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South Pacific Cruise: 18 November 2007

Part 1: Disembarkation

After my rough night, I was ready to get out of bed at 5:15. I got my morning tea at La Palette and noted that the weather was very nice – sunny, warm, and less humid than I expected. I did my best to relax for the next hour. At 6:45, I woke up Chris and we had one last breakfast at La Veranda.

We were back at the room by 7:30 and still had two hours before we had to vacate. I took my mind off our travel details by watching The Shawshank Redemption, one of the only things still playing on the ship’s television system. Since it was playing in a loop, I caught the end, the credits, and about an hour of the beginning. It was a good thing I had seen it before.

We had one last thing to take care of. During this trip, as we had in past travels, we relied on ATMs to get local currencies. The only problem was that we didn’t spend enough time in any one country to spend all the currency we got there. We ended up with about US$30 of currency from the Cook Islands and Tonga. We decided that, even though tips were supposed to be included in the cruise price, we should leave the left-over currency as a tip for our stewardess, Helen. We hoped she would be able to spend it on the return trip.

We Vacate Our Room, then the Ship

One last drink

Tired of waiting in our quiet room, we vacated it at 9:00 and went up to La Palette. We sat on the deck in the shade for a while, took some pictures, and went for a walk around the decks. As we passed the pool bar, we had the great idea to get one last drink before we had to start paying for them again.

At 11:30, we took our carry-on bags to the Grand Salon, where we could leave them in safety until we were ready to leave the ship. We had lunch at La Veranda. During a lull in our conversation, I overheard a woman at the next table say to her husband “Well, I guess it’s back to reality.” Soon after, he rose to get dessert, and I leaned toward her and said “Excuse me, but I heard you use an offensive word.” She looked shocked as I paused and then continued “The word reality,” at which point she laughed and looked very relieved.

The deck of the Paul Gauguin

Done with lunch, we went back to the Grand Salon to await our 12:30 departure. There were about seven or eight different departures scheduled. Each one was a bus that transported some subset of the passengers to one of the post-cruise hotels. Each departure group had different colored baggage tags. Ours were red. We claimed our carry-on and chatted with the Salters until our tag color was called.

Just after 12:30, our group was called. We identified our luggage on the pier and boarded a bus for the Sheraton Denerau. The cruise was over.

Sunday, 18 November 2007 – Part 2: Travel from Nadi, Fiji to San Jose

Transit Room

We arrived at the Sheraton around 1:30. We filled out our room form, but had to wait until nearly 4:00 for our room to be cleaned and ready for us. While we waited, we had a light lunch of sandwiches at the hotel’s café. After we checked in, we took a short walk on the beach, and then took advantage of the shower in our room. We spent a little time looking through the shops in the hotel’s main building, and I connected to the internet via the Sheraton’s free internet café.

We didn’t know if we would be able to sleep on the plane, so we sacked out in our room for 2 hours, then finalized our packing. Once again, I set our checked bags outside our room. We napped some more until 10:00pm. I saw that our bags were still outside, so I called the lobby. Within minutes a porter came for the bags. We left the room minutes later and found chairs in the lobby where we could see busses arriving and departing. While we waited, I identified our luggage for the airport transfer.

Nadi Airport

Around 11:00pm a bus showed up and we were called to board. As we drew near the bus door, we realized the vehicle was nearly full. The passengers in front of us were the last ones to make it on board. Another bus was not far behind it, and we were the first ones on. The second bus waited until the advertized departure time of 11:30, and then pulled away from the hotel.

At the airport, we found our large bags already loaded onto a luggage cart and ready for us. We rolled it to the end of the very long check-in line and patiently waited. The line moved pretty quickly and we had no trouble getting checked in for our flight and cleared through passport control. By 1:00am Monday we were seated near our gate and ready to get going.

A Long Flight and Delays

We boarded just before 3:00am and took off nearly on time. The flight attendants served breakfast before turning off the cabin lights. We managed to sleep for about four hours, and then spent the remainder of the flight watching movies (The Simpsons MovieDie Hard 4, and No Reservations) and reading. Eight hours into the flight, we got a snack of sandwiches.

We arrived at LAX about forty-five minutes early, at 4:45pm Sunday. We had no problem with immigration, retrieved our checked bags, cleared customs and transported our luggage to the domestic terminal to check in for our last flight. The ticket agent told us our SFO flight was delayed, but she could get us on an earlier one, which was also delayed. We even got exit row seats! We were so pooped; we didn’t even think to ask if we could get on a flight bound for San Jose instead. That thought occurred to us about five minutes after we had watched our bags – with their SFO routing tags – disappear behind the airline counter. Oh, well. Live and learn.

We had several hours to kill before our flight, so we wandered into a Chiles Too restaurant. We lingered over a filling meal, complete with a nice beer for me and a glass of wine for Chris. The service wasn’t up to the standards of the Paul Gauguin, but we managed to enjoy ourselves anyway.

Our flight was delayed several more times before our gate agent finally announced that our plane had arrived. At 9:40pm, we finally boarded our flight. Our row companion was a tug-boat crewman from Los Angeles who was bound for a class in San Francisco. He hated to fly, so he had spent the long flight delay at the airport bar. He was quite talkative, but I just wanted to close my eyes and rest. About the fifth time I shut my eyes and leaned back in my seat, he got the hint and was quiet for the rest of the flight.


We landed in San Francisco at 11:00pm and retrieved our bags one more time. We waited a few minutes on the curb for our friend Heath to pick us up. It was a pretty quiet ride back to San Jose. We pulled into the driveway at 12:10am (Monday again). We chilled for a while, cherishing our comfortable, stationary home, and finally climbed into bed about 1:00am. We were both asleep before the light-bulb faded to black.

The Forty-Hour Day (with naps)

With the different time zones we passed through and the International Date Line crossing, it was hard for me to keep track of how much time it took for us to get through that last day. I put together the information below to help myself out.

EventFiji TimeCalifornia
I got out of bed onboard Paul GauguinSunday 5:00amSaturday 9:00am0:00
We left our room for the last time9:00am1:00pm4:00
We left the ship in Lautoka12:35pm4:35pm7:35
Arrived at Sheraton Denerau1:15pm5:15pm8:15
Received room key3:50pm7:50pm10:50
2 hours of sleep   
Finished packing our luggage8:00pmSunday 12:00am15:00
1 hour of sleep   
Checked out of Sheraton Denarau10:30pm2:30am17:30
Arrived Nadi AirportMonday 12:00am4:00am19:00
Depart Nadi Aiport3:00am7:00am22:00
4 hours of sleep   
Arrive Los Angeles Airport (LAX)12:45pm4:45pm31:45
Leave LAX5:45pm9:45pm36:45
Arrive San Francisco Airport7:00pm11:00pm38:00
Arrive Home8:15pmMonday 12:15am39:15
Went to bed.9:00pm1:00am40:00

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