|On board at
I left home just after 9:30 and got to Walton-on-Thames via Sunbury-on-Thames by noon. I arrived at the £49 Skylark B&B guest house in West Hounslow at one o'clock, where I was able to sleep for an hour and a half. I then went shopping, before watching television in my room until 10 o'clock.
My TWO alarms awoke me at 5 o'clock, so I was at Heathrow Airport by 6 o'clock. Check-in went smoothly for a change and I went walkabout around the central area. We pulled back only ten minutes late, but then had to queue for the runway for half an hour. I had a row of three seats to myself on the first of my four flights ($1146 in total). We had a lovely view of Windsor Castle and Brooklands, before following the straight railway line from Redhill to Ashford.
I watched the excellent new Oscar winning film "Bohemian Rhapsody", but only endured the first ten minutes of the also Oscar winner "The Favourite". I was interested to see the Whitney Houston biopic which charted her tragic downfall on drugs, taking her daughter with her. I then made do with various TV programmes like Simon Reeve's Eastern Med, Graham Norton and Top Gear.
I had the beef casserole for the first meal and chicken stew for the second. We diverted south over the Black Sea to avoid Eastern Ukraine, where the Malaysian aeroplane had been shot down. We then diverted north over the Caspian Sea to avoid Syria and Iraq. Over Iran we suffered the worst clear air turbulence I have ever encountered as we hit the jetstream. After about fourteen hours, we arrived in Singapore as the dawn was breaking, where I only had one hour to wait.
The next leg of my journey was only five hours long, so after breakfast of scrambled egg, beans and fried potatoes, I dozed for most of the trip. My e-Passport actually worked here in Perth, whereas it never works in England, so I sailed through immigration. We then had a ten minute queue for customs.
Outside the arrivals hall the two locals with the Celebrity Solstice sign didn't have me on their passenger list, but let me sneak on to their bus back to the ship. We drove south west along the Great Eastern Highway towards Perth, before joining the Canning Highway going towards Fremantle.
At the terminal I was again not on the passenger list and eventually it transpired that I was on the crew manifest, owing to Australian law. This had also meant I had previously had to acquire not only a visitors visa, but also a maritime one as well! I eventually got on the ship at 5 o'clock with THREE electronic cards: cabin key card, charge card and crew photo ID!
I quickly showered and changed ready for dinner. However there were queues at the main dining room, so I went up to the buffet for steak and chips, overlooking Fremantle, with Perth in the distance. Back in my stateroom, I began work on this blog when the phone went to tell me that they had found my suitcase. At 8:15 I met up with Production Manager Shannon and touched base with the tours desk. I then went to bed soon after.
I awoke at 6:40 having slept for ten hours, ready for my cheese omelette breakfast. I then worked on this blog and updated my first port talk. At 9 o'clock I listened to Bill (no relation) Lee's baffling lecture on time. This was followed by Allan the Shore Excursion Manager's 50 minute introduction to the tours in the upcoming Australian ports, which ended with the raffle.
At 11:30 I gave my 40 minute talk on Esperance. Despite stressing the Taylor Street tender jetty several times, one couple from North Wales came up to me at the end saying that they were confused over whether we were berthing or not. This was not helped by the ship's map displaying three separate berths in the port, none of which we are going to use! I then lunched on black bean soup, no main course and cherry brandy ice cream sat with four Aussies and a Texan from the US Navy.
Back in my stateroom, I slept for nearly two hours, before trying out both the indoor and outdoor pools and jacuzzis. Although the sun was shining, the wind and the outside pool were cool. Thankfully the inside pool was warm, but I slipped badly on the wet paving. Back in my cabin again, I updated this blog.
At six o'clock I dined in the main restaurant for the first time on upstairs table number 464. I was sat with Pat & Chuck from Oregon, Dewey & his wife from West Virgina and an Australian couple from Perth. I began with the French onion soup with cheese topping, continued with the baby spinach salad, main coursed on the beef tornedos and finished with the panna cotta! At nine o'clock I went to the Amade(us) production show, which I had seen on the Celebrity Eclipse as well. It was as baffling as ever with pop songs like Uptown Funk rather than Mozart! The aerial acrobats were however exceptional! When it finished at ten o'clock, I went to bed.
I awoke at eight o'clock when the anchors went down, not rushing as it was a tender port and the tours would have to get away first. I was not escorting as they were no longer using us supernummaries as tour escorts! I enjoyed the freshly made cheese omelette with crispy bacon and grilled tomatoes al fresco in the glorious sunshine, anchored in the lovely Bay of Isles.
At 9:15 I collected tender ticket 31 and was told I would have to wait 45 minutes. When the time was up we were called forward, but had to queue for another 15 mminutes as we snaked around the ship! So at 10:15 I got away on the 20 minute trip to the shore. I was able to sit on the roof of the tender going both ways in the cooling breeze. Ashore I headed north along the Esplanade to the Museum. I shelled out A$6.00 (about £3) to go in to this fascinating collection including a steam locomotive and a pilot vessel. They gave me an Australian Navy clip on badge as a souvenir!
At the historic village I went in several of the buildings, including the Wesleyan chapel, now all souvenir shops. In one of them they had a display of shark skins from the Mermaid Leather company. I spent A$1.00 on a small sachet of samples. In the Visitor Centre I met Denise who I had communicated with previously. I tried to download my Esperance PowerPoint presentation for her from my web site, but it wouldn't load. Across the road, I went in the Red Cross charity shop (thrift store) which had two lovely Esperance polo shirts to choose between. I spent A$6.00 (about £3) on one polo shirt with both the Esperance Island Cruises and Esperance Diving & Fishing logos on it. When I got back to the ship, I regretted not having bought the other one at A$6.50 as well!
I continued to the Returned Services League (RSL) Memorial Hall to see the famous monochrome war murals, but couldn't find the stained glass window. Outside I was taking a selfie in front of the large, multi-coloured mural, when I was attacked by a flock of mynah birds! I walked south to cross the freight-only railway line and climb to the top of Wireless Hill. Here I ascended the recently renovated Rotary Club lookout for a tremendous view along the Great Ocean Drive, with the white sands of West Beach contrasting with the turquoise sea! I spoke to a South African lady and her son who have now emigrated to Australia, but were missing their homeland. They gave me a lift back down the hill.
At 1:30 I went on the complimentary port tour along with 18 pax. Jodi the volunteer and Harry the bus driver took us around the huge commercial port. We saw the large hangers for storing haematite iron ore, nickel, lithium, sulphur, wood chips, wheat, canola (rape seed) and other produce for export. The complex systems of conveyor belts were fascinating, as was the huge steel drum which turns the cargo wagons upside down to empty their contents. I then caught the 2:45 tender back to the ship which only took 15 minutes. I had a burger & fries with no bread al fresco as a late lunch, before sleeping for two hours.
At six o'clock I dined on the roast beef sat with Peter & Chrissta from North Carolina, a quiet couple from New Zealand and a couple from Weymouth. I talked about my trip to Charlotte, N.C. in 2005 with the first couple and about Dorset to the latter couple. Back in the cabin I sorted out my day's haul of leaflets and maps, whilst updating this blog. At 9 o'clock I went to the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist's show. He covered rock, pop, jazz and swing with lots of classic songs from Benny Hill to the Beatles! At 11 o'clock I went to sleep after a lovely day.
I awoke at 5:30, but it was now 6:30 ship's time and it was already light, so I got up ready for my usual breakfast at 7 o'clock. Back in my stateroom I updated this blog and backupped my photographs from Esperance. At 9 o'clock I went to Trevor's interesting talk on the Night Sky, where he went through the planets and the stars with us. At 10:45 I danced with Arlene a Scottish lady from Perth, W.A. in the Merengue class with 16 pax.
At 11:15 I went to Phil's interesting 50 minute talk on whales. I lunched al fresco on just the white bean soup and a strawberry ice cream without a main course, before sleeping for an hour and a half. At 2:30 I went to the Swing class where Ali & Myles taught six couples. She went through the basics, the ladies' turn, the gents' turn and the shimmy run arounds. I danced with Quin (pronounced Queen) a Japanese Australian lady from Perth to the fast music "Hit the road Jack"!
At 4:30 I did half a dozen lengths of the indoor pool, followed by ten minutes in an outside jacuzzi and ten minutes in an inside one. In the latter, I chatted with a couple from Perth. At six o'clock I dined on the steak and chips with Chuck & Pat from Oregon again, together with a Greek Australian and his Londonderry / Liverpool wife now living in Sydney and a Kiwi couple Angela & Chris, who now live south of Perth, the wife of whom originally came from Birkenhead. At 9 o'clock I went to Rietta Austin's super song show. She is a vocalist on Strictly Come Dancing and showed pictures of herself with people like Anton du Beke & Bruno Tonioli! I went to bed at 10:30 after another lovely day.
I awoke at 6:30, but it was now 7:30, ready for breakfast of TWO Eggs Benedict. I then worked on my laptop in my stateroom. At 10 o'clock I went to another baffling physics talk by Bill Lee on Relativity. He spoke for 50 minutes and then had ten minutes of Q&A eating into my setup time.
At 11:15 I gave my 40 minute Adelaide lecture. One passenger told me about the Sir Henry Ayres historic house. I lunched on the roast ham with tomatoes and chips, before sleeping for an hour and a half. At 2:30 I gave the hip hop dance class a miss and instead I went to Rietta's matinée show, which was even better than her first show the previous night. She impersonated the Burly Chassis, Urethra, Doris Dolls & the Pussycat Day amongst others, so I could see why she worked so successfully on Strictly!
At 4:30 I did six lengths of the indoor pool, before spending fifteen minutes in one of the outside jacuzzis chatting to a Anglo-French Canadian from Vancouver. At 6 o'clock I dined with Clay & Charlotte and Dave & Pat, both couples from Houston in Texas, on a small circular table in a quiet corner by the window. I had the broccoli soup, the green salad, the saltimbocco chicken and the jubilee cherries for my meal. At 8 o'clock I went to the dance set in the atrium, but dancing on the stone floor is not good.
At 9 o'clock I headed to the theatre for the production vocalists' own musical theatre showtime. After the show, I went to the latin american dance set in the Sky Observation Lounge, but it was nearly empty with just one couple dancing, so I went to bed soon after 10 o'clock.
My alarm woke me at 6 o'clock, but bizarrely it was now 6:30 on South Australia time! I ordered TWO eggs royale, but the smoked salmon hadn't yet arrived, so I made do with TWO eggs Benedict instead! I was off the ship by 8 o'clock, but had just missed the suburban train at 7:58, so had to wait until 8:28. I spent the time photographing the sites, such as they are, around the Outer Harbour.
The run into Adelaide, past Scottish sounding places like Largs, Irish sounding places like Kilkenny and English sounding places like Croydon, took 45 minutes! I got to the State Library by 9:30, but it didn't open until ten o'clock. I found a table in the café with power sockets adjacent, so set my laptop up to utilise the Adelaide free wi-fi for an hour. I downloaded pictures and descriptions of the three fiords we are going to visit in New Zealand, to update my "Story of the Fjords" talk, which the ship had asked me to give.
I explored the State Library, the South Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of S.A., before reaching the marvellous Botanic Gardens. The modern Bicentennial Conservatory had a tropical rain forest flora, whilst the Victorian palm house had a semi-arid display. I then caught the free tram all the way to its other terminus at the Entertainment Centre, before returning on the same tram to the Railway Station. I caught the packed 13:12 40 minute train ride back to Outer Harbour, ready for a late lunch at 2 o'clock.
I had the roast chicken with peas and half a baked potato, followed by a cone with one scoop of praline ice cream. I then slept for two hours, before doing six lengths of the indoor pool and fifteen minutes in one of the outdoor jacuzzis chatting with a lady formerly from Brisbane, but now living in Perth. She said she hated the high humidity of the sub-tropical climate and now prefers the Mediterranean climate of Western Australia.
At 6 o'clock I dined on the escalope of pork with Aussie couples from Perth and Albany and a Kiwi couple from Auckland. When I got back to my state room I had a message from Jason the Assistant Shore Excursions manager on my answering machine. I met up with him at 8:30 and he said that he might be able to get me some tour escort slots, if I could plug some of his shore excursions, which I had been doing anyway!
At 9 p.m. I went to the excellent British impersonator Jonathan Clarke. His impressions of pop stars like Roy Orbison and Tina Turner were spot on! The Yanks loved his Donald Trump! At 10:15 I passed by the Mardi Gras session in the Grand Foyer, but it was only disco dancing. I had my first slice of pizza of the cruise, before going to sleep at 11 o'clock.
I awoke at 6 o'clock, but it was now 6:30 on Melbourne time. I breakfasted on a hard boiled egg with crispy bacon and grilled tomatoes, as the buffet was just getting going. At 9 o'clock I went to Bill's exactly 45 minute long presentation on the Higgs particle, after having had words with him for over-running previously!
At 10:15 I gave my well received 40 minute talk on Melbourne. At the end of the lecture the gent who had told me about Sir Henry Ayres house in Adelaide came up to me again, so I was able to tell him that I had indeed now visited it and had already updated my presentation with the pictures I had taken yesterday! I lunched on lasagna al fresco, before sleeping for two hours. I then worked on my "Story of the Fjords" lecture.
Unfortunately the indoor pool had been drained as we had had a storm blow through in the night, so I had to make do with half an hour in one of the outside jacuzzis. Here I chatted to a French Canadian from Montreal who had cycled from Vancouver to Montreal over the Rocky Mountains last summer! This summer he plans to complete the ocean to ocean crossing from Montreal to Halifax. He has also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya, with three days going up, but only half a day running down!
I dined on the sirloin steak for the first time this cruise sat with Shân (Siân) Jones, originally from Brecon in Old South Wales, but now living in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. She had Wendy and Judith on her left from Australia and I had a couple originally from Boston, but now living near Dallas in Texas, on my right. On the opposite site of the table were the quiet couple who I had dined with previously, originally from England, but now living in New Zealand. At 9 o'clock I went to production vocalist Dan's musical cabaret in the theatre, but he did more pop songs than musical theatre numbers. His falsetto is magnificent! I had one, small slice of pizza and a fruit mousse for supper, before going to bed at 10:30.
I awoke at 7 o'clock, half an hour before my alarm was due to go off. I breakfasted on TWO egg royales, which they call salmon delights, sat with four line dancers from Perth. The man had volunteered to go on stage to dance with the singer at the afternoon cabaret a few days ago!
I got off the ship at 8:50 and met Michael Elkins at 9 o'clock at the tram station. I had first met him on the lovely Crystal Symphony last November when he had been working as an ambassador dance host. He gave me a MyKi travel card and we immediately jumped on a number 109 tram bound for the city centre. Here we entered the huge Southern Cross railway station and boarded a suburban train bound for Ringwood. Here we waited for the next train to take us just one stop to Ringwood East to collect his car and drive a few blocks to his lovely home.
After freshening up, we drove out to the Dandenong Mountains for morning tea at Miss Marples tea room in Sassafras village. This charming little bit of Olde Englande had lots of pictures of Margaret Rutherford playing Agatha Christie's eponymous detective! We then continued up to the Sky High viewpoint for stupendous views back to Melbourne City and Port Philip Bay.
I managed to find some local maps and leaflets in the lovely little mountain village of Olinda. In Monbulk Michael kindly bought me a hot meat pie for lunch, which we ate sat out in the bright sunshine. Our next stop was at the St. Hubert's Winery, where I sampled four red wines, favouring the Stag brand, a bottle of which Michael bought for me to take home. The lady in charge was from Sunbury-on-Thames, where I had been just over a week ago!
We then continued to the Yarra Valley Dairy, where we sampled four local cheeses, two from goat's milk and two from cow's milk. Our final tasting took place at a Chocolaterie, where I sampled three of the chocolates: milk, plain & white. I finally got to buy Michael something in the form of an ice cream, which we enjoyed in the sunshine. Our final stop was at his golf club at Yering Meadows, where we each had a small glass of draught lager.
Back at his home we had a final mug of tea, before catching the train back to Flinders Street Station. We walked two blocks to Collins Street for me to say goodbye and jump on to the 109 tram bound for Port Melbourne. What an incredible day I had had with lots of super photos to prove it!
Back at the ship at 6 o'clock, I dined on the lamb shank with Shân (again), Judy & Edgar from Napier the Art Deco town in New Zealand, together with three Aussies: Jan and a lady & her mother. With the later departure time, the showtimes had been put back by half an hour, so I was able to catch both the 7:30 and 9:30 performances of Australian Piano Man Andy Joy. His playing of Billy Joel & Elton John songs was excellent, but I had never heard of the Aussie star Peter Allen, who had been married to Liza Minelli, before he and his male partner died of AIDS. I had a small slice of pizza for supper, before going to sleep at 11 o'clock after a really super day!
I awoke at 7:10 ready for TWO eggs Benedict sat with Chuck the retired policeman from Oregon. He regaled me with stories about American bears! At 9 o'clock I went to Trevor's interesting talk on meteorites. At 10:15 I gave my Sydney port talk to a full cinema, as the Shore Excursion Manager gave his New Zealand tours talk in the theatre. Several of the pax told me it was silly to timetable both these talks at the same time! After the lecture, Phil kindly gave me a slide containing a map of our route through the fiords ready for my final talk.
I lunched on rather tough steak with chips and salad, before sleeping for an hour and three quarters. I then worked on my fiord talk and this blog, while yesterday's adventures were still fresh in my mind! It was our first cloudy day, so I just did six lengths of the indoor pool and spent half an hour in one of the indoor jacuzzis chatting to a couple from Perth.
At 6 o'clock I dined on the Chateaubriand beef with Shân (yet again), Jan (again), Michael originally from Nottingham, but now from Adelaide, Austin & his wife from Toronto and two other Aussie couples on a long thin table for the first time. At 9 o'clock I went to the magician's show, but walked out after ten minutes as I was bored with the endless card tricks. I had a early supper of one small slice of pizza, before going to bed early.
I awoke at 7:10 before my alarm at 7:30 ready for TWO egg royales for breakfast. I was given tender ticket 4 and was soon away, getting ashore by 8:30. I walked around Farm Cove to Mrs MacQuaries seat, before doubling back through the Royal Botanic Gardens. However these weren't as good as those in Adelaide and the weather was poorer too.
I got to the Art Gallery of NSW at 9:55, so only had to wait 5 minutes for it to open. They have some interesting paintings by Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon and lots of Victorian art. My next stop was St. James's church, before reaching the Queen Victoria shopping mall. I crossed the Pyrmont Bridge to the excellent National Maritime Museum. On the way back across the bridge it had started to drizzle.
Unfortunately, as it was a Saturday, the Historic Mint and Parliament Building were closed. Back at the Royal Botanic Gardens again I bumped into Sian, who recommended I visit the new Calyx pavilion with its display of carnivorous plants. I then caught the tender back to the ship for the roast beef lunch, eaten al fresco overlooking Taronga Zoo. I slept for only 40 minutes, before joining the queue for the next tender shore. Unfortunately we had to watch two full local ferries slowly unload their pax which took 45 minutes, so it was an hour before I was ashore again.
I hurried past the iconic Opera House to the old Customs House which had an interesting cartographic exhibition on display. It was also a large library with tourist information desk. I continued around the circular quay to the Rocks area, where there was another tourist information office for me to explore. I climbed up Argyll Street to the Observatory and Fort Philip, before retracing my route back to the Man o' War steps. I caught the penultimate ferry back to the ship at 5 o'clock.
It had been rather humid and overcast all day, so I had to shower and change ready for dinner. At six o'clock I dined on the steak Diane with Sy (who worked for computer company SAP) & Sharon from British Columbia and a couple from Colchester. At nine o'clock I listened to the great voice of swing singer Guy Taylor. After a busy day with a lot of walking, I went to bed at 10 o'clock and was alseep by 10:30.
I awoke at 6:30, but it was now 7:30 ship's time. I had two croissants with ham, cheese and lovely vegemite, the Australian equivalent of marmite! At 9 o'clock I went to Trevor's interesting talk on Exoplanets outside our solar system. Unfortunately with the lost hour the technician failed to show up until 9:10 and so Trevor was unable to start until 9:15. At 10:15 I listened to Phil's talk on photography, but kept falling asleep. At 11:30 I had an early lunch of a cheeseburger with small fries without bread when the al fresco Mast Grill opened. I then slept for two and half hours, despite having slept for eight hours the previous night. All my walking around Sydney had really taken its toll!
When I woke up at 2:15, I had a mug of Lavazza decaff coffee and updated this blog and my fjord talk ready for tomorrow. At 3:30 I went for a swim, but a weather front had passed through over lunch and the sea was rough, as was the pool, so I made do with half an hour in one of the indoor jacuzzis chatting to a Canadian who lives in Seattle in the States and a Californian who had been a gold miner and then responsible for administering all seven of the San Francisco bay bridges!
At 4:30 I went to see the ABBA film "Mamma Mia: Here we go again" for a second time in the cinema. This didn't finish until 6:25, when I went for dinner. I was sat with two Australian couples and Andrew the Dentist and his wife Charlie from Chester. Andrew thanked me for recommending the Escher exhibition at the NGV in Melbourne, though he had gone to the wrong art gallery to begin with! I had the sirloin steak for only the second time this cruise.
At 9 o'clock I went to the production show which had great music and dancing, but I couldn't follow the plot if there was one. When it had ended, I had a small slice of pizza for supper, before going to the ABBA night in the Sky lounge. However this began with a game show, so at 10:30 I went to bed.
My alarm work me at 6:30, but it was now 7:30 New Zealand time and our final change of the cruise had happened. I breakfasted on two croissants with ham, cheese and lovely vegemite, before working on this blog and finally getting around to updating my Esperance presentation. At 10 o'clock I listened to another of Bill's baffling lectures, this time on the Big Bang.
At 11:15 I gave my 45 minute talk on the "Story of the Fjords". There was a lot of coughing going on in the audience, owing to the ship's cough, but I was still fine! I lunched al fresco on steak, chips & green beans rather than the Australian cuisine of kangaroo and crocodile! I then slept for an hour and a half, before attending the matinée performance of the American acoustic duo Gilly & the Girl. I knew all the songs in the first half of their show, but very few of those in the second. At 4 o'clock I did half a dozen lengths of the indoor pool, before spending fifteen minutes in one of the indoor jacuzzis.
At 6 o'clock I dined with Sy (who worked for computer company SAP) & Sharon from British Columbia again and Chuck & Pat from Oregon yet again. Unfortunately the menus had started to repeat after one week so I had the broccoli soup, the saltimbocco chicken and the jubilee cherries again for my meal. At 9 o'clock I went to the mildly amusing Australian comedian's show time. I managed to forego supper and went to bed early to start to read the book on Australian aborigines that Shân (Siân) had given me.
My alarm woke me at 6:30 ready for a cheese omelette with crispy bacon and tomatoes at 7 o'clock. At 7:30 we entered Milford Sound, the first of the three fiords we were to visit. I stayed out on deck for an hour and a half as we sailed in past the dramatic Stirling Falls. The weather was dry and calm with some low cloud adding to the atmosphere. At the far end we did a 480 degree pirouette as a small ferry took off those guests on the two day overland excursion to Queenstown. As we came back along the sound it started to rain as I chatted to Shân, telling her that I had completed two chapters of her book. Back in the Sky Observation Lounge, I spoke to Andrew the Dentist from Chester.
Back in my stateroom I worked on my upcoming Adriatic presentations. At 10:45 Ali & Myles taught the American Rumba on beat one. She taught the rumba box (not the International basic), New Yorks (which she called Open Outs), cucarachas and ladies underarm turn into a lean back. I danced with Quin (pronounced Queen) the Japanese Australian lady from Perth again. At 12:30 we went through Doubtful Sound and I spent more time out on the top deck.
At 1:45 we left the fiord and I had poached salmon and chips as a late lunch. I then slept for an hour and a half, before going back up to the top deck for the departure from Dusky Sound with some sunshine. I sat on a stack of sun loungers and chatted to Shân again until we headed back out to sea. Phil gave the running commentary from the bridge with several complimentary references to my fjord lecture, but he kept calling me Bill Lee by mistake! I then did six lengths of the indoor pool and spent half an hour in one of the indoor jacuzzis with a lady from Perth and a brexiteer gent from Liverpool.
At 5:45 I dined on the escalope of pork again with Bob and his wife Robin from Perth and a Kiwi couple Angela & Chris, who now live south of Perth, the wife of whom originally came from Birkenhead! At 7 o'clock I went to the first house of the Rock City production show. The music and dancing were great, but I knew few of the rock anthems except for the Queen medley.
At 8 o'clock I went to Jason's 15 minute pitch for the Dunedin shore excursions in a packed cinema. Back in my stateroom, I checked through my own 40 minute Dunedin presentation in order to make my own plans for tomorrow. I then went to the second house of the Rock City showtime, where I realised I did know rather more of the rock anthems than I had first thought! At 10:15 I went to the Aussie comedian's adult-only cabaret. This was sexist, racist and homophobic, but very funny! He said that Australian troops refer to American troops as "Seppos", Septic Tanks - Yanks! At 11 o'clock I went straight to bed.
I awoke at 6:50 before my 7:30 alarm ready for my vegemite breakfast. I then watched the sail-in to Otago harbour in glorious sunshine from the triple aspect Sky Observation Lounge. There were rather more cormorants than albatroses at the famous bird sanctuary on the point. I was off the ship soon after 9 o'clock and walking along the main shopping road, George Street.
At the top end I started hitch-hiking and within 5 minutes Brenda a professional counsellor had stopped on her way in to work in Dunedin. She was born here, but had had two spells of living in Australia, each time returning to Otago. We chatted about the sights of Dunedin and she showed me the bus stop beside the stadium for coming back to Port Chalmers. She dropped me outside the Settlers museum at 9:35, but it didn't open until 10 o'clock, so I explored the famous railway station instead.
When the museum opened, I was impressed with its size covering several buildings both old and new. I particularly enjoyed the huge transport hall. Next door was the famous Chinese garden, but they charged admission so I just walked across their car park hoping to get to Dunedin harbour. However the railway lines were in the way and I would have had to go back to the station's footbridge or gone on for the road bridge, so I turned back and gave the wharf a miss. I photographed the tall war memorial, before reaching the Octagon in the city centre.
I went in the art gallery which had a lovely little Lowry painting amongst a lot of Victorian art including some Pre-Raphaelite painters like Burne-Jones. They had a large exhibition of modern Chinese art, including a deflated main battle tank made of leather! Don't the Chinese get everywhere these days? I went in the new tourist information office which had moved from Princes Street to the ugly Civic Centre.
I quickly browsed the Octagon arts and crafts market, before heading up another main shopping road called George Street. I went in both the Wall Street & Meridian shopping malls, before photographing the (John) Knox Presbyterian church. Next I went in another large museum, the Otago, which specialises in Natural History and the Maori first nation of New Zealand. Next door was the huge Otago University campus, where I shelled out NZ$1 (about 55p) for a tour booklet. Then I found the lovely botanic gardens, but the Victorian greenhouse was closed for maintenance.
I walked back along the Water of Leith to the Stadium to catch the bus back. Whilst waiting at the bus-stop I tried hitch-hiking again and after ten minutes Murray picked me up in his pick-up truck. He told me the glorious weather would end that very afternoon, as indeed it did with squally showers. He dropped me at Careys Bay, so I could take some photos, before walking back to the ship.
Back at the ship at 2 o'clock, I had a late lunch of steak with a jacket potato, not chips. I then slept for one hour, before braving the showers heading back into Port Chalmers. I went in the lovely little maritime museum, before climbing up to the flagstaff on Observation Point. I took some photos overlooking the ship and of the sculpture garden here, before descending to Back Beach. I was back at the ship by 4 o'clock ready to update this blog and back-up my photographs.
I did six lengths of the indoor pool before we departed. I watched the scenic sail away through the majestic Otago harbour from one of the indoor jacuzzis, wallowing with a family from Stratford-on-Avon.
I went to the main dining room at 5:50, but had to wait half an hour for my table to fill up. Dee & Nick from Nailsea in Somerset and then Chris & Angela from Perth finally joined me and Joseph the waiter cleared the other three seats from the table. I had the lovely duck for dinner. I ordered two scoops of no sugar added chocolate ice cream, but Joseph brought non-menu Grand Marnier souflées first. These were delicious hot straight out of the oven and then I scoffed my ice cream and heartburn set in for the first time for nearly two years. I said my excuses and withdrew to my stateroom where lying down on the bed soon cleared the indigestion.
At 9 o'clock I went to the stupendous Aussie Boys trio. I knew nearly all their songs, all of which were Australian! They deserved the standing ovation that they got from the audience. I wisely gave supper a miss. Back in my stateroom, I watched Sky News for the Brexit developments, which I had been avoiding up until now. I then updated my Port Chalmers / Dunedin presentation going to sleep at 11 o'clock.
I awoke at 7 o'clock ready for two croissants with cheese and smoked salmon. Back in my stateroom I again worked on my Port Chalmers / Dunedin PowerPoint. At 10:15 I went to Staff Captain Nigel's talk on navigation. The information on the two ASEA Brown Boveri (ABB) azipod forward-facing, but rear-mounted giant outboard motors was fascinating. Isn't it surprising that a company headquartered in Zurich, in land-locked Switzerland, makes marine engines!
I had to slip out for the 10:45 dance class. Ali & Myles recapped both the cha cha and the swing dances. She taught the former with a preparatory step on beat one. She went over the basics, New Yorks (which she called Open Outs) and spot turns. With no single ladies present, she had to dance with me! She also recapped the swing dance, whose class I had previously attended.
Back at the cabin I had a message from Shannon the Production Manager on my answerphone, but she didn't leave her name or number. I tried Anastacia, the suite manager, but it wasn't her, so I had to go to Guest Services to find out who it was! She wanted me to give my talk on the Tasman Sea to a private group that very afternoon.
I lunched on three kebabs with tomatoes and chips, but then had another attack of heartburn, so I had to take a tablet. At 2:15 I gave my 30 minute talk on the "Story of the Tasman Sea" to a select group of AquaClass guests only in the cinema. I then slept for an hour and a quarter only to be woken up by a phone call from Jason, the Assistant Shore Excursions Manager, wanting to know if I was still interested in escorting a tour tomorrow. I did half a dozen lengths of the indoor pool followed by the jacuzzi with a couple from Shropshire.
Unfortunately my heartburn returned with a vengeance together with back ache, hot sweats and cramps in my belly & legs. I therefore missed dinner and fell asleep on my bed at 7:30 only waking up at 10:30, when I brushed my teeth and went back to bed.
I woke up at 7 o'clock before my alarm at 7:30. I had just two glasses of skimmed milk for breakfast, before doing dispatch duty from 9 until 10 o'clock, when my tour (Blue Baths Tea & Rotorua Thermal Outing - $149) departed. We had just over an hour's drive to Rotorua, before having a Devonshire cream tea for elevenses. I managed two cups of tea and half a scone.
During our free time, I photographed the sights in the Government Gardens around the Old Baths. At the fantastic Te Puia geothermal park, we saw the two largest geysers in the southern hemisphere, the bubbling mud pools, one kiwi bird in the nocturnal house and various Maori craftsmen at work. On the way back to the ship, my heartburn returned.
Back at the ship my urine was pink, so my backache must have been a kidney problem. I again had two mugs of skimmed milk. I then returned Shân (Siân) Jones's interesting book which argued that some Australian Aborigines were not simple nomadic hunter/gatherers, but had settled lives based on agriculture and aquaculture.
I started to pack, but couldn't find my passport. Guest relations phoned Christina in the Crew Office who told me I would have to go through immigration at 6:15 in the morning, but not getting off the ship until 9:30 at the earliest and with no transfer to the airport provided! I skipped dinner again, before going to the English comedian's first house at 7 o'clock. He had a tough time with a small audience of mostly non-Brits. I kept falling asleep, so I had an early, but restless night.
My alarm woke me at 5:30 ready for immigration at 6:15, which finished at 7 o'clock. I had two mugs of skimmed milk for breakfast, before finishing my packing. I then had a lay down until I had to vacate my stateroom at 8 o'clock. There were enormous queues to get off the ship as there was a ridiculously steep ramp off the gangway.
I got on the NZ$19 (£10) Skybus outside the Grand Mercure Hotel at 9 o'clock and was at the airport before 10. Unfortunately the Singapore airlines check-in desk didn't open until 11:50 o'clock, so I worked on this blog. The check-in queue took half hour and, although the security queue was shorter, I started to feel poorly. I found a bench to lie down on for an hour and felt much better when I got up again. At the gate, I sat and marvelled at the A380 double decker, which I would going on for the first time. I then updated this blog again.
We pulled away on time and soon took off heading west over the Tasman Sea towards Melbourne, before turning north west towards Singapore. I had the chicken for my first meal and then slept for an hour or two. I watched the new film "First Man" based on the life of Neil Armstrong and played by Ryan Gosling. I then watched the first half of a programme on the famous Jewish violinist Itzhak Perlman. I had the beef for my second meal. We arrived in Singapore on time after the ten hour flight and I immediately headed for my next gate, although I had three hours to kill. I took the opportunity to update this blog whilst waiting. I was too tired to go joy riding on the trains or explore further.
My next flight of 14 hours was in an even newer A380 double decker. We left on time and I had the chicken with noodles for supper. I then slept for about four hours. I watched 5 classic episodes of the sitcom "Yes, Prime Minister" and read the Weekend FT. I declined the hot breakfast and made do with a glass of soda water and one of my Red Bush tea bags. We arrived in LHR at 6 o'clock and I was through Terminal 2 by 6:50. I left my B&B in West Hounslow at 7:15 and was home around nine o'clock, after a really super cruise, only slightly marred by my illness towards the end.
One lady later wrote: "Wow! What a detailed account of the cruise! Do you do that every time? It was nice reading my name in your despatches. I enjoyed our random chats - otherwise I think I would have been bored witless with all those sea days and no dancing!"
15 Presentations updated: (Including the forthcoming Adriatic!) 13 Dining tables hosted: (Open seating, no fixed time!) 5 Old ports revisited: (Melbourne, Sydney, Pt. Chalmers, Mt. Maunganui & Auckland) 4 Port talks given: (Esperance, Adelaide, Melbourne & Sydney) 3 Port talks not given: (Pt. Chalmers, Mt. Maunganui & Auckland) 3 New ports visited: (Fremantle, Esperance & Adelaide) 2 Enrichment lectures given: (Fjords & Tasman Sea) 1 Tour escorted: (Rotorua)
1162 Ports called at 697 Tours escorted 397 Ports visited 282 Lectures given 160 Lectures written 133 Cruises undertaken 24 Cruise Ships sailed on: Saga Rose Saga Ruby (Saggy Booby!) Saga Pearl II Saga Sapphire Spirit of Adventure (SofA) Quest for Adventure (Q4A) Black Prince Black Watch Boudicca Balmoral Braemar Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Queen Elizabeth Queen Victoria Seabourn Sojourn Seabourn Odyssey Crystal Symphony Crystal Serenity Celebrity Eclipse Celebrity Solstice Sapphire Princess Discovery Oriana 9 Cruise lines: Saga Shipping Company Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Voyages of Discovery (VofD) Seabourn (Carnival) Princess (Carnival) Cunard (Carnival) P&O (Carnival) Celebrity Crystal