Pago Pago, Samoa
The past two days at sea have been great – there was a 6-hour period on Friday when the sea was as flat as glass – have never seen the ocean so calm. Next to the ship, several dozen Tuna began following us, jumping & and putting on quite a show. These were yellow-fin Tuna, estimated between 75 & 100 LBS. Wish I would have had my fishing rod! We were up early again Saturday morning – walked around the ship 7 times, or 2 miles. After showering, we sat for a couple hours and watched the funeral services of Whitney Houston, or at least tried to. Satellite reception has been very spotty for several days, including the internet. As we do back home, Saturday is laundry day – Cheryl was busy doing our personal items, then packed a bag of dry cleaning for the crew to handle. We invested in a pre-paid, “unlimited” laundry package which has been very handy for us, and I think we’ll come out ahead by the end of the trip. The balance of Saturday was typical – various games & activities around the ship. We arrived in Pago Pago on schedule Sunday morning, 7:00am. The approach to the island was stunning. Next to Rio, Samoa is the most beautiful we’ve seen to date. Tall mountains line the shore, and they are a very rich, deep green covered in lush bushes & trees. Smoke was hanging in the air like thick clouds and as we later learned, Sunday is BBQ day for the residents and most all of them start their fires early in the morning and slow-cook all day. Pago Pago, or Tutuila (American Samoa) is smaller than Easter Island - the drive around the island is approximately 20 miles. While there are only 4,000 residents, there are more than a dozen churches and as we toured in an open-air bus, we could see that all of them were full. The people are very religious and have high regard for the family unit – how refreshing! At 6pm each day, bells ring throughout the city and families gather for a short prayer. At 9pm, all children must be home and at 10pm, there’s a curfew for all residents. As you can imagine, crime is minimal and in fact, we were told there’s only one jail cell and very rarely used. The island was partially devastated back in 2009 during the big tsunami – in fact, the primary hotel (The Rainmaker) remains closed undergoing restoration. The one and only revenue generator here is fishing. Our tour today included a stop at a local village to observe everyday life of the natives – we spent a little more than an hour with a family and enjoyed talking with the kids. They were very interested in my iPad and the videos I was taking – as I played them back, their faces were wide with smiles! Toward the end of our tour, a torrential rainstorm hit and everyone got thoroughly soaked. Several portable stands/tents had been setup next to the ship for shopping and the rain didn’t deter – we browsed for an hour – the ships horn blew, and everyone headed for the gangway. Interestingly, most of the men here wear skirts or what they refer to as Lava-Lava’s – I was very tempted to buy one but I know my boys would really razz me – Dad in a skirt??!! We picked up a unique passenger today – the President & CEO of Holland America joined us to sail to Sydney. As he does with all vessels, he meets the ship during a cruise and spends time talking with both employees and passengers. There is a “town hall” meeting scheduled over the next few days where he’ll conduct a Q&A with passengers. This approach to spending time “in the field” reminds me so much of my company – Alain Bouchard (President & CEO) & Real Plourde (Board Chairman) spent well over 60% of their time “in the field” visiting stores, talking with employees & engaging with customers. They firmly believed in spending time where the customers & employees were (and it paid off) – Holland America is apparently no different. This gentleman just “pops-in” on the company plane and joins the cruise. The crew was notified just a few days ago and I must share with you comically, there’s been a bit of stress & high sense of urgency in the air! The ship is impeccably clean to begin with, but the crew has been working overtime the past few days DEEP scrubbing, DEEP polishing & painting!!! Their crew overtime & maintenance bills will be quite high in February! We’re now off to Sydney – 5 days at sea and yet more time changes as we cross the international dateline. Since leaving Florida, we’ve sailed just over 16,000 miles & adjusted our clocks 14 times - we were told there are a total of 37 time changes on the trip. By the time we get back to Ft. Lauderdale, our voyage will have covered 38,000 miles.