Overseas Travel – Remembering Trip 3

Apia - MS Volendam Docked

At the end fo May, I completed my fourth overseas trip. For the first time in 18 months, I am not currently planned to travel again for the time being. So to keep the travel spirit burning I decided to think back over the last four trips I have taken.

On the 17th of August 2011, I left Australia for the third overseas trip. I had planned 48 nights travelling through the USA, Canada and 26-nights on a Transpacific cruise. Being my shortest trip to date it should have been easy to plan, but turned out to be the most difficult for me. It was almost as if I had never planned a trip before and it came as a huge wake-up call to me.

Travel is supposed to be a fun and exciting experience. However, just a week before leaving Australia, I had only booked two nights in Las Vegas and the cruise. I had a hole of 20 nights to book. Thankfully I end, up getting everything booked and the trip as you find below turned out to be a fantastic success. I also managed to learn some good lessons on planning which I applied to by fourth overseas trip.

The Travel Stats

Trip number three was my second trip for the year. It started out very different to what it ended up being. However, it was no less enjoyable and very glad that I changed things around. Let’s take a look at the travel statistics for this journey.

  • One continent (North America) and Pacific Islands
  • Visiting 7 Countries (United States, Canada, American Samoa, Western Samoa, Fiji, New Caledonia, and Australia)
  • Flying a total of 14,425 KM (8,965 Miles) in 1 International flight and 4 Domestic flights
  • Cruising a total of 15,984 KM (8,640 Miles) over 26 nights visiting ten different ports in 7 countries
  • Spending 16 nights in hotels rooms (Las Vegas (2), Seattle (1), Portland (4), Victoria BC (4), Vancouver (3), Sydney (2))
  • Spending 6 nights with a friend in Seattle

Back To Las Vegas

Not being a big gambler, I had thought after visiting Las Vegas for ten days on my first oversea trip. I would not need to return, but I was wrong. There was a whole lot more to Las Vegas I found than just gambling. It turned out to be a place that I wanted to explore more.

Although I did arrive in Las Vegas without any plans this time. There was no problem with this though as I took advantage of Couch Surfing to meet a few people. The time here turned out to be a couple of very social days with a lot of exploring the Casinos. A great way to start the trip, and check off one or two things I missed last time.

Las Vegas - Treasure Island Pirate Ship

Las Vegas - New York New York

Portland, Oregon

When I travel, I love to see and experience new places. That chance to see and explore a different city is always good. But in the end, Portland is the only city that I had not visited before on the land-based portion of this trip.

On the surface, Port does not seem to have a lot to offer, in a tourist friendly manner. Of course there are sights and attrations. But they are spread out without great ease of access. I found searching for tours to be challenge. While getting to some places without a car also appeared to be difficult. However, all of that aside I found enough to keep me busy and some great spots.

Columbia River Gorge - Multnomah Falls Lower

Once I dug a little deeper into Portland there was more than I thought. I discovered a great deal for a tour to some waterfalls and the hop-on-hop-off city tour. Allowing me to maximise my time in the city, and get to see both the Chinese and Japanese Gardens. I also managed to visit a few local brew-pubs and local coffee house to experience the local flavours.

Portland - Japanese Garden

My biggest suggestion on Portland is to ver a rental car. Unless you only have a couple of days and want to stick to the city. There are a number places that looked interesting, but they were just a little to far out of reach for public transport.

Victoria BC, Canada

On my first overseas trip, I took a day tour to visit Victoria while staying in Vancouver. Knowing I wanted to explore the city more made it a little easier to choose it as a destination this time.

Victoria - City from Harbour

Some of the things that I saw on the tour last time helped to give me a few ideas what I wanted to do. I took an extensive walk around the Downtown area and also enjoyed a ferry ride around the harbour.

Victoria - Royal British Columbia Museum

The best way to get around and see a little more of the city beyond Downtown is the hop-on-hop-off bus. It may cost a little more, but it helps take out the challenge of learning the public transport. While also being taken to the most touristy places. It helped me find a couple of other places that I never would have thought of visiting.

Victoria - Sunset

Seattle Washington

Seattle is a place that I love, and so far have visited on each trip overseas. There are two reasons for this, it is a beautiful area and I have a friend that lives here.

Seattle - Mighty Thai Plate at Thrive Restaurant

I spent six days in Seattle on this trip. Much of this time was not exploring but catching up with my friend. It was nice to spend time in an area sort of being a local a little, without pressure to run around seeing everything.

Seattle - Snoqualmie Falls

I did take a chance to experience one new thing, though, driving on the other side of the road. I rented a car for a couple of days and revisited a favourite spot, Mount Rainier. The last time I visited here was as part of a tour group, and the stops were limited. I took a whole day to explore the area and did a little hiking. Finishing the day with a hike to Glacier View at approximetly 6300 feet, with some amazing views.

Mt Rainier - View to the south of Mt Adams

Vancouver BC, Canada

The final stop on the land-based portion of this trip is a return to Vancouver. The Transpacific cruise I am taking departs from here, so I thought it would be nice to spend a few days. Even though I spent 10 days here on my first trip there were places that I missed, and still wanted to see.

Vancouver - Tree Stump Carving Fisherman with Catch

There were only two days on the ground in Vancouver in the end, but I made the most of this time. I took the ferry tour around False Creek and visited the Chinese Gardens. I else met up with another passenger embarking on the same cruise and explored Granville Island a little.

Vancouver - Canada Place at Night

Transpacific Cruise – Vancouver, Canada to Sydney, Australia

After enjoying my Panama Canal Cruise earlier this year, I was looking forward to crossing the Pacific by cruise ship. The cruise is with Holland America Line onboard the MS Volendam. The ship is a little bigger than the MS Statendam, but it is still a nice size without so many people.

Holland America Line MS Volendam

Long Beach, California

The first leg of the cruise was two days at sea, before arriving in Long Beach. The short cruise is also offered as a coastal cruise and there were a lot of people who disembarked here. I do not think I could handle just being on for two days, it is just too short.

Long Beach as a destination did not interest me much. However, I still decided to take the shuttle bus into the downtown area. Primarily this is a shopping area, but it was still interesting to have a look around.

Hilo, Hawaii

Crossing the Pacific Ocean on a cruise ship does see quite a few days at sea. The first Stretch is from Long Beach to Hawaii with four days at sea. The first of three ports in Hawaii is Hilo, and they sort of decided to turn on the weather for us.

My decision had been to take a shore excursion with the cruise line here. The tour visited three waterfalls that are nearby. The first waterfall was quite spectacular, but the other two were rather disappointing. One you could barely make out except for a small piece where the water came out from behind the trees. The second is seems has been somewhat destroyed by redirecting the water for a hydroelectric power plant.

Hawaii - Hilo - Akaka Falls

The first of the three waterfalls, Akaka Falls, was quite impressive with a drop of 135 m (442 feet) and was quite a beautiful area.

Even with two of the waterfalls being a disappointment, the visit to Hilo was still enjoyable. It is a beautiful area like I expect most of Hawaii will be. I could see myself coming back to explore the area more in the future.

Honolulu, Hawaii

A day later and into another Hawaii port, Honolulu. The weather was the total opposite of when we left Hilo, with Blue skies and the sun shining. I went with a tour option again today heading to Diamond Head Crater to hike to the top of the rim.

Hawaii - Honolulu - Diamond Head View

The area around Diamond Head is beautiful, if not in stark contrast to the rest of the island. The majority of the island is lush and green due to the high volumes of rain. However, the area around Diamon Head Crater is somewhat barren especially around the crater itself. Although I am sure there are plenty of other great view points, the views up here are not half bad.

Hawaii - Honolulu - Aloha Tower

Kona, Hawaii

Kona was the third and final stop in Hawaii, and I opted not to take a tour here. Instead, I joined with a few friends and we explored the town on our own. Kona itself hugs the shoreline and you get great ocean views from most anywhere in town.

After a walk around Kona, we found our way to a local pub. A great place to enjoy lunch and try some of the local beer. It was a great day, but it would have been nice to have a little more time. The time was cut short due to an extended wait for tenders this morning. There is always that chance with tenders that things can get held up.

Pago Pago, American Samoa

While Pago Pago is one of the smaller islands on the itinerary, I do believe it could be one of my favourites. The amount of time we had in port here could have played a part in this. With the ship arriving at 8 am and not departing until 11 pm. You get to experience the port and the local area in both day and evening times, without the pressure of having to get back to the ship.

Pago Pago - Coastline

The only better way to see a port is with an overnight stop, but they are few and far between on some cruises. I started the day with a tour to visit some of the local landmarks, and I think this was a good option. There is a lot to see and most of it is not within walking distance of the port.

Pago Pago - Flower Pot Rocks

In the afternoon, a walk along the coast with some friends from the ship to a local bar to see the sunset. It was an amazing view watching some of the mountains that sort of plunge into the sea. The weather turned out to be perfect today and could not have spent the day in a better way.

Apia, Western Samoa

Even with a late departure from Pago Pago, the arrival in Apia was quite early. The two destinations are only around 125km (77miles) apart. I choose to take a tour with the cruise line here, mostly to ensure I maximised my time. The tour also offered me a little more than I would have expereienced just walking the town.

Apia Coastline

The area that the ship docks is a considerable way from the main part of town. Making it rather difficult to explore without taking a tour. There may have been a shuttle bus, but the tour offered a lot more variety. Especially interesting on the tour was a visit to the previous home of the author Robert Louis Stevenson.

Apia Parliament Building

The home of Robert Louis Stevenson is not a museum, displaying many pieces from his life in Apia. The tour ended with a small show of traditional dance and Samoan Kava Ceremony. In the afternoon I did explore the shoreline a little walking around towards the town maybe 1km.

Suva, Fiji

Suva is a rather interesting port, due in large to the dichotomy over such a small area. Where the ship docks is almost right in downtown, next to the bus station. For a small island nation it was disheartening to almost see the pollution hanging in the air. The ageing buses and vehicles belching exhaust into the sky.

Suva Sailaway

However, after boarding one of these buses it did not take very long to be in the lush green rainforest. It would not have even been 15 minutes from downtown where the rainforest walk started. For around 2 hours we wandered through lush green. Small waterways, rock pools and waterfalls all around. It is so difficult to believe the difference from the city to the rainforest in such close proximity.

Suva Bushwalk Waterfall

Noumea, New Caledonia

With doing so many tours to this point, I opted for a more relaxing day in Noumea. Walking the town area with some friends from the ship. The greatest challenge of the day turned out to be ordering coffee.

Noumea by day

Although walking the city on your own you do not get to see as much. You get to take things at your own pace and enjoy the experience. For me though Noumea is a common port on cruise itineraries from Australia so there is always next time to see more.

Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia

Ile Des Pins is essentially a port for relaxation and enjoyment of the area. I do not even recall if tours were offered here. But it is a place to enjoy the beach and take things at your own pace. I personally did not get any photos here for two reasons. The first I opted to make this a beach day, which leads to the second, I took only the essential to shore. Being a tender port it is just not practical to go back and forth between the ship and shore. Thankfully a friend from the ship did take their camera ashore and offer to share their photos.

Sydney, Australia

The original itinerary for the cruise included the port of Eden to the south of Sydney. However, due to poor weather conditions the captain made the decision to arrive in Sydney a day early. The ship would dock in Sydney overnight before we needed to disembark. Although I was a little disappointed to miss Eden, I did get an extra day to explore Sydney.

Sydney - MS Volendam departing Sydney Harbour with the Opera House

I spent four days in Sydney including the overnight onboard the cruise ship. I was able to experience a little of the city which I have only visited twice in the past, each time for less than a day.

I spent much of the time with people I met on the cruise ship which was quite enjoyable. We took the ferry to Watson’s Bay and the Southern Head at the entrance to Sydney Harbour. A great walk around the city and the Botanic Gardens, and many other spots.

Sydney - Darling Harbour

One Good Journey Overseas

What an amazing journey this trip has been. In the planning stages, I did experience some issues in getting my bookings completed. But in the last days before leaving to travel I managed to get everything wrapped up and ready to enjoy the trip.

Seeing so many new places via the cruise across the pacific was a great experience. However, some of the biggest benefits on this trip came from lessons that I learned in the planning stages. Lessons that came directly from the self-created problems. These will most definitely help me in planning future trips, to hopefully avoid similar last minute bookings.

I hope that you have enjoyed seeing an overview of this trip. I know it has been a long post, but thank you for taking the time to read and view the photos.

Volendam Sunset at Sea

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