Day 22

Today we docked in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Its main industries are tourism, entertainment, food, and tuna canning. The island consists of a string of villages, each with its own village council. From 1878 to 1951, the area was the site of a coaling and repair station for the U.S. Navy. In January, 1942, Pago Pago Harbor was shelled by a Japanese submarine, but this was the only action on the islands during World War II. On Sept. 29, 2009, an earthquake struck near Samoa, sending a tsunami into Pago Pago and surrounding areas, leaving moderate to severe devastation and an unknown number of deaths. The island is still recovering.

Our excursion today was called “The Village Way of Life” and began with us taking about 6 wooden, open-air buses from the pier. Our first photo stop was Flowerpot Rock, rising straight out of the ocean and looking like it was guarding the harbor.

Our guide, Mary, only 19 years old, did a wonderful job explaining Samoan family life and culture. Families are quite large, (Mary is the oldest girl with eleven other siblings) and close knit. Many relatives live in a village together, with a chief, a talking chief (who actually does most of the talking) and a tribal princess (happens to be Mary here), all with specific duties to perform and certain expected behaviors. For example, when youth become 18, they are expected to go to college, but Mary had to stay home to perform tribal duties as princess. She hopes to go to school in the future. Each family village has a “guest house” where they have family gatherings, meetings, and celebrations. There are many guest houses clustered together in the larger villages, one for each family.

We were able to observe the Samoan way of life in a small, recreated village. The thatched, wooden structures known as “fales” are open and without walls, symbolic of their unrestricted culture. Each fale has a specific purpose, such as cooking or sleeping. We observed the men cooking a meal on an “umu” of hot river rocks covered with banana fronds and got to sample the resulting dishes of banana, coconut, chicken, tuna, and spinach. Some men opened cocoa beans, roasted them, ground them and made a cocoa. It was good, not bitter and no sugar was added.

A local woman demonstrated weaving mats out of coconut leaves. She also wove window shades, placemats, baskets, visors, and other items. The window shades need to be replaced every 2 months because they dry out and no longer keep out the rain.

The village girls danced a few dances for us, similar to a hula and then the boys called for two men to volunteer to perform. There was a long silence and then Mac came forward again along with Heim. They were presented with cloths around their waists and danced with the guys. They were pretty hilarious. Mac is beginning to get recognized by other passengers for his participation.

We returned to the pier after stopping at a memorial to the tsunami victims and walked around town. We passed one of two McDonalds on the island and decided to grab a quick burger for fun. Prices were only a bit more than at home. We stopped in at the Jean Haydon museum and saw unique Samoan canoes, kava carvings, and some small Apollo moon rocks presented to Samoa by President Richard Nixon. Most Apollo astronauts travelled through Samoa after splashdown. We looked around a few shops in town and found a few souvenirs.

Finished fourth in trivia again today, with 11 of 15 correct answers, but no Regent points. We ventured up to deck 11 to watch our departure out of the harbor and get one last glimpse of Samoa. Not that we were hungry but soon it was time to eat another fabulous meal in the Compass Rose Restaurant.

Tonight’s entertainment was a doubleheader with staff male singer Jackson Mattek doing familiar show tunes followed by the comedian/magician, Bruce Gold. Bruce used audience participants to assist in his magic. He made us both laugh and wonder how he did that trick. Several times he had the participant develop or select something randomly, and he matched that fact when he opened an envelope. How could that be?

Tomorrow is special. We sail across the International Date Line. We actually go back another hour on our clocks tonight so that we will now be 7 hours earlier than east coast time. However, we advance a day, going from Monday today to Wednesday tomorrow. We lose Tuesday the 30th entirely. Since we are 7 hours earlier, but advanced a day (24 hours), we are actually 17 hours ahead of east coast time. For example, when we wake up at 8 AM tomorrow (Wednesday the 31st), it will be 3 PM Tuesday eastern time. As we progress west on our route, we will continue to push our clocks back with each time zone until we are again the same time as eastern when we hit the Caribbean in May. I know this is like a mini-math lesson, but I hope I explained it well. We have never passed the dateline by ship; only once by plane and the time-zones just zoomed by.

Yours in travel (to the future?),

Mac & Pat

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