|Date:||Port:||Flag:||Tour escort:||Comment:||17/12/2011||Sydney||Afternoon sightseeing|
|18/12/2011||Eden||Wildlife Park & Orca Museum||Two interesting places|
|20/12/2011||Geelong||Narana Aboriginal Experience||Glorious day!|
|21/12/2011||Melbourne||Puffing Billy & Aussie Home||Sheep & steam!|
|23/12/2011||Burnie||One horse town|
|24/12/2011||Hobart||Historic Richmond & Wildlife||Sunshine & rain!|
|27/12/2011||Milford Sound||(Cruise only)||Very scenic fjord|
|28/12/2011||Doubtful Sound||(Cruise only)||Wet fjord|
|29/12/2011||Dunedin||Taieri Gorge Railway||Very scenic|
|31/12/2011||Akaroa||Akaroa & Banks Peninsula||Hot!|
|02/01/2012||Wellington||Te Papa Museum & Highlights||Fascinating|
|04/01/2012||Tauranga||Paparoa Marae||I responded to the Chief!|
|05/01/2012||Auckland||City Tour||Aquarium & Museum|
This was a super cruise for my first and last time on the lovely Spirit of Adventure (SofA). I drove up to town and parked my car on Brian's drive in Ealing before flying out from Heathrow (Deathrow?) on Malaysian Airlines. We had a couple of hours to change planes in Kuala Lumpur. The Jungle Boardwalk at KLIA was interesting if somewhat hot and humid. I watched the pre-quel film "Marley and Me: the Puppy Years" and the labrador puppies were indeed enchanting until they started to speak! Not a patch on the original film, I'm afraid. They served me 6 meals across the two flights in total!
I arrived at the ship at 11 am having effectively lost a day flying out. I showered, had lunch at 12:30 and then caught the one o'clock shuttle bus into Sydney. I headed for the famous row of historic buildings: Hyde Park Barracks, the Mint, the Hospital, Parliament House, NSW State Library, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Conservatorium of Music, Government House and the iconic Sydney Opera House. I hurried round Sydney Cove and the Rocks Market to the famous Harbour Bridge before getting back to the ship at Miller's Point at 4 pm for the Cruise Director's welcome meeting.
The next morning we had our introductory walk-on before we arrived in Eden. My first outing as a SofA tour escort was to the Potoroo Palace wildlife park with the obligatory kangaroos, dingoes and koalas (they're not bears they're marsupials!). We then visited the interesting Killer Whale (or Orca) Museum. The first full sea day saw me lead a ballroom waltz class.
At Geelong I toured a rather disappointing Aboriginal "Experience", but the food and drinks were good! The only animals here were Emus. In the afternoon I walked around Port Melbourne.
The next day saw an all-day trip to an authentic period homestead to watch sheep shearing and sheep dog herding. I saw my first lovable wombat but declined to feed the 'rooes. After an excellent lunch we drove to the start of the Puffing Billy steam railway. The ride through the tree fern forest in the open cars was exciting, particularly if you sat on the side of the carriage with your feet hanging out!
The second morning in Melbourne allowed me to buy a pass for the excellent tram system. I photographed most of the important sights in this beautiful garden city ready for a future port talk. In the afternoon I led a social foxtrot class.
In Burnie on Tasmania I had no tour allocated so I took the shuttle bus into this disappointing town. I heard the famous Little Penguins scuttling through the sand dunes but didn't actually see one. The one horse town did have a McDonalds so I was at least able to update my FaceBook status!
The next day I ran the first of my line dancing classes. That afternoon, in the lovely city of Hobart, I flew around town taking my photographs before escorting a tour to the historic, pretty village of Richmond in the sun. Unfortunately the heavens opened on the way to another wildlife park but I did manage to see some bedraggled Tasmanian Devils and pet another koala.
After an enormous lunch on Christmas day at sea I was able to give my well-received lecture on "The Story of the Tasman Sea". As a result I also got to have my potted biography published in the daily programme for the first time. Two more sea days saw us across the Ditch as they call it in "strine" the australian slang. We cruised through the spectacular Milford Sound fjord in the dry but the next day in Doubtful Sound the circumnavigation of Secretary Island was rather wet. That afternoon saw another of my line dancing classes too.
On the first day in Dunedin I took the shuttle bus into the city from Port (Judith?) Chalmers. I photographed all the main sights including the impressive railway station. On the second day in Dunedin I was an escort on the Taieri Gorge scenic railway. Each railway carriage had two volunteers on board who provided an extraordinary level of service as we climed up through the spectacular gorge. The final sun-lit uplands were however disappointing - not a single sheep in sight! The Cruise Director, Neil Horrocks, got to ride on the footplate of one of the locomotives hauling the long train, much to his pleasure.
The next day saw us moored in the enormous flooded caldera of the Banks Peninsula. We tendered into the charming French colony of Akaroa. Another sheep dog demonstration ensued, followed by inspection of the earthquake damage in the suburbs, but not the centre, of Christchurch.
New Year's Eve was a lively deck party with unlimited bubbly and a sumptuous midnight buffet. New Year's Day meanwhile was a subdued affair with my third line dancing class. The next day saw us in New Zealand's capital, Windy Wellington. The tour of the impressive Te Papa Museum included some interesting ethnic food and drink. I walked into and out of the town during the afternoon including a trip on the famous cable car up to the extensive Botanic Gardens.
The final sea day saw my last line dancing class and the final cocktail party. In Tauranga I escorted a tour to an interesting Maori village where I had to accept the warrior's peace offering and give a short speech of thanks. After lunch back on the ship I walked around the attractive sea-side resort of Mount Maunganui.
In Auckland I was a passenger, not an escort, on the complimentary city tour. The aquarium included penguins, sharks and rays amongst other fish. The reconstruction of Captain Scott's Antarctic base was very atmospheric. The war memorial museum was very moving and a sombre end to a fantastic cruise. In the afternoon I photographed all the important sights in the city for a future port lecture.
The flight home was with Air New Zealand via Hong Kong, but this time I only got to eat 5 meals in 24 hours! I arrived back at Heathrow in the early afternoon and then travelled back to Brian's where we partook of a lovely Greek meal in the local restaurant. After a restless night in Ealing I finally drove home after a truly memorable cruise!