February 16, 2022. 74°F/23°C
I always try to attend Dr. Linda Bradley’s lectures, but REALLY wish they weren’t scheduled at 9:30 in the morning, especially after a two Prosecco and three gin-and-tonic night.
Today her talk focussed on fashion in Nuku Hiva, Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora. Even though we’re no longer visiting any of those places on this cruise, fashion is always an interesting topic. Most fascinating to me during this presentation was when Linda talked about tattooing as “dress”, i.e. something used to cover and decorate the body, which could indicate status just as effectively as wearing a crown or sash of order.
She also spoke about the influence of missionaries who subscribed to the concept of “cloth and conversion”, whereby the indigenous peoples were first clothed/covered up, and then “civilized”. Notions of modesty required cloth coverings as opposed to ink. As westernization continued, status became related to wearing western style clothing; tattoos would have been covered. In modern day French Polynesia, there is a resurgence in full body tattooing, sometimes using patterns shown in early photographs from the 19th century.
Another very interesting observation was related to how clothing relates to gender. In French Polynesia, a third gender called Māhū is recognized and accepted as embodying characteristics of both genders, and is highly valued for that very reason. Māhū may wear elements of clothing more usually associated with either males or females in various combinations.
We got our next set of excursion options today, for our ports from Mallorca Spain through Split Croatia, so everyone on board was very excited to look at all the possibilities. While returning our choices to Guest Services, we noticed that General Manager Johann’s office had been “pranked”. There were a few (quickly resolved) plumbing issues in the past week, which may explain his new cushiony-soft office furniture.
At 11:00 there was a Question & Answer session with some of the Star’s senior officers: Captain Olav Soevdsnes, Second Medical Officer Dr. Byron Anthony, Financial Officer and Purser Chris Wragg, Chief Engineer Per Leif Breivik, and our Hotel General Manager the ever positive Johann van der Merwe.
There were lots of audience questions on a wide range of topics, with Covid protocols being high on the list since one of the ship’s two doctors was available with the answers.
Random interesting facts from the Q&A:
🗺We have a naval cadet currently on board studying engineering and technical/marine operations.
🗺We were able to dock in Puerto Montt earlier this month with only 5.3 metres of water below the keel of the ship. By comparison, today in the Atlantic we have over 3000 metres of water below us.
🗺All the beef served on board is from the United States.
🗺Because we changed itineraries and provisions are planned 3 months in advance, we still have containers sitting in Papeete and Singapore. Sigh.
🗺For shipboard overall safety, passengers with inconclusive (“false positive”) Covid results are quarantined; experience has shown that most inconclusive tests end up positive within 3 to 5 days. Negative results must be maintained for at least 2 consecutive days in order to be considered true negatives.
🗺Ports will not clear us for entry if we reveal that we are not masking, or have not quarantined a positive test, even if it is later determined to be a false positive. As a corollary, if a destination has an unacceptable level of infections, independent exploration will not be allowed. It’s all about keeping our extended shipboard “family” healthy.
🗺For purposes of Covid isolation on board, “close contact” is defined as cabin mates, or those whose contact tracing devices indicate over 15 minutes of unmasked (e.g. dining together) contact with a positive case.
🗺Currently 80% of passengers and 60% of crew have had a 3rd (booster) dose of vaccine. Malta and Croatia will both be providing boosters for those crew eligible based on the timing of their second dose.
🗺On our specific ship, the only female senior officer is Dr. Maritza Newball, but the Manager of Guest Services and Manager of Housekeeping are both women (although not senior officers).
🗺Viking has a policy of promoting from within, which helps to explain both the fact that many crew sign up for multiple contracts, and the fact that senior crew are all willing to pitch in and lend a hand in virtually any role – they’ve likely performed it at some point in their career trajectory. It is not unusual to see an officer waiting on or bussing tables if things get busy.
🗺The ship’s fuel costs $1050 USD per cubic metre (1000 litres). That’s $1.05/litre. Currently, 89 octane car fuel back home in Ontario is $1.50 CAD per litre.
🗺The Star can produce up to 800 cubic metres (800,000 litres) of fresh water per day, with the salt that is removed from the ocean water pure enough to be edible.
🗺Our ship’s waste water, both black water (toilets & kitchens) and grey water (sinks & showers), is treated to the highest current standards. I looked them up: MEPC 227(64). As such, Viking ships are approved to discharge “clean” water directly into the sea; “clean” means less than 10mg/l of nitrogen and less than 1.0mg/l of phosphorous. Here’s a quick link to the system Viking uses: Scanship
🗺The ship’s exhaust is “scrubbed” so that the ship’s stacks emit only pure water vapour.
🗺The ship’s navigation uses a second-by-second tracking system, with the route displayed on 4 large screens on the bridge.
🗺Since Viking is the #1 rated cruise line in the world right now, they are able to be picky when hiring staff. That explains the stellar service we get. Training of hospitality staff is done on board, which means that staff can be hired based on their positive personality, since that is the one thing that cannot be taught.
Speaking of stellar crew, there are 43 nationalities represented within the Viking Star’s crew. Captain Olav described our cruise ship as “a United Nations in miniature, except that on the Viking Star it works!”
We also got a short video tour of the engine rooms, narrated live by our Chief Engineer, who leads a team of 36 men.
All in all it was an amazingly informative 45 minutes!!
Then it was off to lunch, today highlighting the versatile avocado, although I opted for a shrimp burrito and chicken taquito, and Ted had a personalized spicy chorizo pizza.
Our pre-dinner speaker was retired British diplomat – and diplomatic spouse – Olivia Cox, talking about the charms and challenges of diplomatic life and of trying to understand foreign cultures. She was posted to Mexico, Paris, and Beijing, so has lots and lots of personal experiences to share. Her stories involving mishaps at various diplomatic dinners were especially hilarious.
I particularly liked her story about the way in which Chinese hosts would indicate the end of a social event by diplomatically announcing “You must all be very tired”, which was intended to be interpreted as “please go now.” That was infinitely more polite than the ambassador who trained his parrot to ask guests to leave, and repeat the request more forcefully if they didn’t!
I came away thinking that if even career diplomats can make faux pas, then the rest of us likely have much for which to apologize as we stumble our way through foreign countries. It’s a good thing we Canadians are so proficient at saying “I’m sorry!”
Dinner tonight was another wonderful selection from the many offered nightly the main restaurant.
The evening’s entertainment in the Star Theater was vocalist Toni Warne, a finalist in the very first season of The Voice U.K. Since then she has performed in London’s West End, Moscow, and Los Angeles. She had an incredible powerhouse voice that wowed us – we’re looking forward to her second show in a few days.
We closed out our night in the Torshavn bar, drinking G&Ts, listening to King, dancing to the Viking Band, and being treated to a couple of songs by guest Viking vocalist Daniel. All in all a great sea day.