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