Kiwiland

Auckland, New Zealand:

This was the first time we visited somewhere Dutchy had been before me, and it was a strange concept. He had actually been to New Zealand twice, once on the cruise he took the year in 1981, before we met, and a year or two ago with work, where he was able to go up in a helicopter over the city. He wins hands down on that experience, which I have never had, and not entirely sure I want either.

After room service breakfast, with a view of the buildings on Princes Wharf, we met the others and we made our way to Deck 5 to enter the terminal. It was nice not having to wait for tenders (small boats) to move us. I was grateful to Sandy for forgetting her sunglasses, not that they were essential in Auckland, but we were able to have a look at the tables of souvenir goodies laid out before us, at delightful prices compared with the Tahitian islands. Even if they might have been cheaper elsewhere, I bought a scarf that doubled as a necklace, and a little kiwi pin embedded with paua shell.

After visiting the ATM for NZ currency, we went to the Explorer hop-on, hop-off bus, where we managed to get a group discount for the ten of us, so instead of $40 each it was $30. Unfortunately it was very foggy, and we missed (mist!) a lot of scenery. The recorded commentary was telling us to look to our left to see the island across the bay. What island? What bay? Luckily we had that discount or we might have been annoyed. But of course these are the natural hazards one must meet when travelling. Just make the most of it, and at least it wasn’t raining.

I’ve mentioned before that we have been narrowly missing different events, in this case the Rugby World Cup set to be huge in Auckland a couple of days after we were due to leave. Of course, sport doesn’t bother me but I’m sure a number of guests may have liked to stay!

Places we went on this tour included Bastion Point, Auckland Museum, Parnell Village and Sky Tower. As a general tour, we only stopped at the museum, where we were deciding who wanted to actually go in.

When we alighted at the Museum a toilet stop was urgently required by the women. In our desperation to get to the facilities, we had inadvertently gone in through the exit. Toilet doors closed almost simultaneously, followed by a loud, long chorus of tinkling and laughing about our synchronisation. There weren’t enough toilets for all of us, so the other Sandy had to contend with a solo performance. Then, realising that we were actually in the museum proper, we did the right thing and came back out.

Coffee and a snack were the next order of the day. Not wanting to waste too much money on food or drink while on a cruise, I bought us two cappuccinos and a small serving of macaroni cheese. All that added up to $14, but I forgot that the NZ dollar is much weaker than ours, so at the time it seemed more expensive.

There was a Maori Cultural Show due at noon, so I decided to do that, while the other ladies went into the museum, leaving the guys playing Boggle, a fun pastime. I went with the crowd, being led by a guide, through part of the museum. We were grouped together to be told we could take photos. Great I thought, and then we headed up the ramp, where they started collecting everyone’s tickets. Uh-oh, I thought it was a free show! I sheepishly left (note the word especially chosen for the environment I was in), but managed to look at a few Maori paintings and carvings on the way out.

I joined in with the Boggle crew until we caught the bus again, which arrived every half hour.

However, buses went in both directions and unfortunately we had been waiting at the wrong stop, and suddenly the correct bus went sailing past us, much to our disgust. Shortly another bus came by and the new driver assured us that the previous driver had been instructed to race off and collect someone from somewhere. Yeah, sure.

The others alighted at the Fish Market and Dutchy and I returned to have a late lunch on the ship, enjoying some Biryani rice and sweet and sour chicken, before setting out again after a little rest.

It’s Showtime!

 

Of course we put our names down for the Guest Talent Show. I was glad it wasn’t a competition, as we were quite nervous enough anyway, performing on a big stage in front of 900 people without the added security of words on a karaoke screen!

Twenty guests wanted to be in it but there was only room for nine acts. We attended the rehearsal at the Colony Club at 11am because the headliner show act was rehearsing in the Aurora Theatre. I wasn’t particularly warmed up at the early rehearsal so I didn’t sound very good, so I treated it as more of a technical practice. One guy, who was going to tell True Stories, ended up just telling dirty jokes, which were highly inappropriate for a show such as this.

Dutchy had been debating whether to do New York New York, or Sweet Transvestite, but the demographics of the cruise dictated NY,NY would be a far better option. Besides, we later found out that the other song would have been vetoed, as was the case with the joke telling guy, who didn’t appear in the program at all.

The best thing about being in a show is that I get so excited and apprehensive that I eat very little, and after all the food consumed on the cruise this was not such a bad thing. I’m more open about my nerves than Dutchy, who suffers in silence, but after the event a number of drinks is required to aid his relief!

It was cleverly organised that Bingo tickets would be sold in the theatre before the 3 pm guest talent show, which would precede the Bingo, and guarantee a better turn-out for both events.

The nine acts were:

1. Lawrence from the Central Coast on the guitar, accompanied by the band

2. Nanoo from Houston Texas singing Buble’s version of For Once in My Life

3. Sandi Holland from Melbourne singing Cabaret

4. Lydia singing a Russian song

5. Janice reciting an Aussie poem The Local Elders Man by Victoria Brown

6. Graham from the Central Coast singing Your Mama Don’t Dance

7. Lyall, his wife, who sings professionally, with You’re My World

8. The Radiance Rascals with a group song,  Rockin’ Rollin’ Riding on the Radiance of the Seas, finishing off with Waltzing Matilda and Aussie Aussie Aussie. This group had met on facebook prior to the cruise – interesting concept.

9. Dutchy, with New York, New York

 

Performing in front of almost 900 people, I made my way onto the stage. I introduced myself as “Sandi with an ‘i’ doing Liza with a ‘z’” and hoped that no-one could see my knees shaking. Of course Dutchy saw this, but I had a comment later that I appeared to be the most comfortable on the stage! I must have hidden my nerves sufficiently. We had to contend with the ship’s movement as well, and my respect and admiration for the dancers who perform on ships has sky-rocketed.

There was a stool set on the centre of the stage, so I headed towards that and sat on it for the part of Cabaret which goes “I used to have this girlfriend known as Elsie…” This provided me with an anchor and helped me relax a little. Apart from a minor timing issue, my performance was adequate. At the end I threw my hat spontaneously into the audience towards Dutchy, so that I would be able to safely retrieve it. I’m not like the famous tennis players who can afford to throw balls, racquets, shoes, and anything else lying around as souvenirs for the crowd.

Dutchy closed the show admirably, looking very sharp in his suit with the dress shirt and bow tie, receiving much applause and congratulations throughout the rest of the day, and in fact during the rest of the cruise.

Viewing the show on the special television channel though, I was disappointed in my performance, as of course we tend to be too hard on ourselves, and it was also in a widescreen format, just what you need at the end of a cruise! It reminded me of the unflattering Luna Park mirrors. Still, it was a great experience and our group of friends were happy to “know someone” on stage.

 

 

 

 

Wishing and Pacing

Make-a-wish at sea:

 

As part of their partnership with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Royal Caribbean International were selling T-shirts for a donation of $10 each to go towards granting a wish for children with life-threatening medical conditions. I took part, with us all donning the T-shirts, on the mile walk around the deck called the Walk for Wishes. Money raised on the ship exceeded $7,000.

 

Pace with Jace:

 

I was at a bit of a loose end while the rest of the group was playing Euchre, so I headed towards the gym on Level 12. Onto the reclining bike I climbed, ready for about 20 minutes of cardio. Jason Chase, the comedian who had performed the prior evening walked past, so I congratulated him on his show. He got on the bicycle next door and we proceeded to chat about insights into human nature, relationships and writing. I particularly liked the part of his routine about “rules” because I am often making up rules of the house, as well as rules for myself. Then we spoke about taking the lift, or elevator, up to the gym, and I mentioned the way we drive to the gym, and even try to get a parking spot nearby. He can park in the handicapped parking spot because of his wife’s health, but tries not to do that when she is in the car, unless he happens to be buying items for her. I asked if he did a bit of a limp when he did that. He laughed and said I understood people well, a compliment I highly value. The next ten minutes flew past, and we even discussed the book I am writing, about a girl called Suzi with an “i” travelling around the world thirty years ago.

I also told him about Phuket, where I designed a coat to be tailor-made in a charcoal wool. After my fitting I had later returned to collect the finished garment, when I saw a black jacket in exactly the same style hanging next to it! Apparently someone had seen mine and wanted one just like it, which therefore made me an international (though unpaid) fashion designer. He used to live in Las Vegas, so every time he headlined a cruise it could be announced that he was “direct from Las Vegas” which was true to the letter. It was a most enjoyable chat, and he even offered to critique my blog.

From Bora Bora to blogging and movies

Bora Bora Boring?

Suffering a little from sunburn, and hoping to find lots of people to speak French with on Bora Bora left me disappointed. There was no point going on a beach excursion, and Dutchy and I are probably a bit tired of seeing anything at the moment, as we’ve been tourists for so many weeks now. We are using this cruise more for relaxation than the total tourist package. We love cruising, and know we plan to do further cruises, so there is no rush to see and do everything everywhere. This is the holiday everybody talks about when they say “I need a holiday after this holiday.” We are really lucky to be living that dream. Nola and Tony have helped by cat-sitting, house-sitting and karaoke-sitting while we wend our way around the world.

On Bora Bora we managed to buy Dutchy some new socks, and some safety pins so I could alter the red tropical dress I bought in Tahiti to wear to dinner. Ironically, when I looked at the label, I found out that it was made in Indonesia! Most other souvenirs one buys seem to be made in China. It’s very special when you actually find something that is made in the country you are visiting, such as the beautiful stingray key ring for my collection, possibly made from pewter. We returned to the ship and enjoyed having a little more space there, because half the boat was still on the island. We chose the opportunity to have a pleasant lunch in the more formal dining room.

Blogging at sea:

Days at sea are a good time for working on the blog and updating it. When we were docked near Bora Bora and had returned to the ship, we thought it might be a good idea to post another entry. At 40 cents a minute (for our large $100 package) we tried to be as efficient as we can, which is not always that easy when the internet is excruciatingly slow, and we gave up trying to upload photos. This is the price of being a blogger. The signal in that area was dismal, so we waited until the following day to add the photographic evidence, which only scratches the surface of the number of photographs we have actually taken. Does anyone have a spare few hours for the “slide night”? I jest, as what I would really like to do is create a DVD of snapshots of our trip, but one which doesn’t go for too long. People are most interested in their own photos, but fellow travellers like seeing a (limited) selection. Now we only have an hour left of internet, so I have painstakingly planned that we can have four fifteen minute sessions until we return home.  This blog has not been in “real time” as it is usually a week or so behind. When we get home I will still be blogging for another week I suspect, but at least it will be in the comfort of our own home and on the internet where we get almost unlimited for less than we’ve paid for our scattered seventeen days on the cruise!

Private screening:

After a particularly enjoyable Headliner Showtime, entitled “The Dangerously Clean Comedy of Jason Chase,” Dutchy and I decided to go to the cinema if there were a seat available, to find only one other couple there. “The Dilemma” with Vince Vaughan and Winona Ryder obviously didn’t appeal to them, so it ended up with just the two of us in the theatre for our very own personal private screening of the movie. Oh, I love being a princess!

Marvellous Moorea

Although there were a few scattered clouds, the weather was a marked improvement on the weather we had experienced on Tahiti Nua. Even looking at it from afar, the water was a beautiful turquoise and the whole vista measured up well to its postcard image.

At the Windjammer Café, we met up for breakfast with the other couples – Sandy and Mick, Nerida and Chris, Lynda and Bruce, and Kerrie and Murray at 8.30am. The tenders, small boats that ferry people to places where the ship can’t dock, had already started taking passengers to the island. When we arrived on the island, Mick sourced out a tour for us, saving $10 each as a group of ten. For $30 each therefore, we were taken by boat to a smaller island where the bay was quite pretty, though the sea bed was rough. Reef shoes were not an option for us, as we had been travelling around the world, but they would have made life more comfortable. I had runners on because I thought there may be some walking, little realising that I would have to climb out of the boat into the water and walk tentatively through rough rocks to get to the beach.

Those of us with white bands on our wrists were provided with water and pineapple (ananas in French). Others who had paid a lot more also had a barbecue lunch. There was a much smaller boat that took you out to swim with stingrays and sharks.  Unfortunately, this boat only took about 14-18 people at a time, so by the time Dutchy and I had a turn it was three trips in. It took about 15 minutes to get out there, and then we clambered out of the boat into the sea. We were surprised when we touched the stingrays, safe because they are a breed without barbs. Their grey skin was sort of slimy but not gooey, almost velvety, and the small black-tipped reef sharks were beige and not dangerous, although we didn’t get close enough to touch them, or to want to! Goggles and snorkels were provided, but after all this scare with the norovirus, I opted to just wear my swimming goggles, which were good enough. After about 15 minutes we headed back to the cove, but missed the next boat back to the wharf, to the chagrin of my empty belly. Lunch time should have already been and gone. As we climbed out of the smaller boat into the water, one of my legs got stuck and I just about did the splits, or more likely a groin injury. My balance wading through the water trying to avoid the rocks was somewhat compromised.

By the time we returned to the little wharf and bought Dutchy his new pale blue short-sleeved shirt commemorating his visit to Moorea, and then taken the tender back to the ship, I couldn’t wait any longer. I raced up to the Park Café to have a delicious quesadilla, made all the more tasty by my hunger as it was almost 2.30pm. Still, I didn’t overeat as is often the case when over-hungry.

Exhausted and a little sunburned, I had a ¾ hour nap but made it to the gym before dinner and an early night, happy with the experience on the island.

“Tahiti sounds nice”

Day 7: Land ahoy:

Way back in the 1970’s I loved a television advertisement for Imperial Leather soap, where a woman is lying in the bath tub and calls on the intercom to the pilot, “Simon, Tahiti sounds nice.” After five days at sea, here we were facing dry (ish) land. The sunset the previous evening inspired us with hope (red sky at night, shepherd’s delight). However, there were no sheep or shepherds to be delighted.

 

Imagining a tropical oasis, as the Radiance of the Seas pulled into the harbour the illusion was shattered. Of course, you have to arrive at the docks, but it was cloudy and a sprinkling of rain greeted us as we sat on our balcony watching the manoeuvres. The ship had come in through the heads, which I had missed because I was asleep, but once in, the ship pivoted around in situ and then the captain backed it in. Being on the starboard side travelling west, all the balconies on this side of the ship were so full of guests I’m surprised the ship didn’t tip over. As we reversed in, it meant that we would be disembarking on the other side. Our SeaPass card is linked to our passports so we only had to swipe it to get on and off the ship, and show some photo identification, such as driver’s licence or passport.

From the ship we could see the city with mountains directly behind it, and coming down from the right-hand side, a stream of cars going into town for work. How the other half live! We, and probably half the people on the ship, had opted for room-service breakfast, so it arrived much later than planned, but I love ordering room-service when it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. The princess strikes again. I love not making the bed each day, and I adore having fresh towels regularly without having to actually wash them! But I digress.

The main throng of people left the ship early, but with our Newcastle buddies we went ashore just before 10 am, with the idea of hiring a minibus or such to take us around the island, despite the rain. Utilising some of my French speaking abilities, we came up with nothing. At least I was able to communicate with those who did not speak English. I found a red tropical dress that was really inexpensive, but was the wrong size. I tried it on and determined that I would be able to alter it at home, so the French Pacific francs came in handy. Many places accept American dollars also.

Our walkie-talkies have been very handy on and off the trip, and in this case when we were all at the market-place, we could keep tabs on each other. We returned to the ship for lunch as we had been told a hamburger could cost you $27, a price we preferred not to pay!

A blast from the past:

I had seen a familiar face on the ship, but Dutchy thought I imagine I know everyone, but at the market I saw the face again, so I went up to her and asked what her name was. Sure enough, it was Robyn from Tasmania, a friend of my estranged brother. She’s travelling with her daughter Jacquie and we had a great old chat. Over subsequent days we ran into each other and had many lovely conversations, both glad of the opportunity provided by a happy coincidence.

Dismal Day in Paradise:

Thank you, Dutchy, for this title for my blog post. Sometimes fantasy is better than reality, as in this case Tahiti did not come up to my expectations. Admittedly, we did not see the sights, because the rain was depressing. We had gone back to the ship for lunch and the others came to tell us they had organised a couple of taxis to go to the waterfall, but we said it might be a tad insignificant after having just been to Niagara Falls. We ended up doing some cardio at the gym and having a spa, which was most satisfactory. Our room attendant, Ahmad, from time to time would fold our towels artistically, which was always amusing.

It may have been a dismal day in Paradise, but it was a fabulously festive fun-filled evening. After our delightful dinner, and the Tahitian show, the party ended up at Karaoke. Sandy, after her Bingo win, shouted everyone a cocktail, and I think because the day hadn’t been fantastic, more than a few compensatory drinks were had by many. Even Nerida and Chris had a go, belting out Delilah, with the crowd joining in whole-heartedly. Those sort of impromptu party nights are to be remembered, at least by the ones sober enough to do so!