Cruise SM6005
on the Silver Muse
to Australia & New Zealand
March 2020

Date: Port: Flag: Escort: Comment:
3rd
March
2020
Sydney
Australia
- Aboard
just after
noon!
5th
March
2020
Melbourne
Australia
Panoramic
Melbourne
Overcast
6th
March
2020
Melbourne
Australia
Yarra Valley
Food & Wine
Italian
& French
Vineyards
7th
March
2020
Burnie
Tasmania
Australia
Scenic
Burnie &
Surrounds
Emu
Rhododendron
Gardens
8th
March
2020
Hobart
Tasmania
Australia
Port
Arthur

Discovery
Penal Colony
& Harbour
Cruise
Date: Port: Flag: Escort: Comment:
11th
March
2020
Fiordland
New Zealand
(Bridge
Commentary)
Glorious
Day!
13th
March
2020
Port Chalmers
Dunedin
N.Z.
Mt. Cargill
& the
Organ Pipes
Glorious
Afternoon!
14th
March
2020
Lyttelton
Christchurch
New Zealand
Ice
&
Wings
Antarctic Centre
&
Air Force Museum
15th
March
2020
Picton
Marlborough
New Zealand
Picton
Link Pathway
Walk
Glorious
Day!
17th
March
2020
Auckland
New Zealand
- Bus,
3 Flights,
Coach & Taxi
Date: Port: Flag: Escort: Comment:


BoMoH -> LHR -> Singapore
Sunday the First of March

   I left home at 12:45 by Streamline taxi for the BoMoH coach station. The National Express coach was 20 minutes late and then we had to divert through Winchester city centre, as the M3 motorway was closed. I got to the Qantas check-in desk just ten minutes before it opened. I then went walkabout from Terminal 3 through the Hilton hotel to Terminal 2.

   At six o'clock I bought better than half price sarnies and a pack of six disposable surgical masks from Boots the Chemist. Security took 20 minutes and then I could settle down and read the Sunday papers in the Gate 1 lounge area. We pulled back nearly on time and I watched the excellent Judy Garland biopic starring Renee Zellweger. (Do you say bi-o-pic or bi-op-ic?).

   We headed due east to Belarus and South Russia, before turning south east, thus bypassing war-torn Eastern Ukraine. I had the beef with veg and mash for dinner and then slept fitfully for four and a half hours. I woke up ready for the mid-flight warm pizza twist, before watching Elton John's Las Vegas concert in its entirety. I fell asleep again, but was awoken by the lady in the window seat needing to get out.


Singapore -> Sydney
Monday the Second of March

   I had the hot breakfast before landing in Singapore, after a smooth 12 hour flight with an empty seat beside me. We had to decamp to the waiting area for the A380 double decker to be cleaned and re-provisioned, so I took the opportunity to start this blog. We took off twenty minutes late, but managed to make up the time en route. After dinner of pork with rice, I slept for another four and a half hours of the seven hour flight.


Sydney
Embarkation Day
Tuesday the Third of March

   I was through Sydney airport in less than an hour, my e-passport working here, but never in England! Greg and his limousine were waiting to whisk me to the ship, which I got to at 9 o'clock. I was able to drop my suitcase off, but declined the offer of a one way coach ride into the city. Instead, I found a power socket in the huge new White Bay cruise terminal and updated this blog. Boarding began at noon and I was on board soon after.

   I had a lie down in one of the cabanas, before lunching al fresco on a burger and fries without bread. At 2 o'clock the suites were released and I was pleased to find that I had a balcony overlooking the iconic Sydney harbour bridge! It also had a king size bed, a walk-in closet, a bath AND a separate shower! I dozed for an hour and a half, before showering and changing ready for the 5 o'clock safety drill. Here I gave in my name at the entrance, but was still called out at the end! Whilst waiting, I chatted to a couple from Sydney.

   At the end of the drill, I touched base with CD Nolan, ACD Katherina, Susie and others in the shorex and reception teams. At 6:30 we went under the Sydney harbour bridge, so Nolan had to delay our introductions. The singers sang one song, but Jonathan was absent with sickness. We all then introduced ourselves to the occupants of the Panorama lounge.

   At 7 o'clock I went down to the Dolce Vita lounge for the solo travellers get together. At 7:30 Katherina led us back up to the Terrace (La Terrazza) Italian restaurant, where two tables had been set aside for us. I was sat with Lyn from Melbourne, Marie from Adelaide, Katherina from Greece and Steve from Newcastle, NSW. I had the lentil soup, the saltimbocca veal and the pistaccio gelato. When the meal finished at 9 o'clock I went to bed, where I slept for eleven hours!


First Sea Day
Wednesday the Fourth of March

   I awoke just before my alarms at 8 o'clock ready for TWO eggs Benedict in the Terrace (La Terrazza) breakfast buffet. I was sat with a couple from Puddletown in Dorset, a Cuban American couple from Florida and Steve from Newcastle, NSW. At 9:30 I went to the Venetian lounge to check out my laptop with Manny the Stage Manager. My VGA to HDMI adapter didn't work, so I had to use their laptop instead.

   At 10 o'clock I listened to Susie's 30 minute talk on the Melbourne shore excursions. Just before my first lecture, CD Nolan asked me if I was prepared to do the bridge commentary during the New Zealand fiords scenic cruising. I should have seen this coming and foolishly declined. At 11 o'clock I gave my 41 minute lecture on Melbourne: the Garden City. At noon I lunched al fresco sat with Lew the Aussie man from Perth. He had been in the Royal Australian Navy, in the gold mines of Western Australia and worked as a coach driver. I began with the king crab legs, continued with the roast beef and finished with the sugar free panna cotta. I then slept for just half an hour.

   At 2 o'clock I listened to Susie's 25 minute talk on the shore excursions in both Burnie and Hobart. At 3 o'clock I went to Joe's interesting 53 minute lecture on Australian politics. He ended with some similarities and differences between America and Australia, together with a map of North America with the following comparisons:

	America		Australia
	New England	Victoria
	The South	Queensland
	Texas		Western Australia
	Prairies	Northern Territories
	Washington DC	Canberra ACT
	New York	Sydney NSW
	Boston		Melbourne
	San Diego	Perth
	Pennsylvania	Broken Hill NSW
	Devil's Tower	Ayers Rock
	Canada		New Zealand
	Toronto		Auckland
	Ottawa		Wellington
	Mexico		Indonesia

   Back in my suite I updated this blog and my presentations, whilst listening to my first talk on the television. At 6:45 I went to the Captain's welcome cocktail party, where I chatted to singer Ben and Graham from Rustington in Sussex. At 7 o'clock I slipped out to host the solo travellers get together. I was joined by Lyn, Canadian Gayle from Sydney and Graham again. They all had reservations for dinner, so I dined alone al fresco at the top deck pizzeria (Spaccanapoli). I had the olives/tomatoes/cheese as my starter, enjoyed the freshly made pizza with capers and anchovies, followed by just one scoop of pistaccio ice cream.

   At 9:45 I went to Ben's American Anthems cabaret in the Venetian theatre and managed to stay awake throughout. I went to bed at 10:45 and slept for seven and a half hours.


First Melbourne Day
Thursday the Fifth of March 2020

   I awoke at 6:30, half an hour before my alarms. I breakfasted on a small omelette with tomatoes and crispy bacon in the Terrace (La Terrazza) buffet, as we approached Port Melbourne. Unfortunately it was raining!

   I was allocated my sixth choice Panoramic Melbourne tour ($79), as the occupants of the Owner's suite needed especial care! We drove through South Melbourne to the F1 race track, which suprisingly was still open to ordinary traffic as they hastened to set it up for racing. Our first stop was at the very moving Shrine of Remembrance, where thankfully it had stopped raining. Our final stop was at the top of the 88 storey Skydeck. The elevators were very fast and one's ears popped several times going up and down! The view from the top was patchy, with clouds scuttling past below us.

   Back at the ship I grabbed a bowl of soup and changed into my dancing attire. At 2 o'clock I was stood at the wrong shuttle bus stop so missed our bus into the city. Instead I walked out of the port gates to catch the local tram. I had to buy another MyKi (My-Key not Mickey!) card as I had left last year's at home (AU$10.50 = £5.44). However tapping-on in the tram generated a 'Declined' response, but it was too late to go back to the shop where I had bought the card.

   At the Southern Cross railway station I met up with my mate Michael, who is still an Ambassador dance host on Crystal Cruises. He had to take his watch into the Seiko showroom for repair, before we could catch the suburban train from the famous Flinders Street railway station. We had to change trains at Ringwood to go just one more stop to Ringwood East. Here I bought some shampoo which I had neglected to pack (AU$6.40 = £3.30)! We jumped into Michael's car for the short run to his house for a mug of tea.

   At 5:30 we dined in the local Basketball Club House. I had a senior's portion of the roast pork and Michael had the member's portion of fish and chips (AU$52.50 = £27.05). The latter consisted of three pieces of fish, so I got to eat one of them!

   At 7:15 we went to the ballroom dance lesson at the Hungarian Community Centre. This was a huge hall with a lovely wooden floor, but I did nearly slip once in my dancing shoes! The instructor was teaching a complicated waltz sequence, which I attempted with Asian Australian Jade, but I had to give up towards the end of the class!

   At 8:15 we had social dancing. I knew the basic ballroom and latin dances, but only one of the sequence ones, the Balmoral Blues. I danced with Meera and Eva about eight times during the evening.

   We left at 10:15 and Michael drove me back to the ship via the M1 motorway under the Yarra (pronouced Ya-ra) river. I got back to the ship at 11 o'clock as the Bushwackers local show was just finishing, ready to collect my tour backpack for the next day. During the day I had done nearly 15 thousand steps equivalent to nearly six miles of walking! I went to sleep at 11:15, after another super day in Melbourne!


Second Melbourne Day
Friday the Sixth of March 2020

   My alarms woke me at 6:30 ready for TWO small omelettes, sat with the Dorset couple in the Terrace (La Terrazza) buffet. At 7:45 I was on duty escorting my sixth choice Yarra Valley Food & Wine Tour ($219). I was again entrusted with looking after the VIPs from the Owner's suite!

   We drove out via the Crown Casino and the Olympic Park to get to the M3 motorway. Just after the toll tunnel we turned off on to the Maroondah Highway. After nearly 90 minutes driving, we reached the Italian De Bortoli winery.

   We sampled sparkling, red, white, rosé and dessert wines, so by the end I was getting a little tipsy! I pigged out on the Loire valley soft cheeses with thin crackers provided.

   Our next stop was at the French Dominique Portet vineyard. Here I stood back from the wine tasting, until at the end I leapt forward to sanitise the pax. They liked my "Be Wise, Sanitise" cry, borrowed from Saga Captain Sunderland!

   We then all sat down for a lovely lunch. I was sat with guide Rod, who had been a schoolteacher and botanic park warden in his time. We began with the cold meat platter, continued with roast lamb and fried fish, and finished with pink macarons, chocolate tarts and spongelets. I had just one glass of their red wine, although I could have had more!

   We left just before one o'clock for the run back into the city. We stayed on the M1 motorway all the way into Carlton, one of the early inner city suburbs.

   We went past the Zoo, before turning south on to the western motorway, to get back to the ship at 2:30. I had put this tour at the bottom of my wish list as I had done it all and more with Michael this time last year, but that memorable day had included a cheese dairy and a chocolate factory as well!

   Back at the ship, I slept for an hour and a half disturbed by phone calls from both CD Nolan and ACD Katherina. They both told me that they had managed to slip my Hobart talk into the programme, but that there was no room for my Burnie lecture, as the stage was being set up for the first production show. I told the former that I would be happy to do the bridge commentary during the New Zealand fiords scenic cruising after all. I told the latter that I could host the solo travellers get together before dinner.

   It was too chilly to sit out on my balcony for the sailaway, so I worked on this blog and backupped my Melbourne photographs. At 7 o'clock I went to the Solos gathering with Steve, Graham, Lyn, Gayle, Ellie from Vancouver, Sue from Canberra and others. Unfortunately none of them wanted to go to the booked restaurant, Hot Rocks, as it was too chilly outside, so I dined there alone. I began with the tortilla chip dips, cooked a magnificent filet mignon myself on the hot rock and finished with cinnamon ice cream!

   At 9:45 I went to the excellent Uprights & Grands piano vocalist production show. Unfortunately I kept falling asleep, so I slunk out early and went to bed at 10:15.


Burnie, Tasmania
Saturday the Seventh of March 2020

   My alarm woke me at six o'clock ready for TWO small omelettes with crispy bacon at 6:30 in the Terrace (La Terrazza) buffet. Back in the cabin, I updated this blog and worked on my port presentations.

   At 8:15 I was on duty on the quayside to escort my fourth choice Scenic Burnie & Surrounds tour ($69). We drove out to Table Cape which is an ancient volcano jutting out into the sea. Here we had photostops looking towards Burnie and at the lighthouse. Heading back along the coast, our next stop was at the beach in Wynyard for the rest rooms.

   Our final stop was an hour at the famous Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden. This is built around a steep valley with a series of lovely lakes. The Japanese and Chinese buildings around the lakes were very photogenic! The Man Fern Gully was densely packed with magnificent Tasmanian tree ferns. As it was the end of summer and the start of autumn, there were very few rhododendrons in flower.

   Back at the ship, I had a bowl of soup and a smoked salmon roll for lunch, before dozing in my suite. However the ship was having trouble with one of its generators, so we had a succession of tannoy annoucements and it delayed our departure.

   At three o'clock I gave my 40 minute talk on Hobart. Unfortunately there were technical issues with one of the leads and I had to use the laptop in the sound booth remotely, just like I have to do on Saga's new Spirit of Discovery!

   I then had my first dip in the long, cool pool, where I did six lengths, before spending twenty minutes in one of the jacuzzis in the sunshine, as we cruised along the north coast of Tasmania. At 6:15 I went to Jonathan's excellent cabaret, which was the same as he had performed on the Silver Wind last Christmas.

   At 7 o'clock I joined the solo travellers, who adjourned to La Terrazza Italian restaurant after half an hour. They filled one table for six, leaving Marie, Stephen the German staff member and me on the second table. I began with the thick tomato soup, continued with the lamb chops and finished with the ice cream. At 9 o'clock I retired to my suite to watch my Hobart port talk, before going to bed at 10 o'clock.


Hobart, Tasmania
Sunday the Eighth of March 2020

   I awoke at 6:45, fifteen minutes before my alarm. I breakfasted on TWO eggs Benedict as we sailed up the Derwent River estuary. We berthed just before nine o'clock and at 9:15 I escorted my first choice Port Arthur Discovery tour ($149).

   It took over 90 minutes to cross the Tasman peninsula to the famous penal colony. An amusing local guide gave a quick tour and then we had free time to explore. I rushed around most of the buildings, but the site was very extensive. I shelled out AU$9.50 = £4.87 for a tortilla wrap for lunch in the cafeteria. We then had a 40 minute harbour cruise, before taking the bus back to the city.

   Back at the ship at 4 o'clock, I went walkabout. I headed around the quays and docks to Kelly's Steps up to Battery Point. Here I met Dr Lisa-Ann Gershwin who was driving her Mazda MX convertible. She is a marine biologist and she kindly drove me around the photogenic Victorian suburb.

   I then walked back around the docks to the Cenotaph on the opposite hillside. Here I chatted to a chap born in King's Lynn, but now working for the local Hydro-electric power company. There were views of the two cruise ships and the Tasman bridge with its one missing pier. I crossed the brand new foot bridge over the Tasman highway, but turned back from the Avenue of Remembrance and the Royal Botanic Gardens. I walked around the new Aquatic centre swimming pool to the old University building with its lovely little rose garden in front.

   Back at the ship, I had to shower after a busy day, before going to join the solo travellers at 7 o'clock. At 7:30 Christy from Peru led Lyn, Gayle, Steve and myself up to the Pizzeria (Spaccanapoli). I had a regular anchovy and caper pizza again, but the rest only had small ones. At 9:45 we sat together in the Venetian lounge for Nolan's song and comedy show, which was a little bit naughty! I went to bed at eleven having done over 20 thousand steps equivalent to eight miles of walking during the day!


Second Sea Day
Monday the Ninth of March 2020

   I awoke at 6:15, but it was now 7:15 on Tasman Sea time. At 8 o'clock I breakfasted on TWO small omelettes with crispy bacon. Back in the cabin I updated this blog and backupped my photographs from the two Tasmanian ports of call. When Ralte came to clean the suite, I adjourned to the Observation lounge.

   At 10 o'clock I went to Susie's 30 minute shorex presentation on Dunedin & Lyttelton. At 11 o'clock I gave my 36 minute talk on the Story of the Tasman Sea. At 11:45 I went to the Meet & Mingle singles lunch in the Indochine (pronounced In-do-sheen) Asian restaurant. The galley team had produced a magnificent buffet, but only 12 out of 48 solos attended! The cruise staff sat on their own table, whereas I hosted my own table with Marie, Sue, two American ladies and one American gent. We had a marvellous gala luncheon with lobster, shrimp, salmon and filet mignon chunks. The dessert was freshly prepared Crepes Suzette!

   I then slept for two and a quarter hours, before working on my laptop. I did six circuits (half a mile) of the top deck jogging track, but it was overcast out. At 7 o'clock I joined the solo travellers get together.

   We moved down to the Indochine (pronounced In-do-sheen) Asian restaurant at 7:30. Five ladies sat with Lew (but no host), whilst I sat with Katherina, Camilla and Steve (the only passenger at our table). Both male guests had been mixing their drinks! I had the egg drop soup to start, the Thai green chicken curry with saffron rice and the hazelnut ice cream again.

   At 9:45 I went to the Taiwanese pianist's show, but didn't know any of the pieces played. The last couple were her own compositions, the last of which included striking the strings of the piano with her hand! Steve & Lew were told off for talking during the concert and had to beat a hasty retreat! I went to sleep at eleven o'clock.


Third Sea Day
Tuesday the Tenth of March 2020

   I awoke at 6:15 again, but it was now 7:15 on New Zealand time. At 7:45 I was the first person into the Terrace (La Terrazza) buffet, where I had TWO eggs Benedict and a tub of Greek yoghurt.

   At 10 o'clock I gave my 35 minute talk on the Story of the Fjords to a surprisingly good turnout, given it was still only 8 o'clock on Australian time! There were problems with the technology again and I had to operate their laptop remotely.

   At 11:15 I went to the Executive Chef's spaghetti carbonara demonstration. It lasted less than half an hour (it is an easy dish to prepare!) and I enjoyed a small portion at the end.

   At noon I lunched in the Terrace (La Terrazza) buffet on a soft shelled crab, canelloni and a little beef, giving the pub lunch downstairs a miss. I then slept for an hour and a half. At 3 o'clock I listened to Joe's interesting 55 minute talk on the History of New Zealand. He too had technical issues and Anthony had to install a new cable during the talk.

   I had my first ice cream cone of the cruise out on the top deck jogging track. The sun was bright, but the wind was cold! I then spent 30 minutes in one of the jacuzzis, but couldn't have a swim as the pool had been drained.

   At 7 o'clock Christy and I hosted the solo travellers. I escorted four of them, Lyn, Gayle, Steve and Lew to the Hot Rocks Grill. I had the Caesar Salad to start, the filet mignon with jacket potato to follow and finished with the cinnamon ice cream. I also finished up Steve's steak too!

   At 9:45 I sat with Lyn & Gayle in the Venetian Lounge for the premiere of the excellent Colours production show. I went to sleep at eleven.


New Zealand Fiords
Wednesday the 11th of March 2020

   I awoke at 7:15 ready for TWO egg royales in the Terrace (La Terrazza) buffet. I spent most of the morning in Tor's Observation Library answering questions and explaining the map of Milford Sound. The sky was clear, but the wind was cold at the narrow mouth of the fiord.

Me in Milford Sound fiord

Me in Milford Sound fiord

   At eleven I adjourned to my suite with wonderful views of the south west coast of New Zealand from my balcony. At noon I lunched on the sticky ribs of beef, before dozing for an hour and a quarter.

   At two o'clock Nolan led me on to the navigational bridge to give a running commentary on the passage through Doubtful Sound. This took one hour as we circumnavigated Secretary Island with the benefit of some notes provided to me by the pilot. This was the very first time that I had ever given a bridge commentary!

   I then spent twenty minutes in the jacuzzi in the bright sunshine, but the wind was cold. The pool was full, but very frisky, so I couldn't swim. I rushed to get changed, as we entered Dusky Sound. I again sat in Tor's Observation Lounge to answer any questions and show people the map.

   At seven o'clock I hosted the solo travellers on my own. Unfortunately I hadn't been told where we had our dinner reservation and reception took a time to find out. At 7:40 I escorted six passengers: Gloria, Jill, Marie, Steve, Lew and newcomer William, to the Terrace Italian restaurant (La Terrazza). I think I had the veal for dinner, whilst Gloria had the turbot at my suggestion. At 9:45 the impressionist singer Grant Galea was excellent with songs in the style of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and many others. I went to sleep just after eleven.


Fourth Sea Day
Thursday the 12th of March 2020

   I awoke at seven o'clock ready for TWO eggs royale sat with the pilot and Elizabeth the bridge teacher. When Ralte came to clean the suite, I adjourned to the Observation lounge, where I chatted to Lew. Back in the cabin, I updated this blog and worked on my Vancouver presentation. At 10 o'clock I went to Susie's 25 minute shorex talk on Picton.

   At noon I lunched on the mixed grill, before sleeping for an hour and three quarters, interrupted by Ralte delivering a cruise brochure. At 3 o'clock I gave my 42 minute talk on Port Chalmers: the Port for Dunedin. I wallowed in the jacuzzi for 40 minutes, but it was overcast and the pool was too cold to swim in.

   Back in my suite I watched my afternoon talk, which had been quickly installed on the broadcast system. I also listened to Joe's interesting 41 minute talk on 'strine' Australian slang words! At seven I went to the solo travellers get together, but didn't dine with them as I had been invited to eat with Susie, the shore concierge manager. She had a table for six in the Indochinie (pronounced In-do-sheen) Asian restaurant. I was sat opposite her with two American law professors and their partners on either side of me. One had taught Torts (civil not criminal cases) at Georgetown University in Washington and the other from Denver specialised in company law.

   At 9:45 we had the excellent Opera show time from the six Voices of Silver Muse. They included all the well known arias and duets like O Mio Babbino Caro, Vincero, Volare and Nessum Dorma, but not the Funicular song! I went to sleep at 11:15.


Port Chalmers: the Port for Dunedin
Friday the 13th of March 2020

   I awoke at 6 o'clock, half an hour before my alarm. At seven I breakfasted on TWO small omelettes with crispy bacon as we berthed. At eight I escorted my third choice hike to Mount Cargill & the Organ Pipes ($159). One of the couples was from Hatfield Heath near my home town of Harlow in Essex! Others were from Virgina, so I was able to tell them about my transit of the Blue Ridge Parkway back in 2005.

   We drove up most of the way, before heading off up some steep steps. The Organ Pipes were columnar basalt, but not a patch on the Giant's Causeway of Northern Island! At the top of Butters Peak, Marina our guide produced tea, coffee and hot chocolate drinks together with cookies and real ginger bread! The views of both Otago Harbour and Dunedin were superb and it was so calm, but a little overcast.

   Back at the ship, I had a cheese burger and fries, but without bread, al fresco by the pool as the sun came out. I then had a deep sleep for two hours, before heading back out into Port Chalmers. In the public library I shelled out NZ$2 (about £1) for three heritage magazines. I got to the Iona Presbyterian church just before it closed at 4 o'clock. I continued up the hill to the lovely Lady Thorn Rhodendron Dell, but the flowers were nearly over. I climbed further up the hill on the footpaths to see the famous Captain Scott memorial, before descending by road.

   Back in the town, I photographed the period buildings on George Street, the main drag. Outside the library again, I utilised the free wi-fi. Back at the ship again, I sat out on my balcony in the hot sun watching large numbers of geese take off from the water. I spent twenty minutes in one of the jacuzzis in the bright sunshine, but the pool was cold.

   Back in my suite again, I sat out on my balcony, just in my dressing gown / bath robe! I gave the 6:15 classical piano concert a miss, as I hadn't really enjoyed her first show.

   At 7 o'clock I hosted the solo travellers get together. Finally reception was able to print off a complete list of our dinner reservations for me for the entire cruise. Some ladies didn't want to eat al fresco in the pizzeria (Spaccanapoli) and so headed off to the the main dining room (Atlantide). I took four guests up to deck 11: Gayle, Lyn, Lew & Steve. I had the anchovy and caper regular pizza as usual, plus one slice of Lyn's small one. I finished with the hazelnut ice cream.

   Our departure was delayed by a medical evacuation by ambulance and we didn't leave until 8:30. At 9:15 I adjourned to my suite to update my laptop. During the day I had done over 16 thousand steps equivalent to over six miles of walking!


Lyttelton: the Port for Christchurch
Saturday the 14th of March 2020

   My alarms woke me at 6:30 with my muscles aching and I had been coughing in the night. Not a virus, but my exertions the previous day, I hoped! I breakfasted on TWO egg Benedicts as the sun came up, before watching the sail in to Lyttelton Harbour sat with Lew in the Observation Library.

   At 9:15 I escorted my fourth choice Ice & Wings tour ($159). We began at the superb Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum. Among the aeroplanes on display were famous Spitfires, Harvards and Dakotas.

   Our next stop was at the Antarctic Centre. We began with a hair-raising outdoor ride in one of their articulated tracked vehicles. We saw two of the blue penguins, but only one of them was swimming. The 4D film was exciting with the seats shaking and water spraying over us. I gave the simulated Antarctic storm a miss, as I didn't want to catch a cold! We finished the trip with a tour around Christchurch.

   Back at the ship at three o'clock, I just grabbed an ice cream cone (only my second of the cruise) and headed back into the lovely little port of Lyttelton. I photographed all the important sights, before spending half an hour outside the library using their wi-fi to updates lots of my apps.

   Back at the ship again, I only had time for 10 minutes in the jacuzzi under the cloudless skies, before going to the impressionist's excellent Dean Martin tribute show at 6:15. At seven o'clock I hosted the solo travellers as usual, and led five of them (Marie, Gloria, Jill, Lew & Steve) up to the Terrace Italian restaurant. Unfortunately two of the ladies had an argument over who was sitting where and four of the guests had to move tables! I had the lentil soup and the beautiful thinly sliced beef, but forewent the dessert in favour of the Death by Chocolate late night buffet.

   At 9:45 I sat with Gloria, Gayle, Lyn, Lew & Steve in the Panorama lounge to hear four of the singers perform pop songs. I sampled just a little of the chocolate buffet on the outside deck. I danced with the two GGs - Gloria & Gayle, but when the disco started I slipped out. During the day I had done over 16 thousand steps equivalent to over six miles of walking! I went to bed at 10:30.


Picton, Marlborough Sounds
Sunday the 15th of March 2020

   I awoke at 7 o'clock half an hour before my alarms. I had left my curtains open so I could watch the sail-in along the Marlborough Sounds from my bed through the patio doors of my balcony! At 8 o'clock I breakfasted on TWO small omelettes with lots of crispy bacon, sat next to Bridge teacher Elizabeth, but not Peter.

   At 9:30 I escorted my first choice Picton Link Pathway Walk ($79). We drove out about 5 kilometres past Shakespeare Bay and then walked back mostly downhill through the tree fern jungle. We saw lots of fantail birds and fairy doors at the base of the black beech trees. For elevenses we had choc chip cookies with our water.

   Back at the ship, I lunched on sausages and veggies, but not potatoes, sat with impressionist singer Grant from Sydney. I then slept for one hour. Back in Picton I photographed most of the sights and was invited into the Edwin Fox maritime museum for free. This proved very photogenic and most interesting, so I paid the NZ$15 (£7.50) admission charge anyway on the way out! I spent half an hour in the public library, which was suprisingly open on a Sunday afternoon. Here I shelled out NZ$2 (£1) for a super black book bag in which to put all my tourist leaflets, that I had collected at the i-Sight office.

   Back at the ship again, the sun was too hot to sit out on my balcony, so I had a can of Sprite lemonade as I updated this blog. I did six lengths of the long, cool pool, before spending twenty minutes in one of the jacuzzis in the hot sunshine. At 5:45 I went to Tor's Observation Library to watch the sail through the Marlborough Sounds. I chatted to Joe & Ann and a couple from Pittsburgh.

   At 6:30 I went to Steve's soirée in the Dolce Vita lounge. At 7:30 we adjourned to the Hot Rocks Grill, where I was sat with Greek Katherina, Lew, Steve, Lyn, Gayle, German Steven, William and two Canadian lesbians. I began with the Caesar Salad, continued with the filet mignon with a small jacket potato and finished with the cinnamon ice cream. I also had a piece of Steve's veal. I gave the wine a miss as I was feeling a little fragile, after drinking too much the night before!

   At 9:45 we went to the Venetian Lounge for the excellent Queen tribute show from the six Voices of Silversea. However, perched at the back, I had trouble staying awake, so I went to bed as soon as it ended. During the day I had done over 21 thousand steps equivalent to over eight miles of walking!


Fifth Sea Day
Monday the 16th of March 2020

   I awoke at 7 o'clock ready for TWO eggs Benedict in the Terrace buffet. At 8:30, while Ralte was cleaning my suite, I chatted to Lew in Tor's Observation Library. Back in my cabin, I had to work on my Auckland presentation as the docking location had reverted to the Prince's Quay from the Queen's Wharf, back to where I had originally thought it would be.

   At 10 o'clock I went to Joe's interesting 43 minute talk on the Maoris. I then started sorting out my cruise paperwork. At noon I gave the Italian buffet beside the pool a miss. Instead I lunched on soup, a chicken wrap and a sugar-free raspberry mousse, sat next to the Captain in the Terrace buffet! I then dozed for an hour and quarter, before giving my 30 minute talk on Auckland to a small audience, as people were packing. As we went around the east, not west, coast of NZ, I sat out on my balcony to finish off the heritage magazines I had bought in Port Chalmers.

   At 6:15 the six Voices of Silversea sang their excellent farewell concert either side of Nolan's comedy and song interlude. At 7:15 we had the crew parade with a short speech by the Captain from Santa Margherita. In the Dolce Vita lounge I sat with Gayle, Lyn & Sue, until Steve joined us, when we adjourned to the Indochinie restaurant. I was able to give each of them one of the six surgical masks I had bought in Boots the Chemist back in LHR. I had the spicy beef consommé, the king crab with noodles and the creme brulée. When the party broke up at 9:30, I finished my packing and went to bed.


Disembarkation
Auckland, New Zealand
Tuesday the 17th of March 2020

   I awoke at six o'clock to the bow thrusters, as we turned around in Auckland harbour. At 6:45 I had TWO small cheese omelettes with crispy bacon, sat next to Graham's new lady friend from San Diego. Back in my suite I worked on my laptop. Orange labels were called fifteen minutes early at 8:20, so I packed up my computer and headed off.

   Unfortunately for seven guests and me, all with orange tags on deck five, our bags were nowhere to be seen. After 75 minutes of waiting, it transpired that our bags had been taken down to the crew quarters on deck three! We weren't allowed to go back on board to collect them and the fork lift truck driver had gone! Eventually our bags were brought out by hand.

   I was panicking that I might miss my flight, so I fled off the pier to the Harbour information centre to buy a SkyBus ticket for NZ$17 (£8.51), which was slightly cheaper than last year. I sped across Queen Street to the bus stop, only to see the SkyBus depart. However, I didn't have to wait long for the next one and I was at the airport by 11 o'clock.

   Check-in and security only took 15 minutes each. I then had a large fries from McDonalds for NZ$4.40 (£2.23). After wandering around, I found some power sockets and so settled down to charge my phones and update this blog. I said my final goodbye to Steve as he boarded the business class cabin.

   On the flight to Sydney in a 787 dreamliner, I watched the Alan Bennett film the History Boys, which I had never seen before. I had the chicken with rice for dinner, but made the mistake of having a cup of full strength coffee. I enjoyed the ice lolly half way.

   There was a short layover at Sydney, before getting on an A380 double decker. Having watched the new Judy Garland biopic on the way out, on the next flight I watched her with James Mason in the disappointing film "A Star is Born". I had the shepherd's pie for my next meal and then slept for a couple of hours. I had another ice lolly half way and then a warm mushroom & vegetable tart for my third airline meal. Before getting off the aircraft, I loaded my nose with Boots the Chemist's version of First Defence and put on a face mask.

   At Changi airport I sat and updated this blog, whilst waiting for two hours to get back on the A380. At first security wasn't open, so there was an enormous queue as the plane seats over 500 people! So we were about an hour late taking off, but arrived on time! I had the cold salmon with couscous for dinner followed by the veggie pastry half way and the cooked breakfast towards the end. I watched three films: Hairspray, Calendar Girls & Billy Elliott and then two of Griff Rhys Jones's Australian railway journeys. During the night one passenger was taken ill and the cabin crew started wearing masks. Silversea had paid $1678.59 for my five flights!


LHR -> BoMoH
Wednesday the 18th of March 2020

   Thankfully LHR was quiet so I got through in less than an hour, with my old e-passport working for the very first time in England! I got to the coach station at 7:15, but had to queue for a ticket, just managing to catch the 7:30 service to Poole. The man two in front of me in the queue was red and sweating, the desk ladies said that he had the corona virus, but they dealt with him without wearing face masks! Sat in the front seat of the National Express coach, I was able to update this blog and charge up my phone. I got home by 10 o'clock in the morning and went to bed at 11 to sleep for three hours.


   One lady wrote: "Thank you so much for being such a wonderful host to our little group during the trip to New Zealand - you put up with all of us without complaint which was very admirable."

   Another lady wrote: "Thank you for your kind patience with the solo group. Nice to have met you."

   A third lady wrote: "I wanted to email you to thank you for your friendship whilst on board Silver Muse. It was lovely to share the voyage with you. I have read your account of the cruise and it is so descriptive. You do it so well."

   A fourth lady wrote: "You were so lucky to get back safely and without too much hassle from New Zealand on 18 March."

   A fifth lady wrote: "What a great cruise Martin! I really liked the photo of you in Milford Sound - you could use it to update your online photos? Enjoy being at home now in enforced self isolation."

   My agent wrote: "Thanks for the update which I have read and it seems like you had a enjoyable and successful cruise. I think you were lucky that your cruise wasn’t cancelled and you got away before the sudden close down."


Score card:

12 Dining tables hosted

7 Tours escorted

6 Lectures given

5 Old ports revisited
 (Melbourne, Burnie, Hobart, Pt Chalmers & Auckland)

4 Dinners in the Italian restaurant (La Terrazza)
4 Port Talks given
 (Melbourne, Hobart, Dunedin & Auckland)

3 Port Talks not given (Burnie, Lyttelton & Picton)
3 Dinners in the Asian restaurant (Indochinie)
3 Dinners in the Pizzeria (Spaccanapoli)
3 Dinners in the Hot Rocks Grill
3 In suite Telephones

2 New Ports (Lyttelton & Picton)
2 Enrichment Lectures given (Tasman Sea & Fiords)
2 Widescreen televisions (hidden behind mirrors!)
2 Deck chairs

1 New town (Port Arthur)
1 New cruise terminal (White Bay, Sydney)
1 Italian Restaurant (La Terrazza)
1 Asian Restaurant (Indochinie)
1 Main Dining Room (Atlantide)
1 Dinner ashore in Melbourne
1 Pizzeria (Spaccanapoli)
1 Hot Rocks Grill
1 Balcony (rarely used!)
1 Walk-in closet
1 King size bed
1 Mini-bar
1 Armchair
1 Shower
1 Bath
1 Sofa

0 Dinners in Main Dining Room (Atlantide)

Good points were:

  1. Suite with balcony, king size bed, walk-in closet, bath AND shower
  2. Solo travellers get togethers and dining tables
  3. Limousine ride from airport
  4. 100Mb free internet per day
  5. One new cruise terminal
  6. Speciality restaurants
  7. Two new ports
  8. No heart burn
  9. No headaches
  10. All inclusive
  11. Free laundry

For the record ...