Holland America Noordam

To Our Fellow Passengers on Holland America’s Noordam (from Sydney, Australia to Honolulu April 2018):

As most of you know, we have been travelling around the world for the last 10 months.  This cruise was one of the only things we had booked months before we left home.  We thought it would be a nice way to start winding the travels down, see the south pacific, be a little bit extravagant, and make the trek over to Hawaii.  After booking, we didn’t give it much more thought, as we had so many other things to think about and plan.

I just wanted to say thank you for making this trip with you way more enjoyable than we had even imagined it would be when we booked it a year and a half ago.

I know a lot of you are retired, and enjoy travel with others in the same age bracket. (I’m not sure how many of you cringed when you saw the boys at the beginning of the trip, thinking “there goes the peace and quiet 😉 )  One of my favourite comments was from a friend who said “When we started, I was hoping there wouldn’t be any kids on the boat.  But if they’re all like your boys, bring on a thousand of them.”  And the other one: “Excuse me….I just wanted to tell you that your youngest son is a great kid.  He kept us entertained and talked to us at the bay and we really enjoyed it.  I’m not saying your older son isn’t great, we just didn’t get to talk to him yet.” (That was from a day that Nathan, Isaac and I went snorkeling in New Caledonia and Jo stayed on shore talking to everyone and anyone who ventured near the water).

Thanks for welcoming us into the group, and making us feel like we belonged.  Thanks for sitting, chatting, laughing and listening. (We sometimes talk a lot, as it has been awhile since we have hung out with other people for a long length of time). Thanks for treating our boys like you would your own children and grandchildren.  And most of all, thanks for taking the time to stop us in the hall, at dinner or by the water to tell us how good the boys are, and how well behaved they were.  (We made sure all the fighting and wrestling happened in our cabin behind closed doors 😉 ).    We saw some beautiful places along the way, but I think what we enjoyed the most about this cruise was the people we got to travel with, and sit and visit with along the way.

We wish you all a safe trip home, as well as continued travels for those still exploring. We miss you and are grateful to have travelled with such a classy, friendly group of people.

Sincerely,

Nathan, Riann, Isaac and Josiah

OZ

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie….If you are a sports fan, or an Australian, you know what comes next…. Oy Oy Oy 🙂  We heard the cheer a few times, and automatically joined in as we travelled through the East coast of Australia.  We LOVED Australia.  Most of the Australians we met were super chill, laid back, and soooooo nice.  It was hard to leave. But, we had almost a whole month there, so I will fill you in on what we did.

We flew into Brisbane from Singapore, and I hate to say it, but remembering our welcome into Australia makes me cringe.  The customs officials and airport workers were great, but we had an issue with the taxi drivers at the airport.  It was 130am, so taxis were slim pickings.  The first guy didn’t want to take us because he said we wouldn’t fit with all our stuff in his car.  He left us standing on the sidewalk while he took another fare.  So a mini van taxi got called, and that driver complained and told us we should be in the car, and kept complaining the whole drive (10 minutes) about the other guy not taking us, and how he had to take us for such a short drive.  He charged us $36 for a 5km ride.  I think we were a little tired, still in Middle East/Asia mode, or used to “tourist taxes,” so instead of getting his name and number and making a complaint to the company, we paid him, and shuffled into our hotel room.   Luckily, we found out the next morning that it was indeed an anomoly, and the two shuttle drivers we had that took us to the car rental place were more than nice and made up for our bad experience the night before.  Chalk it up to a bad night for the drivers, or who knows what, but I did look at Nathan and say “I thought Australians were supposed to be nice…”  Anyways, every Australian that has heard that story has apologized to us and are very sorry that was our initial experience.  I only share it here because it’s what I remember of our first thoughts and experience in OZ.  I am happy to let you know, that it was our only negative experience….the rest has all been AMAZING!!!

We picked up a rental car in Brisbane, and the good news is that they only charge $15 total for an additional driver, instead of $15 a day like in Europe and the UAE.  So I was able to share the driving load with Nathan.  Someone asked me how it was driving on the left hand side of the road, and from the right hand side of the car.  Honestly, it didn’t take long to get used to it.  You just mentally remind yourself as you start the car which side you are driving on, and go from there.  For the most part, you just follow the cars in front of you, and remember to turn into the left side of the road.  It did take a day or two to remember that the turn signal is on the right side of the steering wheel.  I can’t tell you how many times the windshield wipers went off when I was trying to put on the turn signal 😉  Anyways…..I digress.  We drove from Brisbane up to a town called Bundaberg.  Initially we were going to try and see some turtles hatching, but it was a rainy day, so we decided to just hang out in the hotel and….watch the OLYMPICS!!! In English!!! Asia didn’t really cover the Olympics like we do in Canada.  Australia felt very similar to home with the Olympics on at least two channels all the time.  Woot woot!

From Bundaberg we headed up to a quiet little town called 1770.  We spent a week up there in an amazing condo with a pool right outside our patio, and the beach a 5 minute walk away.  We had rain come in spurts on and off, but for the majority of the time it was sunny and hot.  The ocean was 26 degrees, and we were in it every day.  Nathan and Isaac took surfing lessons, and Jo and I tried it out afterwards when we rented a board for the day.  Jo got in a lot of fishing, and Isaac got in a lot of swimming.  It was a nice, quiet, relaxing week.  We had kangaroos for neighbours in the field across the road.  And had a “barbie” with some of the other vacationers staying a few doors down.  Good times.

Then it was back to Bundaberg for a couple of nights, where we did get to see the turtles hatching one night.  It truly was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.  We lucked out by seeing one of the biggest nests hatch as well.  It was a long wait, but soooo worth it.  We sat in the centre for about 3 hours before a ranger called in that he had seen a turtle starting to crawl out…so off we went to the beach.  So cool, and the boys really learned a lot that night as we watched how the turtles took off, but then also stayed after while the ranger counted the shells, turtles that didn’t make it out, and eggs that didn’t form.  Very interesting! We spent a day in Bundaberg area touring around, made a stop at the Australia Zoo on the way, and then down to Brisbane to visit with some friends we made on one of the cruises.  The boys were over the moon to hang out with their buddies, and we had a really great visit with their parents.  It was nice to be in a home again, and have friends to chat with, and show us around their city.

After Brisbane, we headed down the coast to another beach town called Surfer’s Paradise…I don’t know if you’ve heard of it?  haha.  We spent a couple days there; again, just enjoying the laid back, relaxed culture of Australia 🙂  Continuing down the coast, we spent a week in Port MacQuarrie.  We spent a lot of time at the different beaches in the area.  Again, it was really hot, and the beaches were amazing!  We also went to a koala rescue hospital, and learned about the koala bears and how they are being taken care of there.  Jo really liked learning about them, and I’m sure if you ask him, he’ll tell you all kinds of stories from the bears there.

From there, it was down to Sydney, where we stayed for almost a week in the northwest area, about an hour from the blue mountains.  We did two day treks up to the mountains, and a day trip to downtown Sydney to meet up with some other friends from one of the cruises.  Again, it was awesome!  We enjoyed the mountains, and the bush walks through the rainforests, waterfalls, and mountains.

So, to sum it up, Australia was amazing.  It really felt a lot like home.  That being said, I think we all experienced a bit of reverse culture shock the first couple days.  We walked into one of the malls and all kind of stood there…everyone spoke English.  Everything was in English.  It was quiet, and not super crowded.  We honestly didn’t know what to do at first.  It took a little bit to remember what that all felt like.  But now it’s the new normal again.  We are back to both having cell phones.  Both being able to drive.  Being able to ask someone a question and know that they will likely understand and speak English as well 🙂  Australians are truly nice people.  They are so relaxed, laid back, and friendly and if it wasn’t so far away, I would come back and visit every weekend 😉 hah.  It is a beautiful country (and we didn’t even see a quarter of it!!!)  Based on what we did though, I can’t wait to come back and explore some more.  It was an awesome month, and we wish we had more time.  But, we had a boat to catch over to New Zealand.  So we returned the rental car, and climbed on board to cross the Tasman Sea to Auckland.

Now that we are on the other end of the year,  I can’t believe how fast it has all gone…less than 2 months and we will be home.  With the help of friends and family, the boys are registered for hockey, and we are in the process of registering for camp.  I told the boys since we will be home at the beginning of June, I could register them for the last month of school, but they didn’t want to for some strange reason 😉  haha.  Anyways, we still have a month of cruising through the South Pacific, and then Hawaii; then we will end with a couple weeks in Canada visiting family and friends out west.  So looking forward to seeing family and friends and hanging out with everyone again!  Can’t wait 🙂  But we still have a little more exploring to do in the meantime!

Thanks for checking in, and Happy Easter to you all!