to the cruise ship. The problem? This was the day of the National Women's March and the start of the march surrounded the US Grant Hotel. I have to say it was exhilarating. This was peaceful protest at its best and I was proud to take it all in.

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Our coach finally made its way through the throngs of people and we headed the short distance to the port.

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Of course, the march went from our hotel to the port. The bus maneuvered around and finally the driver realized that there would be no positioning us near the ship. We trudged for several blocks, weaving through the crowds, before finally arriving, checking in and being greeted with a welcome glass of champagne.

Best friends ready for our adventure to begin:

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Sea Days

Rocking and Rolling to Hawaii

Welcome to RSSC Zombie Apocalypse! We were definitely in rough seas. The Pacific storms that greeted us in California continued to march across the Pacific, and, unfortunately we were not able to avoid them despite the captain deviating our route south by 250 miles. Everyone who was not in bed was staggering in the hallways. I guess you can blame the wave action for living dead look-alikes but Bonine, Dramamine, and Scopolomine tend to take their toll on our affect.

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We left San Diego several hours late as the provisions were not able to be loaded in a timely manner due to the Woman's March. The ship really started to rock once we started out to sea. Most passengers were already eating when we started to hit some really rough weather. One larger than expected wave caused a monumental crash in Compass Rose, the main dining room. The crash? Charger plates were stacked up on waiters' stations after being cleared from the tables and, like a bad move in a game of Jenga, they came tumbling down. Given that they were Versace chargers (reportedly $100 a pop), it must have been one expensive mishap! After the crash, the sommeliers were busy proactively taking the ice buckets filled with bottles of wine off of their pedestals and placing them on the floor. Priorities are priorities!

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As we crossed the Pacific, the cabin was creaking alarmingly and the ship felt like a tilt-o-whirl. So, there was nothing Pacific about this section of the Pacific! It's amusing that we sailed the Drake Passage this time the year before. This ride was much worse than the Drake-although we had an easy go of it according to the naturalists onboard. Davor (our general manager) said that we were in rough seas so we could have a true ocean experience rather than an experience in a hotel at sea.

By day three, most passengers had their sea legs attached and the ship was brimming with guests in the public areas. The seas became calmer but the weather remained overcast and chilly. Outside areas were off limits except for the pool area and the pool and hot tubs were drained as the sloshing water covered the entire deck area.

The Navigator was refurbished in the last year and it is beautiful.

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My one complaint is that the public areas are very crowded on sea days with inclement weather. You might wonder what there is to do on so many consecutive sea days. It really can become quite busy...eating....lectures....eating....movies....eating....wine tasting....eating.....games.....eating....cocktails...and, of course napping, then eating again.

Posted by Culinerrion 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged pacific_ocean regent_seven_seas_navigator Comments (0)

Oahu, Hawaii

On the fifth day we arrived in Honolulu. I was feeling a bit under the weather - not from the ocean but from a bit too many cocktails the night before! (BAD GIRL!) Chris and Georges decided to hike to the top of Diamond Head. They reported that the trail was crowded and that it was a long, hot, hike with very little cover. The views, however, were breathtaking!

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We had special local entertainment before we set sail - MAUNALUA AND THEIR LOVELY HULA LADIES. This is a local group of three men playing traditional songs on guitar and ukulele. It was spectacular! Beautiful harmonies while their wives interpreted the songs in dance. This was an iconic show, highlighting the Hawaii of your imagination.

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L'ai haine, Maui, Hawaii

We anchored in the bay on a beautiful clear morning with whales all around us - fins, tails, water shooting into the air. What a beautiful sight with lush volcanic mountains as a backdrop! There were so many whales in the bay that locals say you can hear them singing when you swim or snorkel. They seem to like the music of Elvis and AC/DC and will come closer seeking it out!

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We opted to do the Atlantis Submarine Adventure as our excursion.

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It sounded corny but ended up being a marvelous time with an amusing naturalist giving fish play by plays.

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We descended to 114 feet to the theme from Mission Impossible and we popped back up to Wipe Out. This is not a trip for the claustrophobic but we were lucky to have a seat in the front so that we could not only see out of our porthole, but we could also see through the front window. The captain was kind enough to let me take pictures so I had an almost panoramic view.

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I didn't realize that as you descend, the spectrum of light is compromised so that ultimately it is a world of blue hues. The highlight was the sunken ship that is now a reef....

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the puffer fish.....

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and the "squadron" of sting rays we happened upon.

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Once back on shore, we found a local joint and had lava lava shrimp and ahi tacos washed down with local brew and then took in the tourist shops along front street. The weather was perfect - high seventies and sunny.

Posted by Culinerrion 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged maui hawaii l'ai_haine Comments (0)

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