Majestic Princess: Cruising to NZ, Day 1

A HCTP first: a family holiday featuring the entire Lenon family! Something that hasn’t happened for decades and our first holiday as a family outside of Australia. The whole thing was Mum’s idea a couple of years ago, and after Covid has now ebbed somewhat, here we are.

Many things have happened over the previous year. Mum suffered through extremely successful but painful chemotherapy after learning that cancer had spread quite significantly through her body. The news was a shock to everyone and, although she responded very well to the treatment, she has suffered permanent nerve damage in her hands and feet that makes her quite unsteady. Her hair fell out and she stopped dying it when it regrew, so it has gone from medium brown to snow white in a matter of months. It’s also curlier and softer. She is thinner and so is Dad. He is very stoic but it was very hard on him too.

The chemo finished in May and Mum regained some strength in time for Luke’s and my wedding, on Friday the 11th of November (our 11 year anniversary).

The event started with a family dinner at the Firehouse in Ringwood so each side of the family could meet the other. Our actual wedding was in our newly-landscaped backyard the following night, with a larger group of family and friends. Then we had a picnic at H.E. Parker Reserve on the Saturday afternoon with a jumping castle, petting zoo, face painting, an ice cream truck and coffee van. After the picnic we moved to the bowling club next door for dinner and dancing. Although I can’t say it all ran perfectly, it wasn’t far off and we had a wonderful time.

This is the longest preamble I’ve ever written but I suppose that’s my fault for not actually making these events separate posts of their own. Anyhow! We are currently aboard the Majestic Princess, a behemoth of a ship, on our way to New Zealand to (and I quote a woman I overheard at Circular Quay this morning) ‘ruin the landscape’ of every harbour we visit. Or maybe she said ‘blight the horizon’? Words to that effect, anyhow. While I am aware enough of the environmental horror of cruise ships, I am also aware that this is possibly the last time we’ll go this far for this long as a family so I’m just going to enjoy it, while still feeling weirdly like I’m aboard a floating mega mall that’s giving ‘last days of Rome’ vibes.

To board the ship, Luke and I first took the XPT (country train) from Melbourne to Sydney. At a not-insignificant 11 hours, it was about a quarter of the price of flights for that day. In hindsight, we should’ve just booked the overnight sleeper and saved the hotel cost, but I’d booked the Sir Stamford ages prior.

The Sir Stamford had an air of faded elegance, as befitted the name I suppose. On first glance it looked fancy, but the wallpaper was peeling a bit and things were slightly tatty. It was a short walk to the long pier though, so it suited us fine. The one thing to note was the hotel pool was undoubtedly the hottest pool I’ve ever been in. Michael reckoned it was about 35-36 degrees Celsius. I agreed and we’re pretty good at guessing water temperature.

The next morning Luke and I got up early and walked around a fairly deserted Circular Quay. This is the best spot in Sydney Harbour to view the Opera House and Harbour Bridge up close and it was nice to see it so quiet.

After our reconnoiter we went back to collect our family for breakfast. Izaac set the tone for his meals for the next fortnight.

We decided on a drink at the pub before our time to board. Arriving at the correct time might’ve been a mistake, since the queue at our boarding time (12:30) turned out to be enormous. We joined the bag queue, which took quite a while (attach your tags prior to arriving if you can) then went to the little bar by the terminal to wait for the line to die down as the day was hot and most of the line was in the full sun. If you’re doing a cruise I don’t know whether I’d advise you to turn up super early or just wait until the last of the line goes in, either would work better than turning up in the middle of the whole thing. Bring a hat or umbrella too!

The only shady spot.

We finally boarded at about 3pm and the ship sailed at 4:15. We spilt up to put our things in our rooms (Mum and Dad had a room slightly bigger than ours with a long lounge so we could all go sit in there together) and had a walk around to explore then had dinner in the big open buffet area.

Our finest achievement of day 1 was finding the Wake View Bar, where we’ve decided to meet every evening at 6.

And that was day 1!

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