Wednesday, February 11
So where did Tuesday go? Can’t quite figure that one out! Got a couple certificates that we crossed the International Dateline in exchange tho! Had a wonderful walk this am. The sun was just coming up (6:30 am), the sky was partly cloudy and there was a cool breeze. It was so refreshing—just like a walk at home. Lecture time was by Estelle Harris who played George’s mom on “Seinfeld.” She talked about how she got the job, and her first episode. It was the only one that won an Emmy—the “master of my domain” one, which began with her catching George ----- with Glamour magazine—remember? What fun! David Crathorne, our choir director, has set us up for two performances—a concert Friday afternoon and two songs for the passenger talent show, whenever that will be (soon). I rush back from lunch to try to catch “Whale Rider” on the tv. I catch most of it, but really need to find this video when we get home. I add some pictures to the blog, do a little reading after dinner and to bed. (I must give the cruise line credit—they have wonderful entertainment each evening --musicals, comedians, magic shows, etc.-- I’m just ready for relaxing by the time dinner is finished. Ron goes sometimes but thankfully he doesn’t pressure me to go. What a nice man I hooked up with.)
Thursday, February 12
Auckland, New Zealand, today! I am excited to be getting off the ship. Little cool and partly cloudy—50% chance of rain they say as we breakfast on the fantail. We board our bus at 9 am after going thru THREE security checkpoints. (There is pretty tight security at all the ports.) There is a beautiful, long, red, wrought iron fence all along Quay Street, the street that parallels the port—Captain Cook’s Gate. During the drive thru town, the driver tells us Auckland has 1.5 million of the 4.5 million residents in New Zealand (consists of a north and a south island). It is on the north island, as is the capital, Wellington. One in three residents has a boat! It is a very clean, safe city. There are many imposing skyscrapers, but the most impressive is the Skytower, much like Seattle. (The New Zealand flag consists of a blue background with the Union Jack in the upper left corner and four stars representing the Southern Cross—a constellation we don’t see in the Northern Hemisphere.) We are on our way to a sheep ranch. The rural area is very hilly, mostly small houses and ranches with cows and/or sheep; there are also large forests for lumber. This area is sub-tropical, very damp, so most of the structures are stone, tin or steel. The “ranch” we go to has beautiful mown lawns and a brand new brick house with terra cotta floors—clean, cool and airy. They have a lovely extensive garden; I see plants like home—moss roses, carnations, babies’ breath, impatiens, fuchsia, rose bushes—but everything’s bigger. They don’t have to start over every spring! They have little fallow deer for “petes” (pets); they come from the wild where they are hunted; there are lots of them as they don’t have any natural predators. The hostess, Barbara, and her friends served us a huge buffet with lamb off the “barbie” and boysenberry cheesecake and pavlova for dessert. After lunch and a little native beer (Steinlager) and wine, a sheep shearer came and showed his handiwork. It was a lovely stop at Haumoana Farm (means sea breeze) on the Kaupara Peninsula. The driver took us a different way back to the ship over a new bridge that was really needed—traffic is pretty heavy. We see a very interesting tree design along the freeway sound barriers, and three great bays on the north island (and their estuaries filled with mangroves) where most of the natives lived before the Europeans came. The driver took us on a little tour thru the dock areas where the America’s Cup Race begins; there are hundreds of sailboats and a multi-level parking garage FOR BOATS. When we got back we took a little walking tour downtown to buy postcards, stamps, shave cream and batteries. We saw a beautiful mosaic by the red fence about the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace ship that was sunk by French intelligence (also an oxymoron), because it was demonstrating against the French detonation of a nuclear device on a South Sea island in 1985. In 1995 the French ceased nuclear testing. In the evening there was a wonderful presentation by a Maori group, “Haka, the Legend,” with short sticks, long sticks, poi (rocks wrapped and tied to the ends of ties) and hand held weapons. The music was great!
Friday, February 13
We enter the Tasman Sea (between New Zealand and Australia) today after the Captain cruises the shore of the north island of New Zealand. It becomes pretty rough by midday. It is hard to balance in yoga, and even harder to stand and practice at choir two hours later. We both enjoy Nigel West’s lecture, “Espionage in the Pacific.” He shares three stories: interception of info on the attack on Midway Island in WWII; the secret of Johnson Island where US weapons of mass destruction are neutralized; and the Russian sub that went down by Hawaii with a missile door open. We manage to stay upright for our choir presentation –good turn-out! Then the “Tasman Rollercoaster” sends us to our cabin for the night. We order in and watch “Hancock” before bed.
Saturday, February 14—Happy Valentine’s Day!
Ron got me an eco-watch—neat. Not quite as rough as yesterday, but still tricky for choir practice on the top deck! Another great presentation by Estelle Harris about her early career in plays and commercials (east coast), then sitcoms and movies (west coast), and another Nigel West lecture: “James Bond—Fact or Fiction” after lunch. Then I get a surprise—my poem wins second prize in a Valentine’s Day contest! I get a medal and a travel alarm with a spot for my special Valentine’s picture. Nice lamb stew for dinner and to bed. Here’s the poem:
FOR CAMERON—Valentine’s Day 2009
Tears on my pillow on Valentine’s Day--
My special Valentine’s far, far away.
Six little teeth in his lop-sided smiles,
Memories come to me over the miles.
His head on my should, his hand on my face,
I feel it, separated by time and space.
Toddling to me in unsteady path,
Into the sink for a slippery bath!
Calling me “mama” like grandbabies do,
My special Valentine’s not even two.
The sweetest thoughts a Gram ever had,
Maybe this Valentine’s won’t be so bad.
Sunday, February 15
Windy and cloudy today. They close the open decks on 5th and 10th. Two more at sea days till Tasmania, which was populated when there was a land bridge to Australia. About 13,000 years of isolation, however, has resulted in striking differences between the two aboriginal cultures, they say. After church we have to line up to have our passports checked and turn in questionnaires to Australian security officers who came on at Auckland. We’ve been participating in a trivia session before choir on at sea days; it’s fun! They serve a wonderful brunch in the dining room on Sundays; we get seated with Estelle Harris. What a hoot! We nap a little in the pm as our choir is LAST on the program for the passenger talent show beginning at 10:15 pm! The show was really pretty good, especially one woman who did torchy songs from WWI, a guy who did stand-up routine about cruise situations, and a man who recited “the Cremation of Sam McGee.
Monday, February 16
Lovely, cool, calm day for our morning walk. We have breakfast on the fantail, then a trivia session before choir. We’ll take a short break from practice till after Sydney when the new people (about 100) come on board. Nigel West gives us his final talk on “Garbo,” the code name of a spy instrumental in convincing the Germans to fortify the wrong spot for D-Day. This saved thousands of lives and turned the tide of WWII. Tonight is a formal night (which we have agreed we will not be involved in), so we have dinner in our cabin and watch “The Duchess”—very entertaining! We turn in early as our trip into Burnie Tasmania will begin just after 8 am.