The first two days at sea the ship’s clocks went forward an hour so by the time we got to NZ we were waking up at 9am, a much more respectable holiday routine.
Today we awoke to new ship sounds as the ship dropped anchor in the Bay of Islands. Constant drizzle and fog meant we couldn’t see much, but the Māori name for New Zealand is ‘Aotearoa’, and means ‘the land of the long white cloud’ so we could hardly be surprised.
We’ve been ordering our breakfast from room service so far, just fruit and yogurt, but we didn’t bother today and came up to the buffet and found Mum and Dad. We’ve put the cruise app on Mum’s phone so now we can track where she is on the ship. You could easily spend days not finding people you know over the 14 floors and 200 metre length.
Anyhoo, there are no deep quays in the Bay of Islands, so the ship has to shuttle people to shore in some of their tenders (look at me using correct terminology!), that’s the little orange boats on the side of the ship. They used four in rotation to run people to the little dock. Because the sea was quite choppy the trip took 20 minutes and getting on and off the tenders was a bit hair-raising at points.
Getting off the ship involved getting a ticket then sitting in the central area to wait, which was much better than standing in line because we waited for 90 minutes. In the end it didn’t really matter as there wasn’t a whole lot that we wanted to do and Mum and Dad just wanted to get off the ship so they did a round trip in the tender. Some people had booked excursions but the only one we booked for the whole trip was a jet boat ride in Auckland for everyone but Mum, who wasn’t sure she’d make the walk along the pier.
From the dock a shuttle bus service operated to get people from Waitangi wharf to Paihia, 3km down the road. If it hadn’t been drizzling we probably would’ve walked as it was beach for most of the way. When we got to the town it was quite small and the vibe was kind of ‘70s Australia backwater beach town’ (in a nice way). We had a walk around and I admired many plants and had a look at an indoor market and an outdoor market, both of which had about ten stalls. All the stalls were local craftspeople and the wares were interesting. We chatted a bit to a lady who told us right off the bat that she was completely unvaccinated and also seemed a bit sad that there were fewer cruise ships coming to town. I guess if you’re not worried about Covid then the possibility of catching it isn’t going to faze you either.
We walked a bit further up the road along the shore and it was very nice but would’ve been improved with a bit of sun. The rain had stopped though so we weren’t complaining and I did feel, when we got back to the ship, that we’d done a bit of exercise.
Doing exercise onboard is a bit tricky. You’re supposed to have masks on everywhere indoors, which means climbing the stairs (of which there are many) is even less pleasant than it would otherwise be, the gym is a bit stuffy, the purported walking track is very short and right at the top of the ship so it is extremely windy, and walking the corridors (one lap is about half a km) is ok but you keep having to move out of the way for people and around trolleys. I’ve done nearly 10 kms most days though, which is pretty good going.
For dinner this evening we did something different; booked a table in one of the more fancy dining rooms, Allegro. Although the food probably wasn’t too different to some of the things served in the buffet, we had menus and table service and the experience was quite a lot more luxurious and also included in the room cost. There are three restaurants that charge an extra fee, one is Asian, one does steak and the other is seafood. We have booked in to have a meal at the first two but Luke is allergic to shellfish so we’re not bothering with the last. Allegro and Concerto are two large formal dining rooms that are open breakfast, lunch and dinner. Symphony is the third, but only open for dinner. Only dinner can be booked and I’ve found many nights are quite booked out. It’s one of the things to organise before getting onboard if possible.
After dinner Dad, Michael and I taught Luke to play Euchre and Luke was very patient with the explanations. By the end of the trip he might even enjoy it!
Speaking of Lenon family rituals, Luke has always raised an eyebrow when I insist on stacking plates at restaurants when we’re done, and has now pointed out that my whole family does it automatically (and that it’s very good of us!). I think it partly comes from a desire to have a clean table and partly from wanting to help the waitstaff. Having spent years in pubs, we know that everything you do to make work easier in hospitality is appreciated.