Friday, December 18, 2015

New Zealand on Royal Caribbean

With less than 2 weeks before Andrew and Tom were to leave on their 14 day cruise round New Zealand we decided to go with them.
Our passports were lost somewhere in the space of our van (3metres by 7 metres) Within 36 hours of finding them we were booked on the cruise.

First glimpse of our home for the next 14 days

Luna Park as seen from the our balcony on board ship

The first of many amazing sunsets
We met up with Andrew, Tom and their friend Viv at Circular Quay and after clearing customs we made our way to the Buffet meal section of Windjammers for lunch.

Our Stateroom was small but had all that we needed along with a lovely balcony and our Stateroom Attendant, Katut.  Those who remember the AAMI ad with Rhonda and her faithful waiter/lover Katut will appreciate my humour at getting my very own Katut for the entire cruise.  Although he was a great Stateroom Attendant, I didn’t check out his other qualities.

We had purchased a drinks package for this cruise and by the third day decided it was probably a good idea.  This included tea and coffee, fresh orange juice, bottled water and sparkling water up to top shelf spirits and cocktails. It was smooth sailing across the Tasman and we arrived on New Zealand soil on Saturday, the 3rd day out at the Bay of Islands. 
Bay of Islands, our first stop
Tours on this cruise were very expensive and as we had seen a lot of what they had to offer we declined the guided tours and just went off the ship for a few hours to look around.
Sunday was the day we had arranged to meet up with two wonderful people we met in our last Royal Caribbean Cruise up the inside passage from Vancouver to Alaska.  We just got on so well on that cruise we were really looking forward to seeing them again.
Grant, Stuart and I sight seeing in Auckland

Still Sightseeing

The tower with the revolving restaurant where we had lunch

Grant and Gail Pemberton with Stuart and I
Gail and Grant Pemberton were kind enough to chauffeur us all round Auckland and we took a trip up onto the sky tower to the revolving restaurant for lunch.  The day ended way too quickly and we had to say goodbye at the pier before the ship left without us.  Thank you to such wonderful friends for giving us a day to remember.

We spent a reasonable amount of time in the Schooner bar and each time it bought back such great memories of when we were on a cruise out of Vancouver with this lovely couple and we would meet up there each afternoon for a few drinks before dinner.
On our way round the coast we passed this lovely scooner
The next day we arrived in Tauranga, a little further down the coast from Auckland.   We declined all shore tours and instead hired a car with Andrew and Vivien, (Tom having booked to do a tour of the site of the making of the movie Lord for the Rings.)
With Stuart driving we made our way to Rotorua where we visited the mud pools and geyser pools. 

The boiling water comes from a long way underground and as it boils away it builds up pressure and bursts forth on very regular intervals

The boiling mud pools looked inviting but with a temperature that would cook you in a matter of minutes it wasn't advisable
We were back on board ship early and relaxed until we were about to make our way down to one of the bars to meet the other 3 when we found disaster had struck one family on board with the passing of the mother.  What first appeared to be quite interesting to us speculating on why someone's luggage was unloaded and there were police cars and ambulances on the dock near the ship.  As there had been a reasonable number of cases of tummy bugs and the staff upping the sanitising stations everywhere we assumed that someone had taken too ill to continue and was being taken to a local hospital.  With the police presence we thought it was perhaps something a little more serious than a tummy bug.  It was very sad to see first a very distraught older gentleman and adult son helped off the ship followed a while later by a gurney carrying a covered bag.  The demographics being what they are with more than 50% of the guests being past retirement age the chances are fairly high that someone might pass away whilst on a cruise. 
Every port we came to had tons and tons of Radiata Pine logs awaiting export to China where they are made into furniture and shipped back to places like New Zealand and Australia.  New Zealand has a great regrowth program underway and as the tree grows to maturity in about 25 years.

We had a second formal dining night for the cruise.  So everybody got all dressed up again. 


Our dining room held about 500 people and they had 2 sittings with a similar dining rooms on the next 2 floors up .
The formal dining room with our view of the sea out of the large portholes and our three lovely dining companions from Switzerland.
Escargot was on the entrée menu and my favourite nearly every second night
With numbers rising of people with stomach bugs visiting the sick bay, we were seeing more and more cabins with meal trays outside their rooms as they are immediately quarantined.  We, on the other hand are sterilising at every station we come to and not hanging onto hand rails and carrying our own bottle of hand steriliser.  Still a few nights ago a lady collapsed in the dining room and we were all ushered out very quickly.  Fortunately we had all finished our meal and were heading to our favourite bar the Schooner Bar for night caps.  Hygiene measures were upgraded in the dining room where more staff were seconded from all areas of the ship to the dining room where guests cannot touch the pile of plates or wrapped cutlery but have it handed to them and as tables are vacated two staff swarm on the table and one cleans table and chairs and the other uses a strong germicide before anyone can sit down.  We had the art auctioneer handing out plates and cutlery and drink waiters clearing tables and sanitising.  However, I think our alcohol intake will kill any bugs we might come in contact with.
 While wandering around the markets at Roatunga we were approached by a tour director from Dunedin who was selling tours in two days’ time when our ship docks there.  The five of us grabbed it as it was half the price of the tours offered on board.  We saw some amazing sights around Dunedin driven in a large bus by a driver with a sense of humour with Bex our guide who was great.  We got to see the worlds steepest street which Stuart walked up.  At its maximum, the slope of Baldwin Street is approximately 1:2.86 (19° or 35%) - that is, for every 2.86 metres travelled horizontally, the elevation rises by 1 metre.


The bus wound its way up into the hills of Dunedin where we saw some amazing views despite the very overcast weather and a temperature of around 12'.

Andrew and Tom wishing to relocate the anchor

Outside the Duneden Railway Station




One of the amazing old buildings in Duneden

One of the beautiful churches we encountered on our drive around Duneden

We were then given lunch and had a chance to do some shopping.  First stop was the Cadbury Factory.  Stuart was like a kid in a chocolate shop - hang on, he was a kid in a chocolate shop.
No this isn't Stuart but the place was crowded and I had to double up on someone else's photo moment


Up on the twelfth deck playing mini golf, rock climbing and table tennis.

Yes - Stuart had to have a go too.  And he got to ring the bell.
However he didn't climb as high as his son.

A great place to sit and relax at night was Dizzies bar with windows floor to ceiling.  A great place to listen to jazz.
We entered the Kiwi enclosure but we didn't see the kiwi's as they are a nocturnal bird but saw a picture of  one with its egg which makes up more than half its body.
Xray of the egg inside the Kiwi

Bad reflection but a photo of a kiwi with an egg for comparison of size


 Today was our last day on New Zealand soil as we make our way around the base of New Zealand to come up into Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound the next day.  Despite the weather we enjoyed the cruising very slowly into these magical sounds to witness the sheer cliffs and magnificent water falls, and snow capped mountains.


Just some of the sights we were fortunate to see on our sail into the sounds

With only one day to go at sea before reaching Sydney, the weather turned nasty.  Lightning and thunder which certainly had a strange look and hollow sound to when it happens on land.  Then about 11.30 am as we were walking through the ship it started to tilt and this worsened over the next 2 minutes which seemed a lot longer.  It tilted 10' off centre and threw people off their beds, skidded chairs across the promenade area almost emptied the pools and terrified the life out of me.  The Captain immediately assured us that we were in no danger and that we had been hit by a freak wind squall that hit at 145knots (274 kph).  I, on the other hand, was terrified.  Those 2 minutes, for me, lasted a lifetime.

We docked at Sydney's Circular Quay at about 6.00 am and after clearing customs trained it to  Rockdale where we had stored our van and car for the two weeks.
We arrived in Canberra for Christmas with Stuart's brother Peter and wife Sandy and their family  - but that can wait til next time.
One of the amazing shows on board

A couple of eye catching displays on the stairs

The Captains domain - the Bridge

On entering the Casino we had to walk over this display on the floor

Looking down from the 8th deck into the Prominade


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