My Lovely Teena and I flew from Canada on March 2nd , heading for Australia. That's two flights, one from Nanaimo to Vancouver ( 13 minutes in the air ) and one from Vancouver to Sydney ( 15.5 hours gate to gate ) . Thank God for Business Class on the Boeing 777. We arrived in Sydney on March 4th and that gave us a few days to see and explore before our cruise on March 8th. We checked out the usual sights, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, Bondi Beach, The Rocks, and Manly Beach. All great spots and well worth a visit. Oh yes, almost forgot, I did post a few cards in Sydney, and here they are.
The first is a bird's eye view of Bondi Beach. Bondi is a popular beach , about 1 kilometre long, just 7 km East of the Sydney business district. The word Bondi is an Aboriginal word meaning "water breaking over rocks or noise of water breaking over rocks". The beach is certainly a world class beach and one not to be missed.
On this card I used the set of 5 Australian Legends of 2015, featuring Australia's Victoria Cross Winners. From left to right they are : Ben Roberts-Smith VC, Cameron Baird VC (dec) , Keith Payne VC, Mark Donaldson VC, and Dan Keighran VC. Five of Australia's Best on stamps issued this year.
Next we have a look at the Sydney Opera House and its prominent position on Bennelong Point. I don't really need to write anything about this iconic landmark - everyone is familiar.
On this one I used 4 of the 5 stamps issued in 2014 featuring Nostalgic Advertising Posters.
The 5th stamp in this issue will show up a bit later.
Now it's time to Cruise. Our cruise this time is aboard the Oosterdam of Holland American Line, and we are heading for New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji.
The Oosterdam, captained by Peter Bos, carried 1810 guests and 786 crew members. We boarded around 3 in the afternoon of Sunday, March 8 and sailed out of Sydney at 6 PM headed for Mare, New Caledonia, 2 days later. Now you all know about " the best laid plans of men " sometimes they get affected by women, and in this case it was Cyclone Pam. Yes that's right, a cyclone - who knew ? After 2 days at sea Captain Bos advises that due to Pam some changes in destinations are necessary. Instead of arriving in Mare on Wednesday the 11th , we would now go to Kuto , Ile des Pines, New Caledonia . Mare would wait until Thursday, the 12th. Lifou, New Caledonia on the 12th and Port Vila, Vanuatu on Friday the 13th were cancelled altogether. If you follow the news , you know that Port Vila was slammed hard by Pam on Friday the 13th. Major destruction and many deaths ensued.
The Isle of Pines was stunning, a most beautiful place . It is located to the south of New Caledonia's mainland and is known for the ancient pine tree groves found there. The beach was great and the swimming in the intense blue colored waters was outstanding. I found a few cards there, but no stamps, and no post office available. So nothing posted .
After Kuto, we sailed on to Tadine, Mare, also in New Caledonia. Mare is the second largest of the four Loyalty Islands. The local Kanak people, live in small villages scattered across the island and closed to outsiders. Postcard wise, it was another disappointment - no stamps, no post office and no cards posted. That's two ports in New Caledonia without any cards getting out. I could only hope for better things in the capital Noumea. On to Vanuatu.
After a day at sea, we arrived in Luganville, the second largest city in Vanuatu on March 14th. Today it has a population of just over 13,000. During World War II, over 40,000 and sometimes as high as 100,000 American military personnel were stationed in the city. Walking around Luganville you might wonder why the main street is so wide. It's because the American base commander insisted that the road be wide enough to drive four trucks side by side. The base was the largest in the South Pacific next to Hawaii.
Postcards were a little scarce but I did manage to locate a few. I even found a post office, but of course it turned out to be closed. The sign in the window said open on Saturday. I was there on Saturday and it was closed . Go Figure. I had earlier bought a number of Vanuatu stamps and brought them with me on the cruise. Good thing. Anyway, I took the cards and stamps back to the ship and prepared them. I handed the prepared cards in at the Purser's desk on the ship and hoped they would go ashore with the ship's mail later that day. You got to have faith , when there's no post office available. And, it seems to have worked. Here's a card from Vanuatu.
This one shows some women from Malekula in traditional dress. Malekula is the second largest island of the nation of Vanuatu.
After leaving Luganville at 4:30 PM on March 14th , we headed for Fiji and arrived at 08:30 AM on Monday , March 16th. We were to visit 2 ports over 2 days, Lautoka and Dravuni Island. Fiji's second largest city, Lautoka , known as Sugar City has the largest sugar mill in the Southern Hemisphere.
While touring and walking around the city I was able to to buy a number of postcards. Fiji Post had installed a rep on board our ship for the day. Her job was to sell stamps and accept postcards for mailing, but she actually had little choice in her stamp selection. Here's a few cards that I left with her for posting.
This one is showing The Yaqona Ceremony. Yaqona or kava is a ceremonial drink made from the crushed root of a plant of the same name. An integral part of Fifian life, yaqona is drunk at any gathering of friends or business acquaintances. The stamps are all Bird definitives including overprints. Nice postmark though.
This second Fiji card shows a Bure or village house. It's a traditional home constructed almost entirely from materials originating from the coconut palm.
A final card from Fiji showing more images from of the island.
Same stamps on these two, overprinted definitives.
On March 17th we arrived at Dravuni Island but were unable to go ashore. Another casualty of Cyclone Pam. It seems that Drvuni had a floating dock consisting of over 40 sections. On news that Pam was coming the locals attempted to take the dock apart and bring it ashore. Unfortunately they were late in doing and not all that successful. The dock incurred much damage and many connecting parts like bolts were lost or broken. When The Oosterdam arrived there was no dock , and after a couple hours delay and even an attempt by the ship's crew to help, the captain decided it was too dangerous , even for tenders , and we moved on.
Next port was Noumea, New Caledonia and we were due there on Thursday, March 19th at 9 AM. New Caledonia, in the South Pacific, about halfway between Fiji and Australia is a real piece of France. A cluster of islands in the Coral Sea , blessed with a massive coral reef. Noumea, the capital has 99,000 people.
I have a great story to tell about postcards from Noumea. Jean Pierre told me about the Philatelic Agency , located near the ship's dock. I made my way there , bought some stamps and checked it all out, intending to return in the afternoon to post my cards. Teena and I walked around and bought some souvenirs and of course postcards. Then we went back to the ship as we had a tour of the city booked which departed from the dock. I was supposed to have lots of time at the tour's end to make my way back to the Philatelic Agency but it was not to be. Our tour transportation incurred some mechanical trouble and we had to wait for a replacement. When all was said and done , too much time past and we only had enough time to get back to the ship . Now anyone who knows me , will know the mood I was in at this point. The end result was I sailed away from Noumea with postcards and stamps, as the ship's mail was already gone ashore. There's more to the story but first let;'s have a look at a postcard from New Caledonia.
This is the Amedee Lighthouse . It is an iron lighthouse located on Amedee Island, 24 km from Noumea. Its spiral staircase has 247 steps and its height is 55 metres, making it one of the tallest lighthouses in the world. This lighthouse was first constructed in France and remained there from 1862 to 1864. It was then taken apart, packed in 1200 crates weighing 388 tonnes and shipped to New Caledonia in November 1864. The Amedee light was lit for the first time in New Caledonia on November 15, 1865.
I used 3 stamps on this one and they received a wonderfully clear Philatelic Agency cancellation. On the left is a 2007 stamp , a Fish topical from a set of 3. In the middle, another stamp from 2007. 1 of 3 in a Tropical Fruits set. These were supposed to be Fragrant stamps, but I couldn't smell anything on them. On the right is another Fish topical issued in 2010.
Now look at the date, I visited Noumea on March 19th and this card is postmarked April 22nd. More on that later.
Here's another card from New Caledonia, this one showing a selection of classic letter boxes .
Two more of the 2010 Fish topicals on this one.
That's it for cards from Noumea. So how did these cards come about ? Well I arrived home on March 24th Around the end of March I came up with a plan. I wrote a letter to the Philatelic Agency explaining what had happened and asked for their help. I packaged up 10 or 12 postcards with stamps attached and shipped them off to Noumea and hoped for the best. I received my cards back on May 8th and May 12th. Case closed . Thank you Philatelic Agency in Noumea.
We left Noumea at 5 PM on March 19th and headed for Sydney again. We arrived back at 7 AM March 22nd. All in all our cruise was a total of 4523 nautical miles. We had another day in Sydney before flying back home so we took in a performance at the Sydney Opera House . We were there so we figured why not ? Thoroughly enjoyed it too. Oh yes, before I go and leave Australia, let me just say "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi ". Couldn't resist. ----- I posted one more card here and My Lovely Teena posted one to me, as she always does on our trips. Here is the one I posted. It's a Did You Know card . I hope you are able to read it all when you click it to enlarge. Once a jolly swagman lived ....sorry, here's the card.
Nice Aviation related stamps on this one. The stamps on the left and right are celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the First Air Mail. The stamp in the center is from the set of 5 Nostalgic Advertising Posters I mentioned earlier. It is advertising TAA or Trans Australia Airlines.
One final card , the one My Lovely Teena sent me. It's the TAA poster. Fly TAA - the friendly way. TAA was launched on 7th October 1946 while this famous poster of the TAA air hostess was introduced in 1952.
And the stamps.
There you have it. Cruise # 7 is history. It was a great trip, but a little changed due to Cyclone Pam. Captain Bos kept his ship and us safe , and in the end that was what mattered most. Hope this update wasn't too long and that you enjoyed reading it. Can't wait for the next one - nothing planned yet though, but The Baltic looks good. Cheers.