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