Sunday, 29 March 2015

Day 78-81 - Thursday 26th - Sunday 29th March - at sea

Day 78-81 - Thursday 26th - Sunday 29th March - at sea

As those of you who are still reading this have probably realised, I have got way behind with this blog! Sorry! So this one is just going to be a summary of the last four days (which, being at sea, can be quite repetitive anyway!)

Thursday was a normal morning (walk, stretch, line dancing for me, reading and table tennis for JL), with the only difference being that at 11.00 we had to go to the baggage desk to register for two of our three suitcases to stay onboard when we leave in San Francisco. They say that this service is subject to availability, and thankfully there was still space. Or else I would have cried! The clocks went forward at lunchtime, and then JL and I went together to the theatre to see the speaker Martin Saunders, who is a wildlife cameraman and worked with David Attenborough for 35 years. He showed clips and told background stories of some of the most famous moments of the Life on Earth series, including the incredible gorilla sequence, and a lion hunt. It was fascinating. I then embarked on a rather chaotic (but fun!) afternoon/ evening. I did my exercise early and then got ready for formal night, so I could go to the start of the Aurora Singers performance at 5.45. They are a choir made up of passengers and they are really good. They sang a range of tunes, my favourite being the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Sound of Music medleys! But due to the timings I had to watch their show in two halves tonight! So after 20 minutes I left and met JL for dinner, then we went to the classical piano duo's next show, and then I went back to watch the second half of the choir's second show! And then to the theatre to see a lady called Levena Johnson who was doing a Whitney Houston tribute show - very good. I was exhausted after all that!

On Friday, it was a typical morning of walk/ stretch/ line dancing/ table tennis, but no more knitting for me as I've decided I'm going to be too busy the next few days to make anything else. After lunch the clocks went forward again, and then we went to see the second talk by Martin Saunders, this time with tales about the series The Living Planet. It was then time for... duh duh duh.... the laundry! I had almost two weeks worth, as well as some of our evening clothes, as I want to have everything clean to either leave on the ship or take with us across the States. So after a little queueing I managed to squeeze load one into the machine and found enough hanging spots for all the non-tumbledryable clothes around the cabin! I did a gym workout and then it was dinner time. After we'd eaten we went to a 1960s Guess the Tune quiz, which JL did very well on (he was beaten though as he had never heard the song My Old Man's A Dustman!). I then went to see a guy called Paul Emmanuel who sang lots of old love songs. 

On Saturday the weather was getting much cooler so I got up early to go for a run on deck. It felt like I ran much more than the 3 miles I actually did, as the wind was blowing so strongly that I had to fight to even move, and to not be blown off the deck! At the end I was too late for stretch class but I still made it to line dancing later, while JL played some more table tennis. No clock changing today thank goodness, which gave me an extra hour to go to the third talk by Martin Saunders, this time about wildlife and natural phenomena around the Pacific, and then to do the second load of laundry - yay. Plus, horror of horrors, to start packing! I find packing one of the most stressful things in the world, and I was having palpitations just thinking about it! JL said to me "right, what can I do to help?" and after considering it for a while I said "you can go away!" So he duly vacated the room while I worked out what was going in each of the three suitcases (two staying on the ship, to be collected from Southampton on 27th April when the ship gets back. And tried to make them close! There was a limited amount I could do though because of the many clothes which were still drying all over the place but I did my best! It was soon time for dinner, so after apologising to our cabin steward and telling her not to bother even trying to get into the room this evening, we set off to the restaurant! After eating we went to the final concert by the pianists, which was excellent, and then JL went to see the comedian Colin 'Fingers' Henry for a second time while I continued packing. By the time I turned out the light at around midnight I had done all I could do, but I had a very restless night worrying if the clothes would be dry by the morning and if it would all fit and if I'd put everything in the correct suitcase...

This morning (Sunday) I skipped walking and stretching and instead finished the suitcases (everything WAS dry and everything DID fit - just about!), and then we went to breakfast. We had a very enjoyable extra long line dancing today as she wanted to try and recap all the dances we had done this sector - even after an hour and a half we didn't have time for them all though! I then had to rush back to the room to collect JL and the suitcases and then join a long queue by Reception to hand them in. I felt an immense sense of relief after this as I can no longer swap anything from case to case - I've just got to live on what is in the one remaining case for the next few weeks! I got back to the room just in time to Skype my family, and then off to lunch. The clocks went forward AGAIN (this is getting silly!) and now I am back in the room writing this!

Phew! That ended up as a rather long summary didn't it?! So this afternoon I will be going to my last afternoon tea, JL will be collecting his prize with all his table tennis winning stickers, we will be leaving our final suitcase outside the cabin, having a late dinner, and going to see a double bill theatre show with Paul Emmanuel again and also the classical singer Will Martin who has hopefully recovered from his laryngitis. Then an early start tomorrow to watch the sail in to San Francisco. We need to be out of our room by 8am tomorrow so are planning on having a big breakfast in the main restaurant (where they serve Quorn sausages!) and then sitting round twiddling our thumbs, or maybe having one last nostalgic walk around the ship, before we are allowed to disembark at 10am.

The days we will be spending in San Francisco, and later LA, Chicago, and New York, will be pretty jam packed, so I will try and summarise them on the long journeys we will be making after each one! I don't know if there will be Internet in the trains (I'm guessing not) so not sure how regular the updates will be either - apologies in advance!

So, congratulations if you have made it to the end of the cruise part of our blog (particularly this longer than intended post!) - hope you've enjoyed it! Very much looking forward to catching up with many of you in person in just a couple of weeks!! :-)

Day 77 - Wednesday 25th March - Hilo, Hawaii

Day 77 - Wednesday 25th March - Hilo, Hawaii

Another early start to watch the sail in to Hilo, our final port of call on our cruise :-( And well worth getting up early for! First there was the gorgeous sunrise over the ocean, with the rays shining through the scattered clouds. Then there were the views of the island, with the Mauna Kea volcano towering over the coastline, it's top capped with snow, but best of all - there were whales!!! Scattered all around the harbour were water spouts, shortly followed each time by the diving body of a beautiful humpback whale. They were everywhere! I saw a few pairs of mothers and babies, and some that were very close to the ship. It was definitely one of the highlights of the whole cruise for me! :-)

We pulled into the harbour and the ship docked, and we could still see spouts in the distance, so we had breakfast with the most wonderful view ever! We eventually pulled ourselves away from the windows to go and meet for our tour - Best of Hilo. This was a full day tour and we set off at 8.45am in order to pack it all in. We firstly drove through Hilo itself, the second largest town on the Big Island of Hawaii, and yet still quite a small place (population around 43,000), and a lot less built up than Honolulu. We drove along the coastal road for a while, through the pretty Liliuokalani Gardens with their ponds and statues, past all the trees of Banyan Drive, viewing the small island in the harbour here, then soon arriving at our first stop - the Big Island Candies Store! Which was full of chocolate! Despite only just having breakfast, I managed to eat the free samples that we were given of various chocolates and cookies, and very good they were too! You could also see into the workroom where the chocolates were made which was interesting. After everyone had made their purchases it was time to go to the next stop - the statue of King Kamehameha in central Hilo. It was very similar to the one we saw yesterday in Honolulu, but apparently this one was a true reflection of his size - 6 foot 9 inches!! It was surrounded by pretty gardens, with a pond and more ducks! The next stop was the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens which were truly incredible! We had an hour there to explore independently, but we could easily have spent two! The visit started with a very steep walk down into the gardens, and then we had a map to follow with various different themed area. There was a wonderful gushing waterfall at the start, statues representing various traditional figures, enormous spiders webs (although we couldn't see the spiders!), ponds with lilies and fish, and of course plants and trees as far as the eye could see. There was a lovely orchid garden with flowers with more colours and patterns than I have ever seen in my life! At the end of the trail we emerged into a clearing by the ocean where we overlooked a gorgeous bay with palm trees, rock formations and secluded coves. The path then curved round in a different direction past some other types of plants, including the cannonball tree that I had so liked yesterday, eventually taking us back to the steep path up to the entrance. We had a little time to browse the interesting gift shop before getting back into the coach.

Our next stop was lunch, which was served at the Nani Mau restaurant which also boasted a botanical gardens. So after we had filled up on the buffet, we spent a while wandering these gardens, which although nothing like the ones we had just let, were still very pretty. We saw a mongoose and a baby mouse which was very exciting! We then boarded the coach again and headed for the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We were visiting the Kilauea Volcano (which is the world's most active volcano - erupting continuously for the past 20 years), and as we drove into the area we could immediately see the steam vents alongside the road in a clear area - no large plants can grow because once their roots get too deep they get burnt by the magma under the ground. The road took us around the crater rim to the Thomas A Jagger museum, where we saw exhibits informing us about volcanoes and stories and pictures of the goddess Pele. From here we also had our best views of the crater itself. For safety reasons people are kept a certain distance back, so we could mainly just see steam, but it was still very exciting! After spending a while observing the Halemaumau crater, we drove to the nearby Thurston Lava tube, which is a tunnel formed by a large lava flow which cooled and solidified on the top and then the still hot liquid contents flowed out, leaving an open space. We walked through a small area of lush rainforest to access the tube, and then spent some time inside it (not too much time though - it was cold!) Hanging from the ceiling were roots of trees growing above.

The final stop of the tour was the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory, which allowed us a glimpse of how these nuts are processed and made into various products (many incorporating chocolate!). There was a large shop (of course!) and a small botanical garden which we had a little look round. On the way into and out of the factory grounds were macadamia nut trees galore, and also a large number of papaya trees.

We got back to the ship at around 5.00 after a very enjoyable day. We had a quick turnaround and then dinner; as if to say goodbye, as we were eating, a big humpback whale came alongside the ship right next to our window and played for a while and then she was gone!  What a way to end our last port of call on the ship!  Then to a crew special called A Song for Europe, which was part entertainment, part quiz - some of the entertainment team sang a range of previous winners of the Eurovision Song Contest, and we had to name the song/ artist/ country/ year. (JL decided not to go to this one!) We then went to the theatre to see Colin 'Fingers' Henry who is a comedy pianist - the best bit was when he stood on his head and played a tune! Then to bed, exhausted!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Day 76 - Tuesday 24th March - Honolulu

Day 76 - Tuesday 24th March - Honolulu

We got up at 6.00 to watch the sail in to Honolulu, but we discovered we had already arrived! The reason for the early arrival was that as this was our first port of call in the US, every passenger and crew member had to attend a face-to-face American immigration inspection. People doing tours today (including us) were asked to turn up between 7.00 and 7.45. We arrived at 6.50 to discover the queue was already stretching half way down the ship! We joined it and spent the next hour gradually inching our way towards the room where the immigration was taking place. Just before 8.00 there was a sudden influx of people being fast tracked to the front as they were on the first tour of the day which had to meet at 8.10! Eventually we got seen just after 8.00, and luckily were given permission to enter the U.S. - phew! 

We had some breakfast and then went to meet for our morning tour - Natural Highlights of Honolulu (which incidentally we had wanted to do when we came here 4 years ago but hadn't been able to fit it in!) We caught our coach just outside the terminal and set off for our first stop - Diamond Head Crater. On the way we passed some fascinating ships (old and new) in the harbour, and listened to our guide start to tell us the history of the Hawaiian Islands from the beginning of time, which she continued throughout the morning! She was amazing! We drove up the hillside and entered the crater through a long tunnel and emerged into the base of it - it was huge! I had been imagining us looking down into a small opening but in fact you could fit numerous football pitches inside it! Our guide explained that the crater was made by built up steam inside the earth's surface exploding and breaking through the ground, then the ash fell into the crater shape, with one side higher than the others as the wind blew it. It is possible to do a trek to the 763 foot summit of the crater, but not on this tour! So after a few photos of the sides of the crater and the bird life living there, we set off again along the coast, with amazing views of the beaches, cliffs and sea below. We saw the famous Hanauma Bay, which is a spectacular snorkelling area (again, not on this tour!) and lots of surfers in the sea. Then as we rounded a corner towards our next stop, the driver suddenly shouted "Look, whales!!" And sure enough in the sea in the distance were several spouts shortly followed by dark bodies gliding through the waves. We stopped close by and had a magical 15 minutes watching the whales in the ocean, as well as observing the Halona Point Blow Hole just below us, which spurted water spray every now and again as the waves came crashing in. Wow!

We continued our drive along the coast, viewing the volcanic hills all around, and seeing interesting formations like Pele's chair (Pele being the goddess of the volcano) looking out over the sea, and Rabbit Island where once settlers had bred rabbits for human consumption, but none of the Hawaiians wanted to eat them! There were also many more steep cliffs and a lighthouse. We stopped at the Kaiona Beach park to have a paddle in the sea (not quite as warm as the South Pacific Islands!), and then made our way to an archaeological site which consisted mainly of a large pile of sacred stones placed in such a way as to bring good energy to the area. There was also an interesting garden full of typical Hawaiian trees and plants, such as the taro vegetable growing in paddy pools. The final stop of the tour was the Pali Lookout, high up in the mountains, with breathtaking views over the island. There were also a number of chickens and cats roaming around the area, and some pretty red headed birds.

We headed back to the ship for a late lunch before going ashore again to have a look round the city itself. We firstly went to look at the Aloha Tower shopping centre, where JL had bought a lovely Hawaiian shirt 4 years ago, but it was unfortunately being renovated! So instead we walked through the town, past some pretty squares full of trees and outdoor cafes, to see the Iolani Palace, the State Capitol building, and the statue of King Kamehameha, as well as the post office which we found after much searching ("all for one blooming stamp!" muttered JL!). We then wandered to the north of the city, past lots of pigeon families, and some lizards, in search of the Foster Botanical Garden, which we finally arrived at at 3.30 - to find it closed at 4.00! They told us as long as we were out of the grounds by 4.30 we could stay a little longer, so we set off exploring the lovely gardens, seeing the indoor greenhouse full of delicate flowers, the butterfly gardens (unfortunately with no butterflies!), the prehistoric glen (which did look like a scene from Jurassic Park!), the beautiful orchid garden, and more plants than I would be able to name here! There were some incredible trees, some hundreds of years old. I particularly liked the cannonball tree, which lived up to its name as the trunk was covered with round balls! We even saw a descendant of the Bo tree in India under which the Buddha gained enlightenment! And some ducks in the carpark! On the way back we paused to look at the amazing Buddhist Kuan Yin temple and the San Francisco style trolley bus making its way around the city. 

Back on the ship we had an early dinner and then went to the Crows Nest for a cocktail, and then on deck to watch the sailaway, with spectacular views of the city lights and Diamond Head silhouetted against the skyline. The show in the theatre that evening was Will Martin, the youngest man in history to top the UK classical charts, who has a wonderful voice, but unfortunately tonight also had laryngitis so wasn't at his best and had to cut his show  short. Still, this gave us an early night to prepare for another day ashore tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Day 75 - Monday 23rd March - at sea

Day 75 - Monday 23rd March - at sea

We started the day with our usual walk/ stretch/ breakfast and then line dancing for me while JL went to see Gloria Barnett do her last talk, this time about sharks. I then went to knit and natter where I finished my Easter bunny and started learning to crochet (which so far seems much harder than knitting!). JL played his first game of table tennis.

After lunch I went to party dance class and then we went to the theatre to watch the classical duo perform an afternoon concert. They played some of Holst's Planets, as well as some Beethoven and Debussy. The most memorable part was their live performance of 4 minutes 32 seconds of silence - weird! JL rushed from here to his second game of table tennis, while I had a cuppa and then did an abs workout. 

After dinner we had two shows - the first was a double bill starring the Carpenters singer Laurie Briggs (tonight singing some songs by other popular female artists), and then Helen Wilding (who reminds me very much of a Disney princess!) singing a Sound of Music medley, some opera, and some jazz. The second show was the comedian Adrian Walsh, who was again very amusing. Then back to the room to prepare for Hawaii tomorrow!!! Can't wait! :-)

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Day 74 - Sunday 22nd March - at sea

Day 74 - Sunday 22nd March - at sea

[JL|: something terrible has happened, a tragedy...]  I started the day with a lovely video chat with my family, and then went walking. The top deck was closed due to the high winds which had sprung up overnight, so we went to the lower deck. I then did stretch class while JL walked another mile, then we had breakfast. I had my typical morning of line dancing and knitting (I'm now making an Easter bunny!), and JL went to a talk about the motions of the oceans.

At noon the clocks went forward an hour, so by the time we had finished lunch it was 2.00 - I decided not to go party dancing on a full stomach so instead went back to the room and finished reading my book and did some more knitting. Meanwhile JL read his book in the Crows Nest and then played table tennis, which he won! I went to an exhausting circuit training class where I worked muscles I didn't know I had! 

We had dinner and then went to a classical concert by the two pianists - they played various pieces including my favourite bits of the Peer Gynt suite. From there we went to the main theatre to get front row seats for the guitarist Byron Johnston who was performing his second show, this time called Legends of the Guitar. It was mainly electrical guitar tunes this time, by a selection of the most famous rock guitarists, and he was accompanied by the ship's orchestra. It was like a civilised version of a rock concert!! He was incredible, and I bought his cd afterwards.  [... We're out of Banyuls!  We finished the last drop last night.  How are we (especially Emma) going to survive the next 2 to 3 weeks?]

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Day 73 - Saturday 21st March - at sea

Day 73 - Saturday 21st March - at sea

We started the day walking our mile, then I went to stretch class, followed by breakfast and line dancing. JL went to see Gloria Barnett talking about seabirds and reptiles, while I went to knit and natter to help price up the rest of the items for the craft sale in the afternoon. 

We had lunch and then I went party dancing while JL read his book, then played table tennis. At 4.30 I went along to the craft sale, which was immensely popular, and I ended up helping out at one of the stalls. There were 3 tables of stuff made by the knitting group and the afternoon craft group, with a few very special items which were auctioned. People could choose to give money to either Macmillan Cancer Support or the Vanuatu Relief Fund. Altogether they made around £950!!! As well as buying my own penguin and chick which I had knitted, I bought a crochet penguin (which I now want to learn to make!), and a really cute crochet hat and neck warmer (which I am going to wear to lunch as the restaurant is super cold!!). I then went to do a gym workout.

After dinner we went to see Stephen Garcia, the comedy magician, for his second show. We got great seats right at the front, and it was too late to move when JL suddenly said "I feel a bit nervous in these seats - he likes to get volunteers from the audience doesn't he?!" And sure enough we got picked to help out with several tricks, including one where he took my wedding ring and tried to make it appear inside an apple, then a balloon (neither of which worked!), then in a sealed can of baked beans (which luckily turned out to be empty of beans but just containing a jewellery box with my ring in!!) He also got JL involved in adding up a set of random numbers that had been generated by members of the audience, which the magician then said the would reveal in a sealed envelope - but it was wrong! He declared that as his penalty he would strip for everyone, and embarked on a very entertaining routine with bits of different tunes including the Birdie Song and Gangnam Style, before ripping off his shirt to reveal a T-shirt underneath with the correct answer sewn on!!! It was amazing! :-) From there we went to see a second show which was a Carpenters tribute band, who were very good.

Day 72 - Friday 20th March - at sea

Day 72 - Friday 20th March - at sea

The weather is getting hotter and hotter as we near the equator, but we were very brave and managed to walk our mile, although I missed stretch class as I was too lazy to get out of bed straightaway when the alarm went off! It was then line dancing for me, in a smaller venue today as they were doing a cookery demo in our usual venue, but we made do without too much stepping on each other's feet! I then went to my knitting group where I helped make labels to price the items that had been made and donated for the charity craft fair which is happening soon (I'm buying my own things, I love them too much to give away!). Meanwhile JL read (too hot even for the swimming pool!] and played table tennis.

We had lunch and then went to see the Crossing the Line ceremony. Those of you who have been reading this since the start might remember that we had one of these already on the way out - well we are now crossing the equator again so have another one! The ceremony involves members of the ship's crew dressing up as pirates and sailors and competing in contests against each other to try and impress King Neptune. In order for permission to be granted for the ship to cross the equator, the sailors' team must win. The challenges were swimming up and down the pool in a life buoy, then in a wet boiler suit, making up and performing a team dance (great fun, as the pirates were made up of members of the Headliners Theatre Company!), blowing up and popping a balloon with a mouth full of crackers, then getting ping pong balls out of a tub of custard using only one's mouth. You will be pleased to know that the sailors' team won, so we were given permission to cross the equator and we are indeed coming home!!! :-) After this JL went to see a lecture on coral reefs, and I did a gym workout, before getting ready for formal night. 

The menu was yet another Marco Pierre White extravaganza, but this time JL decided not to have the four courses as set out but to make up his own menu - two main courses! So he had the lobster tail meal first, and followed it by the scallops in mashed potato. At the end the waiter came over and very seriously said "Can I get you another main course sir?" - for a moment JL considered having the beef fillet, but thankfully decided to stop there!  [only because Emma gave me the evil eye across the table]. There were some lovely fresh strawberries to finish. We went to the first show of the new classical duo - a couple of pianists playing on the same piano, who were excellent. From here we went to one of the bars as I fancied the mocktail of the day - Virgin Chocolate Banana, one of my favourites! We then went to the main show - an Irish comedian called Adrian Walsh, who was very good.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Day 71 - Thursday 19th March - at sea

Day 71 - Thursday 19th March - at sea

We awoke to a tropical rain shower today so did our walking down on the promenade deck, followed by my stretch class. After breakfast I had line dancing as usual, and then knit and natter where I practically finished my Easter chick (all but his beak!). Meanwhile JL read his book in the Crows Nest and then played table tennis.

After lunch I went party dancing while JL went to see Gloria Barnett talking about the construction of the oceans and tectonic plates.  We then met to watch the Headliners show My Generation (for the second time!), full of lots of cool sixties songs and clothes. Then JL went for a second game of table tennis, and I went to a fab abs class.

We had dinner and then went to two different shows - first a man called Byron Johnston who did an amazing guitar show, with some classical pieces but also a demonstration of using the guitar to perform different instrumental tracks, which he recorded individually live in front of us and then put together to make the song Hotel California. He also did some incredible flamenco pieces. After that we went to see a singer called Helen Wilding who was brilliant also - she did some opera, some musical theatre, and some songs from films, focusing on how songs tell stories. And she had a really pretty dress!
[JL: our captain informed us this morning that we would be crossing the Equator tonight at 10.  Unfortunately we won't be able to see it as it will be dark...  Next stop Hawaii ...]

Friday, 20 March 2015

Day 70 - Wednesday 18th March (day two!) - Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Day 70 - Wednesday 18th March (day two!) - Pago Pago, American Samoa.

So, after crossing the international date line overnight, we were back to the 18th March! This one we would be spending ashore, in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Interestingly, Western Samoa (where we would have been yesterday if it hadn't been for Cyclone Pam), is the other side of the date line. As someone pointed out to us on the island today, this means that if you want to celebrate Christmas/ New Year/ your birthday twice in a row, you just take a 30 minute flight over there for the first one, and then fly back the next morning and celebrate again when you arrive!

I got up at 6.00 to watch the sail in, as I remember it being spectacular last time we were here. And sure enough I got wonderful views of the island as the sun rose, with its green rugged hills and curving coastline, with just a few lights scattered along the shore showing the limited number of villages. I saw the international airport (with 2 flights a week to Hawaii!) with its tiny runway right by the sea (I wouldn't fancy landing there!) The main town is a little more populated, and we soon saw the harbour with its tuna fish factory (stinky!) and container port where we docked. 

We didn't have a tour booked until the afternoon, so we went ashore on our own after breakfast to look at the town itself. We walked along the coast firstly towards the main town, where we saw the Sadie Thompson Inn (made famous by Somerset Maugham), and a number of pretty churches, lots of beautiful houses on the hillside, the local market selling fresh fruits and handicrafts, and some wandering chickens! We then walked in the other direction, stopping in first at the Ocean centre, belonging to the National Marine Sanctuary, which had displays about ocean life and information about local and national initiatives to help preserve coral reefs and make the oceans cleaner. We continued our walk to see the small beaches of Utulei, where we dipped our toes in the warm water. As we walked, we also enjoyed looking at the variety of beautifully decorated local buses with a wide range of pictures and slogans written on them! 

We then went back to the ship, via the handicrafts market which had been set up just outside the port. The crew had been having a safety inspection during the morning, and waiting to greet us on the dockside was an inflatable lifeboat! Let's just say I hope we never end up in one of them! (We were later informed that they had passed the inspection so I guess it was deemed sea worthy!) We went back onboard for lunch, and then went ashore again to meet for our tour - East Side Island Drive. Last time we we're here we did a tour which exploded the western side of the island, so now we were going to see the rest of it! (The island is only 18 miles long and six miles wide!)

We got onboard our local bus, which was beautifully colourful and specially decorated with flowers on the outside for us. It had what the islanders like to call 'natural air conditioning' (the open windows!). We had one of the luxury models with padded seats - apparently some of them have wooden benches! Each bench was designed for two small people (or half a Samoan as JL joked! The population like their food and are very proud of their size!) We set off around the harbour, with lovely views of our ship on the other side.  We passed the town cemetery, I held my nose as we drove past the tuna factory, and then we were on our way along the coastal road. The views along this road were absolutely gorgeous - the picturesque white sand beaches, the turquoise waters with crashing waves, the palm trees lining the road, and the cliffs as we climbed higher and higher. We passed the famous establishment called Tisa's Barefoot Bar, which is owned by a local couple and is very popular with travellers. There were a number of small islets along the coast, and the next stop was a viewing point for one of these - Camel rock, so called because of the double hump look it has! We continued on our journey to a beach where we all descended and started taking photos and paddling in the warm waters - until we were suddenly called back into the buses and we noticed a grumpy looking man shouting at our guide. It turns out we had stopped at the wrong beach - this was a private one and the owner was demanding payment for all of us! We carried on for a few minutes to the correct beach, which was just as beautiful, and also had views of a fascinating dome shaped church on the hillside. This was the furthest point of the trip, and after a little while enjoying the views we headed back along the same road (the island only really has one main road from west to east!), this time with views of the inside of the island - lush rainforest, scattered with small houses, many  with family graves in their gardens as is the tradition in these islands. We eventually stopped at a place called Two Dollar Beach (which now costs five dollars to visit due to inflation, but has kept its original name!). Here we were treated to a cultural show, with male and female dancers performing traditional dances telling different stories. It was hosted by the largest man I have ever seen in my life - he was as wide as he was tall, and very proud of it! There were four very fit male dancers who performed much of the show, and for one number they came into the audience to get females to give flowers to - and guess who was chosen?! I accepted my flower happily, and then to my horror was dragged onto the stage area, along with the 3 other chosen women. We were given chairs to sit on and treated to a private dance each by one of the men (maybe it wasn't so horrible after all...!). We were then pulled up and encouraged to copy the moves of the dancers, which involved much squatting and swaying, something my legs struggled with after my legs, bums and tums class the previous day, but apparently I coped better than the others! [JL: photo on Facebook of course!!] I was finally released back to my seat as the show continued. Eventually it was time to go back to the ship. On the journey back we were entertained by our guide who decided to teach us some traditional Samoan songs (which I'm pretty sure we were taught four years ago when we were here!)

When we got back onboard we watched from the balcony as two long canoes set out into the harbour (we were told they were teams from rival schools who were rehearsing for an upcoming towing race). We then went along to one of the pools for the sailaway, which today was a dance special. Both my line dance class and my party dance class were performing some dances, as were the tap dance group and the ballroom dancers. It was really good fun!  As we finished, the ship sailed out of the beautiful harbour and we waved goodbye to Pago Pago. We had a late dinner and then went to the show - a comedy magician called Stephen Garcia who was most entertaining. Another wonderful day. :-)

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Day 69 - Wednesday 18th March (day one!) - at sea

Day 69 - Wednesday 18th March (day one!) - at sea

As we are now heading back across the Pacific in the other direction, we have to cross the International Date Line again, going the other way. This means that we have two consecutive days with the same date, and today is the first of them! As we were due to be in Western Samoa today, but had to cancel it due to the cyclone detour, it was a bit of a funny day for entertainment - all the people who had been on for the past section had done their shows/ talks and were itching to get off (they now had, to have an extra flight to get them from American Samoa to Western Samoa for their flight home!), and all the new entertainers were currently making their way from Western to American Samoa so they could catch the ship tomorrow! But the entertainment team did their best to put together a good day for everyone!

We started with our usual walk/ stretch/ breakfast, then line dancing for me. I went to knitting, where I found an experienced knitter to help with with part of my Easter chick pattern that I didn't understand, and then went up on deck to watch an ice carving demonstration. Or so I thought- I got there 5 minutes late to discover the carving had finished already and the sculpture was rapidly melting in the boiling hot tropical sunshine! Oh well! JL spent the morning reading and then playing table tennis (which he won!!)

We had lunch and then I went party dancing while JL went to see a talk about human effects on the oceans. It was then laundry time, boo hiss. I finished just in time for my legs, bums and tums class, which was a killer! Meanwhile JL went to the pool and played table tennis again.

We had dinner and then went to the evening of improvised entertainment! First was a second crew talent show, which was even better than the first one. They did it in aid of the Vanuatu relief fund, and there were collection buckets and donation pledge cards on the way in. If you donated more than £10 then you got a photo showing the path the ship took to avoid the cyclone - it is very pretty! After the show we went to see the Aurora Orchestra, who usually accompany the cabaret acts, playing a show on their own, with various pieces of music from films - there was a John Williams medley, Pink Panther, Mission Impossible, and Schindler's List, to name but a few. It was fantastic. Then just time to get ready for our day ashore tomorrow!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Day 68 - Tuesday 17th March - at sea

Day 68 - Tuesday 17th March - at sea

Typical start to the day - walking, stretching, breakfast, then line dancing for me (a special set of Irish dances for St Patrick's Day). I then went to knit and natter where I continued my Easter chick, which was turning out rather larger than planned...! JL went to play his first game of table tennis of the day. 

After lunch JL went to see Gloria Barnett talk about behaviour for survival in the oceans, and then we went together to the afternoon concert in the main theatre by the classical duo (their last one sadly). I did some more knitting, and then having dedicated several hours to it realised it was all wrong so had the peculiar pleasure of pulling it all apart (which was SO much quicker than the knitting had been!) - I then started a smaller version of the chick! I went to an exhausting circuit training class while JL played his second game of table tennis, and then for a well deserved swim in the pool which was finally back open now the sea had settled, and jacuzzi.

We had dinner and then went to see the Beatles tribute band perform their second concert - excellent! JL then went to bed but I stayed up to go to the St Patrick's Day singalong which was really good - various artists and crew members from the ship performed songs, as well a some passengers - I didn't get to bed until 11.30pm!!!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Day 67 - Monday 16th March - at sea

Day 67 - Monday 16th March - at sea

I got up early this morning so I could Skype my family (as Monday morning for us at the moment is Sunday evening in the UK, so I just about caught the end of Mother's Day!), and then we went walking and stretching before breakfast. I then went to line dancing and JL went to see Gloria Barnett talking about strange creatures of the deep! I then went knitting and spent most of the hour making a very small part of the Easter chick I have started (my penguin is all finished and looks lovely!). JL went to play table tennis.

We had lunch and then I went to an exhausting party dance class while JL went to see Melvyn Bowen talking about oceanography, and then an interview with Margaret Gilmore, and then a SECOND game of table tennis! I read my book in the sunshine on the balcony for a bit, and then went and did a gym workout. 

After dinner we went to see the Heimana String band, who are a group from the Cook Islands who played Polynesian music on a range of different traditional string instruments. I then went to see the singer Anna Stolli perform songs from the sixties and seventies, including a lovely one about rainbows which Kermit the Frog apparently sings at the start of the Muppet Movie!

[JL: a note for those of you who have been worried about us: with the technology on board this ship we were never in danger; we sailed west of our intended course and cyclone Pamela was about 200 miles to our right on its way south to the North Island of NZ.  Two days ago the sea was rough when we veered right crossing its tail end on our way back to our original course.  Now all is well and today the sky was blue, the temperature outside was 30 degrees and the Pacific Ocean was back to its normal state: as flat as Kiera Knightley's cleavage ]

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Day 66 - Sunday 15th March - at sea

Day 66 - Sunday 15th March - at sea

(Happy Mothers Day to my wonderful mummy!)

After a somewhat restless night (as I kept thinking I was rolling out of bed!) we woke to big waves and very choppy seas. We went to have a look at the outer decks, but they were closed due to high winds, so we went to the gym to use some of the machines there instead, before I went to stretch class. We had breakfast and then I went to line dancing. And then came back after 10 minutes as they cancelled it, declaring it to be too dangerous due to the movement of the ship. Shortly after the captain came on the tannoy to say that we would have a bumpy day ahead of us, but would be missing the worst part of the cyclone (phew). However, because the diversion we had had to make was so large, we would no longer be able to stop at our next destination (Apia, Western Samoa), so would be going directly to the following port (Pago Pago, American Samoa). I had suspected this might happen, and it is disappointing as we haven't been to Apia before, but I'd rather that than we get stuck in the middle of the cyclone! 

The sea was pretty rough for the rest of the day, with very large waves, so I hibernated in the room until dinner time! Luckily I had my knight in shining armour to bring me lunch to the cabin! Other than that, I slept, skyped another lovely friend, and watched a film on the TV (Rock of Ages - most amusing!) And checked the sailing weather website I had found every so often to check that the red and purple swirl in the South Pacific was definitely moving away from us...

Meanwhile JL soldiered on, going to see two speakers - Melvyn Bowen talking about meteorology, and Gloria Barnett talking about creatures which live in the oceans, and then went to play table tennis. 

It was formal night but I didn't have the energy to get properly made up, and I certainly wasn't going to wear my highest heels with the state of the sea! I did manage an abs workout before struggling down to the restaurant for a table by the window with views of the really quite scary waves! It was calming down a bit compared to the morning, so the evening's entertainment continued as planned - first the classical duo performing another varied programme, and then a Beatles tribute band who were excellent.  [ JL: something amazing has happened: Emma is upset: those of you who know her well will find this hard to believe but she has put on weight: she won't let me tell you how much!! Must be the scrumptious warm scones at afternoon tea.  Those of you who know me well will find this even harder to believe but I have lost 2 kilos. Must be all those oysters...]

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Day 65 - Saturday 14th March - at sea

Day 65 - Saturday 14th March - at sea

We set the alarm this morning to get up for walking and stretching, I turned it off and closed my eyes for a few more minutes, and woke up an hour and a quarter later! I think our 3 days ashore had worn me out! So no walk/ stretch for me! But I did feel refreshed and awake at last. 

We had breakfast and then I went to line dancing, followed by knit and natter. My penguin is nearly finished! Meanwhile JL went to see Margaret Gilmore talk about terrorist threats. During the morning the captain made an announcement to say that we would have a calm day at sea but that at around 8.00 tonight when we emerged from the protection of New Zealand to our East, things would become "very very different"! He warned us we would have at least 24 hours of cyclone inspired rough seas - fun.

We had lunch and then I planned to go to party dance class, but got the time wrong, so in the end just stayed in the cabin and read on the balcony in the sunshine. JL went to see a talk by a new guest speaker called Gloria Barnett, giving an introduction to marine biology. He then went and played table tennis. I did a fab abs class before dinner.

After eating we went to see the onboard group Caravan, and the horn section of the orchestra, play a selection of rock classics. It was now 8.00, and I was worried about the changing sea state, so we gave the second concert a miss and instead went back to the cabin to watch the port presentation on Pago Pago (American Samoa), before retreating to bed as the ship started to rock... 

Day 64 - Friday 13th March - Wellington, New Zealand

Day 64 - Friday 13th March - Wellington, New Zealand

We arrived into Wellington at 6.45am, so I went out on the balcony just in time to see the ship pull in to dock! I made the most of the fact I was awake to ring a friend, and then watched the sun rise behind the hill at the side of the harbour. We had breakfast and then went to meet for this morning's tour - Forests, Flowers and Cable Car.

As we left the ship we saw just how close we were to the Westpac sports stadium - we could have watched a game from the top deck! We boarded our coach and drove through the city, with the driver pointing out some of the main landmarks, before climbing the steep hills behind the harbour to the first stop - the Otari-Wilson's Bush reserve. This 100 hectare protected area is made up exclusively of plants which are native to New Zealand. We had a guided tour through part of it. Firstly we saw the collection of beautiful ferns of all shapes and sizes, then a forest area of larger trees. We saw one fascinating tree which started as a seed which fell onto the top of another dying tree of a different variety - it then let down roots to the ground which branched, thickened, and formed a pseudo-trunk over the old tree which slowly died and rotted away underneath. You can now see the two trees as one. The next area was an alpine garden, complete with a rock pool and small waterfall. We were then taken to the canopy walkway which was a wooden bridge through the treetops where we could look down (a little scary!) and into the distance at the amazing views over the reserve. Finally we saw the memorial to the founders of the reserve, and a pretty garden with winding paths.

We left the reserve and drove back into the city, with a nice view of our ship on the way, and then we queued up for a journey on the historic Wellington cable car. Not an overhead one, this is a funicular which takes people 120 metres up into the hilly outskirts of the city. We got seats right behind the driver so got to watch the other car heading straight for us, until the two cars parted in the middle. At the top we had views over the city, and a bit of time to look round the cable car museum (and shop of course!). 

We then boarded our coach again for a drive to the Lady Norwood Rose Garden and Begonia House, one of the most beautiful parts of the Wellington botanic gardens. There was a gorgeous outdoor rose garden, with a fountain in the middle, and indoor greenhouses full of orchids, begonias, lilies, and other flowers and plants. Just next to the gardens was the Peace Flame Garden, a lovely oasis with a waterfall and duck pond, in the middle of which is a lantern containing a flame which originated in the fires of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and is now there as a sign of the fact that Wellington is a nuclear free city, and as a symbol of hope that one day the world will give up all nuclear weapons. 

The last stop on the tour was Old St Paul's Cathedral, an unusual wooden cathedral, with amazing dark wooden carvings all over the inside, and impressive stained glass windows. 

The coach then took us back to the ship, where we had a spot of lunch, before setting out again on foot. We went back to many of the local sights we had passed during the morning in the coach, in order to look at them more closely and take some photos. We started with the railway station, with its columns and statue of Gandhi outside. Then to the parliament buildings, including the famous Beehive structure. The story goes that the plans for the site were a long symmetrical traditional building with columns like the partially built one that stands in the middle today, but they ran out of money and ended up building the very modern looking conical structure instead (which has been voted the fourth ugliest building in the world!). From here we walked to the New St Paul's Cathedral, which was interesting but nowhere near as beautiful as the old one we had seen in the morning. We then walked to the old government buildings, made entirely from wood to be earthquake proof, and from there past some more traditional buildings, along some shopping streets (much to JL's delight!), to the modern civic square with its interesting sculpture and unique City to Sea bridge (which JL thought was earthquake damaged but is actually designed that way!). We stopped briefly to look at the Maori war canoes on display near the waterfront, before making our way to New Zealand's National museum - Te Papa Tongarewa. This is a fascinating museum on 6 floors, with interactive exhibits about the geology, history, culture and natural history of the country.  You could have spent a whole day there, but we did a very quick look round! I particularly enjoyed the earthquake simulation, the preserved giant squid, the life size models of New Zealand wildlife, the recreation heart of a blue whale (which is so big you can crawl inside the tubes!), and the intricate Maori carvings. There was also a wonderful outdoor exhibit called Bush City which had a treetop walkway, ancient volcanic rocks, replicas of caves and a fossil dig. Before we left we spent a bit of time in the coffee shop (with free wifi!) and I spent my remaining NZ dollars in the gift shop. We then walked back to the ship along the very pretty waterfront walk, which sadly I don't have any photos of as JL was so stressed by this point that we were going to miss the ship that was leaving in an hour that I didn't dare stop to take any! Needless to say, we got back with plenty of time to spare!

We went to dinner, listening with great interest to the captain's message to tell us that in order to avoid the worst of Cyclone Pamela we would be taking a different route - rather than heading out North-eastwards across the Pacific, we would instead be going west through the Cook Straight and round the west of the North Island before heading out into the ocean, hopefully then just catching the tail of the storm rather than the brunt of it. There will still be some 'dancing on the waves' as he likes to call rough seas, but we will be perfectly safe he assured us. Sounds like fun...  [JL: no worries...  Emma had two $ left and asked me to put them in one of the charity boxes in the reception.  I chose the life boats thinking they might become handy in the next couple of days...]

We had a bit of time after dinner before our first concert, so went to the Crows Nest to watch the transit through the passage between the North and South islands which was really pretty, especially with the sun setting in the background. We then saw the clarinetist and pianist play their next set, and then I went to see a lady called Anna Stolli perform a range of theatre classics - very good indeed.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Day 63 - Thursday 12th March - Akaroa, New Zealand

Day 63 - Thursday 12th March - Akaroa, New Zealand

We had another early start today to watch the sail in to the beautiful harbour of Akaroa, where the ship was anchoring today, alongside another cruise ship. We watched the sun rise gradually over the volcanic hills surrounding us, then had breakfast and went to meet for our tour - Akaroa Nature Cruise. We got our tender boat ashore, which we had been warned would take at least half an hour, but in fact was barely 15 minutes. This took us to Akaroa village, where we found our catamaran for the morning amongst the collection of small boats dotted around the harbour. The boat soon set off and the captain gave us a bit of local history then took us on a tour of the area. We saw the mussel and salmon farms to one side of the harbour, which have the unplanned consequence of attracting larger marine life! One such group of creatures soon appeared - a pod of bottlenose dolphins! There were about 10 of them, including a calf, and we spent a magical 15 minutes with them - they came up close to the ship and swam alongside us, swimming under the boat, and also leapt through the air in amazing patterns. In the end the captain told us we had to move away as they have strict laws governing interacting with wildlife, and we must not be considered to be pestering them. I got the impression that the dolphins would have happily played all day though! Next we headed to the cliffs alongside the harbour, to see the appropriately named Elephant Head rock, the patterns made by ancient lava flow in the cliffs, and the Cathedral Cave which has a spooky echo! There were many cormorants nesting nearby, and small waterfalls trickling down the steep slopes. We saw trees on the cliff top growing at a 45 degree angle due to the strong winds! Soon afterwards we got our one and only glimpse of one of the local Little Blue Penguins, much to my delight! Sadly none of the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguins which are found in this area though. We did see some Hectors Dolphins, another endangered creature, much shyer than the bottlenose so they only stayed for a minute but were lovely to see! :-) We also saw some most unexpected wildlife - sheep! Looking at the steepness of the hills surrounding the bay, you wouldn't think it was possible for a sheep to walk down, but 3 of them had managed it from a hilltop farm, and were now stuck :-( The boat crew told us they were hoping to assist the farmer somehow in rescuing them, but they weren't quite sure how... We also saw a few fur seals jumping and swimming through the water by the low rocks. A wonderful experience! And even better, on the way back to the dock we were offered a complimentary cup of hot chocolate - well needed as it had been distinctly chilly on deck! I was sure I had made the right decision about cancelling the original tour I had been booked on - swimming with dolphins. When I booked it I had imagined tropical waters and bright sunshine, not 18 degrees, cloud and wind and 12 degree water!! 

By the time we got back to the village it was 11.00, so we set off to have a wander through Akaroa itself. One place which had been highly recommended in the port talk was called the Giant's House and Mosaic Garden, so we went there first. The short uphill walk there was well worth it as the place was incredible. The gardens reminded us of Gaudi's Parc Güell in Barcelona, as they were full of fantastical mosaic sculptures, set amongst the plants and trees - there were lettuces and tomatoes growing in the middle of some of the decorative areas! The place has to be seen to be believed so you will have to wait to see the many photos I took! The beautiful colourful house is a bed and breakfast, so we were not able to go inside, but just peeking through the windows was fascinating! Apparently one of the rooms has a fishing boat which has been turned into a bed! The artist who lives here and has made the garden from scratch must have the most incredible imagination. 

We then made our way back to the waterfront where we wandered the streets, looking at churches, pretty houses, and spotting signs of French influence - this was the only place in New Zealand settled mainly by French people back in 1840. Many of the roads and shops have French names, and the restaurants and cafes have very French menus, much to our delight! After admiring the views for a while, we settled at one which offered a lovely menu plus free wifi! And what did JL end up eating? Fish and chips!!! [yes but the best fish and chips I've ever eaten in my life!,] I then bought a gorgeous raspberry and white chocolate ice cream to eat in the sunshine.

Akaroa was another place we could happily have stayed, but eventually it was time to make our way back to the ship - luckily we picked a time where there was no queue for the tender boats, and were soon safely back on board. We went along to dinner and had a lovely view as we sailed out of the harbour. We then went to see the comedian Jeff Stevenson's second show - he made lots of jokes related to the Captain's announcement that we would be altering our course to try to avoid Cyclone Pamela over the next few days... Eek! I then went to see the second show by the singer Ben Makisi who sang a lovely range of songs from opera to traditional New Zealand and South Pacific tunes. And then to bed ready for our third day in a row ashore - this is exhausting stuff!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Day 62 - Wednesday 11th March - Dunedin, New Zealand

Day 62 - Wednesday 11th March - Dunedin, New Zealand

We had a late arrival into Dunedin today (or rather Port Chalmers, the large nearby shipping port which was big enough to accommodate our ship), so managed a lie in and still saw the sun rise over the beautiful hills which surround the bay where the ship would be berthed. After breakfast we went to the theatre to meet our tour groups - today JL and I had decided to do separate excursions. He was spending the day on the Taieri Gorge Railway, which collected him (and 400 other passengers) from right outside the ships gangways, and took them on a scenic journey along the coast and then over viaducts and streams and through tunnels, viewing amazing scenery, to the village of Pukerangi (250 metres above sea level). Meanwhile I was starting the day with a Wildlife Discovery Cruise.

I walked along the quayside, pausing for a few minutes to let JL's train past (it had about 15 carriages!), and then boarded my boat, the Monarch, and we set off through the Otago Harbour where the ship had come in that morning. We were given binoculars and large fleece lined coats, as it was expected to be somewhat windy and chilly! I took one to put on over my existing coat, scarf and fleecy hood, just in case! The captain pointed out various sights along the way, such as a Maori greeting house on the shore, and a group of black swans on one of the sandbanks. We eventually came out of the harbour into the open ocean, and rounded the entrance point for the first views of the main attraction of the trip - the Taiaroa Head albatross colony, the only mainland albatross colony in the world apparently. There were many cormorants all over the banks, and when you looked carefully you could also see the white heads of albatross chicks peeping out from the long grass. The adult birds were all out at sea gathering food for their youngsters. There was a lighthouse on top of the cliff and a wide range of colours in the rock face, making for a very picturesque setting. There were a number of kayakers in the water watching the bird colony, and also the New Zealand fur seals which we spotted next on the rocky promontory under the cliff. There were quite a number of them, including some pups, and they were not at all fazed by all the attention! After observing them for a while, we turned out to the open sea, where some of the adult albatrosses were starting to come in. We were told that they are excellent gliders but not so good at flapping, so unless they can get enough wind under their wings to carry them up to the colony, they give up and bob along in the sea for a while and try again later. Sure enough, we saw many of them doing just this! As they came in they would come zooming towards the boat, sometimes circling us, where we could see their amazing several metre wing span. They would then put their feet out and water ski for a few metres before settling on the water to wait, allowing us great views of their (rather grumpy looking) faces. As we sat watching them, we also had a visit from a single Little Blue Penguin! He is the world's smallest penguin, at just 33cm long. Sadly he only stayed a few moments and didn't bring any of his friends with him :-( All too soon it was time to head back, past the sand banks which had already got a lot bigger due to the changing tides and were now covered in wading birds. We were given tea/ coffee and biscuits to keep us warm on the journey back as it was distinctly chilly in the wind! We also heard the magic expression "free wifi" (password 'penguins'!!) so I was sorted!

I went back onto the ship for a quick lunch, and then headed back ashore to get the 20 minute shuttle bus to Dunedin itself. I then took myself on one of my famous 'Emma walking tours', using my map with a selection of interesting sounding places ringed. Let's just say I'm glad JL was not with me for this one, for both the distances and the steepness of the roads were somewhat greater than I had predicted! Nevertheless I had a lovely time, seeing many beautiful houses, cathedrals and churches. I also saw the statue of Robert Burns (as Dunedin was originally settled by the Scottish and still has many Scottish influences) - with a large seagull on his head! I walked up (up, up!) to a beautiful high school building with views overlooking the city, and then along to the Edwardian Olveston House, a lovely mansion with gorgeous gardens to explore. And then back down again, past more churches, through the university complex, past the Cadbury chocolate factory (not a patch on Willy Wonka's!), to the Famous Dunedin Railway Station, which is apparently the most photographed building in New Zealand, and I can see why! It is enormous and beautiful, and is fronted by lovely manicured gardens. The ticket office and waiting room have intricate mosaic floors and carved walls also. From there I went to see another amazing church, and then got the shuttle bus back to the ship.

Shortly afterwards, I went out on the balcony to see JL's train appear underneath! It took a while to get 400 passengers all back on the ship, but eventually we were ready to set sail! We had dinner, with a table by the window to see the scenery as we sailed out of the harbour. We then went to see the classical duo play a concert of opera and ballet music - wonderful! Then back to the room to watch the port talk about Wellington to prepare ourselves for two days time. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Days 59 and 60 - Sunday 8th and Monday 9th March - at sea

Days 59 and 60 - Sunday 8th and Monday 9th March - at sea

(Getting a bit behind again with all these days ashore, so here's another 2 for the price of 1!)

On Sunday morning we did our usual walk, stretch and then line dancing for me. We then went to the port talk about one of our upcoming New Zealand ports - Dunedin. We went to lunch at midday, but it was actually already 1.00, as the clocks went forward at noon (I think they thought there would be protests if they took away an hour of people's sleep so didn't do it at nighttime!) As soon as we had finished lunch it was time for the second port talk of the day (they are cramming them in!) for Akaroa, which looks beautiful. JL went to see Colin Hobbs talking about how aeroplanes fly, and then Diane Simpson talk about why we like different types of music. I went along to a Fab Abs class at 5.00, and then we had dinner. Tonight was the first concert by the new classical duo - Sarah Douglas, a clarinetist, and Amy Wakefield on the piano. They started with a great rendition of Rhapsody in Blue, and played some other lovely pieces. The most exciting thing was they had their music on iPads rather than the hundreds of tatty books and photocopied sheets that most of the performers have had! After this I went to see a New Zealand singer called Ben Makisi, who performed a range of opera and classical songs - very good.

Monday started with a lovely phone call to my family, followed by walking a chilly mile, stretch class, and a cramped line dancing class in a smaller venue as there was a cookery demonstration in our usual room. I then went to my knitting group and made some penguin flippers, while JL went to see a new speaker, TV correspondent Margaret Gilmore, talking about terrorism. We went to lunch and lost ANOTHER hour, and then JL went to see Diane Simpson talking about serial killers (he chooses all the happiest lectures!). He then went to see Colin Hobbs talking about volcanoes, including our favourite honeymoon extending Icelandic one :-) I had an afternoon of laundry ahead of me, thankfully not too traumatic! I then went to an exhausting Body Conditioning class, before getting ready for another formal night. [ JL: and yet another lobster meal...]The evening show was the comedian Jeff Stevenson, who apparently performed at Rodney Trotter's stag night in Only Fools and Horses?!?! (I'm sure Jack will know!)