By Carla Sue Broecker
While aboard Regent’s Seven Seas Voyager, they do their best to keep guests in touch with the important things that are going on at home, like the Superbowl. At the time the game was played, we were ahead in time by 12 hours. This meant the live showing (without commercials, unfortunately) on our theatre’s big screen started at 6 a.m. on Monday morning where we were, which was in the Java Sea on the way to Bali, Indonesia.
The ship went all out to create a real party atmosphere. The theater was divided in half with green, white and black balloons for the Eagles on one side and red, white and blue balloons on the other for the Patriots. A magnificent spread of food of all sorts (except chicken wings) surrounded a huge ice sculpture of the Superbowl logo. A Bloody Mary, Bud Light, juice and coffee bar took care of most thirst needs. There was popcorn, too.
More people than I would have expected showed up at the early hour, and they cheered as loudly as if they had been at home on their couches. It was fun. Through all of this, we were also looking forward to an 8 a.m. arrival the following morning in our next port, Benoa, in Bali.
We have enjoyed Bali on other trips and are always surprised to find that it is not terribly attractive and, as expected, is hot and humid. But it also has unexpected charm, which appears right at the pier where we docked. The first spot off the ship is the quaint terminal where for $10 you can get a relaxing 30-minute hand, back or leg massage right in the middle of the terminal. This is only 10 yards from the ship’s gangway. They also sell great souvenirs and clothing.
When we walked in, Anya, the owner of the clothing concession, came up to sell us mumus. She broke into a big smile and said, “I know you! You here last year!” I got a bear hug and while getting the massage, I had a personal mumu style show. I am a sucker for souvenirs and an even bigger sucker when it comes to a bear hug and a friendly greeting from someone I have not seen for a year.
Then, we were off on a great shore excursion. It started with a visit to Singapadu Village, where we visited a Balinese house compound. It had small, open-air buildings that served different purposes. One was a kitchen, another the sleeping area and yet another was a gathering place. Each compound served a family and would grow with more enclosures as the family grew.
Next, we went up the road to an area where lots of wood-carving shops exist and thrive. We saw a demonstration of some of the carvings and were offered extravagant examples of their skills and talent. The prices were reasonable and negotiable, but most of the really wild things would never fit under the seat of an airplane.
This shore excursion included an Indonesian lunch at Laka Leke Restaurant. What a treat. We were greeted by a local musical group in traditional costumes. The welcome also included lovely young ladies performing folk dances.
Lunch was served in a group of open-sided pavilions. The meal started with a traditional potato leek soup. Then, each guest received a huge, banana-leaf platter with a selection of several traditional dishes in small bowls that were also made of banana leaves. From a dish-washing standpoint, it was very practical. They were all thrown out at the end of the meal.
Back at the ship, the area surrounding the terminal was alive with vendors whose tents were filled with amazing, lovely, weird and “needed” souvenirs. Two wonderful carved wooden masks are coming home with us to add to our mask collection. What a fun day!
After a short nap, it was cocktail time. On this ship, all beverages are included, so it is always cocktail time no matter what your watch says. After dinner, there was entertainment by local talent. Falling into bed was the last activity.
The next day was more relaxed. We stayed close to “home,” did a little more dock shopping and sailed off toward our next stop in the early afternoon. The upcoming stop was to be Komodo Island.
There are only two reasons to ever go to Komodo Island. The first is to see the horribly ugly Komodo dragons and the other is to shop for the natural pearls that the locals sell. The harbor at Komodo Island is too shallow for the ship to dock, so we had to anchor off shore and take the ship’s tender boats into the local pier.
I use “we” loosely. I won’t go near those creatures that look like throwbacks to the dinosaur days. They are as big as an alligator and just as charming. Local rangers take groups of visitors on a tour of the island to see the creatures. They take poles and rifles to protect the visitors. Husband Brad enjoys the adventure and says where the protection is really needed is at the souvenir area where great heaps of pearls – in cream, white, black, gray and sometimes pink or yellow – are on offer in quantities difficult to comprehend. They are lovely, and I have had purchases from previous years checked, verified as being of good quality, knotted and strung.
That evening after dinner, we were entertained by a harmonica playing duo that I was skeptical of enjoying. Boy, was I wrong. They were great and exciting, and we all wished they would have played more.
The next day was a sea day before we reached our first Australian port stop, Darwin. It’s a relatively small city of 120,000 and serves as the capital of the Northern Territory.
Darwin is home to Territory Wildlife Park, which has its own complimentary carriages attached to small trucks to carry exhausted wildlife enthusiasts around the park while pointing out sights of interest. The park was interesting, but when the ladies realized there was no gift shop, their interest dwindled. The men were pleased.
After the evening departure from Darwin and on the way to Cooktown, we were at dinner when the captain made an unusual announcement. There was a health emergency with a passenger, and we were turning around and heading back to Darwin since evacuation by helicopter was not practical. The patient was transferred by police boat when we were close to Darwin and was taken directly to a hospital. We were later informed the patient was in stable condition.
The return to Darwin delayed our progress enough that the decision was made to bypass Cooktown and head directly for Cairns. This meant we were going to have three consecutive sea days, so the entertainment staff went to work to keep things lively on our floating amusement park. The result was the “Regent Olympic Games” to operate consecutively with the Winter Olympic games being broadcast on our television from Korea. It was fun.
In the large, multi-story atrium of the ship, a mammoth set of Olympic rings made of yellow, green, red, black and blue balloons hung over the center stairway, creating our own Olympic arena. Each department on the ship created their own “game” for the passengers to participate in. When the games began, the ship’s band played proper entrance music and the department flag-bearers from each department entered the “arena” down the stairs from the deck above. It was all very silly, but still fun.
The passengers participated and those who won were awarded tickets, which were put into a drawing for prizes at the end of the games.
Valentine’s Day coincided with our third sea day in a row. To celebrate, a secret cupid within the crew was designated. Passengers who identified which crew member was the secret cupid received Regent Rewards tickets to be redeemed for prizes at the end of the cruise segment.
That same day after a barbeque lunch at the pool grill, we were invited to join the Voyager stage production cast to learn how their journey into becoming stars on the Voyager began. Afterward, we toured the backstage area to see how their shows are put together and how the costumes are stored and repaired.
Then, on one very hot, sunny, clear, beautiful morning, we arrived at Cairns, Australia. This is where the Great Barrier Reef is located. We like the area, and chose to take an excursion by coach to the village of Kuranda up in the rainforest. Another option was to go by cable car, which we had done before. We visited the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, which is small but beautiful and charming. Then we wandered the shops in the quaint village.
After that, we were off to a wildlife sanctuary to see koalas, snakes, crocodiles and other wild beasts. We got back to the ship for a late lunch and a couple of cold sips. VT