Lazy Days Sailing West to Polynesia

Day 48, Grand World Voyage 2020

Friday, Feb. 21, 2020; At Sea, South Pacific Ocean

I woke up knowing this would be a red-letter day, and sure enough – there it was in our mail slot after breakfast! The notice that I had reached a new milestone in Holland America’s customer loyalty program.

I opened the notice and glanced at what I thought would be my new 5-star Mariner’s pin. But wait… the pin had three stars. I marched up to customer service and said “is the Mariner program working in reverse? Because I was a 4-star, and now I’m a 3-star?”

It’s all very silly, isn’t it? Of course, it was a simple mistake. I left with the appropriate 5-star lapel pin (which I doubt I will ever wear) and a new room key card with five stars. Which I think gets me two dinners in the specialty Pinnacle Restaurant and a day pass to the thermal spa.

The prized benefit of Holland America’s loyalty program comes with four stars – free laundry. To reach that milestone you need 200 Mariner points (a point for every cruise day and a point for every $300 onboard spending). It then takes another 300 points to get to 5-stars, so the reward seems anticlimactic. The only place to go now is President’s Club – 1,400 cruise days (no bonus spending points) and invitation only. If I went on the world cruise every year, I wouldn’t reach that milestone until 2027.

With so many sea days sailing west from Chile to French Polynesia, we find these little things like a new Mariner level help fill the time. I’ve written many times about how I love sea days. We have a full program of daily events, and I miss most of them as I write, watercolor and read. I have caught up on my sketchbook, so I’ll post a few recent sketches.

I really liked our third book club selection: Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan. It is a richly written novel about the relationship between Robert Louis Stephenson and his wife Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne. They eventually sail through the South Pacific before settling in Samoa. The book set the mood for our transition to warm and balmy climates.

After stopping at Easter Island earlier, our Pitcairn stop a couple of days ago was another nice break. It is a nine-day westerly passage from Chile to Tahiti. The seas have been calm with little swell and not enough wind to create consistent whitecaps. The air is warm and humid. After sending my cold weather clothes to the laundry, I packed them away with jackets and gloves in one of the suitcases stowed under the bed. I’m ready to get out my snorkel and mask.

Sailing west carries the benefit of adding an hour for each time zone change rather than losing one. But I think the constant changes are taking a toll on most of us. We moved the clock back twice before arriving at Easter Island, but since then it’s been an extra hour every night but one. I keep trying to stay awake an hour later so I won’t be wide-awake at 4 a.m., but the result is that I’m nodding off early most evenings.

We saw an amazing piano performance by Naki Ataman the other evening. Apparently he never speaks when performing on cruise ships. When introduced he came out, sat at the grand piano and played continuously for 45 minutes, moving from one musical number to another. The ship orchestra’s drummer and bass player provided backgrounds so some of his songs. At the end, he bowed to the standing ovation and left the stage. This was his second performance and it left everyone talking about it.

Otherwise we continue to frequent the piano bar, where Diane Slagle plays and sings for hours without a break. She is rarely stumped by a request and usually promises to prepare it for later in the cruise. Sadly her contract ends when we get to Sydney and I’m sure we will miss her.