Pre cruise excitement

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So, I’m currently writing this from my hammock on a beautiful tropical island in the Caribbean, while drinking a fresh coconut.

Except by tropical island I mean my backyard. And replace the coconut with a lemon squash. 17,000km away from the actual Caribbean. But I AM writing this from my hammock, while dreaming of being where my heart really seems to lie!

What caused me to be lost in this daydream? Well, I just booked my next cruise! Unfortunately, not until February 2019 though. 18 weeks, 16 hours and 20 minutes to go. Not that I’m counting down or anything, right? I’ll be heading back to Far North Queensland. It will be summer this time which means it will be super hot, so i’m excited for hot weather! A lot of people ask why I would go back somewhere that i’ve already been, and the many answers are pretty simple: Because I loved it there and want to explore more, because it was a cruise that worked out best when booking it, and at the end of the day, I’d be happy going anywhere as long as I was on a ship.

If you enjoy cruising, you will know the excitement that follows booking a cruise. The excitement of knowing that soon you’ll be back on your floating home, not having to cook, clean and getting little chocolates every night. Not to mention all the cocktails and beautiful locations. But then, there’s always the dreaded impatience. It’s SO damn far away; how am I going to wait so long?! I hate the wait. I’m the most impatient person in the world when it comes to vacations…or anything really. But in the end, the wait always works in my favour because i’m also very unorganised. The kind of unorganised where i’m still booking flights 3 weeks before the cruise, pre-cruise accommodation 2 days before and packing the night before! I’m trying to get better at not waiting until the last minute, so I figure the more cruises I go on, the more practice i get, right?

Which leads me to this topic: packing! Who hates it? Who loves it?? Me? I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love the idea of it and I always want to start packing some ridiculous amount of time before the cruise. It gets me so excited. But then I drag my suitcase out, and think about only choosing certain clothing items, a certain amount of shoes and how hard that decision is, that I end up packing and unpacking multiple times up until the night before. It pretty much ends up being a lucky dip suitcase. On that note, how many pairs of heels for one cruise is too many? If I had it my way, I would be taking more than one suitcase with probably everything except the kitchen sink. I like to have options – what happens if i eat too much on formal night and i dont fit into my formal dress?? (because lets face it, there’s no such thing as dieting when you’ve got the buffet and dining room at your finger tips!)

Packing to come home is a whole different story. As I mentioned above, me being a serial last minute packer, in true form I will leave it until 5pm on the night that you have to put your suitcases out for collection. Then ‘packing’ will generally involve me literally throwing all my clothes, shoes, etc into my suitcase in no sort of order and having to sit on my case to zip it up. Packing up to leave is a sad reality that your cruise is coming to an end and definitely my most hated part of a cruise!

And then you have UNPACKING when you get home. If you’ve read this far then you can probably guess how it turns out for me without me having to go into detail! If you thought that I unpack as terribly as I pack, then you would be right. It happens gradually over time as I need things. If I just left my suitcase packed, then I wouldn’t have the trouble of packing for the next holiday, right??

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If the above doesn’t describe me when it comes to packing, then I dont know what does!

If anyone has any handy packing tips or must-do’s, feel free to share them!

C.

Favourites

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Local dancing. Port Vila, Vanuatu

One of the questions i get asked the most, and probably the hardest one to answer, is ‘where’s the best place that you’ve been to?’
There’s no one answer for that; i end up listing every place i’ve been to! There are some places that I loved more than others, but i’ve enjoyed every single beach, island, town, all for different reasons, and there’s no one ‘best’ place.

It’s no secret that I absolutely love the warm, tropical islands – i’m a coconut, turquoise blue water, palm tree loving girl through and through. So naturally one would assume the islands would be the best place. But which one? All of them. The islands in Papua New Guinea are so different to the ones in Vanuatu. New Zealand is cold, so one would think I wouldn’t like it there. Nope, I loved it. I just won’t be moving there anytime soon!

Where have I been? Granted, I’ve only been to a few various locations in different countries close to home: Australia, New Zealand, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. I haven’t been all over the world (yet!) but i’m working on it! Caribbean and Tahiti, hold tight, i’m coming for you one day.

So to answer the question, the best place i’ve been to is:

  • Rabaul, Alotau (PNG): The people here were so nice! The volcano’s in Rabaul left me in awe (i’ve never seen one before) and i’m still kicking myself I didn’t do the walk up one! And i was definitely in my element with the hot, humid and muggy climate.
  • Doini Island, Kitava Island, Kiriwina Island (PNG): The tropical islands of PNG. It’s a given that i’ll love anywhere that has palm trees and blue water so naturally I was happy to wander around the few market stalls that the locals had set up for us, then sit under a tree and enjoy the peace and quiet. Te only down side is that they didn’t have coconuts here. They did however have native tribe dancing and traditional canoes that they were happy to take us for rides on and fill our heads with some history!
  • Honiara (Solomon Islands): A built up town that is VERY hot and humid! It was the kind of town that you learned as you were walking back to the ship by yourself, that you probably shouldn’t be by yourself. Especially when I reached the ship to find it guarded by armed guards. Oops. It was intimidating and an eye opener to the fact that we sometimes take for granted/forget how ‘safe’ Australia is compared to other places. There’s a lot of history to the country and I would like to go back to explore more outside of the city center one day.
  • Lifou (New Caledonia): This place has THE BEST snorkeling i’ve done! It’s a cute little island where pretty much everything is in walking distance from the ship. Coconuts, market stalls and music. There are a few little places you can visit if you hire a car or catch the shuttle bus, like caves and grottos. You can take a walk up to an old church which has amazing views overlooking the ship anchored off shore and both sides of the island (it’s a hefty walk uphill though!). Snorkeling at Jinek Bay on the opposite side of the island is worth the $15 to do it. They charge for it so that there’s only a limited number of people swimming at one time to protect the marine life, and thank god they do. You don’t want to see something as beautiful as Jinek bays natural aquarium ruined!
  • Port Vila (Vanuatu): A lot of people who have been here think of Port Vila as dirty and boring. I see it as an incredibly friendly city who are just trying to get tourism back after being hit hard by Cyclone Pam in 2015. The crowds of taxi drivers wanting business as you walk off the cruise ship can be intimidating for first timers, but they’re harmless. They’re so many beautiful places if you venture out of the city itself. The blue lagoon, waterfalls, horse riding, turtle bay…i could go on and on. And you cant forget the duty free there – The Big Yellow shop in the city itself…don’t leave without visiting it!
  • Champagne Bay,Mystery Island (Vanuatu): The tropical islands of Vanuatu, and probably would be my first pick to go back to if I had to choose. Mystery Island lives up to its name. I’ve actually been there 3 times, but up until that third visit last year, I’d never been off the ship due to weather and it being cancelled. Apparently it’s a common occurrence so if you can get off there, you’re lucky! But it’s stunning. A small island with an ‘airport’ (airstrip and a rundown house saying ‘mystery island airport) in the middle. White sand, palm trees, some good snorkelling and various water sports. Champagne Bay has the bluest water i’ve ever seen, regardless of whether it’s sunny or overcast. There’s some coral reefs not far off shore that you can snorkel, canoes for hire, the usual market stalls from the locals and of course, my fresh coconuts. They also have locals cooking fresh local food like lobster and crab which i’m yet to true, but is apparently delicious!
  • Fiordlands (New Zealand): Probably the most stunning scenery i’ve ever seen! Absolutely freezing, but you’ll never picture a cruise ship as tiny until you sail through here. The mountain peaks towering closely on both sides of the ship, with waterfalls cascading down them and snow lining the tops, it’s spectacular.
  • Dunedin, Akaroa, Bay of Isles (New Zealand): Each little town was so different in their own way, but all so similar. Dunedin and Akaroa on the south island are a lot colder and wetter. Old but pretty towns with a lot of history behind them and beautiful landscapes. Bay of Isles (Paihia) on the north island is a lot more modern (and sunnier and warmer!) and a bit more of a tourist town that has a lot to do with fishing. Plenty of opportunities to go out on boats and fish and do water sports, and is a very tropical little town for NZ!
  • Auckland (New Zealand): I dont like big cities, but I really found a soft spot for Auckland. It’s not quite as big as other capital cities in Australia, and not as busy. It’s right on the waters edge so you can stroll down off the main streets and it’s not long before you feel like you’re not in a city anymore. The people are super friendly, there’s so much good food, and many places to buy authentic NZ souvenirs.

So there you have it. That’s my answer to ‘the best place i’ve been’! I’ve probably also forgotten a few places too.
My ‘favourite’ place would be one that I would go back to over and over again, regardless of how many times i’ve already been, and would probably have to be Champagne Bay/Mystery Island/Vanuatu. As much as I love exploring new places, I’ll always be a tropical climate kind of girl!
C.

Far north Queensland adventures (Sept ’18)

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Airlie Beach

Home sweet home! No, i’m not talking about returning home. I’m talking about finally getting to board Sea Princess again after 6 months. I’ve been on this ship 3 times now and turned out i knew quite a few staff from previous cruises, so it really did feel like going home, in a weird way.

I got on the ship no dramas and found my way to my cabin on deck 6 eventually. 30 minutes later, i had already managed to lock myself out of my cabin (by leaving my key card in my room, like one of those hotel room key cards). My room steward hadn’t even had time to come around and introduce himself yet, so our first meeting was him finding me standing sheepishly outside my room. I don’t think he knew what he was in for! Lucky for him, i was to be changing rooms in 4 days time. Lucky for me too, as i discovered soon after just how annoying my ‘neighbours’ were going to be! They started playing Christmas carols and singing along very loudly. Then would have their tv volume up to what sounded like the highest possible. I’m confident the people up on deck 12 could hear them! An hour later after muster drill I would come back to my cabin to a lovely note on my door saying: ‘close your door quieter, we’re trying to sleep’. If you didn’t know….you can can close your door as quietly as possible but it will still make a loud clicking noise. But what to do.. (besides putting a note back on their door saying ‘listen to your Christmas carols quieter, it’s only September and I’m trying to sleep’!)

The 4 day cruise from Auckland to Sydney was actually the end part of a 106 day world cruise. So 98% of the passengers on-board had gotten on the ship in Sydney 102 days ago and been all around the world and were just about home. Maybe that’s why my neighbours were grumpy. But it also meant that 99% of the population onboard were also aged 70+. I was definitely in the minority! But besides the fact that the dance floor was pretty much non existent and everyone was in bed by 10pm, it wasn’t all bad. I met some lovely old couples who had some awesome stories to talk about while we sat at the bar and listened to music, and the bars were not busy at all so I was never short of a seat! The sea’s weren’t as rough as I was hoping for so I was a little disappointed about that! My thermostat in my cabin was also broken, so for the entire 4 days (the coldest 4 days at that!) it probably would have been warmer sleeping up on deck by the pool. Apparently i’m not very good at complaining enough to get things fixed!

We reached Sydney 4 days later and because of customs had to disembark. I was also changing cabins that day (thank god, i was sick of feeling like it was Christmas time in America with my cold room and Christmas carols still being played through my wall!). I wanted to have a look around Sydney (and buy some more clothes since i now knew that my already heavy suitcase was still under weight for my flight home!), but was cold and rainy. Why does it always rain when i go there?! So i got off and made my way to, where else, but McDonalds for another sausage mcmuffin. Then I wandered around, getting myself lost and eventually winding up at creperie. I LOVE crepes, especially classic lemon and sugar ones and it’s incredibly hard, if not impossible, to find them back home. So I treated myself to 2 giant lemon and sugar crepes and a large salted caramel thickshake before heading back to the ship. I’d decided it was too cold and wet to stay out. I also don’t really like Sydney that much anyway. Way too busy and bustling for me – Sydney is the furthest thing from warm and tropical!

By the time 4pm and the sail away party came around, the sun had finally made an appearance, and although still cold, the party band (from the Caribbean and plays a great variety of dance music, reggae and classics) did their thing and i finally got a taste of the dance floor. I’m not usually confident enough to get up and dance by myself unless I’ve had a lot of drinks, but once they started playing ‘hot,hot,hot’ and everyone started doing the ships dance routine, i couldn’t help but get up and join in. Which then led to the nutbush, macarena, cha cha slide and just a general good time. The age group had decreased significantly and there were a few more younger people and families to keep me company!
2 days later, we arrived in Brisbane where we finally got some warm weather and sun. Brisbane is home, and we had docked at a terminal which is away from absolutely everything, so i stayed onboard and took advantage of the fact that i could get a lounger next to the pool and had the bar to myself. That’s the only problem with nice weather and a younger crowd; it can be almost impossible to get a deck chair by the pool and bar unless you stake it out at 9am!
I caught up and had lunch and a drink with a friend who i’d met on my cruise back in March, which was nice, and I spent a lot of time over the next few days at sea relaxing by the pool and taking line dancing classes!

We reached Willis Island a couple of days later, which turned into a full on busy day! The ship doesn’t dock here, it’s what known as scenic cruising and we just cruise by slowly. Willis Island is a TINY island in the middle of the ocean about 500km off the coast of Cairns. All it has a BOM weathering station on it, and 4 people live on the island to monitor it. When Cyclone Yasi hit in 2011 it went right over the island and destroyed it. It’s since been
​rebuiltal, and the bird life surrounding the island was amazing. I hadn’t seen a single bird since leaving Brisbane, and suddenly we were surrounded by albatross, shearwaters and terns.
That day, it was Oktoberfest on the ship, so naturally, i was keen for this! It was quite a warm day and after a bit of ice carving in which it took me the entire 20 minutes to realize that the carving was not actually a headless koala but a cockatoo, we did some german knee-slapping dancing and a few other routines, which did in fact include the good ol’ chicken dance! I then found my self a part of a steiner (a giant beer glass) holding competition. 4 girls had to hold the 1L glass full of water arms length out, at shoulder height for as long as we could. The last one standing won free beer. Well I would like to say i won this…but realistically i actually came 3rd. It was a lot harder than it looked in my defense! We then spent the rest of the afternoon dancing to Exxile (the Caribbean band) by the pool with our drinks and getting sun-burnt.
That night was rock n roll 60’s night and was a night of more dancing, and again i found my self a part of a hula hooping competition. I also didn’t win this and missed out on a free bottle of champagne. I seriously would have practiced my hula hooping skill and strengthening my arm if i knew i’d be doing all this! Safe to say i slept well that night!!!

We hit Port Douglas the next day and i fell in love with this little town! Very tropical, palm trees everywhere and the bluest ocean i’ve ever seen! I had lunch at a lovely little seafood cafe overlooking the beach and palms, and then wandered down the main street looking at the shops, before heading back to the ship. The ride over to the shore from the ship on the tender however was the equivalent to being on a bucking bull! I dont get seasick and i love rough seas, but even i was a bit concerned sitting on top on a tender boat with no back rest as we rolled through the waves on a 40 minute trip over. Still, it didnt stop me from trying to take a selfie with the ship in the background and almost losing my phone into the ocean as we rolled over another wave. They canceled the tender service and started using the big catamarans from the shore to bring people back. Even that was a fun ride back with the waves! That afternoon back on the ship really made me feel like i was holidays. You know how in summer when you’ve had a long day at the beach, you’ve gotten some sun and you finally get home and out of your wet, sandy swimwear. You have a cool shower and then relax in the warm afternoon with a cold beer? That’s the afternoon i had. Out on deck with a cold beer watching the boats bring the rest of the passengers back and I was in heaven.

The next day was Cairns. I have to be honest, it wasn’t my most favourite place. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice, but just so built up and city like compared to the other places. We docked at the terminal this time so it was an easy walk off into the town. I made my way to the shopping center to have a look at the shops first, then wandered down to the lagoon for a swim. That’s the only downside to far north Queensland, is that you can’t swim at the beaches due the risk of crocodiles, and in the warmer months, stingers (jellyfish). A lot of places have man made lagoons, or man made beaches instead. I liked this part of Cairns, it was the most tropical part of the town. I actually ended up having a free fortune reading by a strange homeless looking guy. He approached me, and while i was decided whether i should run, he told me about my future and what i should expect. Strangely enough, everything he told me was what i had been thinking about right before he turned up! Now, i don’t know if i believe in fortune readings and psychics, but he was scarily accurate! Well, besides the fact that he thinks my husband will be someone who works on a ship!
By time i headed back to the ship, storm clouds were building and by 4pm, it was actually freezing!

Last stop before home: Airlie Beach. I loved it as much as i did Port Douglas, if not more! It’s a very touristy kind of town; one main street with a lot of souvenir shops, backpacker hostels, pubs and bars and more populated than PD, but not as much as Cairns. Palm trees everywhere, blue water, a man made lagoon…it was paradise. I walked the 1km along the coastal boardwalk to get to town from the ship, taking in all the sights of the ocean and marina and i didn’t realize how hot it was. I attempted stand up paddle boarding for the first time in my life…and i spent more time in the water than i did on the board that i may have well as just gone swimming – but it was good fun! I continued on and went for a swim and lie by the lagoon, and had lunch at one of many pubs on the esplanade. This was the one place that i was actually sad about leaving, so I enjoyed it by drinking the bottle of $5 moscato that’d bought in town and watching the best sunset we’d had to date!

We had two days at sea traveling back to Sydney, and i pretty much spent them basking in the sun and making the most of it as it was going to be getting colder as we headed south again, and eating as much as i could stomach of the buffet food! We had a bit of whale action as they swam up right next to the ship and frolicked around. It was an amazing sight to see. There was country and western night where I got to put my line dancing classes to the test. We also had a balloon drop party on formal night which is always fun! There’s something about dressing up and dancing the night away and then having a whole of balloons drop down on you! Unfortunately I didn’t win the free cruise they were giving away in a single balloon…i didn’t have much winning luck this cruise!

I always hate the last night of a cruise. You’ve made so many friends and get into a routine. For example, i had become friends with the bartenders at a bar and they knew i loved the wasabi crackers that were in the rice cracker mix. So every afternoon at 4pm i’d head there for a drink and they would have just wasabi crackers sitting there waiting for me that they had picked out. I’d sit there for a bit a chat and then head off, get changed, have dinner etc. Then i’d head back later in the evening and an older couple who I had gotten to know and had taken me under their wing like a granddaughter, would be there and we’d have drinks and a good laugh with the bartenders while the band played. It’ always sad on the last night saying goodbye to everyone. You see the same people every day for 2 weeks or so, that you do get to know them (and you either love them or hate them!) and you become like a community. Some people/staff you do end up crossing paths with again on other cruises, and that’s always exciting.
This cruise ended up being amazing, i fell in love with some amazing places in my own backyard that I didn’t know existed and met some awesome people (as usual!) and there will definitely be more stories in the near future!
In the mean time, until my next one, i’ll try and recap the last few cruises I’ve done on here too, so stay tuned!
​C.

Auckland firsts (Sept ’18)

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Auckland city

I just got back from my latest cruise a couple of weeks ago, and am still suffering from cruise blues. Yes it’s a real thing! You’re sitting at home wondering what you did with your life before you went away. How did I handle making my own breakfast,lunch and dinner, or my bed? Where’s the little chocolates on my pillow every night?? What do I do instead of heading to bar each evening before dinner to chat to my favorite bar tenders and have them make my favorite cocktail without me even having to ask??? It’s a tough life on-board a cruise!

That was the 8th or 9th cruise I’ve done. I’ve lost count these days. However, it was the first time I’ve flown internationally. And doing it all by myself (i’m also someone who is not really a fan of flying to top it off). So this was going to be a bit of an adventure just getting to the ship, which would be waiting for me in Auckland, NZ, before heading back across the ditch to Sydney, then up to Brisbane, and continuing to the beautiful Airlie Beach, Cairns, Port Douglas, Willis Island then back to Sydney.

I mentioned in the last post that it was the customs officer who made me realize i’m a cruise addict! I arrived at about 6pm after a rough landing that felt like the pilot forgot where the brakes were, so  I was feeling quite anxious and nervous not knowing what to expect next; I’ve watched a lot of Border Security so I know what they do to people who look nervous and suss! Anyway, the guy asks me how long i’m in NZ for, I say a day and tell him i’m cruising home.
“Would you say you’re addicted to cruising?” he asks. Uh do they have all this stuff on secret file or something? How does he know how many I’ve been on?! I tell him how many i’ve done and he tells me i’m definitely addicted and sends me on my way. I’m happy, i made it out of the airport to my shuttle bus and not onto an episode of Border Security!

7.30pm and i finally make it to my questionable hotel right int the middle of the city that looked nothing like what I booked, and with a receptionist who spoke everything bar english! The beds were basically in the kitchen with a random pipe sticking out of the wall, and the toilet pretty much IN the shower. I had to leave the door open to shower because there was no light in there, and in turn allowed all the water from the shower to go all over the bedroom/kitchen floor. And then had a very wet floor whenever i need to go to the bathroom. Thankfully I was only there to sleep. I walked out onto my ‘balcony’ (i use that term loosely) and had an amazing view of the Auckland Skytower lit up, so wasn’t all bad. Although the daytime view….I woke up to a view resembling a warzone!

I left my 22kg suitcase with the hotel the next day while i wandered around Auckland. It was a lot colder than i was expecting, but just as pretty. It’s not super big, and it’s got all the usual shops you’d find in a city – I’m not a city girl at all (grew up in Melbourne) but there’s something about Auckland that I like and i enjoyed my day walking around. I admit, the first stop i made was breakfast….at McDonalds. I know, i go to a different country and eat exactly what i can get at home. I’m a sucker for sausage mcmuffins though! I shopped, checked out the ship docked at Queens Wharf, and just took in all the sights before heading back to the hotel,then struggling down the streets of Auckland city with my 22kg suitcase in tow, and my excitement building higher than the SkyTower.

One thing i did notice, was my accent! I felt extremely Australian…I would walk into a shop and they’d ask me how I was going, and whenever i replied I would almost start laughing because for the first time in my life I could  actually hear my accent! And the money! All the coins are the opposite of our Australian ones. $1 coins are the size of our $2 coins and vice versa. Same with 5c,10c etc. Quite often I felt like i was being that annoying customer taking forever to find the money and just wanted to hold the coins out and be like “here, take what you need”!

So that was part 1 of my adventure, I managed to navigate myself successfully to my hotel in another country in one piece by myself! Stay tuned for the next part.
​C.

New Zealand (March ’18)

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Fiordlands

I’m a sucker for the heat, so all of my cruises have been to somewhere warm and tropical. Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands. Back in March I took my first cruise to a place not known for its warmth: New Zealand. To be fair, it was a second choice to the warm and tropical Fiji, but unfortunately it had sold out by the time we went to book it – so New Zealand it was!
I went with a friend who I hadn’t seen since high school, some 12 or something years ago (you know you’re old when you cant remember when you were in high school!) so it was a good reunion. I haven’t had much luck with finding people to cruise with who enjoyed it enough to come back with me (most of the reason why i travel by myself), but she loves cruising as well so it was bound to be a good trip.
She flew from Melbourne, I flew from Brisbane and we met up in Sydney the day before. Sydney is not a favourite place of mine. It’s so busy and everyone is always in a rush. I have never heard so many car horns before in one place, and if it’s raining….god help your eyeballs from being poked out by the hundreds of umbrellas! It just so happened to be the Mardi Gras weekend when we arrived, but we didn’t know it until we saw multitudes of people walking the streets dressed up in bright colours. The next day we were walking through the city and got caught up in a protest of thousands of people parading through the city. I never found out what it was for, but it was the biggest i’ve ever seen. Those 24 hours in Sydney reiterated to me why I don’t like Sydney!

Every time i see a cruise ship docked and i’m about to embark on another cruise, i get this feeling of happiness. It’s almost like i’m back to where i’m supposed to be, like it’s a second home. Everyone laughs when i explain it like that but i guess you have to love cruising to understand it.
Anyway i got that feeling again as we walked up to the ship, me struggling with my heavy suitcase like usual. That’s probably a good reason for me to fly to a port first, because then i’m limited on how much I take! Otherwise I would probably sink the ship.

First thing we did when we boarded the Sun Princess, was hit the bar for frozen daiquiris! Sydney was still quite warm and I had a feeling it was going to be getting quite cold in the next few days. We were going to be heading down across the Tasman to the south island where we would first cruise through the Fiordlands national park, then make our way up to Dunedin, Akaroa, then to the north island to see Wellington, Napier, Tauranga, Auckland and finally Bay of Isles before heading back to Sydney.

I’m someone who generally makes the most of the days on a cruise. I’ll stay up late until everything is finished, and dont like to sleep in too late so I dont miss anything.The first night it was quite rough and for the first time ever, I wasn’t feeling great. I took a seasickness table and put myself to bed after managing to last out and about until about 10pm (early for me!) and passing out as soon as my head hit the pillow. Seasickness tablets knock me out! On sea days, at midday, the captain will make an announcement and ring bells to signal that it’s midday, and give us an update on our location. If there are bells ringing in the middle of the night in your cabin, it’s emergency signal going off. You know, aka we’re sinking. I woke up from my slumber that night to pitch darkness (damn interior cabins), bells ringing in my cabin and the captains voice. Cue panic because i’m thinking we’re sinking, as Ive just been woken from the deepest sleep i’ve ever been in by the emergency alarms going off. I finally find my clock…its midday and was just the captains midday call. I had managed to sleep for a whole 14 hours..which was good, except that i’d missed all the fun morning activities, including signing up for the egg drop challenge! Since then, i’ve always set an alarm, and stopped taking seasickness tablets!

Entering the Fiordlands the next day was a spectacular sight! We woke up at 6.30am to watch us sail in and that is the earliest i’ve ever woken up on a cruise, but was totally worth it. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining down all the mountain peaks, which towered over the ship on both sides, not leaving much room for us to sail through and making the ship feel tiny. Unfortunately, it was very windy and absolutely freezing so staying up on deck at the front of the ship where the best view was, was not long lasting. But I still managed to get some amazing photos of the huge waterfalls and snow capped mountain peaks before retreating back inside to the warmth. Because of tides and the wind we couldn’t go all the way the through, so we turned around (i still dont know how in such a small area!) and starting heading towards our next destination, Dunedin, and I went back to bed for some much needed ZZZZZ’s!

We reached a very wet and very cold Dunedin the next morning. I was already starting to miss the warm weather after only 4 cold days! Dunedin reminds me of what i would imagine Scotland or England to be like – grey, wet, and old! It was a nice little historical looking town though. My friends sister lives here, so she picked us up from the port and gave us a guided tour of the town. Our first stop? Obviously the Cadbury chocolate factory! We took a guided tour through the whole factory and was shown how they make all the different chocolates. We were given a goody bag at the beginning, and each time we stopped at an area, we were given different chocolates. We left there with SO much chocolate! The Cadbury factory has actually closed down now, so we were very lucky to go there when we did.
Our next stop was Baldwin Street. Baldwin street is the worlds steepest street. And it doesn’t look it….until you go to walk up it! I think we got halfway up before stopping for photos, admiring how steep it was….and then walking back down. Which was a lot easier! The sun had come out by this stage and I was starting to see how nice the town actually was. A quick visit to the beach and it was time to head back to the ship!

Akaroa the next day, was a very quaint little seaside village with cute little cottages and restaurants, and even a few palm trees! It was however, raining and cold again (surprise,surprise…does the south island have any other weather besides rain?!) and I wasn’t feeling very excited about heading over, but we took the tender over anyway, and surprisingly despite the cold wind and rain, actually quite liked it. I can only imagine how pretty it is when the sun’s shining! We didn’t stay over there very long as we got wet and cold, and our day back on the ship consisted of attempting some trivia, bingo and having a drink with our new friends we’d met at the bar.

Wellington (aka the windy city) is just like Sydney, but with less shops. We took a bus into the city from the ship (about 15 minutes) and got off with plans to walk around. Well, we did that in about 30 minutes. The CBD is basically just office buildings with a few shops scattered around. We sat in McDonalds for a bit to use the free wifi and have lunch, then bused it back to the ship. Its definitely very windy in Wellington, my hair did not enjoy it!

When we got back on the ship after visiting ‘the windy city’, we were informed that there was, in fact, a cyclone ahead of us. (I could have sworn the cyclone was in Wellington..) We were currently at the very bottom of the north island, with the intention of heading up the east side of the island and around the top and across to Sydney. Unfortunately, Cyclone Hola had other plans for us, as she was smack bam in our way. So the Captain decided going through the cyclone was a bad idea and changed our route to head up the west side instead and around the top to Auckland. This would then put us behind Hola, and still scheduled to arrive in Auckland on time as there were passengers who were due to disembark there; so missing Auckland was not option. Unfortunately though, it meant we missed out on stopping at Napier and Tauranga instead. To be honest, i was more disappointed we wouldn’t be heading through the cyclone! I know, safety first, but i’ve always wanted to experience really rough stormy seas, like all the ‘cruise from hell’ videos you see from other passengers! Despite us running away from Cyclone Hola, we still got some decent swell, decent enough that you could blame the too many cocktails you had at dinner, on the the ship and waves that was making you walk from side to side and into walls!

We reached Auckland on time, albeit a few hours later than scheduled, but it was a lovely day! We walked around the city and had lunch, but for some reason, i had an urge to want to do something extreme, and different. So what did I choose to do? I decided to do the SkyTower skywalk. Now that doesn’t sound crazy. But it was actually the most terrifying thing i’ve ever done. You walk around a path (thats only about 1m wide, no rails and you can see straight through it down to the streets below) 194m high up with only a harness attached to an overhead safety line. I’m afraid of heights, and i must have picked one one of the windiest days to do it! The guide who leads the group of 5 gets you all to do little ‘challenges’, like leaning or sitting off over the side of the path, basically putting your life trust in that safety harness! I was at the back of the line so I shuffled along at snail pace holding on to my harness for dear life. I didn’t work up the courage to do any of the challenges until the very last one, which was leaning forward out off the path and having my arms outspread and not holding onto the harness. Well, i held on with 1 hand, but i basically did it and i realized that I could definitely not be a bird! I’m very glad and proud that I did it….but I won’t be doing it again anytime soon! (I can probably also scrap climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge off my list too) There is also the option of jumping off the SkyTower, from the same level that we walked around. Those people are crazy!
We got back to the ship and started getting ready for dinner at about 5.30pm, when i discovered I had lost my favourite ring that I always wore. I had to take it off for the sky walk so I was convinced it had either fallen off at the SkyTower, or just outside of the ship. So, cue a mad dash off the ship with security calling after us to make sure we’re back by 6.30pm and a quick search around the terminal, before running 2 blocks to a phone booth to call the SkyTower. It has been a LONG time since i’ve used a public phone and after a couple of minutes of figuring out how to use it, finally got put on hold. For a long time. To be told they had closed and to call back the next day. When we wouldn’t be there. So….I never got that ring back.

That night we had a bit more excitement, with a fire on board. Not a major one, thankfully, but apparently a dishwasher down in the crew area had a hissy fit and quit working. We would never have known though, but the Captain came over the loud speaker informing us and would let us know when the ‘issue’ was resolved. It was a little nerve wracking but i figured since there had been no alarm bells, we weren’t in too much danger of needing the lifeboats! (And i was happy I hadn’t been jolted out of a deep sleep again!) Not 20 minutes later, he came back over the loudspeaker saying that it was under control and everything was good. Cue some cheering from passengers, and we continued on with our Country and Western party.

The next day we reached Bay of Isles. We went to the island of Paihia and it reminded me of Hawaii. Again, i’ve never been to Hawaii, but it’s what i would imagine it to look like. The sun was shining, and it was actually warm! We had a nice fish and chip lunch, some ice cream and just basked in the first lot of warm weather we got. I really enjoyed it here, a lovely little beachside town with lots of shops and palm trees. I think it’s a common trait with me; i love all the places with palm trees.

We boarded back onto the ship to find out that we were going to have to alter our course home due to another cyclone wanting to play havok with us. This one wasn’t intent on wanting to sink us, it was just ‘cruising’ along side of us (see what I did there?), but the captain still wanted to get as far away from it as we could. Still, that night was quite a rough night. Walking around the ship you’d walk into one wall, then cross over into the other side. Hitting the dance floor was even more fun; line dancing wasn’t so much ‘line’ dancing anymore, more people just going in every which direction and into each other with the ships movement. Every now and then, we’d hear a big crash and a huge shudder of the ship as we’d crash into another huge wave. Going up stairs was either really easy (if the ship was coming down off a wave) or really hard (if it was going up a wave) due to gravity. Lying in bed was an experience! Every time we’d go down a wave, you would feel a millisecond of weightlessness and you’d lose your stomach. Then you’d sink into your bed as we rode up a wave, and repeat coming down. I was enjoying every second of it and actually had one of the best sleeps i’d had (besides the first night when I took a seasick tablet!)

The next day was the same, and you tell could a lot of people were starting to feel the effects of it! Meanwhile I was as happy as a pig in mud and having a ball stumbling around the ship. We entered the egg drop challenge that day. I mentioned earlier that sign ups for it were on the second morning, and i slept through them. Well we were determined to enter, so as a last minute contender we rushed around trying to come up with a contraption to enter. The aim was to drop a raw egg from deck 8 to deck 5 and have the egg survive the fall. We tried to be inventive, but in the end,our plan was just to just wrap our egg in a roll of toilet paper, shove it in a paper coffee cup, attach a plastic bag as a parachute and hope for the best! Well after 7 other teams either broke their eggs, or missed the target, it was just us left. The announcer made sure to let everyone know we were late participants because we slept in, and then we dropped our egg. Surprisingly, our cup landed right on the target, AND our egg survived!! We won a bottle champagne, and it did not last long before we’d consumed it all. I made the most of it being the last night, and partied until the early hours of the morning.
After about 30+ hours of constant rough seas, even I was starting to feel a bit nauseas as I went to bed! (although maybe my big night played a part in that!)But i refused to take a seasickness tablet in fear that I would sleep through them disembarkation. (although that wouldn’t have been a bad thing!) Luckily, it was nice and calm by the time we woke up and got ready to leave the ship.

I’ve cruised all over the South Pacific during cyclone season and have never encountered a cyclone, but I go to New Zealand, the last place i’d expect to have cyclones, and we get 2 in one cruise! I guess that proves you can never predict mother nature. But we had a blast on that cruise, and I think we can say it was a successful reunion of our friendship. We might even cruise again together one day, which is more I can say for everyone else that i’ve cruised with haha. We made awesome friends with an older couple who were always at the same bar as us, and we’ve kept in touch with them and might even be catching up on another cruise with them! But if I learned anything from this cruise, it’s that i definitely prefer warmer climates. We got a few warm days where we were able to lie by the pool (we even got sunburned one day!) but the majority of the time it was too cold. New Zealand has some beautiful scenery, and it’s so green and the people are so nice; it’s definitely a place that everyone should at least once in their lives!
C.