Back to the travelogue. Part I was Monday.
The ship sailed through Milford Sound on the way to New Zealand. Unfortunately, it was rainy and windy. But from the observation lounge I took some photos of breathtaking vague outlines of fjords, startling blobs that supposedly contain waterfalls, and one amazing shot that’s either a steep cliff or a rain forest.
Next we went through that aforementioned cyclone. (They’re cyclones in that hemisphere; hurricanes in the other.) Heavy rain and winds at 70 knots on the balmy Tasman Sea. Everyone was holding on for dear life. People swaying, staggering, and bracing themselves against walls. Normally you only see that when the pool bar closes. I’m guessing the shuffleboard tournament on the top deck was not heavily attended. Some plates went flying but that could have just been part of the big Greek buffet in the Veranda Room. I can only imagine what the 3:15 Hula Hoop Contest must’ve been like.
I hope they cancelled the dart tournament. Tables were flying off the top deck like giant Frisbees. And yet, everyone was down for dinner. Hey, it was rack of lamb night! The ship couldn’t maneuver its intended course so had to turn around, reduce speed, and basically just wait out the storm. Gigantic ocean liners rarely make sharp U-turns. For a reason. The entire ship tilted. Everything on one side of a room was now on the other side of the room. Whoa Nellie! The storm lasted about twelve hours, or… more accurately: one Medique tablet. Kudos to the captain and crew for navigating us through this harrowing situation with grace and great skill. Since the storm ended at 2:00 AM it was too late to sound the official all-clear, which is Maureen McGovern singing: “There’s Got To Be a Morning After.”
Then at 4:30 we were all jolted out of bed with an announcement that the ship was now on “Code Bravo.” What the fuck is that? No one knew, but it couldn’t be good. I’m wondering – do I stay put? Evacuate? And if so what’s the dress code? Is it elegant survival? Then the power went out in my cabin. Turns out there was a small fire on the top deck. It was extinguished in eight minutes, the electricity restored, and at 5:15 I lay my head down to resume a peaceful night’s sleep. I asked a crewmember who has been sailing for fourteen years how many “Code Bravos” he had experienced and this was his first. I can’t believe my good fortune!
The power was out only in those cabins directly below the fire. Like mine. A passenger the next morning said to me, horrified, “So you didn’t have internet?!” I’m groping frantically in the dark for my life vest and she’s worried I can’t "like" someone’s Facebook status.
Welcome to New Zealand. As the T-shirt says: 2 million people and 72 million sheep.
The big selling point in New Zealand these days is that the LORD OF THE RINGS was filmed there.
First stop: Timaru. Big attraction: the Tin Shed. Yes, the same Tin Shed you thrilled to in LORD OF THE RINGS.
Then on to the delightful French village of Akaroa. Took a harbor cruise and saw the world’s smallest dolphins, the world’s smallest penguins, and fur seals. I think the fur seals doubled as soldiers in LORD OF THE RINGS, but I can’t say for sure.
Was interviewed by cruise director, Paul for the daily closed-circuit TV briefing shown in all the guest cabins. Turns out more people saw that than the season finale of CHUCK on NBC.
Tauranga was a pretty little beach town at the foot of a volcano. Only explored for a few hours. Nothing was filmed there so what’s the point? Plus, it was Super Bowl Monday. Or, as the Kiwis call it – “Waitangi Day”.
Sadly, I had to disembark in Auckland. It was very tough to say goodbye to so many new friends and free liquor. Was very excited when I heard that Auckland was the “City of Sales”. Turns out it’s the “City of Sails”. Boat! What Jew travels 12,000 miles to see boats? But the city was spectacular and none of the fifty volcanoes erupted so that’s always a plus.
Took a tour and I’m starting to get an idea of how these people think. The guide announced that the population of Auckland reached 1.5 million last week and then added, “I’m pleased to say it was a birth not immigration.” We can only hope the baby wasn’t born into one of those retail families.
The tour itself was not much. He drove us through suburbs. Big whoop! That’s like having one day to see Los Angeles and going to Reseda and Pacoima.
Got back into town myself after checking into the Novetel Auckland Airport, a glossy corporate hotel with all the warmth of a Sharper Image store. I’m surprised the pillows weren’t made of chrome.
There’s a prison next to an elementary school. If a ball goes over the fence kids, don’t try to get it.
Sign on an Auckland bridge: Caution! Bungee Jumping Overhead!
Alas, it was time to leave. I love these countries and their peeps, but one more freakin’ Botanical Garden and my head will explode.
Flew over the Ditch from Auckland to Australia then back home. On the flight to Los Angeles from Sydney I was very relieved not to see any cast members of LOST. Eighteen hours in the air and I arrived two hours before I left. Qantas Premium Economy now includes hot meals and time travel!
Bravo to Kevin, Josh, and Dann from PTV at Sea for being such terrific hosts. And “Code” Bravo to the zany crew of the Regent Seven Seas Voyager for your gallant courage steering us through the storm without having to evacuate or cancel Bingo.
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