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Bobby’s Top Ten:

At the end of the last night’s entertainment Cruise director Bobby Brown gave us a list of the ten most stupid questions he had been asked on the cruise, some of which are listed below:

  • Do you have to get off the ship for a shore excursion?
  • What do they do with the ice carvings after they have melted?
  • Are the toilets flushed with salt water or fresh water? Who cares?
  • Does this staircase go up or down?
  • Does the ship generate its own electricity?
  • Do the crew live onboard?

Last Days on Board:

Although the food was generally really, really good, I think during the last week the dining room chefs particularly outdid themselves with the quality and variety of the courses presented. Everyone donned their glad rags for the final formal night, but the mood was a bit pensive as we all knew the fun was drawing to a close.

                   

           

             

It was interesting to note that the roughest seas we encountered seemed to be west of New Zealand, but because we were well-conditioned to the ocean it didn’t bother us at all. We could possibly become cruise-aholics after the two wonderful experiences we have had.

I booked in for a 20-20-20 at the Day Spa for $100 on the last day, as a special treat. Foolishly I was wondering how long the entire process would take. Oh yes, three 20 minute sessions adds up to an hour. Selecting the foot and ankle massage, plus the neck and shoulder massage, topped off with the facial, I felt fantastic and fully pampered at the end of my appointment.

Homeward Bound:

Everything ran smoothly at the end. We had to put our suitcases out the night before so that they could be taken off the ship as soon as we arrived in Sydney, then everyone was allocated a number and time to be at various meeting points around the ship on disembarkation day. Ours unfortunately, was quite early because we had a flight to catch. Mind you, the flight wasn’t until midday but our muster time was something like 7.45am. In any case we knew at the end of that day our own bed would await us. By this time I was allowing myself to really miss my cats, as I had steeled myself against getting too sentimental while we were away for the ten weeks.

The weather in Sydney was lousy, but in both Sydney and Melbourne we do tend to get a lot of rain in October. We were more concerned with what the weather would be like down south. At least during the past few days we were becoming acclimatised to middling sort of weather.

 

Eventually the shuttle bus, which ended up being free, I am happy to say, took us to Sydney Airport. He couldn’t drop us at our various terminals because the luggage had been put in the cargo area willy-nilly, as people had been arriving at the coach at different times. This meant we had to lug all our stuff across to the Qantas terminal. Then, in accordance with Murphy’s Law, our plane was delayed since we had so much spare time. We whiled away our time at a restaurant where we enjoyed a good, Australian-made cappuccino. Dutchy went back to the other terminal where there was free wi-fi, to check emails on his itouch, but I stayed where I was and worked on the blog.

We were given a sandwich and a cuppa on the plane, which although not as good as airlines used to provide, was better than the zero meals you get on American planes. The landing in Melbourne was possibly the bumpiest and most turbulent I have ever experienced, and we weren’t sure even why it was like that. The weather wasn’t bad enough to create that sort of effect. Regardless, we were safe and sound and Nola and Tony met us at the airport to drive us to “Home, sweet home” and our adorable pussycats.

Stay tuned for one last post from this particular trip!!

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Food, glorious food!

Culinary delights awaited us every day onboard the Radiance of the Seas, particularly at dinner time in the dining room. There were always three courses, obviously adding to the waistline, and very hard to resist. At least there were some healthier choices available from which I sometimes chose. For this blog, a picture says a thousand words. Let your tastebuds imagine the sumptuous flavours!

Excellent entrées:


    

Magical mains:

      

     

     

Divine desserts:

     


   

It’s not your birthday yet!

We had arranged to celebrate Dutchy’s 50th birthday on the cruise, although his actual birthday was a week later. During the evening prior to this, Dutchy was practising for his pre-birthday celebration with drinks and sport on television before dinner; then more drinks and some gambling after dinner. He enjoyed playing some Black Jack and winning then losing money. He didn’t want to come to see the tango dancing either because he was “busy.”

Later I was sitting on a stool in the casino, waiting to see what was happening, since he was flitting all over the place, pretty much like I do, but not necessarily when I’ve had too much to drink! But Dutchy accused me of being angry which upset me, because I was only a little impatient. Then two other people suggested the same thing to me, which did make me angry. I would rather have been left entirely alone, so I decided to go to our stateroom to work on my blog, and enjoy my own company. Then Dutchy arrived, deciding not to go out and have more fun as I was quite happy for him to do. It was one of those nights when you are happier just to go to sleep and look forward to a better morrow.

It’s good to add some details of everyday occurrences and annoyances, so that people don’t have a distorted view of travel. Remember, relationships continue wherever you are, because you are only changing the venue where the relationship is. With all due respect to my husband, of course there would have been many times he was annoyed by my actions, but since this is my blog, I am obviously a perfect princess – I wish! In my fantasy world I am never wrong.

As it transpired, the actual celebratory dinner was an anti-climax, as Dutchy had peaked early with his “pre-celebrations.”

I had enquired at Guest Services about Happy Birthday signs on the door but they cost about $30, which we preferred to spend on other things. A cake would have cost $14, as if we needed extra dessert! However, I was offered a bottle of wine as a goodwill gesture, which I was only too happy to accept, and everyone was happy to share at the dinner. The others had all “invested” in a wine package, which meant they “spaved.” They had to spend lots to save 25% on the normal cost of each bottle. We chose to stick with an occasional wine but concentrate on cocktails, beer and mixed drinks.

It had also been Chris’s birthday prior to the cruise, so they were both presented with a “Happy Birthday” sign and candle on their dessert to the accompaniment of the obligatory “Happy Birthday to You.”

Mission Les Mills:

A slow start after too much walking the previous day meant that it was mid-morning by the time we left the ship, this time by ourselves.

Meanwhile, overnight, the ship had moved from the Princes Wharf to the refinery for refuelling, which would take ten hours. I had this image in my head of someone holding the hose for the petrol bowser for an awfully long time.

As I am a mad fan of Body Balance, one of the Les Mills’ programs, originating in New Zealand, I thought it would be great to buy some of that brand of gym gear. At the internet café we found, for a fraction of the cost on the ship, we printed out my email receipt for the extra 20kg baggage allowance for our domestic Qantas flight. Looking at emails and even facebook, it cost $2 for half an hour plus $1 for printing two pages, rather different from 40 cents a minute onboard! The guy there kindly found the address of a Les Mills’ gym, giving us directions which led us to Victoria Street West, a good walk away.

Unfortunately, there were no items on sale, as you can buy them online. The girl was so sweet when I was really disappointed, that she rang their other gym and sourced a water bottle. I asked her how much it would be, but she said it would be free, so we set out again on the Quest for Les Mills, finally arriving at the other gym where the girl at reception gave me my lovely metal water bottle stating that I am a foundation member of their gym. That was an excellent piece of PR on their behalf, and a water bottle is a nice practical souvenir.

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.