As you may have noticed that my caching name is Philatsea. I chose this because I started cruising back in 1983, long before what it is today. When I started Geocaching the two appeared to be a great fit. Geocaching allowed me to visit places in the places the ship was docking that I would likely not see otherwise.
I have not long ago returned from a cruise that many of my fellow cachers and friends was jealous of.
It has taken me some time to write this as I lost the use of my computer then I had to restore my photos and then there is life.
I left Vancouver on Saturday April 16 for Sydney, Australia arriving Monday morning at about 830 am on a non stop flight from Vancouver to Sydney.
The plan was to use the Hop on Hop off bus on Tuesday and visit the Blue Mountains on Wednesday via train and then a walking tour of Sydney on Thursday and Friday we would visit the Sydney Fish market then down to the inner harbour for a walk and a stop at the Opera House bar for Happy Hour.
On Saturday we would leave about 1030 to board the ship about 1130.
I had rented what is called a serviced apartment in Sydney. The place was The Meriton on Campbell.
This would turn out to be a great location as it was close to the Central Train and China Town.
The Meriton comes will a full size fridge, dishwasher, 2 burner stove, microwave and washer and dryer.
There is a Coles grocery store 2 blocks away in the World Trade Centre.
After paying $52 AUD for Fish and Chips at a place in Bondi Beach. It was then we learned that eating in might be the better choice.
Upon arrival in Sydney it is not like flying into any place else I don’t think. Passengers don’t jump up from their seats to get to overhead bins and rush to get off. You see the plane has to be fumigated upon arrival where they spray all the overhead bins contents. The same thing is done to all luggage as well.
This took about 20 minutes and then we deplaned and headed for Customs and Quarantine.
This process was quick and were out of the area in record time.
I had brought my phone with me and needed to pick up a sim card for it. The location was right outside customs. I used Opus which gave me a sim card for $20 AUD and this included 1.5 GB of data. I would get free local calls for 3 months. I could call back to Canada for 8 cents a minute which would be deducted from the $20. I further used this card in Fiji as well. I came home with money still on the card.
Upon arrival at the apartment we were able to get into our room right away. We unpacked for the 5 nights here. I really didn’t sleep on the flight like my friend did.
After my nap I headed over to Paddy’s Market in China Town where we went upstairs to have something to eat.
Here one can get Asian cuisine from Thai, Indian, and Chinese. It is also reasonably priced.
There was no caching today along the way.
Today I head out on this rather cloudy day with a chance of rain to catch the first Hop on Hop off Bus at Central Train Station.
The idea was to take a full circle back to Central before deciding where to get off.
As many Hop on Hop off Buses around the world are double-decker bus with the top deck being open to the elements. This would be the case for the last bit of the tour as the heavens opened up on us and we had to retreat to the bottom deck.
We arrived back at Central and decided to catch the Hop on Hop off to Bondi beach.
There we got off and walked the length of the beach.
We noticed that there are really no geocaches along the beach and we sat on the stairs observing the beach and thinking of a way we could place a Earthcache here. We gathered our information and photos to use upon our return home.
We needed some lunch and ate at a place called Lush on Bondi which allows outside seating. As I said earlier this is the place we paid $52 AUD for fish and chips and 2 beer.
Great location and great scenery and the beer was cold and the food good.
Once done we continued down the beach and then back to catch the bus.
We got off the bus at the stop at Circular Quay where the Ferries depart from. From here we walked around the harbour and over to the Sydney Bridge to gather some info for the virtual near there. I had done the virtual on a previous trip and my friend was going to do it this trip.
We tried to get a cache called Campbell’s Cove and the GPS had us in a location that just didn’t make sense. We checked what we thought should be the area but there were just too many muggles around.
Arriving back from where we got off the bus we had made it back in time to catch the last bus back to the Central train station.
Today being Wednesday we are headed to catch the train to the Blue Mountains from Central Station. Last night we picked up 2 OPAL cards at the local 7-11 by the apartment that we had loaded with $30 AUD on each card.
We caught the train just before 7:00 and sat back to enjoy the 2 hour ride to Katoomba.
Arriving in Katoomba we headed out the station and across the street to buy our tickets for the Hop on Hop off bus here.
We had wanted to do a hike and the driver explained there were two ways to do this hike with one being much easier than the other and ending up at the same location.
One involved several hundred stairs down and several hundred stairs back up.
The other was suppose to be much flatter than the other.
We got off the bus at Katoomba Falls lookout and headed out across the grass and then down the stairs as directed by the driver but not before we looked for the Katoomba Falls cache in the park. We spent over 30 minutes and finally called uncle.
The view from the lookout was amazing. We were told that if you took away all the trees and vegetation in would look like the Grand Canyon.
I think the most amazing thing was seeing hundreds of Cockatoos flying around from the lookout.
We could also see the Three Sisters Peaks from here.
We continued back up the stairs to the trail and headed to what we hoped was the more level trail. We passed a water falls then up more stairs headed to Cliff View Lookout and Geocache
We were standing at the Geocache here when this appeared over us. There was no one else on the trail but then this cable car appeared over us.
When we came around the corner we heard this silent scream that was yelling noooo at the site of more stairs. Starting up we realized that the top and finish of this trail was in site.
It was a short walk on the trail to Echo point where we could view Three Sisters below.
After viewing Three Sisters it was off to do 2 geocaches near here and hop back on the bus here to our next stop.
We did a geocache here and while the falls were dry but the view was fantastic.
At the top of the stairs we were rewarded with a Kookaburra bird.
From here we boarded the bus back to Katoomba and had something to eat at Subway. We then did one more geocache before heading back to the train station for the trip back to Sydney.
I have to say while we not on the ship at this point this is exactly how I try and combine a day of sightseeing and Geocaching.
It was over the next few days we did a walk of Sydney Harbour that was conducted by a fellow passenger who we met before the cruise who lived in Sydney. The last day we visited the Sydney Fish Market and walked around the inner harbour before finishing up at the Opera House Bar for happy hour.
The Sydney Fish market followed by the Opera House.
I kid you not that at this Sashimi Bar I saw people paying upwards of $200 AUD for a meal here. One could get a Lobster Dinner across the way from here for $180 AUD.
The day has come where we board the Explorer of the Seas bound for Seattle with stops in-between.
Boarding the ship was quick and easy.
This is where I was looking forward to meeting my old friends again who I have sailed with on a few occasions before. It was also where we can finally have a couple of days off before reaching our first 3 ports.
The Explorer of the Seas is a Voyager class ship for Royal Caribbean and underwent a midlife refit last May in Europe. I have been on this class of ship before a few times so I wanted to see the changes.
As you can see from the itinerary I posted above most people cringe at it when they see 7 sea days in a row. I get asked is there enough to do on the ship, and the simple answer is yes. I have never been board with this many sea days.
The Explorer OTS has a mall running down the middle of the ship that has an Coffee Shop, Starbucks (also), Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, English Pub and many many shops to name a few. There is the Flow Rider up on the stern along with mini golf, rock climbing wall, basketball court for a few more things to do.
This cruise had well over 1600 passengers from Australia which made for a great mix.
The food range was okay but not great. I can say that we had Lamb many nights on the ship with one night being served was “Skippy” or better known as Kangaroo. Yes I did order it and ate it and I must say it doesn’t taste like chicken.
Now our arrival in Noumea was the second time I have been here. This time there were a few new caches and some that were recently archived that were part of a trail.
I have to say before I head on a trip like this I start looking at the places about 2 months out to see what is going on and possible locations.
The trail I mentioned had about 10 caches along it but all the logs indicated that the locations were nothing more than garbage dumps. The cache Owner took exception to this and removed the caches and disabled them. About 1 month before I left I posted a note asking what was going on. The Local reviewer saw it and the caches were archived.
It should also be noted that if you visit a another country make sure you read the cache page BEFORE you leave. It may be in a language that you do not understand. While many European Countries have pages that in at least 3 languages places like Noumea may only be in French. If this is the case I translate the page in Google and then post at least the hint in the notes of GSAK.
The plan was take a small tourist train for a 2.5 hour and then walk around the city itself grabbing a few caches along the way.
We did manage to do as planned and ended up picking up a few caches while seeing some very interesting things.
The next day would bring us to a very interesting place called Mystery Island. This literally an island with a runway down the middle of it and a small terminal building. No one lives on the island. The bigger island a short distance away is where people in this area live and they use this airport to fly away.
This is essentially a beach stop where the locals arrive by small boats and set up tables and sell their wares.
We manged to replace one cache that had been missing after contacting the cache owner and find 1 other and do an Earthcahe.
In the afternoon we manged to spend some time swimming and later found out we were very lucky not to have stung by the jelly fish. Riding the tender back showed us more than 80% of those that did go swimming did get stung.
The next day would bring us to Port Villa, Vanuatu where I was hosting an Event near the entrance to the port prior to departure.
There was 2 caches in town but both could be questionable as 1 had been missing for 6 months and the reviewer has been on the CO’s case about getting back up and on the last reviewer note he had one month to deal with it. The day before the archive day he puts it back in play and says all is good now.
Well I went looking for it and it was still within the construction zone and the sign that had been talked about is also missing.
The other cache was just too far away and uphill.
This brings us to arriving back at the port and my Event. There were a few cachers on the ship and they attended. As the Event started the heavens opened up and wow what a mess.
What I have learned along the way cruising and geocaching is if things look like it could be a no find port and no new country is host an event. As Cache Owner of the Event you are allowed to log your own event. Now you get credit.
The problem recently is there is only 2 reviewers that cover the world for these out of the way places. They know exactly what you are doing and they try and now discourage it. I tried to host and event on Mystery Island and it was highly suggested that I don’t, so I didn’t. I may need an event at a later day and the help of this reviewer.
After spending yesterday at sea and some much needed rest we have arrived in Suva Fiji for 2 days.
Docking across the street from the Bus depot which is nothing short of a madhouse with the constant sounding of horns.
I knew before arriving here that caching was not likely going to happen as there were no caches in Suva and the only caches were hours away by car. There was also the problem of Typhoon Winston that went across the island 5 weeks back which still had many roads closed.
So we would spend the day shopping and looking around. All I can is the people were very friendly and interesting they are always welcoming you by saying Bula to you.
This is where I should have held an event but the problem was we didn’t know if we would pass this port by because of the damage done by the storm at the time I had to submit the event.
After sailing from Suva we now have 7 sea days to Hawaii. It is really 6 calendar days because we have May 2nd for 48 hours. That old dateline sure plays havoc with camera’s and the likes.
It is a major rest period with many things to happen over the coming days. We have the crossing on the dateline party then some guy named King Neptune makes an appearance so Pollywogs can be presented before him and his court and then once dealt with become Shellbacks.
I became a Shellback a few cruise back, so no kissing the Cod or what ever fish they have on tap.
On my first King Neptune crossing they had passengers line up and baptized with water from the Ocean. Now they select one passenger and they do it for all.
The following is some of the Food we had over the sea days that continued.
So after the many days at sea we have managed to make it to Honolulu Hawaii.
A few days ago they sent us a letter saying that the cruise line didn’t have a copy of our E Visa’s that are required to enter the USA as we are NON US Citizens.
It is always not good when the cruise line doesn’t know the rules. A call down to the Front Desk set this straight.
Now everyone including Crew have to go through US Immigration and this process is expected to last about 5 -6 hours. Normally no one can go ashore until the whole ship is cleared. This sure is going to blow my visit up to Honolulu real quick if this is the case.
The good news that comes is they are doing it by Lifeboat Station and I am A4 so I am just after 7:00 AM.
I learned many years ago while traveling home through Chicago and a short connection that Canadians can use the US Citizens only line because of the Free Trade Agreement a Customs Agent told me.
I thought why not try it today as the line-up for non US wrapped up around Deck 6 because of the 1600 Australians on-board.
I lined up in the US line-up and the friend traveling with me wanted to have nothing to do with this because the Purser checking documents said we have to go upstairs. I explained things and then said that you said we had to have a E Visa too.
I arrive at the front of the line after about 15 minutes and my friend is staying several people back expecting me to get fired out of there and present my Passport and Customs says Welcome and stamps my Passport and says have a good day.
A sticker is placed on my passport and we are off.
A quick check outside finds people getting off the ship. Hmm the ship has been cleared I wonder? I check with the Deputy Cruise Director and mention passengers are going a shore did I miss the announcement on the ship being cleared? He says no the ship has not been cleared that he knows of and says he will call the Cruise Director. Sure enough the ship has been cleared but no one told him.
I think you are seeing communication is not good on RCI.
So the plan is grab a Cab to the Car rental in Waikiki and drive over to Diamond Head and hike to the top.
We managed to be in the car by about 830 and at Diamond Head by about 930. Since is was Sunday this proved to be a bit of a challenge getting into the Park and getting a parking spot.
It was then take our water and start our way to the top. I have to admit the heat and humidity was already a challenge and after many stops we made it to the half way point. It was at this point my friend said no way can’t do it. I said yes you can and it will be worth it.
There is a section I can remember from years ago that require climbing about 125 stairs but I found out since then there is another way to go to avoid those stairs, that was the way we selected to go.
As we headed around the island Geocaching along the way there was a must stop at the Dole Pineapple Plantation Farm to get a Geocache I didn’t have loaded when I was here before.
One of the final caches of the day was this Virtual cache below. The interesting part in this is the plaque has been missing for years for the information and you have to search the internet looking for the info.
From here we headed back to Waikiki and looked around and returned the car. From here was were to go for dinner at the Shore Bird but there was one thing we had forgot about, it is Mothers Day. This appears to not going happen now so back to the ship and try and make it to the Dining Room.
Well it turns out to be our lucky day we made it and No Room Service for us.
After dinner we headed to bed as we had to be up early for our next Port in Maui which was a Tender port. There was no watch the sail-away at 11:59 PM for us.
With our arrival in Lahaina Maui we had to be up early to get tender Tickets to get ashore.
During the sail in I noticed the seas were rather rough, this isn’t good when you are going to tender.
We managed to be on the second tender and then had to wait for the shuttle bus for the rental car location. On the way in we had a couple of people sick and a few very wet people near the door.
We were here for 2 days so we would have the car until 4:00 PM tomorrow.
Only the driver was able to go get the car and thus I did and returned to pick up my other half and two friends.
The driver said yesterday a tender on a Princess ship hit the rocks at the entrance to the harbour and was holed.
The plan was to head to the top of Haleakala and enjoy the view. There was one problem with that the weather started to change as we got to that end of the island. On the way we got socked in and it was raining. Arriving at the top the Ranger told us it has been like this for days. We wanted to come back for sunrise in the morning but he said the weather is expected to be the same.
We headed down the mountain stopping for a few Geocaches along the way. We were in Kahului getting some caches when the rains started again. We also needed to stop for lunch when we noticed a Costco. Heck let’s stop get gas and see what they have in the way of Hawaiian shirts etc. and grab a hot dog on the way out.
Turns out the shirts were about $20 each and made in Hawaii which was way cheaper than we had seen anywhere so far. So after gas, shirts and hotdogs we were off. It turns out we were off all right, right into the Wal-Mart down the road looking for souvenirs.
After stopping here and picking up a few things we were off again. Next stop was a few locations for views and then into Lahaina where we parked the car and walked around and picked up a few more Geocaches along the way.
We were off the ship just after 8:00 and the plan was head north through Kaanapali and then continued through Kapalua making a few stops. I must say once you pass the later you are pretty much down to single lane road with sheer cliffs and no railings. There was a stop at
then onto Kahakuloa where we turned around and headed back.
There was cache in particular that we did called Olu’olu This is why I love Geocaching. Walking into the Rain Forest among the Mango trees with ripe mango’s falling all around you and trying not to step on them.
There was also a nearby Letterbox I tried to get but it proved too elusive for me.
The following photos are taken during the road trip around the island as I described above.
I have to say that after returning the car and then back to the ship it was sad to say good-bye to Hawaii as our next stop would mean we are home, mind you that is 5 sea days away.
Still lots of parties to attend and friends to visit with.
There is still a Dinner in Giovanni’s Table Italian trattoria with friends. We ate here the first night and it was okay but there was only 2 of us. This type of restaurant often lends itself to a better experience Family Style.
Now there was no end of Australian Beer Specials because once this ship reaches Seattle that all changes back to North American brands.
The following is some photos of the Private Galley Tour I managed for myself and table mates.
In all, what makes cruising and caching so nice and what I think is a good fit is you only pack and unpack once and get to visit some very unique places in the world. I get to come home to the ship to a great meal at the end of the day and not have to figure that end of things out.
I have been asked why I don’t put o n a cruise for Geocaching and to be honest I don’t really have an answer. I started cruising in 1983 long before Geocaching started. I have watched it from it’s modern day beginnings to what it is now.
I have helped put Group Cruises together before for upwards of 550 people. I have done this a few times, so I have the experience.
I have been to Alaska what some say is too many times, but I have to say I love Alaska.
I have a group of friends that I met cruising who are Geocachers and we do still cache and cruise together.
I have started people off caching while on a cruise who still cache today.
I am known for booking last minute deals such as Saturday afternoon leaving Monday or Thursday leaving Saturday from San Juan on a 14 day Transatlantic cruise to Málaga Spain. Have to this is likely the best deal I have ever done at $1450 including First Class Air to San Juan, the cruise and then First Class from London to Vancouver oh and the best part was the flight between Málaga and London for 2.00 €.
I found the above 24 Day cruise from Sydney to Seattle for a real low price about $1100 pp.
It would appear my next cruise is from Singapore to Barcelona for 23 days. This will be almost all new places for me except Barcelona and there are 14 of us booked right now 7 of our group of 14 are Geocachers.
So now you have an idea of where my Geocaching name came from…..