Why are we blogging?

We thoroughly enjoyed the blogs from those on the World Cruise 2010. They were so useful and some were also very entertaining and so we we started our own, late 2010, ready for the 2011 cruise(s).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A few random comments or advice for future World Cruisers - the ship

These comments are naturally based on the experience of the Dawn Princess only, so no guarantees that they transfer to other ships or cruise lines, or shorter cruises but no doubt you’ll be able to isolate those.

In no particular order of importance other than numbers 1 & 2 are indeed numbers 1 & 2:

1) Hook into “Cruise Critic”, find your cruise line, your ship and then the “Roll Call” for your cruise. From this message board, you’ll get to hear of others doing the cruise.

2) Take every opportunity to meet as many from the roll call as you can, before the cruise. You may not click with all of them, but the chances are that you will click with some of them.

3) If you manage to meet several others you think you’d like to dine with, by all means approach the cruise line and request you be seated together for the evening meal. Some prefer to take pot luck of course, but there are many who find their new dining companions are not to their liking. Better safe than sorry.

4) Treat your dining room waiters (and all staff for that matter) as potential friends.

5) If you would like additional lobster tails or prawns, just ask the waiter! It’s not like a normal restaurant where you pay extra for extras...

6) The Horizon Court/buffet coffee onboard is dreadful. It is made from a coffee concentrate, so you wouldn’t be the only one carrying your jar of Gold Blend or a coffee bag at breakfast.

7) The coffee cards are for 15 coffees at a cost of $35AUD that includes a nice and very effective coffee mug. You need the voucher from the book you are given when you embark, but additional books are available from your room steward.

8) Don’t assume that the buffet food is overall, inferior to the dining room food. Even breakfast in the buffet can be adjusted to suit with cooked to order omelettes and poached eggs are by request.

9) At lunch time, it is all too easy to overlook the speciality or theme of the day as it is beyond/between the two food lines.

10) The feather pillows tend to have the sharp ends of the feathers poking through, so it may pay to swap them for the flock type.

11) The cabin walls are steel hence several people take magnets. (See the link to Ros’s blog)

12) The more activities you get involved in, the more friends you will make.

13) Enjoy the wonderful diversity of the staff. I think they represented about 53 different countries. The rather churlish people who (formally) complained that some quiz presenters had accents, seem to have missed the point of a “World Cruise”.

14) Princess Tours may be over priced, but are generally well organised, however, even private tours can sometimes be less than satisfactory if your requirements are not clearly agreed beforehand.

15) In several countries, particularly where pay is poor, hiring a taxi between four of you can be surprisingly cheap. The downside is that they will invariably stop at various shops or emporiums to try and get you to spend money, as they generally get a kick-back, whether you spend or not.

16) Some tour guides believe that if you are on a six hour tour, they have to talk non-stop for six hours...

17) The various Hop-On Hop-Off buses are generally fairly priced and the multi language commentary is optional via headphones. Keep your receipts as they normally offer a discount if you have used them in a previous port. There are several companies so it may pay to research in advance.

18) Local buses always require local currency – in just about every port, US dollars are accepted elsewhere but the exchange rate is always very much in their favour, but many places will bargain anyway. Generally, if prices are acceptable, why bother bargaining?

19) Trivia quizzes are great fun as long as you accept that you’ll probably learn more than you already know! Note the word “trivia...”

20) We managed without using the laundry at all by taking only clothes that required the minimum of care, with a sink wash more than adequate and then drying them on the balcony or drip drying in the shower.

21) If your air-conditioning isn’t working too well, just let the room steward know. Unfortunately, you can’t switch it off!

22) On board massage or acupuncture is a staggering $167 an hour... Massage is good, but at that price, it needs to be.

23) Pace yourselves! On the world cruise, if there are five ports in five days, you’ll need a lot of stamina if you think you can manage six or seven hour tours every day.

24) Of all the music options on board, there are bound to be some that are not to your taste but overall, plenty you will like, ditto the entertainers and the production shows.

25) Take your own wireless enabled laptop/notebook (or modern I-device, as the internet cafe can be very busy at times. Although internet is not super fast, it isn’t always as slow as we expected. We shrunk all pics and managed to make 500 minutes last from Sydney to Dover (54 days), blog uploading almost daily, checking internet messages but not downloading them. We just left them on the server but moved them to specially set up directory until we returned home. We didn’t Skype. Our 1,000 mins (Platinum status) from FL back to Auckland was more than enough

26) One Kindle weighs less than 1,000 books... However, load them up before you go.

27) Take a clock with a lit display as with constant time changes, when you wake in the night, it is nice to know what time it is.

28) On board photographs are expensive and always in a flattering ‘soft focus’.

29) With modern digital cameras, there is no excuse for not taking enough pics, but do download them to your laptop or other storage device daily. Learn how to use the camera before setting off. That includes switching off the flash or switching on the flash.

30) Smile a lot and laugh a lot...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Two weeks of normality - whatever that is...

Two weeks back of ‘normality’ and currently, the weather is terrible. Although I am not in any way shape or form a rugby fan, I can’t escape the Rugby World Cup currently on in NZ. Auckland City has spent (invested?) millions into the waterfront and surrounding areas and hyped the event to such a degree, that the City was in total chaos last Friday night for the official opening. Trains were delayed, even downtown ferries were being turned back as there was such a crush.
We took the sensible option and stayed home with 5 friends coming around for what they thought were takeaways, and to watch the spectacular fireworks on the harbour and the even more impressive opening ceremony on TV. I opted to cook (I thought I might remember how...) with a nice entree of oat crumbed monkfish and also for the first time, tried the Ottoman spice I’d bought at the Istanbul spice market. Nice! Rather like a Cajun spice and it went well on the chicken with individual colourful vegetable terrines (shades of one memorable DP meal).

As a group, we decided that on the Saturday afternoon, with the addition of Murray and 2 Lynns, as it was a bright day, we’d head into the city by bus and suss out the downtown area.
First time I have used my Seniors card! (By the way, it looks as though we may be able to use our cards in Australia shortly, and Australian cards will be able to be used here.)

When the ships dock in Downtown Auckland, Queen’s Wharf is to the left as you leave the ship, and this has been dubbed “Party Central” for the duration of the cup. However, walking in the opposite direction to the viaduct area and beyond, the development has been staggering. We wandered through a mix of new gardens, pools, paving, ball and sand play areas and the obligatory new restaurants and bars (some are only temporary), and even a restored tramway. This is the Wynyard Wharf area. The picture above right shows the gang relaxing on one of the many massive 'loungers' that are on rails and can be rolled together to form a stage. Clever.

The Hulme Supercar prototype
The appearance of the Hulme Supercar prototype, parked just outside our wine/beer halt drew an appreciative crowd and some of the yachts moored around the place wouldn’t have been out of place in Monaco.  Several were from the USA.
Most impressive and glad we took the time to check out developments in our own City. An easy bus ride back then to Murray & Lynns.  We feasted on delicious fish and chips from the local takeaway and polished off the desserts left over from the night before, before suffering the England vs Argentine match. At least England won - but Rugby is never going to be a game that excites me.
We are home alright! OK, so we didn’t have Watchara and Neil to wait on us. nor did the washing up just ‘happen’, but hey, we are lucky people having such great friends.
The cruise merely added to the number.
(I initially posted this a week ago, and again earlier today but it didn’t seem to arrive, so it has to be a cut and paste job with pics added individually...)
I still have to add a cruise summary or two, but thought that for those still popping into the blog, I may as well add something.  For those who asked, the shoulder was subjected to an X-Ray and an ultrasound yesterday and there are still problems, including a torn ligament...
Sigh.  Just 313 days to go...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Au Revoir - On board Aussies!

Just a short blog to wish all of you a warm welcome home.  For those who I have email addresses for, I’ll drop you a test message shortly.
So what is it really like back home, here?  Bright but a little cool but we have adapted OK. We went to what is normally our reserve eating establishment for brunch yesterday and I cooked a warming soup last night (pumpkin with left over chilli con carne) so that was our second meal of the day – soup and toast!  Will be the same today, brunch and then soup and toast.  Guess what?  We don’t mind a bit – but reading through that superb last dinner menu had me dribbling... 
The kilos have fallen off already (scales fixed) and I am now just 400 grams above my self-imposed upper limit of 85kg, having hit probably 88kg on board. So the two eats a day with no additional snacks such as doughnuts or those tasty sandwiches.
Had to buy two new tyres today having hit an object on the road just before we left NZ and it wrecked the tyre.  Needless to say, I couldn’t get a direct replacement so had to buy two!
My acupuncturist has identified a probable cause of my shoulder problems so I am hopeful that things will now improve rapidly.  Pity the on board acupuncturist didn’t identify the problem...
I hope you other bloggers will finalise your trips with a summary or two, as we still need something to read each day or we’ll be getting withdrawal symptoms.
I’ll also do a summary, so this blog isn’t over – yet...  
In fact,  I sent one from the PC - but it seems to have been lost in cyberspace...  I'll just have to send it again. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day 102 - We are home - September 4th

Just a little something for Ros & Arnold to
improve their quality of life for the trip from Sydney
to Brisbane

Kicked out of bed at 5:50am (as we passed Rangitoto) by Paula.  Usually, it is me kicking her out of bed when I am ready to eat.
Freezing cold up on deck but after a cup of hot lemon and with the sun rising, a great sail in.  Garry & Joanne as keen as ever with Jo dressed for Auckland weather.  Samoa this is not... Garry couldn't see the "deck closed" sign and headed up for his usual sail in video shots.  
We left a small gift for Ros & Arnold – the remains of the “Jelly Bean Flavoured Massage Oil” Ros bought for us in Sydney.  Sorry there wasn’t a lot left but just enough to get them to Brisbane as their friends will all have left - and they might just be at a loose end.  A fair few farewells (again) as we wandered around and although we had booked to get off at 8:30am, we ambled down to the Atrium at 8am having vacated our cabin, just in time to give Alana one last hug after her very tiring and emotional day yesterday (I still have to write up yesterday’s blog); another big hug for the lovely Barbara and we just walked off with no hassle, no queue whatever, thanks to the brilliant NZ Customs/MAF & Immigration.  Straight to our luggage and we were outside texting Julie to get  a move on at 8:15 as she had planned to pick us up at 8:45!
Home with 7 bags, two backpacks, a briefcase and another bag of fragile goodies.
First job for me was to try and start the car, as Julie had been unable to get in it.  After reading the handbook, I managed to get in (modern electronics...) using the hidden key and lock - and the alarm went off!  It appears that the modern docking key has an inbuilt battery that can only be charged when it is in the ignition and the engine is running, but the alarm does go off if you use the emergency key, until you dock it.  Fortunately it fired first time (good British engineering old chap...) and the key is now charging up again.
We headed for our favourite cafe only to find that it had changed hands last week...  The new owners seem to have problems with the English language and the coffees weren’t very hot either.  Oh dear.  Not a good start, though the Guinness meat pie (to the previous owner's recipe) was up to standard and within a minute or three, there were four couples to welcome us back home.  Great – and an invitation out already.
We (Paula & I and Julie) headed to Devonport to wave at the ship as it cruised past.  Couldn’t recognise anyone on deck (no binoculars) but no doubt they were there. Sob-sob...  Au Revoir though friends, not Goodbye.
So that is it then.  Just 350 emails to read, digest respond to and the rest of the unpacking to do, before updating yesterday’s blog and making a start on the video.
Maybe I’ll do a summary in a few days.  Thanks to all who have followed the blog and I hope it has been either fun, informative or at least, readable.
By all means add your comments.
To those still on the ship – enjoy the run to Sydney and raise a toast to absent friends as they make a start on making their own beds and sorting out the shopping, cooking, cleaning and actually PAYING for their food (Chinese takeaway tonight).
Postscript:  Oh dearie me - apologies to Logan (Spasm) - the battery in our digital scales seems to have gone flat too.. What a pity...  

Day 101 Last sea day, many farewells... Sept 3rd

Day 101
The last full day on board and time for all sorts of finals was kick-started with celebration - for the Kiwis - as having won the first NZ vs Australia bowls test and lost the second, it all came down to the wire for the third.  The atrium had been suitably decorated with flags and balloons and the atmosphere was as you'd expect for a trans Tasman match. Every end was accompanied by cheers and applause but Paula and I unfortunately failed to live up to earlier glories and bowled atrociously.  However, at 11 all with two ends to play, the Kiwis won the first, so a draw was a distinct possibility and on the very last bowl, John bowled for the Kiwis and the bowl just fell over on the jack, so NZ won 13-11.  Thanks to Logan (cruise staff) who has really found his niche as an excellent organiser of these competitions.  His afternoon on-going putting competition throughout the ship has been a triumph of Mini Golf, with stairs to be negotiated, plus tables, chairs, glass doors, plus a few fake trees and lakes.  Watching the players, many are obviously keen golfers, but it is a great leveller.
My last (mini) chocolate doughnut and a coffee before dance class.  Once again, this wasn’t normal as Alana and Lee presented a few more special awards to various people for their assistance and/or improvement. The dancers also presented  Alana with a gift and Kev was our spokesperson - without handbag.  We then practiced a few ‘moves’ for a demo at the tea dance later in the day.
Paula and I had to shoot off early to the Crazy Cruiser lunch where even Chief Purser Angus was presented with a “Bloody Legends” award.  Angus and his staff had been fantastic in assisting Joanne and others with getting their groups off the ship quickly for their private tours, rather than waiting until all the Princess tours had left.
The internet was so busy that I couldn’t get on but after the tea dance, we rolled into the quiz for the last time.
We had a tough decision to make.  Our last meal with our wonderful table or Alan & Alana’s second “Sherlock Holmes Radio Mystery show”.
We nipped up to the Horizon Court and found that the wonderful veal rack was the carvery joint of the day, so it wasn’t difficult to ask for the piece with the bone in!  It needed a little bit of extra time on the griddle but was then perfect.
Having seen the first Sherlock show, there was no way we were missing the second and all seats in the Vista lounge were filled way before the start.  Tough timing as 8pm is second sitting meal time.  A brilliant show and for future cruisers offered one of these Alan penned specials, a must see.
We then shot off to the dining room in time for dessert and coffee so we managed (hopefully!) to not upset anyone.      
Back again to the atrium evening for the last time and also the last coffee.  Plenty of farewells, including the lovely Veronica & Rita, whose parting words to me were, “Keep travelling”...
We then called into Jammer’s night club to say farewell to Lee.  We found him along with Cruise Director Warren and his assistant Dave (newly promoted to Cruise Director) being presented with pizzas...
Dave & Warren front the daily breakfast show on TV and whilst some think it is a bit juvenile, (some think it is a LOT juvenile..) we are fans, as are the others on our table.  Warren has to deal with complaints and adverse comments about the entertainment/cruise staff, justified or otherwise and I can feel for him, as some of the negative comments really are pathetic.  No one likes criticism and especially when it isn’t really justified and these guys really do have to deal with a load of rubbish from some passengers. So, we’d like it placed on record that we think all the cruise staff do a tremendous job and whilst we obviously have our favourites, a couple have grated a wee bit with us, but that is our problem. Well done team and we look forward to catching up with you in the future – Warren, Dave, Lee, Bex, Josh, Logan, Barbara etc.
Drat, last night on board until July 27th 2012...  At the moment... 


Day 100 - NZ Processing - big tick Sep 2nd

  Day 100 - September 2nd.

There were a few confused souls around as having put the clocks back regularly over the last 100 days, September 1st disappeared altogether as we crossed the International Date Line.  That put us back on the same day and time as NZ, so for us at least, no more complex calculations as to what time it was back home.
At 9:30am we had our scheduled appointment with NZ Immigration and also MAF (Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries) who control the borders to try and prevent the landing of diseases likely to affect our local industries.  The immigration was a one minute pleasant experience after a two minute queue with a very friendly and welcoming official.  On then to the short queue for the MAF inspection.  Although the issued paperwork said to list and take with you, all items you were declaring, several people were brandishing bits of paper but hadn't brought the items with them.  It never ceases to amaze me how just many people don't seem to be able to comprehend simple written instructions.
Anyway, we fronted up with a bagful of goodies, with reservations about two items only.  Some "Ottoman Spice" purchased in Istanbul and a guava roll from Nicaragua.  The spice was examined for signs of movement and passed.  (Some Ottoman tea had been rejected and binned as it contained signs of life...) The guava roll, as it had been processed, was passed as OK.  We have always found NZ MAF officials to be vigilant but more than helpful and the most surprising stuff can be brought in just as long as it is declared.
Some most unhelpful people on board were adamant that you couldn't take ANYTHING off the ship.  They don't seem to realise that the chocs that appear on your pillow each night do not pose a threat, nor does roasted coffee.  Dried teas and dried herbs are a different case altogether.
Our next appointment was for the dance class- but we didn’t do any dancing until 5 minutes before the end. Not only did each participant get a certificate to add to their collection (crossing the Equator, the Panama Canal etc) but Alana (and Lee) also presented everyone with a trophy, which was a very generous touch, to go along with a glass of champagne. This was really the official end of the dance classes for the World Cruise as so many get of in Auckland, that Alana will just do a new dance for the three days to Sydney.
Up to the buffet of course for lunch, where it is always a golden opportunity to try fish you wouldn't normally come across.
After the quiz where we continued to train our Australian team-mates, I went for a final massage on the shoulder from the diminutive Arlene.  Even though she worked her magic (and sent me through the roof when she started with a bit of reflexology...) she believes I'll need an X-Ray, so we'll see. 
The last formal night for the cruise and a tremendous celebratory meal, where I had 4 savoury course, slotting in the lobster tails after the jumbo shrimp and a shrimp bisque, but before the rack of veal with a topping. They even presented us with the scrolled menus.  A nice touch.
On to the brilliant show "British Invasion", that opened with Acker Bilk's Stranger on the shore as the first UK record to successfully top the charts in the UK and the USA at the beginning of the UK's dominance of popular music for a decade.  A colourful show with good sets and a few 'extras' including a rather well done cut down Mini convertible. 
Although we headed for the atrium for coffee, we didn't dance and hit the sack just after midnight.  One more day...


Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 99 Free drinks for September 1st.... Aug 31st

The first of our last three sea days and a fairly normal pattern – almost.  As instructed, I changed the clocks, watches and cameras back one hour before retiring.  Sometime in the night, a printed note was pushed under our door but even though I knew it was there, I ignored it until getting up in the light. Someone had goofed with the time change and we had to shift all the clocks forward again... So, it wasn’t 7:20am at all, it was 8:20!  As some passengers (and several crew it seems) either didn’t get the message or only found the note in their external pigeon holes, there was a degree of confusion for a while.

Too late for bowls and yesterday’s blog wouldn’t upload as the internet was so busy, so dance class was the first event.  A revision of the Latin dances and that included the merengue, Argentine tango and cha-cha.  A photo call tomorrow at class too, plus at some stage, a tea dance before Auckland. We get the feeling that we have to be on our toes with our scheduling for the next two days...

We also had a note to say that the NZ customs/immigration/MAF were going to do some processing on board so we have an appointment for 9:30am tomorrow, complete with our paperwork and also the goods we wish to declare.  Great.   Well done NZ.  (We believe Australia will do the same between Auckland and Sydney.)

After dance, we mooched around the buffet but opted instead to share a pizza. An excellent light choice. (I thought I was very disciplined by not having my normal massive calzone...)  At 3pm, we were invited to a suite at the rear of deck 9 for drinks, by larger than life (French) Cecile, who managed to gather 4 Germans, 3 Australians and ourselves, to enjoy champagne and nibbles.

We had to leave for the quiz where once again we were only a couple of points away from victory, but Garry & Joanne, plus Arnold & Ros dragged us up to the buffet, (kicking and screaming of course) where we enjoyed an afternoon toasted sandwich... So much for the light eating day - again.

A hot spa followed where we learned that yesterday’s evening medical emergency was due to a lady’s pacemaker playing up. Relief that it wasn’t too serious.

A full table and once again, Maurizio had done us proud.  We had earlier asked about having a Filipino dish as our main meal.  This was a nice tasty chicken and pork dish called (I think) adobo, with rice and bok choy.  (My spell checker doesn’t like that.)

To the atrium as usual for Alan & Alana’s general knowledge quiz.  Entertaining as always.  Alan informed us there would be another “Sherlock Holmes Murder Mystery ‘Radio’ Show” on Saturday evening. Yippee!  This was a highlight of an earlier sector and as the word has no doubt got around, the Vista lounge is bound to be packed.

They didn’t finish singing and playing until 11:40pm to an enthusiastic group of so many couples that dancing a waltz was difficult as floor space is very much at a premium.   This time, we were assured that the clock would indeed go back 1 hour and forwards `1 day, as we cross the International Date Line.  This will put us on the same day as NZ making it seem as though we are almost home.  Paula has started her packing. Strange how we left with three cases containing a load of stuff for the UK but I think we now have more...


Day 98 Rainbows in Apia - Aug 30th

Quite a clunky arrival as we woke just as the ship was doing a 180, with a plethora of strange noises, thumps and rumbles.  Our last port and mixed feelings.  The weather was a bit changeable with the occasion tropical showers throughout the day.  It was ‘one of those days’ for the ship’s crew as before we’d even finished breakfast, there was an ‘Alpha Tango’ call for the medics to go to deck 14, just outside the buffet on the open deck.  We believe that someone slipped over (the decks can tend to be a bit dodgy after the rain) and either broke a hip or a leg, depending on which grapevine you subscribe to.
Apparently there was an impressive musical welcome – on the starboard side, so we missed that!  Our port side cabin means that we get a 50/50 chance of dockside entertainment, musical and otherwise.
We stepped off with absolutely no dramas at all and once again, question why the Americans have to make life so difficult for inbound tourists and waste so much precious land time.  With so many ports in such a short time period, disembarkation varies from the breezy to the diabolical.  This was really breezy.
The dock had a few local stalls but prices didn’t seem to be too good.  Most of us didn’t purchase local currency (again) so $6 US for a shot glass for example, was probably the highest price on the whole trip!  It was a pleasant warm walk around the harbour into town, being mildly accosted by taxi drivers most of the way.  We passed the famous “Aggie Greys” (the large building pic 2) on our trek and also passed the setting up of a cultural and tourism festival, with several food and craft stalls.
Apia is not a large town and we were quite content just to amble in and out again, not being keen students of history, museums, galleries tombs and the like.  We found an extremely pleasant cafe where we could sit and enjoy superb smoothies.  Paula’s was pineapple, banana and lime whilst mine was the tropical, that included papaya and a little lime, but I can’t remember what the third ingredient was! The cafe happily accepted $5US for each drink and that concluded our spending.  Prices on many goods seemed higher than we expected but I suspect that was due to their conversion calculations putting in a margin, as the banks also seemed to be taking a massive commission on exchange rates.
By the time we got back on board, our clothes were soaked (perspiration not rain) so a quick change and to the Horizon Court to graze.  Rather nice crumbed flounder and small crumbed scallops plus ratatouille and what was billed as a ratatouille soup, but wasn’t!
For once we skipped the quiz and enjoyed the first of two sailaways.  Two?
After the first, we hopped into the spa and over the tannoy came the message that due to a medical emergency, we were heading back.  The patient was transferred to a pilot boat thankfully, otherwise we would have lost more than an hour. As yet, the rumour mill hasn’t generated any answers other than no stretcher was used and the person we believe to be the ‘patient’, walked on.
The Australians were noticeable by their absence from the ‘International’ dining room menu and we feasted on goodies such as rack of veal. For the first time on the cruise, I had to send back the veal as it was way undercooked, as was Anthea’s rib beef.  Easily remedied and the replacements were just perfect.
Vista entertainer was Mike Harris. A good show but like a previous entertainer, made a joke about Camilla Parker Bowles being really ugly.  Sorry guys, I totally disagree but maybe a look in the mirror wouldn’t go amiss.  Because someone isn’t a plastic raving beauty doesn’t make them ugly.  To compound it, the cruise staff member summing up the show agreed with the comic’s comment.
We did our usual coffee in the atrium but Alana and Alan were doing a sing-along, and this was still in full swing with an almost full house.   They closed with “Now is the Hour”, “We’ll Meet Again” and finally, “Auld Lang Syne”.  Good to get these sad songs out of the way before the last night, as we fully expect some quite emotional farewells on Saturday night.
Bed late (midnight) and a message to put the clocks back yet again.
Well, that is almost it.  Just three sea days and we are home.  Not a lot more to blog now, but once things have settled down at home, I’ll possibly do a summary of sorts.  There are a few events to look forward to on board but now it is time to try and organise the packing.   Oh, deep joy....