For starters, I went into this country with a misconception of its size, physical diversity and prosperity. It’s MUCH larger than I had imagined. And with the large land mass there are only about 3 million Kiwis (which by the way isn’t derogatory to them). Sort of a mini taste of Canada: low population density, a beautiful and well-developed country and stunning variety of geography. I could have sworn that some of the places we visited recently (both urban and natural) could have stood in for Canada in any movie. No, not Lord of the Rings.
Driving through Christchurch with my tour group, for example, I went in thinking it was just a little picturesque town. Little did I know it houses 350,000 people. The outskirts were full of big box stores and urban sprawl neighborhoods. The downtown looked every bit like London, Ontario – complete with British influence and historic architecture.
In Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, I had a unique tour to escort (and had to ask the Shore Excursion manager if he was playing a joke on me). The tour: The Pubs of Wellington. Honestly now! And I was able to have one drink at each of the four stops. I actually get paid to do this?
I wrote in one of my first postings that the waves on the open ocean were something else…like riding a kid’s roller coaster. But, surprisingly, I haven’t had much to report about the waves in crossing the Pacific. We were out in the middle of no where, thousands of miles from shore (one morning the Captain announced that the depth of the Pacific where we were was 15,000 feet!!) But…crossing the Pacific was smooth as anything. Didn’t feel so much as a ripple. We had perfect weather the whole way – sun and clear skies with no waves.
Well, that changed. After Auckland on the North Island, we headed down to New Zealand’s South Island – where it got quite a bit colder (compared to Auckland’s warm temperatures… complete with some palm trees). And I had my first rainy day of the trip in Christchurch (New Zealanders were very happy, though, as they were going through a month-long drought).
Leaving Christchurch, the weather got worse. For some scheduling reason we did a little loop…back up to the North Island to visit Wellington before heading back South towards Dunedin.
The waves leaving Wellington were absolutely nuts. 16-foot swells that were actually reaching the windows of deck 5. Watching the bridge-cam you could just see the horizon in the distance bouncing up and down. Great night’s sleep though with the rocking. Then we got up and Leslie and I found our filing cabinet had topped over in the night. That had never happened before, though the ship has had much worse waves in the past. Good thing we weren’t in the office at the time!
After Wellington we were supposed to go to Dunedin on the South Island, but the waves were so treacherous that we were 5 hours late arriving. And another LARGE cruise ship docked in Dunedin had to stay docked because it was too dangerous for it to leave the channel. Therefore, we were forced to cancel the port of call entirely. Shows you that we’re still at the sea’s mercy.
Things have calmed down now, and we’re on our way to Australia. Leaving New Zealand we witnessed a pack of more than 100 dolphins leaping about around all sides of our ship, escorting us back out to the Pacific.
Speaking of the weather – would you believe I’ve only had one minor, non-blistering sunburn this entire trip so far. I’ve been very conscious of wearing hat and sunscreen whenever in the sun. So, when tanning I’ve just gradually been getting slightly darker. I’m pretty happy about that fact – I can’t tan at all normally (basically I go from transparent to red in 5 minutes).
We recently had a crew Mardi Gras party. I was stunned to find that they were serving Molson Canadian. Everyone was saying “wow, this is good beer.” Our normal cheap beer for crew is Heineken (though Officers are able to chose from a greater variety at our bar). Back in Canada Heineken is an expensive import. On board it’s $1.05/bottle.
And I’ll wrap up this brief update with a reflection on what happened recently at London’s St. Joseph’s Hospital (where I worked prior to leaving for this cruise ship adventure). On February 11th, a pretty bad crisis hit the hospital. They are currently undergoing a major construction project. With the cold weather, a pipe burst just two floors above where my office used to be. Flooding and ceiling damage happened all over the building. The flood was just a floor above $6 million of diagnostic imaging equipment. Three floors down women giving labor had to be moved. YIKES!
a) I think left the hospital just in the nick of time to go and start this adventure.
b) Although a part of me truly enjoys the excitement and adrenaline of the crisis mode of Public Relations and sorta would have liked to see it…I’m glad I’m out here on the ocean having a blast. I also don’t wish a disaster like that on anyone.
c) If ever I have long/hard days on the ship…I just need to remember, it could be incredibly worse. What in the world would I ever have the right to complain about on the ship?
Bye for now. Heading “Down Under” next.
P.S. Photo highlights of the recent posting include the incredible Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sounds. Especially impressive was when our Captain took the bow right as close as he could to a waterfall.