En Route to Nuku’Alofa, Tonga

We survived Tropical Cyclone Lusi.  The waves measured 7 metres and the wind reached Force 8 on the Beaufort scale.  It was less severe than the storm in the Bay of Biscay and Atlantic that we experienced in the first week of this voyage.

We met the Commodore and his wife for the first time last night at the World Club party. The Commodore is the Senior Captain of the fleet. Commodore Christopher Rynd was appointed in 2011. I understand that he indicated to Cunard at the time of his appointment that he did not want to spend all his time on Queen Mary 2.  He wanted to be Master of QV and QE as well and that is what he has done.
Commodore Rynd was born in NZ and since 1974 has served on passenger ships with P&O and Princess before joining Cunard after Cunard’s acquisition by Carnival.
We also met an Air Traffic man, Richard Barber, at the party.  He knew Nick Brewer from their RAF days. It’s a small world. He said that Nick Brewer was the youngest ever validated ATCO and Nick has confirmed that to me.
Tomorrows port, Nuku’Alofa in the Kingdom of Tonga, had been advertised as an anchor port, which would have meant that Jane would have to stay on the ship, but we have now heard that we will be able to berth there.

I am looking forward to the visit.  Tonga always had a special feel about it for me as a boy.  I suppose that it was something to do with the massive Queen Salote!  I think she made a name for herself when she attended Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1953.

The Kingdom of Tonga

The ship arrived on time after negotiating the reefs and sandbanks surrounding Tongatapu, the largest island in the group.  It is banama shaped and about 17 miles long – windy, humid and hot.   We could see the Royal Palace as we neared the port and then the quay came into view. Very new and funded and built by the Republic of China would you believe!  It was opened in late 2012.
The Police Band played on the quay to welcome us and again in the evening as we departed.

Tonga is close to the Tropic of Capricorn and to The International Dateline and as a result, as I mentioned some weeks ago, Cunard are providing us with an extra day tomorrow. It will be free of charge and will be called St Patrick’s Day.  If all this sounds Irish to you – it is.  I am told the day will be spent drinking eating and presumably drifting around the Pacific. And at the end of it it will still be 17 March 2014!

We just missed seeing the King.  We were in Nuku’alofa and near the Royal Palace. We had found a taxi driver who would take us round the island for a reasonable fee.  Later we learned that 10 minutes after we had left, a motorcade arrived returning the King to his Palace from his residence in the middle of the island.
We drove south for miles. Palm tree after palm tree and heavy, thick vegetation with the occasional pretty village with immaculate churches, some lovely houses and many less than lovely ones.  And when the children came out of school they were beautifully dressed in their school uniforms – different bright colours for the different schools.

We were shown the blowholes on the south coast where water spouts upwards through the rocks as large waves pound down.  Then we came across a tree in a private garden, where scores of bats were hanging down, sleeping and waiting for dusk.

Then, further along the coast, we found an almost deserted beach, ringed by a coral reef beyond which, at weekends, surfers prevail.  It is one of many beaches on the island, the majority of which are found in the southwest.

We returned to the ship for lunch after an exhausting morning. After lunch I returned to the town and explored the large market, picking up a few of the items on Mrs Smith’s shopping list.

And I met Gaby and Jutta from the ship.  They are both frequent World Voyagers.

Pago Pago, American Samoa

We did eventually get to the 18 March after crossing the IDL.  And on that day we arrived in Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango). The Samoan group of islands are divided into Samoa (once Western Samoa) – an independant nation and American Samoa where we were.  Tutuila is the largest island in the American Samoa group and Pago Pago is the capital.

Oddly Captain James Cook did not discover Samoa despite finding most of Polynesia.  The first European to visit appears to have been Jacob Roggeveen, a Dutchman, in 1722.  The French arrived in 1768 but after 11 Frenchmen were massacred in Samoa in 1787, Europeans avoided the islands for 40 years.
We arrived on a bright and sunny day and set off to explore the town.  A small museum offered some moon dust brought back by Neil Armstong on Apollo 11 and a few Samoan canoes but not a lot more. So we decided to get out of town and we selected a beaten up taxi (they were nearly all beaten up) which was probably the first Toyota ever built. But the driver seemed friendly and appeared to be able to speak English.

Unfortunately he spoke very little, so didn’t prove a great guide, but the scenery was terrific. He drove carefully and he stopped whenever he felt I ought to take a photo.

The island is lush – coconuts and bananas galore.  The massive rainfall that Samoa experiences keeps everything green.  The beaches are idyllic and the villages neat and tidy.  They are dominated by multitudes of churches and fale tele (meeting houses).  

No one could explain clearly why they might have 3 or 4 of these meeting houses in one smallish village.  Some said that they had large families and their houses were small so for weddings and funerals a family would gather in the fale tele. Others said the chief of the village would gather the villagers together in them whenever he had something important to announce. 

Nearly 5 years ago, in September 2009, an earthquake erupted near Samoa sending a tsunami into Pago Pago harbour and causing extensive destruction to villages, buildings and vehicles. There is still plenty of evidence of the damage although the majority of the restoration work appears to have been completed.

We had a wonderful departure from Pago Pago and set off on the long haul to the Hawai’in islands.



We have just crossed the Equator again.  But there is a big dilemma and dispute aboard QV.  It is about water.  Not the water in the ocean.  That is now calm and the effects of another Cyclone (called Mike) have disappeared.  As you will know the Pacific is the largest of the world’s oceans so there is no shortage of the stuff there.

It is the water on the ship!  I don’t mean that there is any sort of problem with the quality of the water. We have all sorts of water here.  Some is in bottles and sold to us at $3.95 (and many buy cheaper versions ashore and secrete them about their person when coming back on board).

 There is the water made on the ship and then there is the water that goes down the plughole. And that’s where the problem lies.

A nuclear physicist on board (in the Churchill Lounge where people smoke and gossip) told Jim Burnett, one of our dinnenr tablemates, that the water goes down the plughole in the opposite direction once you cross the Equator. 

No one was sure which way it went before and after crossing but Jim insisted it was true that the direction changed.  He is a Scot and knows these things!  And he and his wife Liz have a second home in NZ and he says he has checked it many times.

 I thought it was an old wives tale so decided to experiment.  Last night in the southern hemisphere the water went down clockwise. It was difficult to tell to start with but when I floated small bits of paper in the water it became obvious. This morning my scientific research continued.  In the northern hemisphere (using the same sophisticated system) the water went down ………………………………………………clockwise.

I tried again, after the Commodore had confimed that we had indeed crossed the Equator, and the result was the same – clockwise. 

It may be that in our particular case the results have been skewed (is that a word?) by the fact that the Equinox occurred today.  So we crossed the Equator as the sun was at its highest point.  Do you think those people in Southampton at Cunard’s HQ who fix the itineraries worked that out when sorting out ports and the timing?  Clever if they did.

Here is the sun overhead.

We are at a party with the Commodore this evening before dinner, so I will find out what he thinks about our plughole and the Equinox, before I see Jim at dinner.  The problem is that the Commodore is a Kiwi and he may side with Jim.  By the way Jim is bit good at golf – plays off 7 – has been down to 3 – so I try to avoid discussions about golf!

If any of you know the answer to my water problem, please let me know! I avoid Google on the ship because the systems are so slow that it takes a lifetime and many dollars to get anywhere.

Hilo, Hawai’i

The largest island in the Hawaiian group is called Hawai’i or Big Island and Hilo is the county capital.  It is known as the gateway to the land of fire and brimstone and volcanos abound on the island.

It is thought that the first inhabitants settled here in about AD 400, arriving from the Marquesa Islands in Polynesia. But it was that character whose name has regularly appeared in this blog who was the first European to find Big Island.  Captain James Cook arrived on 17 January 1779 and was treated like a god initially, but when he returned a month later there were problems between the locals and Cook’s crew and during a fight Captain James Cook was killed.
A monarchy was established but in the 1800’s Europe and the US showed interest.  Sugar plantations were developed but by 1893 the monarchy was overthrown with US help.  In 1900 the Republic of Hawaii became the Hawaiian Territory with an American Governor.  In 1945 Hawaii became the 50th state.
When we arrived this morning it looked bleak. The Deputy Captain stessed that we could expect rain, but in the event we saw none and the weather was good all day.

We were here last year and explored the whole island in a large black sedan that I had booked on line some months before.  So this year it was the more mundane parts!

The two main volcanoes are Mauna Loa and the more active Kilauea.  They are sited in the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park.  Kilauea has been erupting for the last 20 years.
We also took in Macy’s, Sears and Wallmart!  At least they were airconditioned.  And when we arrived back at the ship the locals treated us to Dragon Boat races alongside the ship.

Each time we get back to the ship we switch on Sky News and today we were lucky enough to see John Noble from Southampton as one of the experts discussing the missing Malaysian 777.  Of course we regularly have the Sports News read to us on Sky by lovely presenter Charlotte Jackson (Chris and Alan’s  daughter).

Talking of Sport, the night before last I woke up at 3.50am (local time – no alarm) switched on the cabin TV with no volume to find the Saints live, 2-0 up away to Spurs with 25 minutes gone.  I sat through the rest of the match with its upsetting finish and then went back to bed and slept for a further 3 hours! 
I know that’s the sort of thing that Robert Gordon does down in Melbourne, but it was a first for me.


The sun was shining and it was hot as we approached Honolulu, located on the island of Oahu.  A beautiful day and Honolulu looked splendid as we drew alongside Pier 2.

We had been to the Hawaiian islands twice before, once on the Queen Elizabeth and once with Mike and Maggie O’Connell.  We were in California for the wedding of their eldest son, my godson Simon to Missy and the plan was that, following the wedding, the four of us would spend a couple of weeks in Hawaii.

Mike decided that the first week should be spent on the small, quiet island of Lanai (2 hotels and 2 golf courses and not much else) and by way of a contrast the second week at the Moana Surfrider on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu – the first ever hotel there.  Thats what happened and we had a wonderful holiday after a fabulous wedding.  As many of you will know Mike sadly died last year.  A great man.

As we know the island fairly well we decided to take a tour to areas we had not explored in the past.  Cunard had organised a coach with a lift and we set off at 0900 towards the east. We were taken first to Waikiki.  The surfers were already on the water and joggers and sun bathers were beginning to appear.  The Moana Surfrider was still there.

Then it was Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay.  We saw multi million dollar homes with fantastic beachside positions and glorious beaches and eventually reached the lush green tropical forest.  The views across to the small island of Molokai were superb.

We then cut across the island back to Honolulu and the ship to give us time to get ready for the Full World Voyage black tie dinner at the Hawaii Convention Centre this evening. More of that later.


World Voyage Dinner – Hawaii Convention Centre

This was a first for us.  In the past we have sailed on segments of World Voyages, but never the whole thing.  

We knew that World Voyage Dinners happened and there was always a mystery about when and where the Dinner might be.  The obvious place appeared to me to be San Francisco, where the ship was staying overnight.  But it was eventually announced that it was to be in Honolulu on 25 March.

It was a formal black tie affair and Mrs Smith decided that the white tux had to be worn. But what about me? What was I to wear?
A coach with a lift took us on the short journey to the Hawaii Convention Centre and we were led up to a vast terrace for drinks and canapes. There were more than 600 of us.  Soon a group of young girls started to sing and dance for us and the wine flowed.

 We then moved into a vast hall laid out beautifully with tables for ten.

The meal was excellent with an abundance of wine and while we ate we were entertained by an orchestra and a number of female singers. It was a wonderful evening and we left in the final coach. 

Aboard that coach were a number of the officers who had attended the Dinner, including our World Voyage Concierge, Alice McKay, an amazingly efficient young lady.  And very pretty too!  She looks after the 600 or so World Voyagers every day in the Chart Room showing enormous patience and kindness.

By the time the driver had emptied the coach and operated the lift Jane and I were the last of the partygoers to board the ship. Some of our chums on board cheered us from the upper decks!
The gangway was hauled in and the ship set sail for San Francisco within minutes.

Roger McGuinn – The Byrds

Founder of The Byrds.  Lead guitarist.  Lead vocalist.  Mr Tambourine Man.  Roger McGuinn is the celebrity speaker for this segment and he boarded QV in Honolulu.

He has given 2 presentations so far and there are more to come.  The theatre is packed every time he performs. He is an exceptional performer – a brilliant musician who appears to be an extraordinary person.

When we arrive in the theatre Roger is sitting on stage quietly strumming his 12 string Rickenbacker guitar, with his laptop on a small table alongside him.  

He is clearly highly computer literate and that becomes evident, not only in the professional way he presents, but as a result of things others say about him.  He has numerous clips of original Byrds performances, recordings and chat show appearances which he deftly plays on the big screen.  There are plenty of sound and vision experts employed in the theatre but Roger doesn’t need them.

Yesterday he put up a picture of his van and one of his musician chums said that it was packed with so much technology that Roger could run the US Space programme from it.  In a Q&A session today when asked about his hobbies he said that he loved gadgets.  He also revealed that he loves being at sea.  Cunard love him too!

I was a big fan of the Byrds in the sixties and bought all their albums and when I first met Roger McGuinn on Queen Elizabeth, I realised that I had a vast number of the Byrds’ tracks on my iPod.  They are still there.
Roger today revealed that he and his wife Camilla will celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary on 31 March when we arrive in San Francisco – as he said ‘not bad for a rock star’!
Tomorrow he is talking about his love of Sea Shanties.  He has done a great deal to revive the songs and the lyrics, in the same way that he has promoted folk singing.  I think he would now prefer to be known as a folk singer, rather than a rock star!