Final Day of World Wonders Cruise – Day 65, Bali, Indonesia

This long-overdue post covers the final excursions we took on our aborted Viking World Wonders cruise that ended in Bali.

Yes, this post is stale, but when we arrived back in the states on March 10th we were in no mood to write (or even read) blogs for a while.  With the world turned topsy-turvy our motivation went down the drain.  Although still drowning in depressing news, I decided to finally write this post with the hope it will at least distract our readers for a few minutes.  I really had to rely on my pictures to help me recollect our last stop, and what we did and saw.

Garuda Wisnu Kencana monument stands watch over the island

Bali is the most popular island holiday destination in the Indonesian archipelago, and we learned why.  It’s home to an ancient culture known for its warm hospitality as well as its exotic temples – palaces set against stunning natural backdrops and fabulous beaches.  While agriculture is the island’s biggest employer, 70% of Balinese people rely on tourism for a living.  We fear what’s happening there now due to Covid-19, the loss of tourism could prove catastrophic for the population of 4.2 million people, echoing the economic pain rippling around the world right now.

Interesting highway toll booth on the new highway leading into the city
Car lanes here are suggestions only – just like in my home country 🙂

What I can recall from one of our tour guides is that Bali is known for its unique history and traditions, with thousands of revered temples, busy markets, and deeply spiritual Balinese people.  While many Indonesians base their faith in Islam, 83% of Bali’s population practice Balinese Hinduism.  As a society dominated by Hinduism, the Balinese lifestyle, buildings, and traditions are heavily influenced by this culture of earth’s oldest religion.  Many homes we passed had a temple prominently displayed in the front yard:

One of many gated family compounds
A temple on the roof of a house

Because of its very religious society and number of Hindu temples, Bali is called “The Island of a Thousand Puras (Temples)”, or “The Island of the Gods.”  We saw hundreds of temples and statues – large and small – standing sentry over homes and businesses everywhere. They are used for different purposes; some for worship, some for cremation, and some for specific ceremonies throughout the year. But we only visited two.

Pura Agung Jagatnatha Temple

The capital city of Denpasar holds the largest and most important public Hindu temple, situated in the center of the city.  Like many others on the island, this temple consists of sprawling courtyards with a series of shrines arranged around them.  It’s dedicated to the existence of the supreme God Sanhyang Widi, and is elaborately decorated with carvings symbolizing Balinese Hinduism.  It’s a popular worship place for local residents to leave their offerings:

Pura Agung Jagatnatha Temple is constructed of white coral and features walls decorated with amazingly intricate carvings
The supreme God, Sanhyang Widi
A sash or sarong must be worn when entering a temple

We noticed that statues and objects all over the island featured sarongs, usually of black and white checkered cloths.  Our local guide advised that it symbolizes the good (white) and the bad (black) spirits.  The differences set the balance of the universe, like the Tiongkok people who have Yin and Yang – the sign which signifies the ‘black’ and ‘white’ sides of the world.

Our guide explained that offerings are an “everyday-must-do” tradition performed several times daily for all Balinese worshippers.  The small square or round offerings called canang are made from strips of coconut leaves filled with several flowers, candies, cigarettes, cookies, rice, etc.  Canangs can be seen on the streets and in hotels, offices, banks and homes.  We even saw them on the beach!

Bali Museum

Next to the temple was the Bali Museum, a small set of buildings that displayed items relating to Balinese rituals and Hindu traditions.  I was distracted by several couples/entourages as their wedding photos were being taken in the courtyard:

Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple

Pura Luhur Uluwatu is located at the southern tip of the island, at the edge of the Bukit Badung peninsula.  One of the most important temples in all of Bali, it’s dedicated to Shiva (aka Rudra), the destructive aspects of the divine.  Uluwatu’s stunning cliff-side scenery is the main attraction besides the temple itself, but we didn’t have time to walk the entire stretch of the cliff:

Beautiful cliff overlooking the Indian ocean, we would have loved to walk out there!
Uluwatu Temple at the end of the southern cliff
Wearing a sarong or sash is mandatory for Bali temple visits.  Steve was upset that his shoes clashed!

The temple is inhabited by dozens of monkeys that are notorious for snatching visitor’s eyeglasses and destroying them, so Steve and others left their eyeglass on the bus.

Very cute, but they are considered to be pests
There’s obviously some monkey business going on here…

Garuda Wisnu Kencana

Bali’s most iconic landmark is a cultural park with the largest artistic statue in southeast Asia.  The Garuda Wisnu Kencana soars to a height of over 393′, higher than the Statue of Liberty.  We caught our first glimpse of it from the ship as we docked (see first photo above).

The statue depicts Wisnu riding Garuda the mythical eagle
In Hindu mythology, Lord Wisnu is seen as the protector of the Universe
Lotus Pond is one of the main venues in GWK Cultural Park, many events are held here
The mythical eagle Garuda is eyeing this tourist

Badung Market

This is a huge traditional shopping spot in the center of the city’s economy, the largest market in Denpasar City.  Colorful sights and smells greeted us as we almost got lost in the vast place:

Bright colorful textiles:

Tasty exotic fruits!

Balinese women carried big baskets on their heads:

Ready-made canang were widely available, and nicely arranged to attract buyers:

Bali is known for its gorgeous beaches!  The movie “Eat, Pray and Love” was filmed in Bali.

Where are the people?  At Nusa Dua Beach we learned that Covid-19 had already cleared out this part of the world

An interesting fact: in Bali, a family’s first male child is always named Wayan.  If a second boy is born, his name is always Made.  A third boy is called Nyoman and the fourth Ketut.  We met several crew members on our cruise named Made, one of them even delivered my birthday cake!

We learned so much in one day, and it wasn’t nearly long enough.  Bali is an interesting island and definitely worth a visit.  Well, once the Coronavirus has been wiped out, that is…

This beauty danced at our dinner the night before we left Bali at the unexpected end of our World Wonders Cruise 😦

 



 

World Wonders Cruise Diary – Days 63,64 – Bali, Indonesia

Cruise days 63,64 – Mar 8,9

In case you missed our previous post, by the time you read this we’re settled back into Betsy, back to reality and our “normal” life in Tucson, AZ.

Our final port stop at Bali, Indonesia –

Beaches in Bali, very nice

Our problems disembarking the ship due to the Coronavirus hysteria heightened as we approached Bali.  This was a critical port stop, not only as a re-provision point but also because several hundred passengers had been re-routed here for their departures that were supposed to have happened in Hong Kong (which was canceled).  Can you imagine the logistics Viking went through to change all of those airline reservations from Hong Kong to Bali?  Also, 50 crew members had to depart because their contracts were up and they too had travel reservations.  What a mess!

Unfortunately, even though all passengers had a clean bill of health certified by multiple temperature scans and the ship’s doctor, the government continued to deny us shore access.  We spent the first day anchored in the bay while Indonesian officials (all the way up to the governor) and Viking senior management negotiated the problem onshore.  All of the excursions for that day were cancelled as we kept waiting for word from Bali officials.  We had to be content with eating, drinking and playing on the ship.

Indonesia’s tallest statue- Garuda Wisnu Kencana seen from our veranda

Each time the cruise director came on the PA, our ears perked up to find out if there was any progress in the negotiations, or would we be hanging out on the ship.  But really, hanging out and partying with friends on a Viking ship wasn’t exactly torture 🙂 

Oh look, there’s a cruise ship that was allowed to dock!

On the second day, we awoke to learn that the politics had ended and we would finally be allowed ashore.  The cruise director told us the ship would be leaving Bali a day early on the 9th (who could blame them?), and the next stop was not known.  The Viking Sun was basically re-designated as a Private Yacht (I’m not kidding) and will continue sailing the next portion of the cruise to whatever ports they are allowed to enter.  They even renamed the journey as the Viking Sun Magical Mystery Cruise 2020, Bali, Indonesia to somewhere.  Very cool!

I’m sure our friends who remained on the ship will enjoy even better service, considering there are now 361 passengers and 464 crew on board.  The passengers that were supposed to join the cruise in Bali and points beyond have unfortunately had their trips canceled.

Frontpage of Viking Daily signaling day 1 of the new mystery cruise

Between missing the 14 Asian stops that were previously cancelled and seeing the future itinerary of the cruise as unknown, we decided to accept an offer from Viking for a refund of the remainder of the trip and return home.  It’s a generous package, and again we don’t blame Viking in the least for the very unfortunate situation that has occurred.  We were so impressed by how the officers and crew members handled the stressful situation, and the professionalism and service they gave us.

Captain Lars gave a humorous goodbye speech including his daily reminder to ” Wash, Wash, Wash”

We totally enjoyed the new friends we met, the great experiences we had and the pampering we received during our two months at sea.  We’re already looking forward to booking another cruise with Viking in the future, using the Future Cruise Voucher they also gave us.  If you plan to take a cruise when all of this craziness ends, make it a Viking cruise!

Our cruise director, Beven, had made about 145 announcements in the last two days
Our exemplary officers and crew bid us goodbye

 



 

World Wonders Cruise Diary – Day 61 – Semarang and Surabaya, Indonesia – FAIL!

Cruise day 61 – Mar 5

By the time you read this we’ve returned to Arizona cutting short our World Wonders Cruise. It basically fell apart as far as the destinations we wanted to see – although Viking Sun is continuing with no planned itinerary.  The World Health Organization has just declared Covid 19 a global pandemic and President Trump declared a National Emergency.  This post is a bit stale, but it details the last few days of our cruise before we decided it was time to bug out.

What a mess.  The Coronavirus situation is beginning to take a toll on the ship’s staff and the passengers.  After delays at our stop at Komodo Island, where everyone on the ship had their temperatures taken (all were normal) and folks going ashore were required to wear masks, you’d think the process would be streamlined at Semarang, our next port stop.  We’d just have our temperatures taken as we disembarked for our tours as we were told the previous afternoon, right?  Wrong!

The beautiful sunrise could not portend an entire day sitting at sea

We were notified late the night before that everyone on the ship would have to fill out a Health Status Card and get their temperature taken BEFORE the ship could dock.  This created an hours-long delay and forced the cancellation of all excursions.  Passengers had to be ready for their checks at 6:30am, but the Indonesian “officials” were over an hour late and the checks took a couple more hours.  Everyone got a clean bill of health, and the officials never even looked at the health cards we had filled out.  Oh well, at least we could go ashore now, right?  Wrong!

While waiting we just watched the busy port of Semarang

With nothing else to do while waiting to see if we’d be able to go ashore, Mona Liza decided to try some martini’s she’d heard about:

The ship sat near the port all day as the dysfunctional Indonesian government discussed whether to let us come ashore.  Because of social media, we had been branded us possibly having the virus from pictures taken while we were at Komodo Island wearing masks, as they had required.  This was our first time actually being part of fake news – how exciting!  The final verdict?  No entry.  After making us fill out the cards and get the temperature checks – which proved for the second time that nobody onboard had the virus – we were refused entry!

The afternoon rolled on with some interesting weather to watch

Viking, however, was able to negotiate a docking for fuel and supplies only – nobody could enter or leave the ship.  Very unfortunate for crew members who had family and friends on shore waiting to meet them after months of separation.  This was apparently a decision made by the mayor of the city, and the mayor of Surabaya (our next stop) was of the same opinion so that port was canceled as well.  Oh well, maybe we’ll visit Indonesia and spend our tourist dollars someday after all of this blows over, right?  Wrong!

Mount Unguran one of the volcanoes near Semarang

We feel sorry for the Viking Sun crew, which has worked so hard day and night to keep up with all of the changes to make the passengers comfortable and happy.  None of this is Viking’s fault in any way, but it’s unfortunate for everyone.  Semarang and Surabaya knew we were coming and they could have made some decisions about whether we’d be allowed ashore before we sailed in and sat all day, right?  Wrong!

Watching our supplies being loaded, I hope there’s a lot of wine in there!

Sunset at Semarang as we sailed away

We were disappointed by all of the waiting and uncertainty, but at least there was some great entertainment to uplift our spirits as we sailed away:

The next night we enjoyed a hilarious game of “The Liar’s Club”, with Bethan (Viking vocalist), Beven (cruise director) and Himanshu (restaurant manager) as the liars:

Tobias as the moderator, Josh and Rosana as scorers

We began two days at sea for our next (and major) destination at Bali, Indonesia.  Now we were getting a bit apprehensive about how things would go there, as hundreds of people were scheduled to disembark the cruise and many others were set to join.  We’ll see how it goes on day 63, our arrival at Bali!

 



 

World Wonders Cruise Diary – Day 58 – Komodo, Indonesia

Cruise day 58 – Mar 2

After another day at sea we were thrilled to get a first glimpse of the beautiful green mountainous islands of Indonesia.  It’s exciting to enter a country that you’ve only seen in magazines or brochures previously, and so it was as our ship set anchor in the shallow bay facing Komodo Island.  Not much civilization except for a long pier leading to a few primitive structures on the beach, but it looked just fine to us!

Downtown Komodo!

Captain, I’m sensing a primitive life form…

The Coronavirus scare has gotten to the point that we were ordered by local authorities to have our body temperatures checked and wear masks during the 4-hour stop.  I suppose this was intended to protect the residents and dragons we were going to visit, but the masks weren’t very comfortable considering the heat and humidity that day.

There were only two excursions offered, with most folks choosing to visit Komodo National Park to see the Komodo Dragon Lizards.

One hot Komodo babe!

After being tendered to the island, we ended up getting in a good 2.5 mile hike and seeing several Komodo Dragons that were much larger than the ones we’d seen before in the Philippines.

We learned that several people have been killed and eaten by these nasty critters, mostly females protecting their young (like bears in the states), and we were instructed to stay with the group and not stray from the trail.  We were happy to oblige!

Okay, let’s take this other trail over here…
They’re the worlds largest lizards
When hungry enough, the males will eat the babies
Komodos aren’t camera shy.  Well, actually they just don’t move around much
I want one of these to guard my house!

In addition to our naturalist/tour guide, we were led by two handlers with 8′ forked sticks to protect us if necessary
Where’s that small lady, is she missing? Oh, she’s taking our picture 🙂
Females lay 15-20 eggs in a self-dug nest.  You don’t want to go over there!
Young Komodos live in trees like this to avoid predators and cannibalistic adults
An overheated masked hiker
Why do you suppose they lay on the open beach instead of in the jungle?
After that hot humid trek the ship never looked better

This was a short stop of only a few hours, but we enjoyed the tour and exposure to the friendly people (and unfriendly lizards) of the island.

Fortunately, we had plenty of time in the evening to dine with our world traveler friends Andy and Judi:

They have their own dedicated table at the restaurant!

The evening sky gave us a spectacular show as we sailed back to the Java Sea: