Friday, 28 October 2011

Amusing Moments on ms Volendam

Candyfloss for dinner?
Within an hour of boarding the ship, before we had even put out to sea, I was having a surreal moment on the 'Volendam'.
   We were berthed at Captain Cook Wharf in Auckland, close by Queens Wharf  which was a fan zone for the Rugby World Cup. From my window seat in the Crow's Nest I could see onto Queens Wharf and the performance stage and enormous screen that showed close-up enlargements of the action on stage. I was idly looking down when something white on the screen caught my eye. I couldn't believe it! It was a sheep!
   Then another sheep showed up and two men, dressed in black shorts and singlets, proceeded to shear them. 
   So there I was, in the middle of New Zealand's largest city, in the central business district, on a cruise ship, watching a sheep shearing competition. How unexpected was that? Bizarre!
   On our third night on board, we had dinner at the Canaletto Italian restaurant. Very nice it was too. The waiter served us morsels of antipasti from a platter. I had a delicious seafood soup, followed by chicken marsala. We ordered desserts, a pastry concoction for my husband and a mousse for me.
  We got a plate of candyfloss! A big plate of bright green candyfloss. "We didn't order that," I told the waiter. "No, ma'am," he replied. "It's our present from the fairy in the kitchen."
   We did get the desserts we had ordered and we, like big kids at the Easter show, devoured the candyfloss. Thank you, kitchen fairy! 
   One last thing I found amusing. The photographers on board the 'Volendam' are no longer called photographers.They have morphed into 'Image Creators'. How's that for a fancy name!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Rugby Moments on the 'Rugby Legends' Cruise

A bar on the Volendam
The passengers on the 'Rugby Legends' cruise were mainly South African and Australian. I was expecting hordes of supporters to be roaming the decks wearing their countries' rugby colours and singing their national anthems - loudly. But it wasn't like that at all on the days we were onboard. Apparently the ship was awash with green and gold jerseys on the Sunday, but by the time we boarded on the Monday, the All Blacks had beaten the Wallabies and there wasn't an Aussie outfit to be seen! All was very quiet!
   The Piano Bar was designated the Springboks bar, the Crow's Nest was for Australians and the Ocean Bar was renamed the All Black Bar. Each was decorated with banners and flags both large and small, so they were very colourful. Large screen televisions continuously showed games from this Rugby World Cup as well as matches from the past.
   The Wallabies versus All Blacks game, which New Zealand won, seemed to be replayed a lot and had some of the Australians complaining that having to see it over and over again was 'rubbing salt into the wounds'!
Famous rugby people
   On the sea day there were several rugby themed events. People queued to have their photographs taken with the 'Rugby Legends', including famous Australian players Nick Farr-Jones and Mark Ella; the coach of the team that won the 1991 Rugby World Cup, Bob Dwyer; and the veteran sports broadcaster, Gordon Bray.
  In the afternoon there was a 'Legends Panel Discussion' and early evening was the time for a competition, Rugby Trivia.
  The 'Volendam' berthed at Captain Cook Wharf in Auckland, right next to all the action of the 'Fan Zones' created round the downtown area so those passengers who didn't go to the Bronze Final game on the Friday night could easily go ashore and soak up the party atmosphere that has been such an amazing feature of Rugby World Cup 2011.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

On the Rugby Legends Cruise for the Rugby World Cup

Volendam berthed at Mount Maunganui
We are just home from the 'Rugby Legends' cruise on one of my favourite ships, the 'Volendam'. The keenest rugby supporters started the cruise on October 4th in Australia, came across to New Zealand and have been in Wellington and Auckland, staying on the ship and attending the footy games for the Rugby World Cup.
   Some of the cabins hadn't sold and were released last week for a short 4 night cruise. That's the last minute deal I snapped up!
   We left Auckland on Monday evening and cruised overnight to Tauranga. Tuesday was spent in port at Mount Maunganui. Our friends from Te Puke met us and took us for a drive to Papamoa then out to lunch. We had a lot of catching up to do as we last saw them when we were on the 'Volendam' in March.
   The beach clean-up at Papamoa was in full swing with army personnel and volunteers working hard to clear the oil that had leaked from the ship-wrecked 'Rena'. The main beach at Mount Maunganui was open as the sand there was clean, but people were advised to stay out of the water.
   We left Tauranga on Tuesday evening and arrived in the Bay of Islands on Wednesday morning. The 'Volendam' anchored in the bay off-shore from Russell. Another ship was there also, the 'Orion' I wrote about in several blog posts last month.
   To get ashore we had to go in tenders to the wharf at Waitangi. Buses for the shore tours met the passengers there and a free shuttle bus into Paihia was on hand for those wanting to explore independently.
We met friends for an enjoyable afternoon tea at the cafe in the Waitangi Treaty House grounds. More talking!
   The cruise was supposed to overnight in the Bay of Islands but that plan changed and we left there in the evening to cruise for 24 hours before arriving back in Auckland on Thursday at 7.30 pm.
   I love sea days so especially enjoyed Thursday. The weather was a bit better too, sunshine instead of the dark grey clouds we'd had the rest of the time. We had superb views of the coastline and the full length of Great Barrier Island as we cruised all the way down to the Coromandel Peninsula before arriving back in Auckland as the sun was setting.
   We disembarked after breakfast on Friday - I wanted to stay longer! Our dog whined and cried when he had to leave the kennels - a bit like me having to leave the 'Volendam'!!
   Seriously though, fine food, great accommodation, excellent entertainment, friendly crew and all the hype of the Rugby World Cup made the 4 nights feel like 4 weeks away. I am soooo relaxed!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Last Minute Cruise Deal!

Booking a cruise with Holland America Line
Well, I've done something I haven't done before! I've booked a cruise at the last minute. Usually I book months in advance so I can select the stateroom we want and take advantage of the early bird discount.
   This time, I saw a short cruise that is leaving soon, for a great price and couldn't resist.
   The cabins are guaranteed, which means I don't get to choose. We won't know where we will be until we check in. The weather is very unsettled at this time of year with a chance of rough seas, so I sincerely hope we'll be somewhere close to midship! I've stocked up on seasick pills, ginger and sea bands just in case.
   But booking this close to sailing has made me realise a few things. I've found that I like the months of anticipation, the time to think about the ship and what to wear and the places we'll go that you have when you book further in advance.
   Having said that, I am starting to get excited about sailing soon.  The cruise is on a ship we have been on before and really like so I'm sure, no matter what the weather, we'll have a wonderful time!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

More Towel Animals to Brighten Your Day

I've had a request for more towel animals so thought I'd make this post mainly photos. They're guaranteed to bring a smile to your face!
One of the cruise companies did a poll recently with the question "What do you want on your pillow at night?"
  62% of the respondants said they wanted chocolates.
  I can take or leave chocolate. My vote went to the towel animals!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cruise to the Rugby World Cup!

Rugby World Cup display
What a great atmosphere there is in New Zealand at the moment! Rugby World Cup fever has well and truly taken hold of the country. Flags of all the countries participating are flying on buildings, along roadsides, on people's cars. Spectators at the matches are dressing up in colourful costumes, draping themselves in flags, painting their faces in the colours of the teams they're supporting. It's all a little crazy!
   Three cruise ships are bringing thousands of rugby fans to New Zealand over the next few days. These lucky people will use the ships as their hotels when they are docked for several days in Wellington and Auckland and as their transport to get between those cities. They'll have a choice of going to the quarter-finals, semi-finals, Bronze Final and Grand Final games.
   Also on the cruise itineraries are visits to Picton, Tauranga and the Bay of Islands to fill in the time between the rugby games.
   The cruises are rugby themed so on board it will be full-on with rugby trivia, debates, replays of classic matches, supporters bars decked out in team colours and comedy hours. Rugby celebrities such as past captains and coaches are on the cruises to share their insights and their experiences of the game.