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.


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.

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.


Auckland is known as “The City of Sails”. It was a wonderful sunny day when we arrived before 0700. The Cruise terminal is at the bottom of Queen Street which is the backbone of the City and it is easy to explore on foot.

But one of the  problems with local maps is that they don’t show the hills. We set off up Queen Street with the intention of bearing off to the left to the Auckland Domain and the renowned Auckland Mueum.

I had forgotten that after half a mile Queen Street starts to rise.  I had also forgotten how many ladies fashion shops there are.  I would have welcomed a few big steps preventing us getting the wheelchair into them, but NZ is so good at accessability that I had to endure rail after rail of dresses.  It’s not an easy life!
We saw a shop advertising assistance with Apple products.  Jane has had email problems since her emails were hacked early on this trip. The very helpful chap, for a very small fee, seems to have sorted it out. Fingers crossed.
We were directed across the road to some coffee and free wifi in the City library. The coffee was good but the wifi was not. By then I had had enough of the hills and hailed a taxi which took us to the Museum. Had we walked and pushed we would still be there. It took 10 minutes up hill in the taxi.  The museum is excellent and I can recommend it.

I also wanted to see the Maritime Museum but by the time we arrived there it was closing. We had been there some years ago and my recollection was that there were some New Zealand Shipping Company documents on display. My father had served his cadetship with that company in the early 1930’s. 

I then explored the marina close to the ship and saw the 2 elderly Americas Cup yachts that are still being used for day sailing for tourists. My recollection is that Michael Yeomans had a day out on one of them many years ago.

The evening show was a Maori cultural performing group. I feared that after a tiring day I might fall asleep but they were loud enough to keep me awake and they were very good.

As I write the waves are getting bigger and the ship is moving more. There may be fewer people in dinner tonight than usual!

Cyclone Lusi

Before I tell you about Auckland I need to organise my photos but for those of you following our progress by satellite I have to report a change of plan.

Cyclone Lusi has been an issue for a couple of days. The Commodore of the Cunard fleet took over command of the QV in Wellington when lady Captain Inger went on leave and the Commodore has done a great job in keeping us up to date with the weather conditions. 
Tropical Cyclone Lusi has been on track to hit NZ this weekend.  We were in Auckland yesterday, Friday, and were due in the Bay of Islands today.  The ship was to be at anchor for the visit, which meant that if the storm hit us while some people were ashore, there would be chaos.  There would also have been safety issues for people in the tenders and for the ship herself.
Additionally it was the case that if the Cyclone did not reach the port while we were there, after we had left we would then find ourselves in the eye of the storm.
When we arrived back in our cabin after our day in Auckland, a letter awaited us confirming that we would not be going to the Bay of Islands.  We would set sail on time and travel as quickly as possible on a NE track, in the hope that we could avoid the worst of the storm, before altering course towards our next port, Nukualofa, Tonga.
We have never been to the Bay of Islands, so it is a pity that we are missing it, but as it is an anchor port, Jane would not have been able to get ashore.  She would have enjoyed the almost empty ship though, and that would have meant that she could play with the communal jig saws without others interfering!
Decisions about missing ports are clearly not easy ones, especially when the place is particularly beautiful, but the Commodore dealt with this issue very well. It will be very difficult for anyone to criticise his decision.

So today has become a ‘sea’ day and the ship is beginning to move about. The wind is at Force 7 and the waves are at 5/7 metres and expected to increase in height. The next 24 hours should be interesting!



In 1931 the town of Napier was hit by an earthquake (7.8 on the Richter Scale) which caused devastation and most of the town was reduced to rubble.  Within 2 years Napier was rebuilt in the Art Deco style popular at the time and the town is now regarded as the Art Deco capital of the World.
We arrived in the port at 0700.  The problem for us was that it had been announced yesterday that “All aboard” was to be at 1330 with a departure of 1400 and we were due to have a ‘long lunch’ with Maryjane Watson (MJ) and Bruce. The added difficulty was that MJ would not be able to drive into the port to collect us and  the only way that we could get out of the commercial port was by shuttle bus.
So we met in the centre of town at 0930.  MJ had taken delivery of a brand new Range Rover the day before,

but because of its height and the difficulty of getting Jane into it, it was agreed that she would come in Bruce’s very respectable Subaru. Bruce bowled up in the new car when we stopped for coffee.

We had not met MJ before. She is Gretchen’s mother and Gretchen is our son Mike’s girlfriend. Mike and Gretchen both work in Dubai.  Gretchen and Mike below.

The weather was glorious and we drove inland from Napier for coffee and then set off for the new house being built for MJ and Bruce in Havelock North.  We approached the site through the Black Barn Winery – immaculately laid out lines of vines on either side – and we made our way up the hill through a 9 hole golf course. 

And then we were there.  A site with stunning views for miles in every direction. The house looks towards Hawkes Bay.  It will be a stunning home when it is completed in a few months time.

MJ then took us to the Craggy Range Winery where we would have had lunch had we had the time! We will have to come back.  It looked wonderful.
On all our visits to NZ in the past we have always been in and around the ports. Today in The Hawkes Bay countryside was the first time we have experienced life away from the bustle of the large towns and cities and it all felt very relaxed.  There is no doubt at all that New Zealanders are very friendly, helpful people.  We have found that wherever we have been over the last week.
MJ returned us to the ship before the deadline and, as always happens in Napier, the vintage cars and their owners in Thirties outfits were there with a jazz band to see us on our way.

It had been a magical (half) day.


We like Wellington.  Strangely Captain James Cook did not appear to be excited about it.  In 1773 he anchored about a mile outside the harbour and went no further.

The harbour is amazing.  Last time we were here it was a Sunday and there was a Dragon Boat

Championship taking place with scores of teams involved.  Our visit this year was on a Monday and the Waterfront was less frenetic, but it was a beautiful day and the locals and the tourists were out in force enjoying the autumn sun.

We were dropped off in the heart of the City at Brandon Street and made our way along Customhouse Quay.  There were too many boutiques and shoe shops for my liking.  “We have not come all this way to look at dresses” fell on deaf ears.
We eventually arrived at the Waterfront and meandered along to the Te Papa Museum of NZ. Last time we were pushed for time and did not enjoy it, but this visit was great. The museum is vast and modern.

New Zealand is exceptionally wheelchair friendly. Nearly all the buses have ramps.  The pavements are flat with dropped kerbs everywhere and there is access to all the shops (sadly!).  And the New Zealanders are brilliant, asking if everything is OK and offering to help with directions as soon as you peer at a map.

Tomorrow we are in Napier, but sadly we will not meet up with Roger and Susan Treherne’s daughter, Clare, who we saw last time we were there. She is away visiting relatives.  But we are due to meet Gretchen Watson’s mother, Maryjane, who is having a house built in the Hawkes Bay area close to Napier.


Maori settled around the large natural harbour in this part of South Island, New Zealand (the Otago region) from about 1100 AD, but it appears that when Captain James Cook came here in 1776 there were not many Maori still here.  In 1848 Scottish migrants arrived and established Dunedin (the Celtic name for Edinburgh).  It is New Zealand’s oldest city and it is home to NZ’s first University, The University of Otago.

Robbie Burns large statue sits above the Octagon, at Dunedin’s centre, and the reminders of that Scottish heritage can be seen throughout the City.

We docked on Sunday at Port Chalmers about 8 miles out of Dunedin. The shuttle bus had a ramp and we were soon on our way into the city at enormous speed, around the fringes of the harbour.
We imagined that everything would be closed, but that was not the case. John and Peter Stafford, the twins from Sandbanks, Dorset made their way to the Cathedral, found it was Commonwealth Day, enjoyed the last 30 minutes of the service and then were entertained to coffee and cakes by the great and the good of Dunedin.  No doubt they made a generous donation to the collection!

We explored the city, heading initially to the old railway station. It has been restored to its former glory and on the top floor is The NZ Sports Hall of Fame. Great fun with many familiar names from the past – Bob Charles, Sean Fitzpatrick and Richard Hadlee and many more! Yes honest.

We did not get to see the University and we know that Gretchen will give us a hard time about that, but we ran out of time after seeing the Cathedral and the elegant buildings in the centre of the City.

Dunedin was cold.  It is many weeks since we had been that far south, but our schedule now takes us north again and our next port is Wellington.


Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, South Island, New Zealand

The Tasman Sea was easy on us.  The two days it has taken to reach NZ were calm – in fact apart from the massive storms experienced in the first 5 or 6 days after leaving Southampton, the oceans have been kind to us.

Milford Sound is a fiord on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island.  It is New Zealand’s most famous tourist attraction.  We arrived at the mouth of the Sound at 0730 and a commentary by one of the Fiordland Rangers commenced on the open decks.

I took up position on Deck 9 in front of the gym.  I used to think of it as my private deck – when the ship was new very few people knew how to access it.  Now everyone knows!  It was cold and visability was not very good.  The fiord is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise nearly 4000 feet on both sides.

Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in the world but it stayed dry for us. It took us about an hour to travel the length of the Sound. The Captain then spun the ship round twice to give everyone a chance to see the views and we then travelled back to the ocean passing the two permanent waterfalls. There were a number of smaller vessels in the fiord and also a small number of seals.

I spotted in The Times today a photo of the Queen Mary 2 Captain.

Usually the Commodore of the fleet is in command of the flagship, but in fact the Commodore is here with us. I gather that when he took up the position he made it clear that he wanted to move around the fleet, rather than staying on QM2 throughout.  He joined us in Sydney and has a few days aboard familiarising himself with the ship’s systems before he takes over from Captain Inger, who goes on leave in Wellington.

We now have a very busy week. We have 6 ports in 6 days, so I may struggle with the blog!
Dunedin tomorrow, Wellington on Monday and then on Tuesday we are in Napier where we will meet up with Maryjane Watson who is Mike’s girlfriend Gretchen’s Mum. 
She is taking us to see the new house she is having built outside Napier.  We had then hoped to have a long lunch together but sadly the ships schedule is such that we have to be back on board by 1300 – so it will have to be a short brunch.
Mike with Gretchen in Dubai.

On Wednesday we are in Tauranga, Thursday is Auckland and Friday the Bay of Islands. Hard work this cruising!

Bits and Pieces

Cunard have been producing a number of speakers on each segment and one of them is said to be the Celebrity speaker – John McCarthy, Admiral Lord West and Peter Snow so far and for this leg Roger McGuinn. I will report on him later as he has yet to speak. He was one of the founder members of The Byrds.  I have heard him before on QE and am looking forward to hearing him again, hopefully with fresh presentations!

Peter Snow was brilliant. He based many of his talks around famous battles. He and his son Dan have written books and made TV programmes on their pick of the best battles and battlefields and he told the stories enthusiastically and without a note.  He also talked about his incredibly interesting career in broadcasting.  
His wife Ann MacMillan has been a well known Canadian broadcaster based in London for some 35+ years.  Peter said the she used to be known as Peter Snow’s wife, but is now known as Dan Snow’s mother. A Canadian in the audience shouted out that Peter Snow was known to Canadians as Ann MacMillan’s husband!

I well remember the evenings when Peter Snow used to be involved in the General Election broadcasts for the BBC with his swingometer. Carole and Ian Gordon used to host what usually turned out to be a boozy evening around the TV watching the results come in.  On one occasion Peter Snow appeared with trousers that were too short and wearing strange brown suede shoes. One of us, who shall be nameless, telephoned the BBC asking if something could be done about it! Nothing was.
The singers and dancers appear in a variety of excellent shows during each segment. In the past they have usually been made up of East European dancers, but 10 days ago they were interviewed on stage. All but one of the dancers are Brits and of the four singers, one is Irish, one Scottish, one American and one Canadian.

On Shrove Tuesday there was a pancake race with the singers and dancers and all the other departments taking part. It was somewhat less risky for them than the tug of war competition that they entered earlier in the voyage.

The Bridge team also entered the tug of war, led by the Deputy Captain (at the front – leading by example!).  The chap in the white tee shirt is the Captain’s husband. He told me later that his arms were covered in bruises and rope burns afterwards.  When he agreed to take part he had not appreciated how seriously some of the departments treated the event!

I have just bumped into Carol Marlow.  She was President and CEO of Cunard until about 5 years ago when she moved to the same position with P&O.  She left that job in September at the same as Peter Shanks, who had succeeded her at Cunard, left for pastures new. Carol is on QV for 2 weeks until Auckland as a passenger. I knew her well in the days when Cunard’s offices were across the road from our office.