Feb 1 -- All quiet in the South Pacific
As mentioned yesterday, there is no commercial activity on Tongatapu [the official name of this island] nor, apparently, on any of the islands in the Kingdom of Tonga. By law, Sunday is a day of rest, a manifestation of the islands’ devotion to Christianity. Granted, there were a few taxi drivers trolling for clients and at least one internet café, but the island is pretty much buttoned up for the day.
The port ‘city’ is named Nuku Alofi, but all of the tourist t-shirts we saw last night say simply ‘Tonga.’ It is the last kingdom in the Pacific and we are docked almost opposite the royal palace which reminded D of the clubhouse at the Pimlico Racetrack. All it needed was someone painting the winning colors on top of the steeple.
Approximately 70,000 people live on Tongapatu and most of them were in church this morning. A number of passengers attended services in local churches not so much for the religious messages but to hear the local singing for which the churches are known. We chose not to rush ashore this morning and, while we walked past one of the churches, we did not go in. We noticed people standing outside the front doors, perhaps so they could hear the music without any other obligation.
The town, of course, was deserted save for cruise ship passengers from both the Amsterdam and the Marina. The Sunday Laws, as they are known, prevent the Marina from leaving before tomorrow, but we don’t know if they will be here all day. We will depart around 5 pm, as scheduled, much to the joy of the local merchants.
Even though the ship’s guests have almost no place to go today, we were still on a sea-day schedule. That meant that both trivia sessions were in the afternoon just an hour apart [3:30 – 4 and 5 -5:30]. We used the time after lunch to read and write.
The piano player, Elliot Finkel, from the other night gave a solo performance at 7:15, our usual time in the Ocean Bar. For this mini-concert, he stuck to classics without all of the loud and unnecessary embellishments and we found it more to our liking. As an aside, Elliot is the brother of xylophonist Ian Finkel, whom we have heard on shipboard before, and the son of actor Fyvush Finkel whose face and voice, if not his name, will be familiar to most tv watchers.
We had company for dinner tonight. Roger and Barbara, whom we met through Arthur and Linda, joined us at our table much as we ate with the Starrs last night. We have a table for 4 even though there are but the two of us, so we will start inviting people to join us to break the monotony. Roger and Barbara are slightly older than we are and remind us of another couple we sailed with in 2009 [Kaye and Norm from Canada]. Dinner was quite enjoyable and we stayed at the table later than usual.
TOMORROW – Nuku Alofi comes to life
Feb 2 -- A Super Day
Today was Super Bowl Monday on board the ship [and everywhere else in the Pacific. Because of the time difference and dateline, we watched the game in real time – minus the commercials – starting at 12:30 in the afternoon. We decided that we wanted to see a good game regardless of the winner and we were not disappointed. There were more highs and lows than a roller coaster.
Before the game, we had an early trivia match and then bought postcards and stamps on board to send home. We may return to the US before the postcards arrive, but that is part of the adventure. Next, we went ashore to enrich the Tongan economy. We stopped once again at the crafts tent next to the dock and found things for the grands and MA. Some of what we bought came from the same vendor we enriched on Saturday night and she recommended 2 others for us, one right across the aisle and one who was a cousin. We were satisfied with the products and the prices, so it was a successful trip.
We walked a few blocks to the market to see what there was, but found nothing of interest in the crafts area and skipped the grocery section [usually one of our favorite areas] because of the humidity. The low ceilings added to the stifling atmosphere, so we headed back to the ship. There were a few rain drops as we walked to the dock, but the rain never developed.
By the time we returned and dropped our bag and purchases in the cabin, it was time to go to the show room for The Game. The Queen’s Lounge was decorated for the game; there were free hats, noise makers and cheap sunglasses available; and lots of food. Of course, drinks were for sale as usual, but the food seemed never-ending: hotdogs and hamburgers, pizza, quesedillas, chicken tenders, barbecue, popcorn and more. No one left the game hungry.
Soon after the game ended, we went to Pub Trivia and thence to get ready for dinner. There was no show tonight because of the cleanup in the Lounge. It was not a loss as far as we were concerned.
TOMORROW -- Another sea day