A Travellerspoint blog

Arriving in Auckland

Saturday, 17 November 2012

View 2012 Hawaii Millennium on greynomadm's travel map.

Got up this morning to find us alongside in Auckland. The morning dawned to a leaden overcast sky and by the time the sun made a feeble attempt to brighten the sky it had started to rain.

A light breakfast and we went ashore into a rain threatening Auckland CBD. We noticed the HAL vessel "Amsterdam" has berthed at the secondary pier. She looks a classy ship. Our first mission was to find some cheap long pants for me, I hadn't packed enough and the one pair I have don't fit. Of all places, right in the CBD we found a Warehouse which had a reasonable range and only a block from the ship.
We spent some time working out a possible bus route to Mt Eden in case the weather improves tomorrow, then beat a hasty retreat back to the ship before the rain belted down.

Lunch and any idea that we might venture ashore again is washed away by continued and steady rain. Jenny nodded off to catch up on sleep lost overnight and some vague notion that she might attend a late show tonight.

As the grey wet afternoon continued we spent our time in the cabin dozing and occasionally watching TV, this despite our intention to watch TV.
The dinner in the dining room was as good as always with Cedric and Naik taking very good care of us. Naik, the assistant waiter, is so very shy and he has the most captivating smile. He's going ashore tonight when he finishes his shift and was clearly excited.

Tonight's show was a varied performance of local Maori singing and dancing. The performance was enhanced by a narrator who explained the meaning behind the moves.

Unusually for us we attended the 'Late Night Show' which featured a hypnotist Dominic De Carlo. Parts of it were very funny and he appeared to have the volunteers completely under his spell. It was just before midnight when we made it back to the cabin.

Posted by greynomadm 02:56 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)


Friday, 16 November 2012

View 2012 Hawaii Millennium on greynomadm's travel map.

The ship arrived off the port before 0600 and was secured and disembarking passengers by about 0715. There was no perceivable sunrise and only managed a few blurry images of the dock area.

After breakfast we went ashore and walked down the main street of Mount Maunganui. Shops had not yet come to life but it looked like a lively place.

We had challenged ourselves to walk up the Mount. It is a mere 232 meters high and the track is said to be 3.4 Km, "a comfortable 1 hour walk". It took us a good hour to make it to the top and at least 40 minutes to get back down, well worth the effort.

Back in the town we found a bakery and I just had to have a pie. Jenny bought some wool and knitting needles from the Red Cross shop. The town is not only in a beautiful setting but it appears that the residents take pride in the town. We heard a number of comments along the line "I could live here!!" Totally agree. Back at the ship in time for lunch.

Nothing scheduled for this afternoon so we'll just kick back and recover from the walk.

Another excellent dinner in the dining room and the show was the best so far of an excellent line up. Mario D'Andrea sang beautifully and played the guitar with a skill I have never previously witnessed, at one stage he made it sound like a bagpipe at another it was a mandolin. he had the audience so involved that at one stage a woman from the audience danced onto the stage to the tune of Zorba's Dance. He received a standing ovation from almost the whole audience.

Posted by greynomadm 02:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

At Sea North of New Zealand

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Awoke rather tired after loud music had kept me awake until well after midnight. It is the first time it has happened, hopefully also the last. The morning dawned briskly cold and the promise of a reasonable sunrise. The ship is moving quite slowly compared to the frenetic pace of the previous days. Up on deck we experienced a wind from the stern as the wind exceeded the ship's speed, not something that happens frequently. Managed to capture an impressive series of images as the sun played with and amongst the clouds.

Breakfast of fruit, smoked salmon and pickled herrings was completed and we left quickly to escape the shrill voice of some American female who sat at the table next to us. So back to the cabin to plan today's activities, looks like there will be plenty to keep us occupied.

First up today was Alan Dowty who outline the rise of Islam and the expansion of the Arab world over time and the birth of Arab resentment at the time of the Crusaders and growing ever since. Prof David Hughes took the stage and enthralled the crowd with another lecture on the planets of our solar system and many planets attached to other stars in the universe. d.hughes@sheffield.ac.uk

Back to the cabin to work on my review letter for a while then off to lunch on deck 10. Next event was the guest's Talent Show - great laugh, funny stories and some good singing, very brave people.

Attended Carol Grace's discussion on the topic of self publishing of books in the form of e-books. She claims that whilst there is some more work involved it provides for total control by the author.

Back to the main dining room for dinner where we were welcomed back like old friends, the meal and the service as always was excellent.
Tonight's show was split between Jackie Love and Mark Merchant who stated again that the proceeds of the sale of his DVD were all donated to charity.

Early morning tomorrow, we are due in Tauranga at 0615.

Posted by greynomadm 02:49 Comments (0)

Total Solar Eclipse

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Up before dawn to walk some laps and perhaps capture some images of the rising sun. Made may way to Deck 11 and almost immediately returned to the cabin. The air outside was close to freezing !! After so much time in the tropics it was a shock to the system. Dug out a jacket and back up to Deck 11. Another surprise, many of the die hard 'Eclipse Watchers' were already setting up for an event that was all of five hours away. Completed a number of circuits and took some photos. By about 0615 there were dozens of people with their camera and telescopes mounted on tripods and settling in for a long wait.

After a simple breakfast we gathered our solar viewing shades, camera and tripod and made for the helicopter deck on the bow. This is normally a crew-only area but has been opened to the public for the viewing of the eclipse. We joined an enthusiastic group and sat and talked for about an hour. The ship had slowed to a speed just fast enough to maintain steerage way. Our course had changed so that we were now heading along the projected path of the eclipse.

The predicted timetable was calculated to be:-
0910 - First Contact - the moon starts its journey across the sun
1020 - Second Contact - "Totality" when the moon totally covers the disc of the sun.
1023 - Third Contact - "End of Totality" when the sun starts to regain the sky.
1141 - Fourth Contact - the moon has completely moved aside and the sky is back to normal.

The excitement mounted as the time approached "First Contact". Look look, I can see the moon starting to eat the sun. Wow this is so cool. These and other comments spread throughout the crowd and grew in intensity as the moon progressed across the sun. If it was at all possible the excitement mounted to a fever pitch as the size of the visible crescent of the sun reduced to a tiny sliver.

Then within a minute of the predicted time, there was an awed silence as we experienced 'totality', that magic moment when there was total darkness, the temperature noticeably dropped and the wind picked up. Gradually people started talking again and all stared up at this unbelievable phenomena. Where the sun should be there was a black disk with a bright outer ring and certain astronomical object were also visible as if in the night sky.

Just four minutes after the sun was blacked out the moon moved aside and the first uncovered tiny sliver of the sun burst forth like a brilliant diamond and the remaining ring of light combined to make the most majestic and gigantic ring in the sky.

As the light gradually returned to normal, the crowd broke up and headed back to their other activities. It was a shared experience and we may have been the largest single group on this planet to have witnessed this event. According to the enthusiasts we are no longer 'eclipse virgins' and are potential 'eclipse chasers'. The talk now is "When and where is the next one ??".

Lunch was certainly an anticlimax after that. We ate lightly as we're booked for dinner at the 'Olympic', one of the speciality dining options. On the way to our cabin we chanced upon a bargain clothing table and surprise surprise there was a perfect jacket for Jenny, the right size, good quality and a colour to go with anything. Even better it was 50% off!! Opposite the clothing table was one sporting cameras and binoculars, yes she fell in love with a cute little binocular made by Olympus. The price wasn't too bad so Jenny now has a pocket size but serious binocular to carry in her handbag.

The normal 'Writing' session was today dominated by the event we'd just experienced. It certainly has made an enormous impact on some of the more observant and experienced authors. One of the most telling was the observation that we individuals are so insignificant, another observed the coming together of groups of crew members sharing a once in a lifetime event and how those with the knowledge explained it to their fellow countrymen.

Going up to Deck 10 for a cup of tea and having to line up while an overworked kitchen hand dispenses beverages from 'self-service' devices reminded me that were are still under 'full service'. I can't remember any more what it was like to serve myself to what I wanted rather than trying to attract a kitchen hand and explain to them what I want.

Dinner tonight at the Olympic Speciality Dining. In a word, fantastic, impeccable, stunning, excellent in every way. I can barely recall my choices and have even less idea what Jenny ordered so here's my best attempt.

Starter of poached pear and goat's cheese in a filo parcel beautifully presented, next a cube of pork belly that totally melted in the mouth. Jenny's starters were a goat's cheese soufflé followed by scollops Wellington style. Main meal a lobster tail cooked at the side of the table finished in a cream sauce and plated alongside a mound of mashed potato garnished with baby vegetables. Jenny's main was lamb cutlets, four of them!! Next the cheese course, a selection from over a dozen hard and soft cheeses.
Although we had decided not to have a coffee we were presented with a selection of petit-fours and to hammer that final nail into my coffin there was a desert of a degustation of sorbets and gelatas. Jenny's desert comprised a small slab of vanilla ice-cream, some profiteroles and a peach sauce.

I was asked for my cruise card although the charge had been prepaid. Our waiter was away for a long time and came back with a sizable chocolate cake inscribed with "Happy Birthday Tony". Too much to eat despite my best efforts.

We staggered up to the theatre for tonight's show which featured a variety of acts who perform in the various lounges. A solo guitarist Charlie Butler, a solo pianist Tammy Rafferty and a Cappella Quartet - Sonic Wave. All expertly backed by the on-board orchestra.

A very full and memorable day, I will long remember this birthday.

Posted by greynomadm 02:46 Comments (0)

En Route to the Solar Eclipse

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

A very impressive sunrise greeted us this morning and it was a pleasure to see the sun despite some scattered clouds. A light breakfast consisting of fruit and a small helping of smoked salmon is my way of trying to get back into my pants.

First lecture today is by Dr Collins on the topic of 'The War of Jenkin's Ear'. He rambled through some of the causes of wars, how they changed the colonisation map as various European powers won and lost.

The next talk was by the ship's First Officer, a young man from New York. He took us through the process of planning, refining, executing and reviewing the plan for an itinerary. He also touched on the equipment used on board in the execution of the plan. He stressed that while all manner of electronic equipment is used, ultimately it is a human being that executes the action. He did well to field the many questions thrown at him considering the Captain had joined the audience. He also confirmed, in answer to a question, that no-one was left behind in Suva.

Just before lunch the ship crossed a trail of floating pomace or ash from an active volcano deep below the surface. We ran somewhat parallel to this slick for quite a while.

We met up with some acquaintances for lunch which was quite a pleasant way to spend the hour.

After lunch we attended a cooking demonstration by two of the ship's executive chefs. One produced an excellent 'herb crusted rack of lamb' on Moroccan couscous while the pastry chef produced a floating island on vanilla sauce with chocolate topping.

When we returned to the cabin we found the instruction sheet for tomorrow's Solar Eclipse and two sets of eclipse shades. There are also some tips on how to photograph the event.

Off to another excellent dinner and the show afterwards. We were treated to the very fine voice of Jackie Love. Cup of tea on Deck 10 and back to the cabin for an early night

Posted by greynomadm 02:43 Comments (0)

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