Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dunedin, the Scottish Capital of the Southern Hemisphere

The ship docked at 8 am this morning in Port Chalmers, the port for Dunedin. This is our last port in New Zealand although we will be spending tomorrow cruising in Fiordland National Park and specifically visiting Milford Sound.

As we had visited the fabulous places out of Dunedin especially in the Banks Peninsula only two years ago, we have spent this visit in the city. So far, we have visited the Knox Church, a number of shops (2 pairs of shoes) and the Otago Museum.

The museum has a number of excellent displays, including a focus on marine life. Of special interest was the display on the Union Steamship Company. There was an extensive section on the early settlement of NZ and other Pacific countries. There were lots of moas and various other fauna. We saw one shark fossil from an extinct 48 tonne (16 metres long) species that used to eat whales.

Lots of other exhibitions including some special overseas touring displays..... Shanghai Dragons and Charles Darwin.

Soon we will be back on board and spend the next 3 days at sea. Next port is Burnie in Tasmania.

Like Ships in the Night

As we travelled, we have come across a number of happy and sad stories. Here is a happy one that we stumbled across yesterday.

Most of the young men working on our ship come from Indonesia, many from very remote villages. Two brothers signed up with different shipping companies and yesterday, both ships were in Christchurch so they were able to rendezvous for the first time in well over a year. It must be a very lonely life for them separated from their families so you can imagine their joy when they met up with each other.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

From Gothic Punk to Mavis and Fred's Paua Shell House

We arrived in Christchurch this morning and started with a visit to an exhibition at the old city council chambers featuring Gothic Punk. Got quite a few wardrobe ideas before moving on to the Canterbury Museum.

The best display was Mavis and Fred's paua shell house that has been moved from its site in Bluff on the far south coast. It is the best display of kitsch that we have ever seen. When Mavis complained about the shells getting in the way of the vacuum cleaner, Fred started sticking them to the walls and the rest is history!

We also visited the Botanic Gardens, the Glass Exhibition and the City Art Gallery. The Art Gallery was less impressive than the Gothic Punk!

Off to Dunedin tonight.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Across the Strait

We set sail this morning before we were awake to cross Cook Strait to Picton. We went up for early breakfast and as we entered Queen Charlotte Sound, we had finished our omelette and eggs benedict. We adjourned to the Crows Nest Lounge with its huge picture windows to enjoy the great scenery.

Picton is a small town of 5,000 people year round and 15,000 in summer. We strolled round admiring the harbour, several museums and a few old boats. One claims to be the 9th oldest in the world but as it was built in the 1850s, we don't think they are counting the Viking burial boats etc.

The weather was bitterly cold this morning but at least the frightful winds from Wellington have abated. We are now back for our 2nd trip to town and the sun has come out so we have peeled off several layers of clothing.

We sail for Christchurch at 5.30 pm.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Napier and Wellington

Yesterday we visited the city of Napier. the city of the world with the most Art Deco buildings. After the earthquake in 1931, the city was rebuilt using the Art Deco style that was the current architectural fad. We had a pleasant visit, including the waterfront, city parks and even a few shops!

We travelled overnight to Wellington, docking as we ate our rather substantial breakfast. It is only 2 years since we spent a few days in Wellington so we did not need to rush to visit everything.

So far we have visited the Parliament and joined a tour which was most informative. We also visited the Anglican Cathedral and took lots of photos. We walked to the cable car which took us up to the Botanical Gardens. It was so windy, we nearly blew off the top. We followed one of the self guided walks and visited lots of the historic observatories.

We sail in the early hours of tomorrow morning for the South Island and dock at Picton.

Yes we are eating lots but also doing lots of laps around the deck and have visited the gym.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cruising New Zealand

We flew to Auckland on Tuesday 18 November and spent 4 days checking the sights and enjoying our wonderful waterfront apartment. We stayed at a 2 storey penthouse apartment on Prince's Wharf with superb views of Auckland Harbour.

We hired a car and travelled across to the Coromandel Peninsular with its magnificent coastal scenery on both the protected western side and rugged east coast. Cook stayed here for 12 days in 1769 to observe the passage of Mercury across the sun. Cooks Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand.

When we finally left Auckland on Friday to join the cruise, all we had to do was to walk across to the other side of the pier.

The ship is the MS Volendam, part of the Holland America line. It is very luxurious with the only problem being how to avoid putting on weight with all the wonderful food. It is 3 1/2 laps of the boat to 1 mile and we completed 7 laps this morning before breakfast. May need to do a few more laps later!

We spent the 1st day at sea and passed the Mercury Islands that we had visited on our car trip. We then sailed on to White Island, about 50 km off the coast. This is NZ most active volcano and it was spewing forth lots of smoke. A very barren and inhospitable place.

Last night was a formal dinner and we all looked very spiffy. We even managed 2 free glasses of champagne courtesy of the captain.

This is our first port of call at Tauranga with the town being about 10 minutes drive from the port. As it is Sunday, lots of places are shut but a few have opened especially for the cruise ship.