Eclipse at Sea
aboard the Celebrity Millennium
Wednesday, 14 Nov 2012
C2: 31° 43' 36.4"S - 176° 40' 51.1"E
mid-eclipse: 31° 43' 41.6"S - 176° 41' 2.1"E
C3: 31° 43' 46.7"S - 176° 41' 13.2"E
Totality: 3m 30s
My wife and I saw this eclipse (her first!) from the
Celebrity Millennium, about 300 miles north of New Zealand
This eclipse was going to be my first in Australia. After
having been to Australia in 1993, I was very much looking forward to
going back (mainly to see if the initials I'd carved into a certain
tree were still there - or whether the tree was even still
there!). And having missed the TSEs there in 2002 and 2003, I
had made plans to go to Cairns along with thousands of my fellow
eclipse chasers. I even had some designs on making this the
first leg of very large trip, where I would visit some places that
remain on my bucket list - and manage to fly all the way around the
world in the process.
At a point that I can't really define, though, I started having
misgivings about observing an early morning eclipse on the
Australian coast. The combination of so many people packed
into such a very small space, the eclipse being so low in the sky in
the morning, and the bad-weather-egress roads into the bush being
very small, tree-lined and without shoulders, combined in a way to
make me very worried about my chances of seeing totality.
Many wonderful Australian eclipse chasers were actively involved in
helping arrange logistics and tours for their guests, hoping to
ensure that no one would be disappointed. But I didn't want to
take space on one of those expeditions - I wanted to do my own
trip. To come to such a wonderful country and not do some
exploring on my own seemed like such a waste, so I booked a room in
Kuranda near Cairns (two years in advance!) and planned to basically
go into the bush the night before and sleep in the car, staking out
my location far away from the beach with the die-hard folks - I
could always head back toward the beach in case the weather looked
promising on eclipse morning.
Then, I got the idea of taking my wife. I'm not really sure
why, but on this tenth eclipse trip, my wife and I decided that it
might be a good time for her to come and see one with me!
And she was not about to sleep in any car, in the middle of the
Australian nowhere - when a perfectly good beach was lurking nearby.
So what would be a good plan B? Knowing that the next two
eclipses in 2013 and 2015 were very iffy, very risky, and not
conducive AT ALL to a good first-time experience for her, she really
did need to see this one. I thought that an eclipse cruise was
beginning to look more and more like the only way to go for this
trip, but there weren't very many to be found. As usual, the
people who organize these trips are of the opinion that the people
taking the trips always want the full meal deal - a 14- or 21-day
itinerary. (Not me, I only want to see the eclipse and go home
- 5-6 days max!) So the best cruise I could find was one where
we would join the boat only for the time that we could stand to be
on a boat, and for the amount of time that we could safely take off
work. That meant the Celebrity Millennium, which was planning
its eclipse cruise for a Hawaii-to-Australia extravaganza lasting 18
We decided that it would be worth it to simply pay for the cheapest
room on that ship, embark late (in Pago Pago) and disembark early
(in Auckland NZ). that would give us 8 days on the ship, a
VERY good chance of seeing the eclipse, an extra minute and a half
of totality over those in Oz, and a couple more countries to add to
my list (the ship was also making a stop in Fiji).
Not that this would be a cheap trip by any means, but it would be
the best compromise - and most importantly, it was wife-approved!
For the flight, I chose to break up the excursion to Samoa into
segments, to avoid spending more than 5 hours on the plane. In
retrospect, that was a bit of a mistake due to all the lengthy
layovers. Not that it was bad, though - and after all, there
are no non-stops from Indianapolis to any gateway cities any more -
and we did plan to have a daylong layover in Hawaii.
Note to any entrepreneurs out there: Many, many people experience
layovers in Hawaii, where they arrive early in the morning and then
depart that afternoon. Rental car companies are very
accommodating in providing a car for the day, but there are no
longer any hotels/shower facilities for the mid-range person.
One's current alternatives appear to be to either (a) TAKE A BATH IN
THE AIRPORT SINK, or (b) to fork over about $200+ for a day-use room
- and that's IF you can get them to give you a reservation! That is
just insane. In the states, you could always visit a truck
stop, but in Hawaii, let's face it - there aren't any truck
stops! (Why would there be?) There is an Airport Hotel
in Tahiti, which serves EXACTLY this purpose, and does it very
well. So would someone please decide that they want to get
rich, and open up a day-use hotel that could serve those mid-range
travelers during their layovers?
We had planned to climb Diamond Head, but of course once settled
into our very spartan accommodations, we found that the best thing
we wanted to do was just relax. So, we walked around Waikiki,
had breakfast and then visited our favorite - the Dole
plantation. We ate the biggest pineapple ice cream concoction
I've ever seen, and then headed back to the airport.
A quick (5-hour) flight got us to American Samoa, where it was
raining but otherwise quite pleasant.
American Samoa is an interesting place. Officially part of
America (so, no Visa required, and they use dollars and speak
English gladly with you when you don't speak Samoan), it is very
familiar and at the same time very exotic. It was cloudy and a
bit gloomy on the day we were there, but the hotel was fabulous, and
I enjoyed seeing the sights during the long drive to the port.
Fiji would appear to be about the same to me - a great place to come
and spend a couple of days out in nature - just maybe not optimal
for city sightseeing. Exotic nonetheless, but assuredly not
THE reason for our trip.
Lots of things had to have come together for us to ultimately meet
up with our ship, and so pulling into the port alongside it in the
taxi was a very good feeling. We did find that the cruise
companies really don't appear to have it completely together with
their many downline-embarking passengers (and there were indeed
many), but they did their best to accommodate us, and protect us
from the throngs of tourist-attacking locals which seem (alas) to be
the norm in every port worldwide.
And a quick note about that - since it appears that the cruise
ships' primary function is to bring mountains of dollars to these
folks, you would think that they'd be a little less - how shall I
say - forceful with their approach. It's pretty safe to say
that if someone is getting off a cruise ship they likely do not want
to feel like they just stepped into a carmival environment.
They're there to relax, and if what you have is worth buying, then
you might sell some of it. It's just a bit tiring to be subjected to
the same thing, port after port, as you wonder what the real purpose
of a shore visit is - given only a few hours to try and see
something of the country and break up the monotony of the
ship. It would be nice to have a ship in port long enough to
rent a car to drive yourself around - but I'm certainly not the
first cruise-ship passenger to have thought that!
And I found out later that the port stays had been intentionally
shortened in order that we would wound definitely be able to make it
to the eclipse rendezvous point in time for the eclipse! As I
found out later, this prioritization had not been fully understood
by all tour companies, and one ship in fact missed totality
*to be continued*
to mcglaun.com's Eclipse site