North Island road trip

Wednesday morning we headed to the airport by cab to pick up our hire car. It was a bit of a faff at the airport as the car wasn’t ready – despite the online booking – but eventually we drove off in our RAV4 around 11.30 am.

On the road, once we cleared the outskirts of Auckland itself, we enjoyed deserted roads with very little traffic.

Our first stop was Hobbiton, the movie set for both the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit Trilogies which was originally built as a temporary site, but is now a permanent fixture in a sheep station set amongst the beautiful rolling hills. We hadn’t pre-booked a tour and found out we had to wait almost two hours for the first available one which was a bit of a surprise. Should have pre-planned it really. Anyway, as we sat down with a bottle of water to wait an announcement came over that they had a few spare seats on the tour going now. So we rushed over and got the last three.

We thoroughly enjoyed wandering around amongst the little houses and even visited the Green Dragon pub and had a cold ginger beer. Was fun….

Moving on we headed further south to Okere Falls. We went to the first look out point and it was interesting to see where they had, many years ago, diverted the water to run the hydroelectric turbines.

Walking back to the main path we came across this sign:

and decided to do the loop. Well, they lied about the distance, and their definition on the main board into the area said all walks were ‘easy’. Hmmm….. We walked miles….and miles….through the woodland and couldn’t see much at all through the foliage. And of course we had to climb like mountain goats. Absolutely shattered at the end of it, having trekked for almost two hours!

Moving on we headed towards Rotoroa where we booked into the Sudimo Hotel and enjoyed our first sniff of sulphur as we were now in New Zealand’s thermal activity zone. We got ourselves cleaned up and walked towards Eat Street where many restaurants are based in the town, enjoying the sight of the full moon along the way.

We all fancied Indian food so settled down to a lovely meal. Afterwards we had a few more beers before returning to the hotel – this time, via taxi, as I really could not walk another step.

Thursday morning we headed to the Third Place Cafe and enjoyed breakfast whilst admiring the views over the thermals on the edge of Rotoroa lake.

After breakfast we headed to our first venue of the day, the Te Puia thermal / cultural reserve. We wandered through and enjoyed the view of some of the Maori carvings and the meeting house. There was also some silliness.

We then encountered the bubbling mud….

followed by the geysers themselves. Pohutu is the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere and erupts once or twice an hour and reaches heights of up to 100 feet. Apparently the sign it was about to blow was that the Prince of Wales geyser adjacent to it would start spouting first. So we sat down and waited…. And it was worth every minute. Absolutely fantastic sight.

We then checked out both the cooking pool and the steam vent cooker – both of which are still in use for those guests who book lunch – and also went to see the elusive nocturnal kiwi in his enclosure. Photos were not allowed in there but we did see him wandering around. He looked a bit daft to be fair and so plump, I can understand why the early settlers used to kill them for food to vary their diet. All in all a very enjoyable visit despite more hours of walking.

Moving on we arrived at our second thermal wonderland, Wai-O-Tapu. This was different as it had no active geysers but it did have champagne lakes of very hot water which constantly steamed and, because of the minerals, they create a rainbow effect of colours in the water. Check some of them out.

This was, again, another long walk so felt pretty tired at the end of the trip and it was time to move on but not before more silliness in the gift shop.

We had already booked a Haku Falls river trip on the Waikoto River for Friday morning so decided to check out the location on the way to our overnight destination, Taurangi. We drove through Taupo, marvelled at the beautiful scenery en route, and ended up at our motel, the Taurangi Bridge Motel. We had gone shopping for some beer along the way so we sat on our motel balcony and had a few cold ones and chilled for a while.

Later on we headed into the motel’s restaurant and bar and were pleasantly surprised – lovely place – and to top it off fantastic food.

Friday morning we had breakfast at the hotel, checked out, and retraced our steps back to the Waikato River Dam. We watched the dam open, filling the space behind, which caused rapids through the rocks. Huge amount of water passes through at a tremendous pace.

We boarded our river boat and cruised down the Waikato River towards the Haku Falls enjoying the serenity and bird life along the way. Made a real nice change from walking LOL.

After about 45 minutes we arrived at Haku Falls and, again, the rush of water caused the surface to boil and we did 360s in the foam so everyone got a chance to stand up the front and admire the water.

We then headed back up the river to pick up our car. Afterwards we drove towards Waitomo where we had a two cave combination ticket for later in the afternoon. We should have arrived around 2pm but resurfacing roadworks thwarted us a few times – although Richard managed to direct Clive onto a workaround route – and pulled into our hotel car park around 3pm. This hotel looked a bit like the Bates Hotel and, allegedly, it is haunted.

We quickly checked in, dropped off our bags, and headed back down to the caves having first admired the Maori portraits that lined the staircase.

First stop was Aranui Cave which was discovered by a Maori chief when he was out hunting pigs with his dog: the pig and the dog disappeared in a hole and, on rescuing them, spotted the interior. We met our Maori guide Missy and she pointed out a few plants along the way having already pointed out the preying mantis on the gatepost. As we arrived at the cave entrance we were joined by a number of fantails who tweeted along to Missy having a huge conversation. They clearly like her a lot as they even came into the cave with us and had to be shooed away!

I really didn’t like the grass-hopper creatures inside the entrance – they look like spiders and jump up to 3m. Glad they didn’t seem interested in us…..

Inside the cave we were treated to the sights of many stalactites and stalagmites (tites come down and mites go up) along with pillars where the two had joined. Was really cool in there and we enjoyed the 45 minute walk through.

Leaving the Aranui Cave behind we headed to the Glowworm Caves. These were discovered by an English guy and a Maori chief a few hundred years ago. They were returned to their original Maori tribes back in 1990 and many of the original family work in the caves, so are very knowledgeable. We met our tour guide and headed in. Then the lights were turned off and the ceiling glowed with little lights. These aren’t actually worms, they are flies in their larvae stage who drop spindly pieces of string (like a spider’s web) to catch bugs (or each other) and devour them.

Having walked through the cave we then boarded a boat to meander along on the underground river (which brings in the bugs that the glowworms eat) and marvelled at the natural spectacle of seeing them twinkling. It was like looking at the most fabulous night sky you have ever seen. Was amazing!

After this cave we drove the car back to the hotel car park, walked down the hill, and had a nice evening in The Tomo Bar and Eatery. Surprisingly they were doing roast dinners so we all chose that (beef with yorkshire pudding yum) and had a nice time chatting to people on other tables around us. The bar offered a complimentary lift back to our hotel which, as it was straight up the hill, we were pretty happy about. Thankfully no ghosts visited us in the night.

Saturday morning we did a scenic drive through the clouds up and down hills into the mist and eventually arrived back on Morphie in the early afternoon. I spent time blogging while Richard did the laundry for all of us and Clive packed.

We had planned to go into Auckland for a night on the town. However, we misread the ferry timetable and realised that we had missed the opportunity. So headed in the car to Devonport and had supper in the Patriot pub. Sadly no live music playing – instead, it was a rugby match. So we bailed out and had another beer on the seafront before returning to the marina via the liquor store for cold supplies. We then enjoyed a nice evening in Morpheus’ salon, finally retiring to bed around 1am.

This morning, Sunday, we drove back to Auckland Airport and returned the car. We then waited for Val to arrive before getting the shuttle to our apartment. Tonight we are dining at the top of the Sky Tower and on Monday we fly to Christchurch to start our tour of South Island.

So more adventures await….bye for now.


Sailing reunion to Waiheke and Kawau Islands

Tuesday and Wednesday were a blur of activity as we readied the boat, the hardest task was relocating everything from our ‘garage’ so that it turned into a guest cabin again LOL. All done, we headed to Auckland to do a provisioning run, and taxied back. Finally everything was done and stowed – phew!

Thursday morning we were up early and headed across to Auckland on the ferry. We then walked to the bus stop on Customs Street and got on the Sky Bus to the airport. This was slow going through the City and we were a bit worried that we would be late. Thankfully, we arrived in time and found the arrivals area, by which time Clive’s plane had landed. About 20 minutes later he walked through the gate.

Reunions over, we then reversed the journey and headed back across the bay to Morphie, although we did stop for one beer on the wharf while we waited for the next ferry. By 2.30 pm Clive was on board and he took a nap to try to recover from his long trip from London. And, surprisingly, he brought the sun with him – it certainly hadn’t been that hot for a while!

Later on, cleaned up , we headed back into the City where we did a mini pub crawl around the Viaduct Wharf area and had fish and chips for supper before returning to Morphie on the last ferry at 9.10 pm. Was a fun night.

Friday morning we slipped away from the marina after breakfast and headed out through the bay. The plan was to sail to Kawau Island but the wind direction was completely wrong and we didn’t particularly want to bash into the wind for hours on end so we changed our planned destination to Waiheke Island instead. We had a lovely sail in 10-15 knots of breeze and dropped the hook around 2pm in Puteki Bay after a mere 15 mile passage.

Once we were happy we were secure we got dink off the arch, the outboard installed, and went over to the car ferry area where there was a small floating dock. Dink safely secured we wandered up to the ferry terminal to find out that, despite our cruising guide saying buses were available, they were discontinued two years ago. Very annoying. Anyway, never mind, we found a cab and, during the journey, the driver told us about events unfolding in Christchurch. But he had very little confirmed information so we would have to wait until we got online.

We headed into Oneroa, the main town, and wandered around. The main reason we wanted to go into town was to sort out a wine tour as Waiheke is known for its numerous boutique wineries. We found out about the Explorer Hop-On, Hop-off tour so we planned that for the following day.

Oneroa was quite touristy with some funky artwork, was very pretty with an excellent beach and had a nice vibe. We found a bar with spectacular views but sadly the service was lacking and, having sat there for 15 minutes without even being approached for our order, we voted with our feet. Which worked well, as we then found a bar doing happy hour beers LOL. We sank a couple here and then went back up to the street level and found another place with great views. At this point we realised that the news from Christchurch was terrible as one group of women nearby were listening to a broadcast on their phone and they were clearly distressed….but we were still unaware of the tragic events.

Heading back to Morphie after a great few hours we collected dink and got back onboard. We quickly got online and read about the shocking incidents. OMG this is the last country on earth that we would expect this type of thing to happen. The response from the public and the Prime Minister was amazing but the whole country is in mourning with flags at half mast. Sobered by the news we had a quiet evening and supper in the cockpit.

Saturday morning we headed ashore and got a cab to the nearest bus stop (which was too far to walk). We waited patiently for the Explorer bus and during this time we got chatting to a guy from Hong Kong who worked in one of the vineyards. He was very knowledgeable and gave us some great tips about which ones to visit. Our bus turned up and we headed off first to Onetangi beach for a coffee as it was too early to start our wine tour at this stage.

We had a quick look around then rejoined the bus and got off at Stonyridge Vineyard first. This was a lovely venue and the wine was fantastic – I didn’t indulge in the taster session as the wines here were mainly red (which I don’t drink) but I did get both their Sauvignon Blanc tasters so didn’t miss out. We enjoyed our time here and, of course, our friend from the bus stop was there and treated us to a small taster of one of the high end wines. Very nice too! This place was quite large and very corporate, clearly expecting large groups into the restaurant for lunch.

Leaving Stonyridge we walked across a disused airfield to visit Te Motu Vineyard. This, in comparison, was pretty small and family run. The tasting session was much more informative and we found it quite interesting. As this was purely a red tasting session, Richard and I purchased some Sauvignon and Rose and left the tasting to Clive. Have to say, reflecting on the day later, we think these wines were the best we tried.

Leaving Te Motu we rejoined the bus and went to Batch Winery. This was a spectacular setting with lovely views. We had a simple lunch along with a wine tasting. Here they are famous for their sparkling wine so I swapped one of the reds out for that so we were all happy. The food was fantastic but, sadly, the wine was probably the least impressive for the day. It was fun, though, to actually see the wine producing area.

Back on the bus we went to our last vineyard of the day Mudbrick. This is a spectacular place which is especially popular for weddings – apparently there is a two year waiting list. By now, Clive and Richard were ‘wined-out’ so they went back on the beer while I made the most of their lovely Sauvignon sitting on the roof-top terrace. Very chilled.

Back on the bus we headed to Matiatia Bay to drop people off for the passenger ferry and we stayed on the bus for our last visit to Oneroa. We had a single beer, enjoying the lovely views again, before cabbing it to the dock. Back on board we had dinner and a lovely evening listening to tunes. We thoroughly enjoyed our time on Waiheke Island.

Sunday we headed back out to sea again towards Kawau. And, of course, the forecast lied. The wind direction was perfect, just shame that it didn’t blow more than 6-7 knots all day. So we motor sailed until we reached the channel towards our chosen bay, Bon Accord Harbour.

We loved looking at the little islets / rocks dotted around, particularly the one that we thought looked like an old-fashioned diver’s helmet. We found the Kawau Boating Club and anchored nearby. We made sure we were secure then dropped dink and headed ashore to check it out. Was a lovely little hostelry with friendly people and we enjoyed sitting outside watching the world go by. This small island has few roads so most people travel around by boat. Back to Morphie for another evening in the cockpit.

Monday morning we took dink across to School House Bay and secured to the public wharf. We then followed the path towards the Mansion House. We were told this was an easy walk of around 30 minutes….well, it wasn’t! It took us 45 minutes and it was a strong uphill walk, followed by some flat through the forest, and then a downhill stretch towards the Mansion House. Phew, was hard work! But some lovely plants, trees and butterflies…..and a view of the old Coppermine.

The Mansion House was built by the then-Governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey, when he purchased Kawau Island for his home. This has been renovated and we enjoyed walking through the interior. The grounds were also nice and we loved seeing the wikkis and peacocks as they tried to get us to feed them crumbs….. Peacocks and wallabies were introduced by Sir George along with numerous non-native plant species almost 150 years ago. The wallabies are regularly culled as they present a nuisance to gardeners but there is no plan to totally eradicate them and, sadly, we didn’t encounter one on our travels.

Some of the pine trees he imported, however, are a nuisance as they drop huge cones (weighing up to 8kgs) and can be a bit of a problem. So, throughout the forest, they have been cutting them down. Was an interesting visit and it was clear that Sir George was very influential with Queen Victoria. He was also a bit of a difficult character and he was not particularly liked for his tough stance during the land wars during his second term in office.

We did try to get a ferry back to the bay but, sadly, they were returning to the mainland so we had to do the whole trek back again. This was tough on my poor old legs but I managed it! Back to Morphie I rested up for a while and then we went to the Club again for a few sundowners. Such a lovely place….I think Richard and I may well revisit this bay on our way north later on this season. It might even be a good place to base ourselves to do the varnishing……you never know!

Tuesday morning and we were up very early and worked out way back towards Bayswater Marina in Auckland. And, again, annoyingly the wind didn’t get above 7 knots so very light airs and the weather had changed to grey, cloudy and some showers. So, for the first time, we were wearing jackets in the cockpit and keeping warm with hot chocolate drinks but were cheered up by a glimpse of a few dusky dolphins. On the way back we were passed, in both directions, by huge car carriers…..not to mention the various ferries. We pulled into Bayswater around 2pm having done a total of 76 miles in the last few days.

This afternoon, we are catching up with laundry, blogging and packing as we are heading off on a small North Island road trip tomorrow morning.

Bye for now


Friends’ reunited cruise (part 3)

Tuesday night was formal night in the restaurant. We started off the evening by having champagne with Carolyn and Ron on their suite balcony and very nice it was too although a bit chilly as the sun went down.

In the restaurant there was a special Chef’s menu, which was only six courses! None of us ordered them all, instead just going for a selection, and it was all very nice although the service did get a bit muddled at times.

Afterwards we headed to the Grand Saloon for the evening show before heading upstairs to the Observation Bar for our final pontoonies of the night.

Wednesday morning we pulled into Nelson. It was nice to be tied alongside a wharf for a change so we were able to just walk off the ship. The wharf was inside the commercial port so we had to get a shuttle bus into town. When we arrived we booked ourselves onto a three hour tour which included a drive around the area plus a visit to the Brightwater vineyard, a pottery factory and a glass factory. Nelson, which is the ninth largest urban area by population in New Zealand, was a bit uninspiring and was not helped by the driver’s demeanour, who was ex-British Royal Navy with the poshest accent ever and did not really engage.

We arrived at the Brightwater Vineyard and the scenery across the vines was lovely but were disappointed to find that this was just really a wine tasting experience – with all the barrels empty awaiting the harvest, and we didn’t get to look at the grapes themselves either. The wines, however, were delicious.

Their main claim to fame was a visit by Prince Charles and Camilla and they even had the original (unwashed!) glasses on display LOL.

Moving on we headed to a pottery which was very small and although we did get a little tour, the main purpose was really actually just to sell us something very expensive. Afterwards we headed to an inlet on the river for lunch and, despite the restaurant looking a bit uninspiring, the food actually was very good.

After lunch we headed to the glass factory. Well this was really just a shop selling exclusive (expensive) glass products with just a screen showing some footage of glass blowing. Never mind…. But both Carolyn and I came away with a unique stunning glass pendant so wasn’t all in vain LOL. Afterwards we were taken to view the beach but this was probably just to make sure that we were returned to the city after three hours and not a minute more.

So Nelson was our least favourite place in New Zealand, although we enoyed watching the yachts racing around us and the tugs showing off whilst we waited to push off back to sea.

In the evening we headed to Earth and Ocean for dinner. On arrival there was a queue for tables….we decided to wait….then the head guy told us they had run out of starters but had lovely tofu instead! What?!? Never mind, we’ll manage without the starters, really looking forward to the short ribs. Then, after waiting for over an hour, we were told they had run out of these too! Not impressed especially as we had got a bit chilled in the process although the pool area is pretty at night.

So we rushed down to the main restaurant (to get there before it closed) and found that the staff had already organised for us to get two bottles of top-shelf wine that was only available on the premier list, which we hadn’t felt the need to peruse before as the complimentary wines were already of a good standard and we didn’t feel the need to spend $100+++ or more each night. So the whole situation was actually handled very well and the service we received was impeccable. Now running late we arrived to the show so missed the opening songs but enjoyed the Sand Man, Marcus Winter, who ingeniously creates pictures using just his hands and moving sand around although, on occasion, he does use paint. Very talented artist.

Thursday morning it was time to arrive into Wellington which is actually called Windy Welly by the locals – and certainly it delivered. The wind was howling and it was very cold out of the sun. Wellington is actually at the bottom of the north island and we got the shuttle bus into the city. The first sight that met us was the original government building completely made out of wood (so it flexes and survives earthquakes) and then crossed the road to look at the new version. Definitely prefer the older of the two.

We then wandered through the city and enjoyed the look and feel of the place. We headed towards the cable car station and joined the queue…. Eventually we were onboard and being whisked up to the top of the hill through brightly lit tunnels. Despite it being crowded we enjoyed the experience.

On the top is the botanical gardens and we decided to walk back down towards the city.

So we enjoyed looking at the plants and flowers as we meandered back down the path. Was a lovely walk despite the fact that my ‘good’ hip has now decided to start playing up, probably as a response to my poor posture over the years protecting the bad one and my back which, now fixed, are behaving beautifully! Never mind…..

On arrival back to the city we decided to get the bus again across to the next stop. We asked one of the volunteers (who are at every shuttle bus stop to assist the cruise passengers) for a recommendation of somewhere to go for lunch. So…we followed his advice…to Cuba Street. This opened into a pedestrianised area but, to be honest, it was a bit seedy and run down. Not what we were expecting at all. So we stopped for a restorative beer in the ever-present Irish pub and then wandered back to the wharf.

The wharf was lovely (despite being very cold in the wind) and we enjoyed the sights before finding a suitable watering hole.

Refreshed we then headed back to the ship just in time for a quick bite to eat before Richard and I took ourselves off on the bridge tour. We enjoyed this and stayed on to chat to the British officer afterwards – and asked the million dollar question as to why we headed towards Norfolk Island when it was obvious the weather wouldn’t allow us to disembark. Apparently, the weather models didn’t agree so they thought they would give it a try. Actually we think it was something more to do with crossing into international waters and keeping the casino open and the alcohol duty-free LOL.

Back to our suite to get changed, we got into our swimmers and spent a little time in the jacuzzi to watch the Maori show. Not quite up to the Waitangi standard, but still fun to watch.

Quick run back to get changed and then we returned to the pool deck for a champagne, caviar and classical sail away.

Then we stayed for dinner at Earth and Ocean (having successfully bagged a table early enough) and then went on to see Lifford Shillingford, the Soul Man, the evening’s entertainment. He was a semi-finalist on Britain’s Got Talent but we thought his real claim to fame was that he was related to the West Indies cricketer from Dominica. Then it was time to hit the casino before bed.

Friday morning we arrived in Napier. Napier is a coastal city and is set amid the renowned wine-producing region of Hawke’s Bay. The city was flattened in an earthquake in 1931 and lots of land was pushed upwards creating a bigger area. The only properties that survived were wooden but many were then lost to the fire that followed the quake.

The locals, however, were determined to rebuild and that their new city should be the most modern in the world – so it was rebuilt in art deco style, which we wanted to look at. Arriving on the shuttle bus into the town from the wharf we found a plethora of tour options but were most attracted to the antique cars and trams. So please meet our 1925 ride Clyde and his driver…..

Beautiful place with stunning architecture…so enjoy the tour.

After the tour we thanked Clyde and wandered around on foot. We quickly realised that it was not just vintage cars that abounded in this city, but also some pretty super classics too. Ron felt really at home here!

Back on board we all agreed that this had been a very special day. Later in the evening we headed to Thomas Keller for our next experience. We explained that we wanted to make the 10 pm show – which was a good move as the people on the table next to us left complaining bitterly about the service and the quality of the food, calling their main meal inedible! Thankfully, we didn’t have the same experience and thoroughly enjoyed the food, especially the roast chicken, carved at the table.

We did manage to get to the show to see Katei again who was even more impressive second time round.

During the night the weather turned nasty and it was a bit rolly again with torrential rain. Check out the stormy sunset.

Saturday morning and we had already decided to stay on board and enjoy another day in the retreat. First though, Carolyn and I headed to the spa for a facial….lovely! We then joined Ron and Richard and, stoically, we wrapped up in robes and towels to keep warm while we watched the clouds trying to disperse.

It remained chilly but the sun did try to break through – and we had a lovely lunch after a champagne and caviar starter.

Later on we headed into the jacuzzi as it was warmer there than anywhere else and, of course, at this point the heavens opened!!!! But we stayed put and drank more champagne…..despite the rain and wind biting into our faces we just had a fun afternoon.

Getting out wasn’t so much fun – absolutely freezing – and Carolyn and Ron headed back to their suite. Richard and I stayed put though and enjoyed watching the white out, the gale (of at least 50 knots of wind) heel the boat over quite dramatically….and snuggled up in our cabana and drank more wine and watched a very bad movie. The funniest thing was the waiter’s face when he realised that we weren’t leaving and that he would have to serve us in the rain….

Later on we headed to the main restaurant again and then to the show to watch the singers and dancers giving a performance which took us around the world – along the lines of Strictly with live music. Was fun.

Sunday morning and we pulled into our last destination, Tauranga. We got the shuttle bus into the city to find a pretty uninspiring place so wandered for a little while and, despite enjoying the waterside views and the interesting animal statues (from a famous children’s book allegedly) we returned pretty much immediately to the wharf.

Check out our ship tied up….

We then walked along the headland to the small town of Mauganui which is quite up and coming and relatively prosperous. Had a lovely vibe with a good beach – where there was a children’s surfing competition going on – and some great bars and restaurants. It was very nice and we thoroughly enjoyed this part of the area.

Back on board and we spent the afternoon, after lunch on The Patio, back in our suites packing although we did take some time out for a last visit to the pool.

Was difficult to believe that the whole adventure was almost over – very sad! We headed to the main restaurant for our last dinner and then to the show for a variety performance.

Chris Harley, the cruise director, opened it with an amazing rendition of Nessun Dorma. Wow, what a powerful voice, and completely unexpected. It was goose-bump time….. Then we watched the Soul Man and the Sand Man again bringing it to a close.

Have thoroughly enjoyed the shows onboard the Seabourn Encore. Afterwards we headed to the Observation Deck but it was very quiet so decided to return to Carolyn and Ron’s suite where we enjoyed finishing their (and our) last bottles of complimentary wine from our fridges. Lovely way to end the trip.

Monday morning and it was almost over…. We arrived into Auckland before the sun came up and enjoyed the views of the city.

We went for our final breakfast and then to the Seabourn coffee shop to await our disembarkation instructions. We left the ship, cleared through the various levels of officialdom, and said our farewells. Was very sad and I admit to shedding a tear or two. We had had such an amazing holiday together…..couldn’t believe it really was over…..or that Carolyn and Ron came so far across the world to see us (particularly as they do not really enjoy long-haul flights). We certainly have made some special memories to cherish.

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the luxurious Seabourn experience, but now it was time to get back to reality. No more champagne on tap; no more jacuzzis; no more fabulous food served; and no more staff to clean our suites and launder our towels. But it was probably time to get off as I think the four of us managed to pretty much drink the ship dry of our favourite wines LOL. Hope you have enjoyed travelling along with us.

Alone again, we manhandled our bags onto the ferry across the bay to rejoin Morphie. By just after nine am we were at the marina and we went down the dock to see our girl. Thankfully she was just where we had left her and had come through bad weather unscathed. We rested up for a little while and then set to work with earnest….by the time we had an early night on board we had reinstated all the canvas; dink was off the bow, re-inflated, cleaned and back up on the arch; we had the power back on; we had unpacked; the fridge was given some care and attention; extra shore lines had been removed; and I’d started on this blog.

Tuesday morning and it is another day of boat jobs ahead of us plus we need to go to the city to do some provisioning…..and then, of course, there is all the laundry…… No rest for the wicked though as Clive flies in to join us on Thursday so we need to be ready by then to meet him at the airport and bring him to Morphie. We then hope to go sailing for a few days before we head off on the road for some land travel. So more adventures await.

Bye for now


Friends’ reunited cruise (part 2)

Thursday was another sea day and it was chilly. So we made camp on the stern of deck five to try to keep out of the wind. We had a nice time but it got really cold so we returned to our cabins for a rest up in the afternoon.

In the evening we headed to the casino after dinner – I won a few quid – and went to the club bar for drinks. There was a great band on, singing some fab tunes, but unfortunately there were no other guests. But we had a great time LOL.

Friday morning, later than scheduled we arrived into Milford Sound. But, in some ways, we were glad as it gave us the opportunity to go to the bow of the boat and watch as we entered. OMG what an amazing view….spectacular….actually, awe inspiring!

We didn’t anchor – as the sound is too deep – and actually isn’t a sound as it is a fjord created by a glacier. So the ship just stooged around. We were called to join our Zodiac trip (think big black ribs with 70hp outboards) and, amongst all the chaos, we were finally fitted with life jackets and waited in line….and waited…until we were able to join our RIB. The scenery is spectacular and no words can do it justice, so just enjoy….

Apparently we were exceptionally lucky with the weather – Milford Sound is known for high rainfall and fog. Rejoining the boat we were freezing and wet, having caught a few waves over the bow as well as getting splashed by the waterfall, so we got cleaned up and headed to the pool bar for a late lunch. Then we returned to our cabins to chill out. And all too soon we were leaving Milford Sound behind.

Later on we went to Thomas Keller bar for pre-dinner drinks. We then took up our reservations in the restaurant and met our server for the evening. He was a bit more formal than the French guy previously but, unfortunately, he decided that alcohol consumption was restricted, almost as if he had paid for it himself LOL. Seriously, though, in the main ‘posh’ restaurant on board we would not expect (wine or water) empty glasses to go unnoticed and have to ask for more…. Not quite Oliver but, hey, you get the jist….

After dinner we headed to the Observation Bar again for another night with Vlad and Rachael.

Saturday we pulled into Stewart Island which is New Zealand’s third island. It lies beneath the South Island and is just about the last inhabited place on earth before Antarctica. The town was named after Oban in Scotland due to the strong influence Scottish settlers had in early colonial New Zealand. Over 85% of the island is national park and most people come to this remote island for hiking and birdwatching. But not us….we just wanted to go for a walk off the ship.

After anchoring we waited whilst the tenders went ashore with those people on organised tours….and we waited….and we waited some more. Eventually we found out that the delay was because the customs man had decided that every single bag should be scanned when it left the ship – despite none of us having been ashore since we left Auckland. But the biosecurity stuff is pretty significant and we don’t blame them for wanting to protect their environment.

When we finally reached shore we walked up and over the steep hill which was about half a mile to the town. We wandered the little place for a while and ended up in the southern-most pub in New Zealand, the South Sea Hotel. We had a small lunch, a few glasses of a very nice Sauvignon, and then caught the shuttle bus back to the wharf. Sadly we didn’t see any penguins or ospreys, but the gulls were pretty enough sunning themselves on the beach of this sleepy town.

Saturday night we met up in the club for a few pre-dinner drinks and then headed to the main restaurant for dinner. Lovely dinner with good service but, during the end of the meal, I felt absolutely shattered. So clearly it catches up with all of us at some point….so I retired early whilst Richard went to the Grand Saloon to watch the evening show but couldn’t find Carolyn and Ron and went to the Observation Bar but couldn’t find them there either. Oh well….so he returned to the cabin for a few beers on the verandah. Lesson learnt….pin down the arrangements in advance….otherwise things can go pear-shaped LOL.

Sunday morning and we were up very early – Richard did the laundry whilst I finally managed to get the previous blog published. That was an effort….phew! Hopefully the problems won’t return as I really was losing the will to live LOL.

After breakfast we headed ashore (as we were alongside in Port Chalmers) and checked out local tour companies. The tours on the ship are very expensive so we thought we could do better independently. So, we booked a three hour exclusive tour, and thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Dunedin. First stop was the steepest recorded street in the world…. I wasn’t convinced as I was sure some streets in Dominica could give it a run for its money LOL.

Dunedin is another Scottish-influenced town and this is apparent in the architecture….which includes local stone coupled with Aberdeen marble…. Architectural this place is pretty stunning. Check out the train station.

We thoroughly enjoyed our tour….and went to spot seals on the local beach but all we found were lesser-spotted surfers.

Before returning to the ship we had lunch in Carey’s Bay Historic Hotel which had a great feel to it although the food offerings were mainly fried…. Great service from the bar, though, as they gave us a complimentary lift back to the wharf to rejoin the ship.

Arriving back to the ship we had dinner together in another restaurant called Earth and Ocean – OMG, absolutely fantastic food, wine and service. The only downside was that it was located on the pool deck so was subject to outside temperatures…..which are chilly once the sun goes down….but they supplied us with blankets. Quality! Lovely evening.

Monday morning we were at anchor again at Akaroa which is the new destination for cruise ships for Christchurch as the main wharf was damaged by an earlier earthquake. So we pulled into this tiny place…..French-influenced…..and we booked a two hour tour. Stunning…….

The town itself, is so picturesque it felt like we were on a movie set. Even the flowers looked like they were on steroids.

We had a seafood lunch with Carolyn and Ron loving their oysters, whilst Richard and I had pretty large tiger shrimps. Only downside was that we had to peel them!

Back on board and we went to the formal restaurant for another great dinner and then headed to the Grand Salon to see a rock violinist called Keitei, who was Japanese by nationality, Chinese / Korean by origin, who now lives in Australia. He could definitely play a mean fiddle. Absolutely amazing performance – what a treat!

Tuesday morning and it was time for our arrival into Kaikoura for our whale watching tour. More stunning scenery.

When it was time to get off the ship, the swell was pretty big, and it was using its bow thrusters to protect the tender from the sea conditions, but it all failed miserably. We got aboard the tender, thankfully, and then one of the lines snapped, the tender smashed back into the platform, and did some damage. Most people were pleased to be safe and uninjured but we were convinced that there had been some damage and certainly not helped by the crew checking the bilges for water. Thankfully all was OK and we made it ashore safely.

We waited a long time in the hot sun awaiting other passengers but, eventually, we took off in the Whale Watching catamaran. Not very long into our trip we spotted our first sperm whale….followed by our second….followed by our third.

And that’s without the absolutely stunning scenery….every view is better than the last. This amazing place cannot be described…..

And then, of course, there was the albatross (not the largest of the species) but pretty impressive all the same.

Then we spotted dolphins……common dolphins, dusky dolphins and hector dolphins (which are unique to New Zealand and are an endangered species). Well….we saw them all…..playing around and giving us a show. Absolutely magical!

We returned to the ship and had lunch on the outside patio deck. Was lovely….particularly as we all enjoyed the caviar and champagne. Afterwards we went to the pool, did some more jacuzzi bobbing, before heading back to our cabins to rest up before another formal night.

Bye for now


Friends’ reunited cruise (part 1)

Friday morning and the weather forecast had improved significantly so we decided to leave the sails on (just tightly wrapped) plus we removed the dodgers and the infill piece of canvas to reduce windage on Morpheus (just in case). Last job was to get all the cockpit cushions below, unplug the power, get our bags off and double check her lines before saying a final farewell….. Bye Morphie, take care, love you!

We walked through the marina and our taxi was waiting for us. The traffic across the bridge to the south side was bumper to bumper but we did manage to arrive at the Cordis Hotel around 1pm as planned.

As we walked in, Carolyn came around the corner as they had arrived earlier from the airport and we had a lovely reunion. The room we had prepaid and booked was not available on our arrival so they upgraded us and gave us a bottle of wine to say ‘sorry’. Result!   Come 3pm Carolyn and Ron were lagging (having flown in from London) and were finally able to access their room. Ours was still unavailable so another complimentary drink was made available.  Finally at almost 4pm we were given our room keys. The front desk service at the Cordis was a bit shambolic to be honest, but the room was lovely when we eventually got there.

Later on we reconvened… in the pouring rain…. and got the courtesy shuttle bus from the hotel to the Viaduct wharf area. After a couple of abortive attempts at different venues we finally got a table at White and Wongs and had an amazing dinner. Fantastic end to a lovely day.

Saturday morning we had an excellent breakfast and checked out. Our luggage had been collected from both our rooms but the front desk couldn’t find any of them.   We actually needed to re-tag one bag that Carolyn and Ron had brought as it actually belonged to us and had our posh (cruise) gear in. By now our driver had arrived and we had to keep him waiting whilst the chaotic luggage service continued.

Eventually we were reunited with our belongings and was driven to the wharf to meet our cruise ship the Seabourn Encore. The ‘wharf lounge’ to process the cruise ship passengers was full so we dropped our bags off and headed to the wharf and, guess what, we ended up in Shucker Brothers people watching. Was lovely to chill after the stresses of the morning LOL.

We wandered back to the wharf and were processed relatively quickly although the form filling to get onboard was a bit tedious and none of us were particularly happy about having to hand over our passports for the ship to hold. Hey ho, what can you do?!?

Finally we were walking up the gangplank and were directed to the Patio Restaurant on the stern of the ship for complimentary champagne and lunch whilst we waited for our suites to be ready for our arrival.

And we stayed there whilst the ship slipped away from Auckland. The announcement was made that the suites were ready so we lingered for a little while longer before heading there. OMG – absolutely amazing – wasn’t expecting a bath and a shower; the bed was lovely; the wardrobe space was fantastic and there was even room under our bed to stow our multiple suitcases.

We spent the next few hours unpacking and then we had to go to the Muster station for the lifeboat drill. All very civilised….

That evening we headed to the Thomas Keller bar for pre-dinner drinks. This is the only restaurant that requires reservations but they actually had space so we were accommodated. Oh yes…and this ship is ultra all-inclusive…so everything, including champagne, is included. We settled down to have a lovely meal although found the service annoying.

Sunday morning and we were up early, had breakfast, and headed down to get a tender across to Russell. our destination for the day. From the main wharf we picked up the passenger ferry to Paihia and wandered around a little before our taxi turned up to take us to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The taxi was a minibus and I don’t think I have ever been in a dirtier vehicle in my life but, hey ho, it got us there.

On arrival at the Treaty Grounds we were told that our schedule had been reorganised, so our carefully planned day started to fall apart! So instead of a walking tour, followed by a cultural performance, we now had the cultural performance first….and the walking tour was no longer an option as it would be too late in the day. Frustrated by this – as I’d booked it all online a few months earlier – sigh. Luckily we knew the way so we took Carolyn and Ron to see the war canoes and then headed up to the meeting house and made sure that Ron was dead centre at the front so that he could nominate himself as Chief of the Day.

This all went to plan and, yes indeed, Ron was crowned chief of our tribe. He received the formal, slightly threatening, welcome and told them that we came in peace. Amazingly he didn’t flinch once when threatened with thrusting spears within inches of his face LOL. We then entered the house and Ron completed his chiefly duties by saying a small speech and took his front row seat with us….. Perfect!

During the performance the spears came very close to both Carolyn and me (and we both jumped) but Ron stayed unflinching throughout. Thankfully both of them thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

After the show we headed in to watch the movie about the origins of New Zealand, how the treaty came about, and the alliance between the British and the Maori tribes. This was a perfect introduction to this fascinating country which does feel a bit like home, just more tropical.

Leaving the grounds we asked at reception about getting back to town and she assumed we were on the other cruise ship which was in the bay (Cunard’s Queen Victoria) and told us to get the courtesy shuttle bus which we did. Result!

Arriving back in Paihia we went to Charlotte’s Kitchen on the end of the wharf hoping for some oysters. Sadly that was not to be the case (as they are too skinny right now) but we didn’t have time to have a proper lunch. So I made excuses but did say I would like to go shopping quickly before we headed back to Russell on the ferry. Carolyn thought this was a bit strange…not knowing this was a delaying tactic….

Finally we left the store and hid out so they would lose us for a minute while we teed everything up and then we showed our hand and said we wondered if they would like to have a look at the Thunder Trikes before we headed back? So we walked over and then the woman said “Hang on, aren’t you Ron? Petrolhead Ron?” The look on his face was a picture and the guys said “Hop on, we’ll go for a spin”. Ron, thinking that we were under strict constraints said we didn’t have time….but Richard said there was always time. Then the penny dropped that this was our surprise!!! Gobsmacked I think is the only way to describe it LOL. So they hopped on and speeded away whilst Richard and I took off behind them….

The speed was amazing and this was definitely a thriller ride as we went up and over the hills towards Opua and the centrifugal force on the corners had me grabbing the OMG bar, as the driver called it LOL. We stopped in Opua for a photo shoot and, thankfully, Ron and Carolyn absolutely loved it. Photoshoot over we returned back to Paihia. Was the most exciting white knuckle ride we had ever been on. Just fantastic!

Back on the wharf we got the ferry back to Russell, had a very average lunch (with manky calamari) in the Duke of Marlborough pub, and returned to the ship.

Back at the ship we sat on our cabin’s balcony as the ship moved away from Russell. With the forecast of big seas and 35-45 knots of wind at least (which was the remnants of Cyclone Oma) we were surprised that the ship didn’t change the schedule as it was going to be uncomfortable at sea. The next stop was Kingston, Norfolk Island, Australia. Oh well, what do we know?

We reconvened with the Smiths later at the Observation bar for pre-dinner drinks. Carolyn looked really peaky and had been ill…..damn… she decided to swerve dinner. We think this was a combination of a long couple of days of travel and a bug, not helped by the dodgy lunch!

Anyway, the movement of the ship had started to pick up by now and, as the wind and waves were coming from behind us, we were rolling around quite a bit so we had to hang on tightly. We had a fantastic dinner in the main restaurant – this is definitely fine dining combined with great service – and returned to the Observation Bar for a pontoonie or two, being entertained by the singers Vlad and Rachael.

Back to the cabin, Richard and I enjoyed our first night at sea where we didn’t have to stand a watch or keep a lookout for traffic. So we wrapped up warm in our dressing gowns and drank some wine from the complimentary mini bar (which had been stocked with our preferences on arrival) and enjoyed watching the sea.

Overnight it was very very rolly…..and we were all given heavy weather warnings to make sure that things were stowed properly in our cabins….so just like prepping to go to sea then eh?!?

Monday morning and Carolyn was feeling better, thankfully, so we had breakfast before making camp around the pool. It was sunny but very chilly in a bitter strong wind. But we made the most of it and ended up having champagne in one of the jacuzzis. Could certainly get used to this! When we got out of the hot pool we were chilled so we moved into a more sheltered area for a few more drinks in the pool bar before retiring to our cabins for a lazy afternoon.

The ship was still rolling around so the pools were more like wave machines LOL. In the evening we got dolled up (as it was formal night) and we headed down to meet the captain, which was all a bit bizarre and not unlike the Oscar’s ceremony with staff doing walk ons and being introduced.

After this event finished, we headed back down to the main restaurant for another fantastic meal. OMG the waistband is increasing in inches by the day!!!! 

Good job we had lost weight before we came onboard! After dinner we had more pontoonies in the Observation Bar before calling it a night. And, again, Richard and I sat on our balcony late at night enjoying the night sky and the quarter moon lighting up the huge whitecaps. Seas were running around 15 feet at this stage.

Tuesday we arrived early at Norfolk Island and dropped the hook. Then the captain picked up anchor, did a 360, and turned back making an announcement that, on the grounds of public safety, we would not be stopping after all as it was too dangerous in the sea conditions to tender people ashore. Really?!? Could have told you that before we left Auckland mate…. It was frustrating though because some of the older guests had been really struggling to get around in the rolly conditions and it was just unnecessary to put them through it. Moan over…

So we had another sea day ahead of us. We had breakfast and headed to the stern of the ship where we had spotted a small pool, two jacuzzis and a sitting area which we liked the look of. And, as we were now bashing into the weather with the wind on our nose, this turned out to be pretty sheltered. So we made camp there and it was a lovely spot. We spent the day relaxing and bobbing in the jacuzzi. This area, however, does not have service so Richard collected a bottle of champagne from our cabin so that we could continue with the tradition of having bubbles whilst sitting in bubbles LOL.

Another lazy afternoon followed…and we reconvened later in the Observation Bar for pre-dinner drinks followed by another great dinner before going to watch a NZ comedian. He was really an impressionist and we didn’t find him particularly funny but, hey ho, who cares?!? Loving the whole ship experience…

Wednesday morning and the plan was to meet at 9am to head to The Retreat – a select area at the top of the ship on the bow that we had pre-booked for a sea day. Well, that was the plan. Richard and I were sitting on the verandah and I heard knocking……but by the time he got to the door there was nobody there. Then I was lazing around watching the news and heard knocking again….and again Richard found nobody there. When I heard it the third time I was in the shower and I was being called a crazy unhinged woman by my husband. Then the phone rang and it was the Smiths – where are you? Is everything OK? Well, the clocks had gone forward and our cabin clock hadn’t changed so we were already half an hour late. OMG…what idiots we felt….

Anyway, eventually, we met up at The Retreat and made our apologies. The Retreat has 15 cabanas so we had two side-by-side. It was cloudy but still a bit chilly in the wind so we lazed around in our robes and read books, being fed with lovely fresh fruit plates and very tasty fresh orange juice.

Later on we had a bob in the jacuzzi with Bolly (dahling) rather than the usual house champagne. And very tasty it was too….

After bobbing we had caviar delivered and they all enjoyed that before the rest of our lunch arrived.

OMG the biggest prawns I have ever seen and so delicious. We enjoyed our food and settled back to enjoy the sun whilst we relaxed on our sunbeds. But then it turned cloudy, the wind picked up and it all got a bit chilly. So Carolyn and Ron left us to it as we decided to stay put and enjoyed watching a movie on our cabana’s big screen TV.

Later on we picked up our passports (no longer required by the ship as we didn’t stop in Australia after all) and reconvened in the Thomas Keller bar before going to the main restaurant for dinner. Afterwards we headed to the Grand Salon again and this time we watched the ships singers and dancers do a rock / operatic type performance, which we enjoyed.

Overnight the clocks had gone forward again so we made sure that we reset all our clocks before we turned in LOL.

Thursday morning and we had another day at sea ahead of us as we motored south towards Milford Sound on New Zealand’s South Island for a Friday morning arrival. So as well as blogging (which went a bit pear shaped due to a software glitch) there was definitely some more champagne bobbing to be done…. Oh yes, and we did bring the Iridium Go! with us on this cruise, so have been pinging positions every now and again to our “Where are we now?” page. We definitely can’t sail that fast LOL.

Watch this space for Part 2. Bye for now