Saturday, January 19, 2013

Day 14 - Tasman Sea Again

After leaving Hobart last night we headed north along the coast of Tasmania.  Our next port will be Melbourne.  

We went to another of Sandra Bowren's lectures after breakfast.  This one was on the history of Sydney.  Since Sydney was first chosen as a British penal colony in 1788, it doesn't have a long history.  Botany Bay, a little further south, was originally supposed to be the colonization site, but the land around it was too marshy, so the British went a little further up the coast and found Sydney harbor more suitable.
View out of our Stateroom

Yesterday afternoon and again at breakfast this morning, Ray said he saw dolphins near the ship.  I didn't see them, so I am taking his word for it.  We are moving fast enough that, if you don't see them initially, we are long past them for anyone else to catch a glimpse.

This afternoon I went to the art auction to see what they were selling.  Every cruise ship has an art auction and I've learned a lot about art over the years by attending these.  I've also learned to recognize works by certain artists without looking at the labels or signatures, making it more fun.   Park West ran this auction.  They are probably the auction house you most often find on cruise ships and they have excellent inventories.   I've noticed that they offer art in different price ranges, depending on the cruise line they are on.  This was a high-end auction, showing works by "the Masters."  They featured some contemporary work, but today's auction offered more Picassos, and Rembrandt than I have ever seen at a ship auction.  One of the things they do at these auctions is to offer a few select pieces at a highly discounted price.  Usually these are good, collectible works by contemporary artists.  They are usually numbered lots so several people can purchase copies of these specially priced items.  This time they shocked me.  One couple was able to purchase 5 art works - a Picasso, a Rembrandt, a Goya, a Chagall, and a Miro, for a total price of $29,670.  I have seen the same Rembrandt sell for close to that by itself.   That couple made a great investment.  I hope they also like the art.  I don't believe in purchasing any art I don't personnally connect with, regardless of how famous the artist is.  To be honest, I like Rembrandt's work but ir's not the kind of art I would have in my home.  The other artists I don't like at all.  My favorite artists are Faunch Ledan, Itzchak Tarkay, Peter Max, Alec Pauker, and Igor Medvedev.  

The other fun thing on this ship is the chocolate art.  This ship has been traveling around the worls, and they have been adding to a chocolate map as they go.  I took these pictures of the map so far:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Day 13 - Tasmanian Critters

This morning we ordered breakfast in our room again so we could get to the mandatory immigration check at 8am.  We were ready, but immigration wasn't.  The ship pulled into dock in Hobart an hour late.  Once the Australian immigration officers were on board, they called passengers by scheduled tour.  We were on one of the first tours scheduled for the day, so we got in to see immigration in the first group.

Oldest functional bridge in Tasmania, in Richmond
Our tour began with a bus tour around the port city of Hobart.  We rode past some of the most expensive homes in the city, as well as the oldest and most respected schools.  From there we rode out to visit a small town called Richmond.  The majority of the buildings in this town date to the original colonization of Tasmania.   This is a nice little town and we would have enjoyed it a lot more if it hadn't been raining  on and off for the hour we were there.

Our next stop was much more interesting.  We spent an hour at the Bonorong Park Wildlife Center.  This is a wild animal rescue center where they care for injured and orphaned wildlife such as kangaroos, wallabies, Tasmanian devils, wombats, quolls, and a large variety of birds.
Lois feeding a young Kangaroo

There were kangaroos hopping all over the park.  Buckets of kangaroo feed were placed around the park and a guide explained how to feed them and that they enjoyed having their chests rubbed. They were very friendly, following us around looking for food.  As you can see here, I stopped and fed a little one.

Guide talking about his Koala charge

 Guides were stationed around the park, explaining the different animals.  I got some great video of lots of kangaroos, some very active koalas, Tasmanian devils,  and some baby wombats.  They were a joy to watch and learn about.
Momma with Joey in her Pouch

Tasmanian Devel

The wombats were very shy, retreating into burrows and tree trunks to get out of the rain, but Ray managed a picture of this one.

There were 3 very active Tasmanian Devils that I got some great video of.  Ray took this shot of the male.

For our friends who like the more active types of tours (talking to you Christie), some of our shipmates took a bicycle ride down from the top of Mount Wellington, just outside of Hobart. They told us the view was fantastic.

We really enjoyed the wildlife tour. We could have easily spent more time at this port.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Day 12 - Tasman Sea and Whales

The seas were rough last night.  Ray was a little sea sick during the night.  I have been fighting a minor cold, so neither of us felt much like doing anything today.  We went to the restaurant for breakfast and gave the maid time to clean our room, but after that spent the day in the room.  This had an unexpected benefit.

The captain announced that there were whales in our area. We went out on our balcony and were able to spot at least a half dozen whales porpoising and spouting not far off the back of the ship.   They were on both sides of us.  I tried to get some video - hope it comes out.  I haven't uploaded it yet.

Sandra Bowren gave another lecture today, this one on Australia's Aborigines.  One of the nice things on the ship is, if you miss something like this you can always see it on TV later.  We didn't feel up to going out at 10am to see it in person, but enjoyed watching it later this afternooon.

We did something else unique tonight.  Because we are in a "butler suite" (it sounds fancier than it is), we can order any meal served in the dining room during regular lunch or dinner hours and have the butler serve in in our room.  Since I was still coughing and sneezing, we decided to try this tonight and it was great.  We have a 4 course meal delivered to our room.   This could really spoil us.

The internet connection was lousy all day, probably a combination of being far out at sea and lots of people on the network.  I woke up in the middle of the the night & decided to try again, and it's now fine at 2:30am.  I'll go back to sleep now.  We have an early tour in Hobart, Tasmania tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Day 11 - Tasman Sea

 I think the steam in the laundry room got to me yesterday.   The show was a piano recital and we both would have enjoyed that if we were feeling better.  I got the sniffles and my cough back last night and Ray was tired, so we decided to get to sleep early.  We both slept late this morning and needed it.  I'm feeling much better now. After breakfast at the buffet we came back to the room and spent the rest of the morning resting, listening to podcasts.  

This afternoon we went to another lecture by Sandra Bowern,  this one called "The Great Australian Discoveries."  She talked about the Dutch, British and French explorers who sailed around and charted Australian, Tasmania, and New Zealand.  She also talked about some of the plants and animals they found here, which exist nowhere else in the world.  This woman is an excellent speaker and obviously knows her subject.

The seas calmed down during the night last night, but by this afternoon the waves picked up again.  Walking around the ship this afternoon is challenging. 
We received an invite to a cocktail party tonight for repeat cruisers, but we are going to pass.  It's being held in the theater, which is in the bow of the ship.  With high waves, that is the bumpiest place on the ship and the spot most likely to make Ray seasick.  That's not worth it for a few drinks and a half hours entertainment or speeches by the officers.

I don't know how long it's been there, but we noticed a plaque on our door last night.  I hope we get to keep it when we leave. :-))

Day 10 - Milford Sound

Today was our first at sea day.  When we left Dunedin last night and headed into the Pacific Ocean, it was fairly calm. Since we ate lunch in town, we ordered chef salads from room service for dinner and watched a little TV before calling it a night.  About 4am this morning, I woke up to a rocking ship.  The waved were up around 4-6 ft.  We decided breakfast in the restaurant would be smarter than trying to balance plates from the buffet. 
The captain turned the ship while we were at breakfast, so the waves were following us and the ship "surfed" for the rest of the day, so it wasn't too bad.  We went to a lecture in the theater on Captain Cook at 10:15am.  This was very good.  The speaker, Sandra Bowern, was very knowledgeable and interesting to listen to. 
Stirling Falls

After 10 days away from home, it was time to do laundry.  There is a laundry room with 2 washers, 2 dryers, and 2 ironing boards on every floor.  Since this was our first at sea day, we weren't the only ones looking to wash clothes.  After the lecture,  I waited in the laundry room on our floor for a machine to free up, then stuck it out in there until our last load was done.  That was the only way to get and keep my spot in line for the machines.

Lady Bowen Falls

At 3:30pm the ship picked up a pilot to take us into Milford Sound.  This is an inlet surrounded by spectacular mountains and waterfalls.  There are 2 large waterfalls that are always running and a lot of smaller ones that come and go depending on the rainfall.  We saw at least 6 of the littler ones.

We had dinner in the main restaurant tonight and the food selections were the best we have had so far on the trip.  We are starting to learn what to order.

Us on our balcony leaving Milford Sound

The seas got rough again after we left the sound.  We are now headed for the Tasman Sea and it promises to be a bit devilish (pun intended).  Waves are now 9-10 ft swells and it will probably get worse. We are going to be rocked to sleep tonight.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Day 9 - Dunedin

This is our last day in New Zealand.  The ship docked in Dunedin this morning. We were supposed to take a wildlife safari tour in 8 wheel drive vehicles, but decided we would rather skip the tour and go into town on our own.  It was overcast with occasional drizzle today, so we think we made the better choice.  There were hourly shuttle buses from the port into the center of town.  After breakfast we visited the tour desk to get a map of town, and then caught the 10:30am shuttle. 
Dunedin Train Station

The shuttle dropped us of on the octagon in the center of town. After a walk around the shopping area, we headed down to the historic train station.  This is a beautiful old station with lovely gardens in front.  Last time we were here we took the train ride here.  It was a lovely ride.  The station is also a transportation museum and has lots of neat old trains, cars, bicycles, and other forms of transportation.

1930 era Model A delivery truck

From there we headed for the Cadbury Factory tour.  Although Cadbury was founded in England, they purchased a troubled chocolate factory in Dunedin years ago and now Cadbury chocolates are made here as well.   The tour was fun.  The guide was very good and she gave out chocolate candies as prizes for answering questions along the way.  Of course, we bought a supply of chocolates before we left.

Before heading back, we stopped for lunch at a local tavern on the octagon.  Ray ordered a burger and I ordered the special of the day - filet of Sole.  The way this was prepared was both unusual and a pleasant surprise.  There was a a layer of hash brown potatoes with the fillet on top.  This was topped with a poached egg.  There was a mild cheese sauce over the whole thing.  I would not have thought to put that combination of flavors together, but it was delicious.  I also enjoyed the pub's own micro brew white beer with it.

This was a very nice day, a great way to spend our last day on shore in New Zealand.  I do love this country.  The countryside is diverse and beautiful, and the people are some of the friendliest I have found anywhere.  We will be sailing through the sounds tomorrow, then off to Australia.

Day 8 - Akaroa and the Tranzalpine Tour

Seven Seas Voyager in Akaroa Bay
Today was a very long day. We ordered room service breakfast because we had to meet our tour group at 8AM.  The tour for today was called Tranzalpine Experience and was billed as 9 hours long. 

The ship was originally supposed to dock in Christchurch, but the city has still not recovered from the earthquake in 2011.  We anchored in Akaroa Bay instead. This port doesn't have a dock big enough to handle a cruise ship, so we anchored in the bay and took tenders into the dock. 

The first part of our tour involved a 3 hour bus ride up a switch-back road and through some incredible scenery.  The mountains in this area are gorgeous and the planes in between were filled with sheep, cattle, dairy, and deer farms.  Our first stop was at a farm/museum.  The farm is still operating but many of the buildings on the main site contain farm equipment from the past 100+ years of operation, as well as a room full of rugby memorabilia.  We were served coffee, tea, finger sandwiches, and cakes while we explored the museum.
Lower Southern Alpine Mountains above Akaroa

After another hour and a half in the bus, we arrived at the train station at Arthur's Pass.  This was high up in the mountains and it was pouring rain when we arrived. We quickly transferred from the bus to the Tranzalpine train for the trip back down the mountain.  Although we signed up for this tour because of the train ride, we both agreed that the scenery was more interesting during the bus ride.  The train went through a number of tunnels, blocking any view.  Whenever we went over a bridge, there was a metal fence that they said  was a wind-breaker, but it was also a view-obstructor. In the areas where a nice view was possible, photos were not possible because the train windows were too reflective.  We did get some nice photos from the bus and from a few stops we made.

Akaroa Bay
The train dropped us off at Rolleston station and the bus brought us back the last 2 hr ride to the pier. We had some beautiful views of the bay on the way back.  Our bus was the first of the 4 on this tour to get back to the dock, so we were back on the ship by 6pm. 

We went upstairs to the Italian restaurant for dinner.  Service has been very inconsistent.  Tonight it was very slow.  We think they may be understaffed in the restaurants.  One of the officers was even helping out in the restaurant tonight!  We keep switching back and forth between the main restaurant and the Italian one, but they both seem slow.  Also, the food in both restaurants has been prepared in a more complex fashion than Ray likes.  There don't seem to be any simple options.  The vegetables and seasoning have even been a bit much for me.  We will survive it, but we both definitely like the chefs on Celebrity cruises better.