Monday May 24th and early to bed, well, early for us as the usual time for lights out is after midnight. Not a very restful night even though all the packing was done and there were no real worries – other than hearing the alarms and noting that my (body, not luggage) weight was only about half a kilo under my self imposed upper limit. Having heard of a previous cruiser who managed to pack on 15kg on a 28 day cruise, the chances of me only adding just half a kilo over 100 days at 5 grams a day is looking decidedly slim – which is probably more than I’ll look, come September 4th.
Well we managed to stagger out of bed at 3:30am easily enough and piled the luggage outside where the temperature was a decidedly nippy 8 degrees and a bit misty. The Auckland Super Shuttle was spot on time at 4:10am and we had a pleasant enough ride to the airport. An errant car speeding across our bows on a red light in Auckland City, was a timely reminder that Auckland drivers are not exactly the world’s greatest or safest. We’ll probably realise soon enough after experiencing the chaos of Mumbai (Bombay), that maybe Auckland drivers aren’t so bad after all. The roads are surprisingly busy at 5am around the airport.
The wonders of modern technology. Gone are the days of long slow moving queues at the check in desks only to find that the queue you chose was the one with all the problem travellers in it and you shuffled along for an hour or more. This may not apply to other airlines but Air NZ have it well and truly sussed out.
1) Put passports face down in the kiosk reader (no queue..) and your names and details come up on screen
2) Answer a couple of questions on the touch screen such as are you carrying any bombs, are you Osama Bin Laden’s replacement etc.
3) Input the number of checked in pieces of baggage - in our case, 3.
4) Swipe credit card in the reader to pay the $50 for one excess piece.
5) System deducts the $50 and along with your baggage tags and boarding passes you get a printed GST receipt.
6) Attach the luggage tags to each piece and trundle them over to the conveyor, where an attendant checks the weights (16, 18 & 21 kg for us), scans the tags and bye-bye luggage.
Wonderful. A leisurely snack from McDonalds - not a lot of eating choices at Auckland these days, with just Subway, McDonalds, KFC, (KFC at 5am???), a Sushi bar and a couple of coffee shops, plus Burger King and a bar airside. A decent cup of coffee in my Autobahn travel mug from Cafe espresso as I know from past experience that their idea of a large cup and my idea of a large cup, are vastly different. A leisurely wander through immigration to gate 7 for the 7am NZ101 flight to Sydney. We weren’t tempted by any duty free offerings as neither of us drink spirits anyway.
Announcement 6:45am – “Flight 101 to Sydney is cancelled due to operational requirements. All passengers will be booked on the 9am ANZ flight, but you will be given meal vouchers...”
Ho hum. The joys of international travel.
An hour or so later.
“For passengers on the 9am Sydney flight, it will now be leaving at 10am from gate 8.” .... Oh deep joy.
At 9:10am, visibility was back down to about 50 metres so opting to leave a day early for Sydney was still less stressful than wondering if we’d make it straight to the ship on the day of the cruise. We eventually took off on a 777 about 10:45 and as we were late even for the 9am flight, a holding pattern before finally landing at Sydney. Not the best of landings either for such a modern aircraft.
What really capped it then was the seat belt lights went out and everyone leapt up, grabbed their hand luggage and surged forwards, ready to disembark, only to be told after 5 minutes, that we all had to sit down again as they weren’t used to the 777 on that gate and the air-bridge wouldn’t reach and we needed to be towed forwards a couple of metres. At least we got the opportunity to sit and wait in the Premium Economy seats and try them for size. Worth the extra? H’mmmm.
As usual, we had two pieces of luggage through together then a long wait for Paula’s case. We finally got outside the terminal at 1pm to a very chilly Sydney. Only about four and a half hours late.
Our pre booked shuttle ($26AUD) arrived just as we were trying to ring them (luckily). Checking in to the Four Points Sheraton was easy enough and the room overlooking Darling Harbour was ready, so a shower and out to Harbourside across the bridge at 3pm, killing time until our pre-cruise 4:00pm meeting. We were both feeling peckish so shared a slice of pizza - made by Italians!
So at a few minutes to 4pm, we braved the pouring rain and dashed over the road to the Pyrmont Hotel where Joanne had pre-booked space for about 22 pre-cruise travellers. Several were already there.
The “2011 Crazy cruisers” group cruise came alive after we had eaten, as Joanne and Ros bounced back an April Fool’s day shopping list that Ros and I had compiled for Joanne, but I had emailed. Check out the link on the left to Joanne’s blog.... Suffice to say that there were lots of laughs (at my expense) and I came back with a weird bag of goodies that will need to be packed up until we reach Auckland. A wonderful evening and nice to get to meet some people again and some for the first time.
A cold and damp windy walk back to the hotel having been up since 1:30am Sydney time, so it was lights out again at about 10:30pm, with the expectation of a good night’s sleep ready for the real off May 25th 2011.