Friday, February 28, 2014

Days 48 and 49 - At sea

Thursday, February 27

Up at 9 and out to the pool.  Sat with Chez and spoke with a few other shipboard friends.  Once again I did not get in the pool so at 12:30 I went to the Lido to eat lunch.

Back at my stateroom I washed my hair and then sat on the balcony for awhile.

We had a few new people at Needlework/Knitting group.  Two are going back to Southampton and the others are getting off in Sydney.

After tea I went to the Commodore Club to enjoy the view and read awhile.

Tonight was another Black and White Ball.  It was the last formal night for this segment so there was the "Parade of Chefs".  After dinner I decided to go to the show even though I had seen it before (Palladium Nights).

Friday, February 28

Where has the month of February gone?  Admittedly it was only 27 days long for me, but it really passed quickly!

Woke up to a somewhat cloudy morning (no pool) so I rolled over and went back to sleep.  We had to go through Australian immigration this morning and my scheduled time was between 11:30 and 1:00.  As I was watching the morning show, there was an announcement that anyone could come down so I got dressed and went to deck 3.  There were about 30 people in line in front of me.  First, we picked up our passports then went to the immigration officer.  Once he stamped the passport, you turned it back in.  I was done in less than ten minutes (much better than in San Francisco where some people waited over an hour and a half).

Read in the Lido until lunch started. Then back to my stateroom to collect my hat and knitting and then to stake out a viewing spot for the "Pancake Challenge".  Sixteen teams from various departments competed to win the "Golden Pan" trophy.  They had to run around the pool flipping a pancake in a pan.  The winning team was the Maître 'd team who were the defending champions.

The competition ended right about 3 pm, just in time for Needlework/Knitting group.  Only had about six attend today because quite a few are getting off in Sydney.  Tea time afterwards.

Ten of us from dinner met at the Pavilion Pool for wine before dinner.  It was an early night because of an early morning for the sail in to Sydney.

Preparation for the Pancake Challenge

The teams

The champions

Smooth sailing until next time!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Day 47 - Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Wednesday, February 26

The sun was blazing into my stateroom when I awoke around 7 am and I felt like I was baking so I closed the curtains and slept for another two and a half hours.  My original plan was not to get off the ship today (I did not have a tour booked) but it looked so pretty I decided to go.

This is a tender port so first I had to go get a tender number on deck 3.  Since most people had already gone ashore for the tours, I only had to wait a few minutes before we were called.  Then made my way to deck A and then down a small flight of stairs to the tender.  The ride took less than ten minutes.

From what we had been told, I had gotten the impression we would go into town so I was very surprised when we tied up at a dock near a hotel and nothing else.  I was thinking this was going to be a short outing and I'd be going straight back to the ship when a tourism volunteer welcomed us with maps and pointed us to the free shuttle bus.  One lady said, "Free?" and we all laughed.  It took about five minutes to get into the town of Paihia.  It is a cute little resort town - lots of cafés and restaurants, souvenir shops, and boutiques.  They also had a craft fair set up selling locally made products.  Since I hadn't planned on getting off the ship today, I spent my New Zealand money in Auckland and resisted buying anything.

The public library supposedly had free wi-fi but only a few people were able to get on.  I gave up after about 15 minutes.

Took the shuttle back to the tender (which was less than half full and ready to sail) so I was having lunch in the Lido by 1:30.  I sat next to the area where the servers hand out trays and silverware and they were discussing the number of Japanese getting on in Sydney.  One thought it was 1000 and another 900.  We have heard rumors of the number getting on in Sydney.  If either amount is correct, it means half of those on board now are disembarking in Sydney.

After lunch I decided to read on my balcony but only made it through a few pages when I started to drift off.  Slept for about 45 minutes before it was time for another sail-away party.  For some reason we were almost an hour late sailing (never heard any rumors as to why).

The show tonight was before dinner at 7 pm.  The performer was a New Zealand singer, Russell Harrison.  I was about 15 minutes late but it was a long show, lasting over an hour.

Decided to not do anything after dinner but catch up on the blog.

Craft fair

Main Street in Paihia


Public library (and those who were able to get free internet)

Views of the Bay of Islands

Someone on deck 4 did their washing and hung it out to dry

Smooth sailing until next time!
Day 46 - Auckland, New Zealand

Tuesday, February 25

We docked early but our tour did not begin until 10 so I watched some of the sail-in from bed.  Jim Archer met us as we disembarked and we were off to see Auckland.  We started by going to One Tree Hill (which is actually now "No Tree Hill" - a man hacked the tree and it could not be saved).  Beautiful panoramic views of the city even though it was cloudy and a little cool (I actually wore my sweater for the first time).  We saw the volcanic cone - the volcanoes are considered dormant since none have erupted in hundreds of years but could a some point in the future.

The Wintergarden, in the Auckland Domain, had beautiful flowers as well as a fern garden.  It was then out to Devonport where we had lunch.  Chez and I ate at a little outdoor cafe.  She had mussels and I had fish and chips (chips were a tad greasy but the fish was good and it was a huge portion).

We then went along the coast to a beautiful viewing area and then up to Mt. Eden to get another panoramic view of the city.  Back to the ship about 3 and I walked around buying souvenirs until four.  Prices in New Zealand are quite high and all include a 15% tax.

Up to the sail-away party and a beautiful view as we sailed out of Auckland.

My something different for tonight was spinach tian.  Not a big spinach fan but since it came with my dinner, I tried it.  It was kind of bland and did not really taste that much like spinach.

After dinner I went to the cultural show.  The group  "Te Oranga Ake" performed traditional Maori songs and dances.  Leah, the assistant entertainment director said we had taken on 400 passengers in Auckland.
Where the tree on One Tree Hill once was


Skyline view



one of the volcanic cones

the view from my balcony

flowers at the Wintergarden

Bird on a huge lily pad at the Wintergarden

Smooth sailing until next time!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Day 45 - Tauranga, New Zealand

Monday, February 24

Kia Ora from New Zealand!

Today we reached the southernmost point we will visit on the voyage - about 37 degrees south latitude.

Arranged by one of my Cruise Critic friends, we had a private tour for 11 with Archer Tours.  Jim Archer was our very knowledgeable driver and guide.  (Highly recommended if you are ever in this neck of the woods!)

We started our tour visiting the beach at Papamoa.  It was a beautiful beach with very few people (we saw four - two of whom were fishing).  We dipped our feet in the water and collected a few shells.

Next we went to the Te Puke region (centre of the kiwi fruit growing industry) to Kiwi 360.   We looked at the way kiwi fruit grow (who knew?) and then tasted green and gold kiwi fruit (which I had never seen before but is really good) as well as juice from them and even a kiwi fruit wine.

Then we drove to one of the most popular resort towns on the North Island of New Zealand, Rotorua.  Here we saw a Maori ceremony at Te Puia as well as traditional weaving and the school for wood carving.  We walked through the reconstructed Maori village.  Next we walked down to see the boiling pools of mud and the geysers.  We were able to see two kiwis (which are nocturnal) at Te Puia.  They are funny looking little birds.

We had lunch at the cafe at Te Puia.  I had a mince and cheese pie which was really tasty and filling.

Rotorua is nicknamed "Sulphur City" because of the numerous sulphur springs (we even saw one house that had one in its backyard).  Luckily the smell was not too strong today.  We stopped at Rachel Spring which was the only place where the smell was really bad.

We returned to the ship just before 6 pm.  There was a Maori show on board at 7 which I went to.  Then up on deck 9 to watch the sail-away.  Met some friends and talked until about 9:15 when I had dinner in the Lido.

Strange fact of the day - the only mammals indigenous to New Zealand are bats.

 Beach at Papapmoa

Kiwi fruit trees

Maori Meeting House

Maori presentation

Maori presentation

Style of ancient Maori houses

Maori store house

Carving School

Some woven articles


Boiling mud

                                                                 Sunset over New Zealand

Smooth sailing until next time!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Days 43 and 44 - At sea

Saturday, February 22

Such a busy day (well, busy for a cruise ship)!  Another beautiful morning that saw me getting up around 9:30 and going right to the pool.  Sat by the pool from 10-12:30 with only one dip in the pool (there were too many people in the pool for me to actually swim).  As we go further south of the equator it is not as hot as it was.  Today's high was forecasted for 84F/29C and there was a little cloud cover.

After showering and washing my hair, I tried to get on the internet but it was not being cooperative.  Lunch in the Lido at 2 (had lamb curry again) and then read until time for Needlework/Knitting group .  We broke up about 4 and it was time for tea.

Read some more and then to the pub for trivia at 5:15.  Joined a team for the hardest questions ever.  Do you know what blennophobia is?  Who drew the Steve Canyon comic strip?  The questions made Jeopardy seem like a game for five year olds!

Had a pre-dinner drink in the Commodore Club and then we celebrated the birthday of one of my dinner companions.  She turned 82 and is on her second solo world voyage!

There was another "Chocolate and Ice" extravaganza which I passed on since we had birthday cake and dessert!

Tonight Howard Parkin, one of the guest lecturers, had a stargazing session on the rear lido deck.  I am fairly useless at astronomy but I was able to find Jupiter.  I think I saw the Southern Cross.  When I returned to my stateroom I stood on the balcony and watched the moon rise.  There was a thunderstorm far in the distance that was beautiful to watch.

Sunday, February 23

During the early morning hours we crossed the 180th meridian and are now in the Eastern Hemisphere.  We are also in the "Horse Latitudes" which means there are light winds.    According to the Captain's noon announcements, the name came from the early ships powered by sails.  The winds were so light that the ships ran out of food and had to eat the horses on board to stay alive!

I slept until almost ten (after my late night star-gazing).  Was at the pool by 10:30.  A brief shower came through about 11 that had everyone scrambling for cover.  It quickly passed and I stayed out until 12:30.  Cooler today so I did not even get in the pool.

Came back to my stateroom to change and sat on the balcony (and took a little snooze).  To the Lido around 2 for lunch and then to Needlework/Knitting group.  Afterwards a few of us had a drink and talked until 5:30.

Another cocktail party tonight - this one for those doing the full world voyage.  I met with some of my table mates at the party.  I tried an orange drink thinking it would be something tasty.  Instead it was the same orange colored water that they call orange juice in the Lido.  I switched to champagne.

I tried two new things at dinner.  One was bok choy which was ok.  The other was duck.  When I went to China in 1988 I had food poisoning the night the tour group went for the Peking duck dinner, so I had never tried it.  Well, now I have and can cross that off my "to do" list.   I ate it but once was enough!

After dinner the show was another variety night.  The Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers began with a medley of Abba songs.  Next was a comedian, Rondell Sheridan, who was quite funny poking fun at cruising.  Finally, Martin Lawson, one of the singers, performed some songs.

We had our second World Voyage gift - a nicely made journal with the World Voyage logo on it.  It would have been a really useful gift if we had received it the first night!

Tomorrow is our first of three ports in three days in New Zealand.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Day 42 - Nuku'Alofa, Kingdom of Tonga

February 21

Tonga claims to be the first inhabited place to see the start of each day as well as the New Year.    It consists of about 170 islands of which only 36 are inhabited.  Family and religion are very important to the people.

It was raining when we disembarked.  Luckily, a new pier had been recently completed and we did not have to tender in.  A police band was playing and there was dancing to welcome us (this was QE's first time in Tonga).

We had an independent tour and visited most of the famous places on the island of Tongatapu.  About 800 years ago Ha'amonga was built.  It is believed it was designed to show the longest and shortest days of the year.  We also visited the blowholes and the places where Captain Cook and Abel Tasman were supposed to have landed.  We saw the Tongan bats called "flying foxes" that are considered sacred (they can be hunted by the royal family only).  The step pyramid styled tombs of the ancient kings at Mu'a were also seen.

We saw dozens of churches and schools.  By law, only Christianity is allowed to be practiced openly.  The Mormon religion is the fastest growing one on the island.  Students have free elementary education but have to pay for higher levels.    

Because families are so important to the people, there are elaborate graves throughout the island.  Many are decorated with beautiful hand-made quilts (that can't last too long with the amount of rain the island gets).   They also decorate some of the graves with beer bottles.

Although the people are very friendly, according to our guide, many are light-fingered.  Because of this the local "convenience stores" (and we passed many) have bars on the front.  You do not go inside, just tell the clerk what you want.

We returned to the ship around 1:30.  I walked around the stalls for a short time and then had lunch in the Lido.  The sail-away party was cut short due to a rainstorm.

I listened to one of the Royal Cunard Singers, Jonathan Dearden, perform before dinner.  Decided to make it an early night so no show after dinner.

Ha'amonga 'A Maui

"Leaning Rock"

Tongan style pyramid

Royal Palace
one of the cemeteries with a quilt

beer bottle decorations on a grave

High School students going home

an elementary school

some of the blowholes
the L.D.S. Temple

the "flying foxes:

typical houses
one of the local "convenience stores"
Smooth sailing until next time!