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