Day 51

Today was our last day in Australia and we were in Exmouth, a sleepy community of 2,500, located on the northwest tip of the country with an open coastline facing the Indian Ocean. The shoreline is shallow so the tenders would be used to bring us in. We should have gotten off after 8:15 but the Captain came on the intercom throughout the ship at 7:30 to announce bad news. The ocean swells were about 4 feet and the tenders would have a rocky time loading passengers onboard. The Captain tried to position the ship to block the waves, but not enough to be safe in his opinion. He announced that he was cancelling this stop and leaving for our next destination in Bali.

So today turned into an unscheduled sea day. The Cruise Director and staff worked feverishly to assemble a schedule of activities and entertainment, distributing a revised plan by 9:15.

This morning’s enrichment lecture was on Captain Cook. Terry Bishop pulled this unscheduled talk out of his computer and had no trouble entertaining us with his view on history. We learned some new facts about Cook’s early years. He was 16 before his family moved to the coast, saw the ocean, and took a 3-year apprenticeship on a collier (coal ship) in 1745. He volunteered for the Royal Navy in 1755 and, in 1758, was involved in the capture of French Fort Louisbourg in Nova Scotia during the Seven Years War. The British turned their attention to Quebec and the St. Lawrence River asking Cook to lead the navigation up that new river. The British were ultimately successful. Cook spent the next five years mapping Newfoundland with great precision. Even today his maps are used by some navigators.

When the Admiral wanted a scientific expedition to travel to Tahiti to watch Venus transit the Sun, they selected Cook. The expedition was successful gathering data, which would be used to determine the size of the Sun and other stuff. As a reward, he was sent on another exploration. He returned to Tahiti and then sailed around to New Zealand and charted that shoreline. He continued west to what would become Australia, landing in Botany Bay April 28, 1770 and claiming it for Britain. He sailed north along the coast only to hit a reef and be delayed 7 weeks while repairs were made, returning home July 12, 1771. He didn’t stay home long. He was sent on another 3-year voyage to the Polynesian Islands. Upon return in 1775, he was promoted to Captain and retired at age 47. He could not refuse another challenge to chart the northwest coast of America and searched for a northern return passage to Europe. He was stopped by ice in the Bering sea, returned south and became the first European to visit the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). He stayed 8 weeks to do his usual surveys and mapping. There was a confrontation with the natives over a missing boat. It led to a small skirmish on the beach where Cook was killed in February 1779.

The second enrichment lecture was on the Suez Canal by Hassan Eltaher. The idea of a canal goes back far into history with several attempts, as early as 1700 BC when an east-west canal was dug connecting the Nile River with a small tributary of the Red Sea. Napolean tried in 1790, but his engineers advised him that the two sea levels have different heights and a canal would flood the land. This fact was later proven false and in 1859, a Frenchman named, Ferdinand de Lessops received a 99-year exclusive right to build the canal. On August 15, 1869, the canal opened to a worldwide group of dignitaries from Europe and major celebrations. Britain was not part of the conglomerate of European countries funding this project. Benjamin Disraeli, envisioning the commercial and strategic importance of the canal, convinced Britain to buy into the project. By 1879, Egypt went bankrupt and Britain and other countries helped bail them out, at the price of a permanent British presence over the canal. This ended in 1956 when Egyptian president Nassar nationalized the canal. This action precipitated war with Britain and France. The UN stepped in and the fighting quieted down, until other recent conflicts of 1967 and 1973. The lecturer concluded with a pictures and sketches of new and planned bridges, tunnels, and trains that will be built across the canal.

We spilled out from the theater into the noontime games. Today’s game was 31 and Pat and I outlasted our group of 6 players to come in first and second and won five more Regent points. After lunch, delicious blackened swordfish, we did the walking track for a mile and then split up. I went to a deck game and didn’t place. Pat went to a craft workshop, similar to yesterday, and made a three-dimensional greeting card. Back in our room, I got some time to read an e-book on my tablet that I started yesterday. This is the first for this cruise, finally. Need to make more time slots for this. We went to Trivia and our team tied for third, overjoyed that we were not in our usual bridesmaid 4th position.

We were told it was 98 degrees today, so I made time to sit on our balcony for about 40 minutes (with sunscreen) to begin working on some color. After this, I had to jump in the shower to get cooled off. I would have jumped into the pool if I were on deck.

We got a small visa form for Indonesia that had to be completed and returned today. It was very easy. Regent pre-typed the info and we only had to check three boxes and sign.

Regent singers and dancers performed a before dinner 5:30 show, “Good -Bye to Australia,” featuring the music of Baz Luhrmann, who wrote and directed Moulin Rouge, the Great Gatsby, and Australia. The cast sang and danced to songs from these movies. We had seen this show before, but it was still very entertaining.

We went to dinner after 7:30 because we had a decent lunch and weren’t very hungry. I had pan fried scallops and Mac had beef stir fry. They were both excellent.

Tonight’s entertainer was Vov Dylan, “The World’s Fastest Violinist.” This award-winning Australian played “The William Tell Overture,” “Can Can,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “the Radezsky March,” “Gypsy,” “Zorba,” and others I can’t remember. What a super talent!

We were impressed today with how quickly Jamie and Dana, the cruise directors, came up with a pretty comprehensive sea day program when none of this was planned, because we would have all been on excursions until about 5PM. We were still disappointed about the cancellation, but we managed to have a fun day anyway.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac