Wednesday, 14 March 2012


In January I went on a cruise, along with my four sisters.  In my fantasy world I’d love to say it was just my first cruise, but it doesn’t seem likely I’ll be able to afford another.

Anyway, it was preceded by a couple of days in Brisbane – including a day at Australia Zoo – and staring at a set of floodlights at the ‘Gabba from our unit.

The best dinner of the whole holiday was as Bistrot Bistro in Brisbane, somewhere. Amazing French food, nice atmosphere, and stunning bathroom! I got to choose where we went – well, actually, I put on my bossy pants, and said there. My logic was that the other choice was Italian, and we’d probably see pasta while on the cruise, while French food would be less common.

The cruise itself. There were five of us in two cabins, just around the corner from each other. My cabin, which I shared with L, was spacious. L has claustrophobia, falls out of top bunks, and has nightmares. Oh, and we always share when we’re away.  So, we needed an outside cabin – window being a necessity. The other three were in a smaller cabin.

Life on board was nearly bliss. Almost every staff member – ship crew, entertainment staff, reception, wait staff, cabin stewards – were friendly, smiling and welcoming. And it didn’t feel forced. They would hum. Sing. Laugh with each other. Hug each other if someone was leaving the ship.

Cruising is a true holiday. When your decisions involve which restaurant to eat at, which cocktail to drink, which show to see…  No packing up. No driving. No dishes. We were in a bubble. The news channels were UK-based, which was a pain to try and keep up with cricket in New Zealand and Australia, and the Australian Tennis Open. Thank goodness for text updates from mum! And, once we arrived in New Zealand, I could get the net on my mobile – so bring on cricinfo.

If you really concentrated on keeping your costs down you could: staying in cheaper cabins; only eating in the ‘free’ restaurants; not drinking real coffee – just the machine stuff; no shore tours; not shopping onboard; no alcohol… it would be a reasonably affordable way to travel. We, however, didn’t… and it was the coffee that did us in.

Fiordland was stunning. A whole day spent on the top deck (mostly in the Dome, the enclosed part) just gazing at the views. Shame it was only 5°. The ship did brisk sales on sweatshirts and rain ponchos.

Dunedin was Dunedin. Been there before, but not to the botanic gardens nor the museum. Otago Museum was wonderful, particularly the butterfly house! It did mean my sisters had a guide to get around the city.

Akaroa – ok it was about 9°, windy and with some cold rain – but quite lovely. The nature cruise in and around the harbour was great, even it was really choppy! Unfortunately, we had explicit descriptions of another person’s seasickness. Seals and shags and terns. And, rumours of one little blue penguin. Luckily the ship’s tenders didn’t rock and roll at all.

Wellington. Again, my sisters had a guide. Te Papa and the Unveiled exhibition. The wandering back to the shuttle stop via shops and café. My knowledge of Wellington came in very handy. We didn’t bother with the cable car as the queue was insane. Well, there were two cruise ships in port.

Napier. Too short – about five hours in port due to tides and the need to get to Tauranga by the next morning.

Tauranga – well, Mt Maunganui really. Again, walking and shopping.

Then home to Auckland.

The weather wasn’t horrendous, but it wasn’t great. But we did get to see everything! The worst weather was behind us. The flooding began in Queensland and New South Wales after we leave. Hail and gales in Akaroa a couple of days after we left. And, I’d packed for a summer holiday. I never had a chance to wear my new swimwear after months of agonising over them.

It was wonderful listening to other passengers talk about New Zealand. The scenery. The places. Everything. All they wanted to see again. The sun! Queensland doesn’t have daylight savings – so, for them, seeing the sun until after 9pm was stunning – yes, we were in the South Island, so closer to the South Pole and, therefore, longer days in general in summer.

It was a struggle coming back to real life. Missing having someone turning down your bed and leaving chocolate on your pillow – not to mention leaving an elephant made out of towels. Then coffee delivered with a smile and more chocolate.

Highlights: dolphins as we headed out of Napier.

The Liar’s Club show – two hours of hilarity and mayhem. Innuendos and vocabulary. There’s a panel of four characters (literally) and each has to give their definition of a strange word, which usually sounds pretty dodgy. Like farture. Or bipennis. Seriously, who knew there was a word for the smell of turkey stuffing!

And, spending time with the sisters. Dancing with mar. Rooming with L (nightmares not withstanding – the spider one was actually entertaining). Just hanging and chatting.

Oh, and time for a nana nap each day – two weeks of them!

If you asked me if I recommended cruising, I’d have to say yes. If you just want to relax – yes.


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