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SATURDAY -- JAN. 8

CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA

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Day breaks over Cartagena's Bocagrande as we slowly enter the harbor. The historic Old City was not visible from the ship's pier. Passengers who toured the fort and city had a hot, humid visit.

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Our welcome committee

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A small group of us took this speedboat on a one hour ride across Cartagena Bay to the beautiful clear waters of the Rosario Islands - a much more comfortable way to spend the day.

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Our destination was the San Pedro de Majagua Hotel, a resort on one of the islands.

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Some folks decided to stay at the resort to relax and snorkel at a nearby reef. We later joined them for a tasty Red Snapper lunch under the Mangrove trees.

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The rest of us took the speedboat to another island to visit the Rosario Islands natural aquarium - where we had a different welcoming committee.

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Our "Oceanario" visit included shark and dolphin shows - yes, those sharks are boosting themselves onto the trainer's float and going into a frenzy as he reaches into his bucket of fish! I hope he doesn't have slippery shoes!

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The graceful, friendly dolphins drew lots of applause! We visited on a Saturday and we shared the Oceanario with boatloads of families from Bogota.

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Another kind of horse, called a "fish horse" by our guide.

Posted by Swenigale 09:26 Archived in Colombia

SUNDAY -- JAN. 9


View SERENITY 3- WC 2011 on Swenigale's travel map.

PANAMA CANAL

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Our nine hour transit of the Panama Canal brought us the 50 miles across the isthmus from the Caribbean Sea, raising us up 85 feet to the level of Gatun Lake and back down and across the Continental Divide to sea level at the Pacific Ocean. This is the first in the series of three sets of locks.

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Ships transit the Canal using their own propulsion, but in the locks these small (and very expensive!) electrical locomotives align and tow the ships. Captain Edvardsen was pleased to have come through the Canal "without a scratch" on the ship - due, in part, to these little "Mules".

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Today is Sunday - and busloads of Panamanians apparently came to see our beautiful cruise ship passing through the locks. Most of the Canal traffic consists of container ships and oil tankers - not built for beauty!

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The three sets of locks have two lanes each. The chambers operate as water lifts. The Crystal Serenity has three experts onboard who have been speaking about the tragic and fascinating history and operation of the Canal, which still operates using the original engineering design.

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The Serenity had just a small amount of clearance from the sides of the locks. Tight squeeze! Construction and widening of parts of the Canal are ahead of schedule for a 2014 completion date.

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Ship photographers have the best job - they got to climb down the ship's rope ladder in the early morning darkness - just to take pictures of all of us crowding the rails.

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The Milaflores Locks, the final set, then out into the Pacific Ocean. We entered the Canal from the Caribbean 23 miles west of where we exited, so we actually traveled east to west by sailing west to east!

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We had excellent weather for the transit - rain at times and overcast. So no sunburns, even though we spent most of the day out on deck.

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This is looking back to the Canal and the Pan American Highway Bridge.

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The Panama City skyline and our exit from the Panama Canal- the start of our next two days at sea as we sail to Mexico.

Posted by Swenigale 12:56 Archived in Panama

WEDNESDAY -- JAN. 12

HUATULCO, MEXICO

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Sunrise as we approached the coast of Mexico and our destination, the “ecotourism” resort of Huatulco- 20 miles of pristine bays and inlets.

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The port buildings of the little town of Santa Cruz hug the bay – with the Sierra Madre mountains in the distance.

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We set off through the jungle on ATVs to explore the national park.

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The stream beds we followed are normally dry from January through May. Our guide (an ex-pat from France!) led us straight into the favorite hangout of these vultures. They were everywhere!

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The first of two beach stops – our guide is showing us the typical cooking stove used by people in the mountain villages – they use mahogany for firewood! Villages are located in the mountains instead of near the coast because of the former threat of pirates.

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Recognize this beach? The Corona commercial where the guy tosses his cell phone was filmed here (Cacaluta Bay).

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Driving farther along through the jungle we came to Maguey Bay where we stopped for refreshments (Coronas!) in the shade of a palapa.

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Yes – that’s me, floating in the clear, warm water –aahh! (The air temperature was 100 degrees today)

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For any grandchildren who happen to be looking – here’s Hästa!

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And here’s Mör Mör, playing along with a band of Mexicans!

Posted by Swenigale 12:46 Archived in Mexico

FRIDAY -- JAN. 14

PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO

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We were docked for the day in Puerto Vallarta, but instead of hitting the beach we traveled 90 minutes through the coastal valley and over 5,000 feet up into the Sierra Madre mountains to the silver mining town of San Sebastian, a village dating to 1605. Our first stop was at this hacienda, built by the silver mine owners.

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We had an excellent guide (Gustavo) who regaled us with tales of Poncho Villa. In more recent history – this hacienda was a favorite of John Huston of Hollywood fame.

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In San Sebastian we stopped at a coffee plantation and met the owner/operators. The same family has had the business for 300 years. Here Hästa inspects some Arabica beans.

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The coffee beans have always been raised organically – and we never miss a chance to support local businesses!

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Ai Chihuahua – Hästa and the Chihuahua.

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We walked down the cobblestone street to Comedor La Lupita where we were served a delicious lunch of homemade cheese and beef tortillas served with hot, hotter and seriously hot salsa! Oh – and really good Margaritas!

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San Sebastian reached the peak of its prosperity in the 1700’s. Today we were invited to peek into private homes and we learned more of the town’s connections to the Mexican Revolution.

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Thanks to our curiosity and the zoom lens of Ed’s new camera, we got a glimpse of the preparation of – pig parts? Our guide also mentioned how delicious a cow’s head tortilla tastes! He is the youngest of twelve children – talk about having to stretch the family food budget!

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The village church is being decorated for the coming festival of San Sebastian on January 18th and 19th.

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One area silver mine has been reopened and there is one jeweler in town with a small shop. Yes, we supported him too!

Posted by Swenigale 15:26 Archived in Mexico

MONDAY -- JAN. 17

LOS ANGELES

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We have already experienced an exotic expedition (in MY book!) but the official Crystal Serenity World Cruise 2011 "Grand Exotic Expedition" started today. Our new captain, John Oakland and new cruise director, Gary Hunter, along with other staff, entertainers and speakers have joined us. More world cruisers have boarded, along with passengers sailing for part of the world cruise.

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The night staff was busy - overnight the Crystal Cove was prepared for the world cruise kick-off celebration.

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A unit of the University of Southern California marching band came aboard to add to everyone's excitement and take part in a grand bon voyage party.

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Looking back toward the port of Los Angles - the San Pedro section - in the late afternoon light - we listened to Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World". The song is played on the outside decks whenever we leave a port. "I see skies of blue and clouds of white, the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world."

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The world cruise has begun.

Posted by Swenigale 10:56 Archived in USA

SAT.-SUN. -- JAN. 22-23


View SERENITY 3- WC 2011 on Swenigale's travel map.

HONOLULU

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After five rolling days at sea: Land ho! Honolulu welcomes us with her Aloha Tower and a brilliant rainbow.

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Along the beach of Waikiki, wahini (me) and the Duke.

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So here we are, back in the good old USA! Hawaii will be our last time in America (I know it still seems like a foreign country!) until May!

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Our ship stayed docked in Honolulu until midnight Sunday, and most passengers returned to the ship before dark for a fantastic buffet and show.

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Germaine's of Hawaii came aboard to entertain with traditional Polynesian island dances.

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A special stage and backdrop were constructed next to the Seahorse pool, complete with an "erupting" volcano.

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In another part of the show the Crystal Serenity singers and dancers spoofed the Brady Bunch (the Crystal Bunch), accompanied by the Galaxy Orchestra.

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The exciting grand finale - something we never hope to see any other way: fire on a cruise ship!

Posted by Swenigale 14:26 Archived in USA

MON. - FRI. -- JAN. 24-28

5 DAYS AT SEA

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Today is the 5th day at sea since we sailed from Hawaii - we will anchor tomorrow morning at Moorea, Society Islands. Days at sea are when Crystal really shines, offering passengers so much more than great food and fun in the sun. It's a good thing, because the winds have continued to be strong on the outer decks so we haven't spent much time out in the sun by the Seahorse pool.

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The speakers have been very enjoyable - there are three 45 minute talks every sea day. I thought we would show photos of some of the speakers and entertainers just to give an idea of what we are doing way out here in the Pacific Ocean. I took this picture of Ed and his Baby Martin posing with Roger McGuinn (once the lead singer of the Byrds - and so much more) - you know boys and their guitars. Roger is holding the "Roger McGuinn Model" guitar made by Martin - a 7 string guitar!

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This group is the "Unexpected Boys". They sang a musical tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

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One of God's nightly shows.

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Bruce McGill, stage and screen actor who has had roles in over 80 Hollywood films and is presently in the TV series: Rizzoli & Isles. You may know him from the TV series McIver where he played the trouble-making best friend, Jack Dalton.

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West End stage and singing star Paul Baker.

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Remember Bob Eubanks from the Newlywed Game? In his talks he shared stories of his varied career in TV and as a concert promoter and artist manager.

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The Gala Buffet and the real stars of the cruise!

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We crossed the Equator and had a visit from King Neptune.

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The composer/pianist, Tian Jiang, one of the first virtuoso pianists to emerge from China after the stark years of the Cultural Revolution.

Posted by Swenigale 08:36

SATURDAY - JAN. 29


View SERENITY 3- WC 2011 on Swenigale's travel map.

MOOREA

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It is said that Moorea is Polynesia's pleasure island, with its dramatic terrain, deep verdant gorges and seas as clear as aquamarine. With this island welcome we stepped foot on Bali Hai from the movie "South Pacific".

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We anchored today in the same bay as Captain Cook and his ship Resolution did in 1774.

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We rented a car for the day and drove up the mountain to Belvedere Lookout, with the spectacular view of Opunohu Bay on the left and Cooks Bay on the right.

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The hole in Rotui is said to have been made by Hiro, the unpopular god of thieves.

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Moorea is a French colony, so naturally we rented a Peugot!

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The only road around the island is just 37 miles in length and it hugs the sea most of the way around.

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We had to have a baguette for our lunch- all things are French here, with a Polynesian flavor.

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The beaches are all public, but frequently beach access is not. This, however, is a beautiful public beach with a somewhat hidden public access. We ate lunch in the shade of a flowering tree and snorkeled with a rainbow of fish (and an eel!) in the warm water.

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Posted by Swenigale 11:36 Archived in French Polynesia

SUNDAY - JAN. 30

WORLD VOYAGE II: Southern Pacific Serenade

Papeete, TAHITI

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Some folks have completed their excellent cruise vacation as 300 new passengers joined us in Tahiti.

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Today was Sunday and our Protestant worship service was held in the late afternoon in this beautiful port.

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Lovely ladies selling vanilla.

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The beautiful central market.

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Just testing a few ukuleles.

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The Market closes at noon on Sunday – the tables of fruits vegetables were already being covered with colorful fabric.

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Not many people in the streets – so it’s a good time to sweep the sidewalks – cute clean up truck!

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Cathédrale de L’immaculée Conception.

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An intriguing window in the cathedral.

Posted by Swenigale 11:11 Archived in French Polynesia

MONDAY -- JAN. 31


View SERENITY 3- WC 2011 on Swenigale's travel map.

180-189

BORA BORA, French Polynesia

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Approaching an island like Bora Bora from the sea is amazing! Green peaks appear out of the distant haze from what had seemed an endless sea!

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We have sailed 150 miles from Tahiti to this little island which is just 17 miles around. Our ship anchored in the bay and passengers were tendered to shore - the waves raised by the tenders provided sport for locals in their outrigger canoes as they raced to ride our wake.

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Bora Bora is encircled by a barrier reef which creates a lagoon of warm shallow waters around the entire island. It is no wonder that luxury international resorts are located here! But no worry, we didn't have to go that route - we took a local van to Matira Beach - $5 for transport and no charge for the water!

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There are some stores in the small town selling black pearl jewelry and local handcrafts. Mostly, though, we enjoyed poking around in Chin Lee, supermarket and sundries store nestled below the mountains. We called home with a calling card using an endangered species - the phone booth!

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Toting home laundry powder from Chin Lee

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What a perfect sail away party - we felt like we had been on Fantasy Island!

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Posted by Swenigale 12:31 Archived in French Polynesia

WEDNESDAY. - FEB. 2

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands

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The beautiful island was getting watered today - it's no secret how it stays lush and green!

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We watched this rainbow grow until it was complete.

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Cruise ships have no shelter for anchorage in Rarotonga, so the Serenity stayed off shore in the open sea. Today the wind was strong and the ocean swells were so high that riding the tenders ship to shore and back was a high action adventure ride.

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Passengers who went ashore had high praise for the tender crews who got them safely back on the mothership! The trick was to "step" off of the tender and onto the gangway of the ship when exit and entrance were sort of level with each other.

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Posted by Swenigale 15:31 Archived in Cook Islands

SUNDAY. - FEB. 6


View SERENITY 3- WC 2011 on Swenigale's travel map.

TONGA

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The Royal Palace of Tonga. Here we are on the other side of the International Dateline in the island kingdom of Tonga. Because of the way time has to work, we went to bed Friday night the 4th and awoke Sunday morning the 6th. (As the old cruise joke goes, we could party Friday night like there is no tomorrow! - because there wasn't one!) We are 18 hours ahead of East Coast time, so we watched the Super Bowl live on Monday! Congratulations Packers!

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Nuku'alofa is the capital of the many islands that make up the tiny kingdom of Tonga. Pictured here are the Royal tombs.

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Along the coast wave action and coral ledges create a line of impressive waves and blow holes.

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Tonga has 150 to 200 islands spread over more than 500 miles, only fifty of which are inhabited. There is not a whole lot to see here - although the bats (flying foxes) are memorable!

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Crystal Serenity is the first cruise ship to ever stop in Nuku'alofa on a Sunday, a day when no business is conducted. Passengers who went ashore visited some of the many churches. A Tongan leader told us that his people are happy if they have food and they can worship. They are deeply religious and Sunday is a time for loudly singing praise and gathering with family.

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Heading back to the ship - hoping to outrun the gathering clouds..

Posted by Swenigale 00:46 Archived in Tonga

TUESDAY. - FEB. 8


View SERENITY 3- WC 2011 on Swenigale's travel map.

FIJI

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Bula! means welcome - we have reached the Fijian islands, to spend a day in Lautoka, the "Sugar City", the second largest city in Fiji. We have been sailing in the same seas as the legendary "Bounty" and Captain Bligh.

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Onboard, the Neptune Pool area on the 12th deck of the ship is being transformed into a World Cruiser dinner event, "A Wedding in Paradise" to be held once we set sail this evening.

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Most stores in the city seem to be run by Fijians of Indian ancestry - I almost succumbed to the lure of all those sequins!

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What I actually did do, however, was get my hair cut. See the one upstairs window in that block of a building - that's Resh's "Saloon" (we say "salon")!

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Up the stairs, walk past the surprised locals playing pool (and stuff), and then on back to the Saloon (!).

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Me and Resh - ready for my $5 haircut (tip included!)

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Most buildings are in need of major repair- or maybe they are slated for demolition?

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The Central Market is huge and is filled with produce and spices and smells wonderful!

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Goods are priced in bundles and heaps- good prices, but my haircut was the only thing we bought in Fiji, although I did give some really gaudy jewelry a second glance and Ed was once again tempted by a ukulele.

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Back on the ship in the lovely air conditioning (90 and humid in the city - sorry, snow-bound friends!) we enjoyed the antics and costumes of the Serenity singers and dancers and the incredible wedding feast. Man, are we lucky!

Posted by Swenigale 20:31 Archived in Fiji

FRIDAY - FEB. 11


View SERENITY 3- WC 2011 on Swenigale's travel map.

AUCKLAND, NZ

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We have arrived in the North Island of New Zealand for a 2 day stay. We picked up our rental car, packed an umbrella, stuff for a two day road trip, and a spade (more about that later!).

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Our plan was to explore the mountains, forests and seacoasts of the Coromandel Peninsula. Driving south from Auckland we passed through the rolling hills and meadows of many cattle stations.

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The small coastal town of Tairua (where we spent Friday night in the Blue Water Motel) has its very own extinct volcano - Mount Paku. You can drive up and then climb to the top for this spectacular view of the harbor.

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Cutting back across the peninsula (there is a 3,000 foot mountain range down its spine) was an adventure on the VERY curvy, narrow, unpaved Route 69! (Sort of like driving through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but with different tress and roadkill!) Our mantra was, "Keep left, keep left"!

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Coromandel town, on the west coast of the peninsula.

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Heading back to the Pacific coast on the northern, paved, but still REALLY curvy and mountainous Route 25 - a view back to Coromandel harbor - wow!

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A few weeks ago the peninsula was hit by a cyclone and the torrential rains had resulted in multiple landslides and closed roads.

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Hot Water Beach - now you'll see why we have a shovel.

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An underground fresh water hot spring can be reached only during low tide - dig a hole in the sand and create your own spa!

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The tricky part is to mix in a bit of the cooler water - otherwise these bathers would be boiled!

Posted by Swenigale 15:16 Archived in New Zealand

Feb. 12-28, 2011

The 3rd segment of the World Cruise began on the 2nd full day in Auckland.

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Posted by Swenigale 15:36 Archived in New Zealand

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