Published: February 8th 2011February 5th 2011
En route from Tahiti to Tonga we crossed the 180˚ meridian of longitude which is called the International Date Line. When it is crossed going west a day is lost in the process. When it is crossed going east then the same day is repeated. As we are steaming west, we lost Feb 2. Our date on the ship jumped from Feb 1 to Feb 3 overnight. We had no Wednesday, no Groundhog Day, and people who celebrate their birthdays or anniversaries on Feb 2 had to have the party on another day. Those of us who are continuing on around the world will gain that day back hour by hour as we pass through the time zones on our westerly way to Europe. Those that are flying home from New Zealand will arrive in the U.S. earlier than when they left Auckland. It’s all very confusing but having crossed the IDL hundreds of times during my flying days, I accept it on faith and don’t worry about losing or gaining a day. It all evens out in the end.
The ship had a Country Fair to mark the crossing of the line. The staff and crew set up booths
The waiters' booth.
of games and chance and it is a good time for passengers to mix it up a bit with the brilliant Regent work force. There were egg races, horse races, baggo contests and many other fun games.
We celebrated Ted’s birthday in Prime 7 Steakhouse. He is part of our tennis group. So the Captain came to dinner along with the Dieter and Ilsa, the dance instructors. We had gag gifts and cards and an evening filled with laughter and jokes. We have cruised with Ted and Joanne many times and visited with them in Colorado on our cross country road odyssey several summers ago.
The Kingdom of Tonga is the only Pacific nation to have never been controlled by a foreign power and thus has the last remaining royal monarchy in Polynesia. Of the 176 islands that make up Tonga, most of them are flat coral limestone isles. Nuku’alofa is the capital and it is the seat of government and home of the royal family. Even though the people are Polynesian they look very different from their counterparts in Tahiti. Tongans are large, sturdy people who are deeply religious. Mormonism is the dominant religion with strong ties
to Salt Lake City. The residents seem to be happy, friendly people and are very inquisitive of us strangers to their shores.
We decided to do some exploring on our own. There is no public transit system but there are private companies that run buses on a sporadic non-scheduled basis. After much consultation with some local folks, all of whom spoke excellent English, we found the bus we wanted to take us around most of the island. We got on the bus and asked the driver what time we would be leaving. He said he leaves when the bus fills up. It more than filled up as passengers were hanging out the door and sitting on the floor and piling on each other’s laps. As I mentioned Tongans are big, brawny people—so there was hardly an inch of space left in the minibus. The upholstery was gone, most of the seats were broken and passengers got on with huge rolls of toilet paper, bags full of groceries and umbrellas. Everyone carries an umbrella to protect from the blazing sun. We went merrily on our way bouncing over the potholed roads, chatting up our seatmates, thankful that the windows opened
The Housekeepers Booth
They won 1st place prize.
to catch a breeze. The most predominant features on the landscape are the burial mounds. They are everywhere. The graves are covered with artificial flowers and many are outlined with beer bottles—obviously not Mormons. Handmade quilts are the final decorative touch for these graves. Based on the numbers of mounds we saw, there must be more dead than alive in Tonga. Most of the merchants are Chinese and their stores are filled with fake flowers—now I know why there is such demand for these plastic bouquets.
We got off the bus close to Vakaloa Beach Resort which was advertised as a luxurious seaside hotel. That was a stretch but we enjoyed the beach and an ocean swim before heading back to the port.
This crossing of the Pacific has been one of the calmest weather-wise that we have made--perfect conditions for cruising. We keep reading about the huge snowstorms back in the U.S., the monster cyclones hitting Australia, the political turmoil in Egypt and we are very happy to be sailing along on our lovely magic carpet.
There are more photos below