Cumberland River Camping 2023

Cumberland River sits in the Otway National Park, just west of the (somewhat exclusive) beach town of Lorne. It is situated on the Great Ocean Road, about three hours south west (or five hours if you’re going in Summer while every man and his dog is heading to their 3 million dollar beach house) of Melbourne.

Jess and Leah have been going there for years, but I took my first trip last Summer. The campsites have to be booked by the previous March as it’s a super popular campsite and it’s easy to see why.

View from our campsite.
Kids enjoying the deep spot in the river while the mum in the foreground told us about the tiger snake they saw there once, that swam down the length of the pool while everyone leapt out as fast as they could.

Jess takes her nephew, Jett, while Leah takes her son, Jiah. They are pretty close in age, so when they aren’t arguing they are having a ball.

We book the campsite for seven nights each year and last year I went for four nights, this time I only managed one. I’d come back from the cruise to find that our friend who had been minding the house was still recovering from Covid and somewhat worse for wear, then when I got to the campsite I got a request to return to help look after a friend who is in Melbourne but is suffering from long Covid.

Luke’s station wagon.

Rather than set up a tent, I take Luke’s car, which has ample room for one person to sleep when I add in a couple of foam mattresses. Sleeping in the car is great as it is a nice flat surface and the car body cuts out some of the sounds of the campsite. this year we camped close to the river, which meant nice water sounds rather than people talking.

After I arrived I walked down to the deeper bit of the river with Leah to watch the boys mess around in their little blow-up boat. Unfortunately the water was quite cold or I would’ve waded in.

Our campsite. Since the boys are obsessed with fire (what child isn’t??) Jess bought them boxes of matches to experiment in the fire drum that the campsite provides. needless to say, they didn’t last long!

In the evening Leah made dinner with jackfruit (a meat substitute), which I’d never tried before, and then we walked to the beach, which is just across the road from the campsite.

Kind of looks like tuna but the taste is a bit sweet. We had it in burritos with bbq sauce. Tasty!

The waves at the beach are way too rough for swimming but it’s the only place where phones have reception so we walked down and the boys entertained themselves by doing what kids do: smashing things.

Hopefully no one misses those rocks.

After a bit of texting with Luke I headed back and despite the early hour I ended up in bed by 9:30.

In the morning I woke up surprisingly late to find a small mob of kangaroos eating grass quite close to the car. Leah and I watched them for a bit and a huge male hopped over and then, rather annoyingly, decided to sit right next to my car door just as I decided to go to Lorne. I waited him out and eventually got away.

I had breakfast in a bakery in town and was joined by a very polite cockatoo, who sat very close to me but kept quiet while edging gently forward.

Look at this distinguished gentleman!

Then I took a walk along the much longer and safer Lorne beach. I took some photos of the rocks and seagulls.

I mean, they are pretty great rocks!

Halfway down the beach I got the call to come back to Melbourne. I initially decided to wait until the following day, but by the time I got back to the campsite I’d changed my mind. It would be nice to have a full day at home before packing up once more, so I left. On the drive back I spotted an echidna crossing a fairly quiet country road. It’s little waddling run was super cute, but when I see something like this I spend the rest of the trip praying that the wee beast doesn’t get run over.

I did feel somewhat refreshed from the tree-bathing and beach-walking, however being at home was lovely too. All the moving around I’ve done lately makes me appreciate home anew every time I return, and that’s definitely one of the pleasures of travel!

Majestic Princess Day 14, Sydney

Vast quantities of food!

We awoke at about 5am to the lights of Circular Quay sliding past our cabin door. The ship had arrived early and so, by the time everyone got out of bed, we were already docked and could look down at the rows of pallets of fruit and vegetables ready to be loaded aboard.

We had all picked the last disembarkation groups, being in no rush to get to the bus to Orange at 3pm, or the airport by 4pm, so Luke and I packed our bags and grabbed a snack while we waited in a lounge on the deck with the gangway.

Somehow Mum and Dad got hustled straight off the ship while the rest of us were waiting in the lounge area (you have to be out of your room by 8am so the cleaning crews can go through) so they caught a cab to Central Station while we went through customs. Getting off the ship was a lot quicker than getting on and we didn’t even have to show our passports, which seemed a bit weird.

When we left the port building there were people everywhere in groups with giant piles of luggage but no obvious line, so I went straight up to a minivan taxi that had just pulled up and asked if we could book it. Why is it that things always go so smoothly when you’re not in a rush but if we’d had to race to the airport we’d probably have had to wait for hours for a cab?

Apparently this is where country people often stay in the big smoke. It definitely had a country pub vibe.

We met up with Mum and Dad at the station and then got coffee before heading to their usual watering place, The Great Southern Hotel, which isn’t far from the station. We spent our last few hours together updating the blog, watching the tv in the bar and enjoying fast internet for the first time in two weeks.

Michael catches up on his fantasy football NFL business.

Eventually we said goodbye and Luke and I headed to the airport, where we discovered that if we’d headed straight there from the ship we’d probably have been bumped to an earlier flight. Lesson learned!

We got home a bit after 8 and caught up on the news from Sim, a friend who was between rentals and needed somewhere to stay. She brought her cat so getting her introduced to Bonnie will be the first challenge on returning home.

We fell into bed after beginning to unpack, very happy to be back in our own space!

Majestic Princess Days 12 & 13, At Sea

We didn’t do a whole lot on the last two days of the cruise. We played cards each afternoon, which kind of took me back to our childhood, when card games were quite a common pastime. Izaac is old enough now (13) to have a really good grasp of all the rules and play as well as an adult.

On the last evening we (minus Izaac, who preferred to enjoy the solitude and convenience of his cabin and room service for one last time) had booked a table at the Crown Grill. Before we boarded I booked both Allegro and Crown, and in both we got the best tables we’d had all trip. I don’t know if prebookings get allocated first, but if I ever went again, I’d book a table in each of the bookable restaurants before boarding and just cancel if I didn’t feel like going on the day.

The Crown Grill was great, it’s one of the three restaurants on the ship that cost an extra $40 per person rather than being complimentary. We had a very chatty waiter, which is always nice but especially nice when you’ve had a lot of time talking to your beloved family ;-).

All the courses were excellent and we decided to lash out and order all of them, but made the critical error of eating all the delicious cheese bread that was put on the table first. I had a lobster fish cake to start, followed by a blue cheese-crusted onion soup and an enormous fillet Mignon with shared sides. I’m always superprised by what stands out in a meal and, aside from the steak, the creamed spinach side was delicious!

The waiter brought over three salted caramel brûlées for us to share at the end and we all staggered off feeling as though we were going to explode. A fitting end to our journey!

Majestic Princess Day 10, Port Chalmers/Dunedin

A later docking in Port Chalmers today, which is just as well as Luke and I stayed up late watching Romancing the Stone, which I’m sure I saw at least five times when I was a kid but remembered almost nothing of this time around. It had not aged well, if you’re wondering.

I’ve managed to get through four books since the cruise started and would probably have managed another two but for headaches and Luke wanting to go do things outside our room, which is a good thing but I’ve just started a new and excellent author, T Kingfisher, and I’d happily lie in bed all day reading. Plenty of time for that when I get home, I guess!

View over the port and the ubiquitous tugboats.

Port Chalmers/Dunedin is another of the ports, like Lyttelton/Christchurch and Picton/Marlborough region, where you have to pay quite a bit and spend time getting to the main attraction. It’s a bit annoying, more so if you’ve come from a lot further than Australia and want to see as much as possible. I guess if you were really desperate to see heaps of NZ you probably wouldn’t do a cruise. I hadn’t really thought a lot, prior to boarding, about the demographic of people who would be on the ship but there are a lot of people of all ages with mobility issues and it really is an ideal way to travel if you struggle with stairs, packing, going distances, etc as not only is everything flat with lots of lifts but there’s lots of people to help. Mum has complained about walking along all the corridors but also commented that she feels like she has gained some fitness too, which is not what you expect from this type of holiday.

There was a lot of walking from the ship to connecting transport too.

The weather is a lot chillier today, we sat outside with Mum and Michael for a short while at 9:30, Michael is keen to get into Dunedin as he and Izaac have had Covid and stayed in their cabin since Auckland. Michael’s very first Covid bout too, poor guy! Still, it was very mild and passed quickly. I don’t think Izaac showed many symptoms at all.

Everyone else decided to go into Dunedin, but Luke and I left the ship at about 11 and walked through the port buildings to the Main Street of Port Chalmers, which runs uphill. The very first building was holding an indoor craft market so we went in to have a look and ended up buying a couple of things and chatting to some locals, one of whom was a possum skin dealer. Possums are a pest in New Zealand and I can’t imagine why anyone would bother bringing them from Australia, but killing them is illegal at home so when people want possums skins for Indigenous rites, such as cloak making (a family at my school organised this for all our indigenous students, it is used all the time in ceremonies) they get them from trappers here.

After the markets we walked around town a bit, then up to a garden and lookout on one side of town. It would have been amazing to see when all the rhododendrons were out, but as it was the Japanese maples were very pretty and it was a good place to get a different view of the ship, looming over it while it looked over the town!

The majestic eyesore.
There were lots of wild flowers around Port Chalmers.

Then we walked down the harbour and up to the lookout on the other side of town. We got there just as the ball dropped; a ball drops from a tower to allow people with pocket watches to set their timepiece to precisely 1pm. Apparently it fell into disrepair for quite a number of years but the historical society raised $50,000 to rebuild it. Money well spent? Probably not, but it’s a thing and we saw it.

After a quick wander around a small and boring sculpture garden that also apparently cost a lot of money, we walked back to town and managed to get the prime window seat at the most charming-looking pub (The Portsider). Luke was much more thrilled by this than the ball drop.

They had a wide range of beers and several delicious ciders. I’d recommend popping in to try some if you’re in the area, the lady behind the bar knew a lot about each of the selection.

They also had good wifi so I spent quite a while drinking cider and updating the blog. If I manage to get some done during our waiting time in Sydney I’ll have completed it all before I get home and that would be very satisfying!

In the evening Mum, Dad, Michael, Luke and I met up at the buffet for a few drinks before we visited the Asian-themed Harmony restaurant onboard. It was fairly quiet but the food was nice, with the red bean brûlée standing out as particularly good and an interesting take on French brûlées. We had three bottles of wine between us and many laughs, particularly at Dad’s stories and Michael making fun of Luke having a small sized head while my family all have massive heads. Apparently now that he has married in he’s fair game for teasing;-).

After Mum and Dad headed to bed, Michael, Luke and I hit the dance floor in the piazza, and then had a bottle of red wine before going to the casino lounge to talk for a while. I went to bed early and apparently missed out on the part of the night where they went to the Hollywood Bar at the top of the ship and Michael ended up trying to restrain a guy who was being aggressive to staff members, shouting and gesturing at them. Eleven years as a publican came to the fore and he tried to stepped in but fortunately Luke rerouted him. Michael had apparently forgotten it until security turned up at his room the next morning and told him that, although he was trying to do the right thing, it wasn’t the ship’s policy to encourage patrons to lay hands on other patrons. A bit of excitement, I suppose!

Majestic Princess Day 9, Lyttelton

After watching the information presentation on this port (the ship docks at Lyttelton, it is $35 for the round trip to Christchurch) it didn’t seem like there was much to do at the little port town. A short, free shuttle bus takes passengers from the ship to the town, even though the walk would be only about 1.5km. The dock is a working area with lots of trucks and other vehicles moving containers so I guess it’s not safe. The pier that the ship docks at was specifically built for cruise ships though, so it’s a shame they didn’t include a safe walkway.

Luke and I caught the shuttle in at 11am, figuring it was a short ride back if there was nothing to do, but it turns out that Lyttelton is actually quite charming, and behind the docks there are a plethora of very cute and unique cafes, bars and shops. I found a yellow shoulder bag that perfectly fitted my phone and iPad, so I don’t have to walk around the ship with my hands full, I wish I’d thought to bring something this size from home but useful things make the best souvenirs.

We ran into Mum and Dad in a gift shop and walked around a bit with them. Mum was looking for books as she has run out already (the downside of having only paper copies) and I wish I had got her onto the magic of kindles or iPads years ago. She could have a whole library in her hands!

We had a look through a classically musty second hand book shop with a delightful window display.

Then we had a coffee in the upstairs backyard garden of a cafe/gift shop called ‘Spooky Boogie’. It had a wide range of alternative art and pop culture items including Studio Ghibli stuff.

Lyttelton is worth a walk around beyond the back streets if you like architecture. The houses are weatherboard but many have fine fretwork that is very beautiful. The gardens are also delightful and many have vegetable gardens with berries hanging over the fence and gorgeous roses in bloom. Lovely!

The library here has internet that is ok for uploading text but struggles with photos, and closes at 2pm. We used it to do a bit of texting and upload an entry from a few days ago. Getting decent internet has been a bit of a mission on this trip. The ship provides paid access to the internet via their MedallionNet system but it costs about $27 per day for one device (or a bundle deal of $40 for 4 devices) and isn’t very reliable.

After we got back to the ship we found Mum and Dad at the Wake View bar and watched the ship move out of the bay and into the open water past a long and steep headland. Once again, there wasn’t much sunset, low clouds have obscured the horizon almost every evening but we’e still grateful not to have had much rain.

We had dinner in the buffet and I snagged mum the last pavlova (until the display was refilled) and Luke and I tried the lamingtons, which were spherical and a bit smaller than tennis balls, plus covered in giant shavings of coconut. They looked like someone’s artistic interpretation of lamingtons but really just showed why the fine coconut we usually use is preferable.

The bar areas on the ship and the buffet supply endless opportunities for people-watching very close up. Dad is always commenting on how much food people have piled on their plates and whether he thinks they will finish it. Most people are pretty quiet but occasionally we sit down near tables of people who don’t seem to realise how much noise they are making. I’m just waiting for Dad, who has an even lower tolerance for irritation than I do, to turn around and tell someone off. He’s managed to restrain himself so far though!

To end, here’s my favourite street art of this port.

Majestic Princess Day 8, Picton

Picton foreshore has a beautiful park.

The ship docked around 7am, but it doesn’t dock right in Picton, which has a small, pretty harbour that wouldn’t fit our monstrosity. The Majestic Princess docks around the corner in Shakespeare Bay and an efficient fleet of free buses transports passengers to Picton.

Once again, when we awoke we had the dud view – piles of lumber on the docks, while Mum and Dad’s cabin had a lovely view of forested fjord walls that felt almost tropical. The weather was a bit colder today but we didn’t need anything warmer than a light jacket. As we left the ship a group of local ladies were passing out little floral buttonholes as a welcome to Picton. I don’t know if it’s sweet or a sneaky way of identifying cruise ship passengers in town, but it felt like a very friendly gesture and a shop owner later told me it takes a group of volunteers many hours to assemble and organise.

We decided to head first to the Edwin Fox Museum, stopping on the short walk to admire some busy bees and a pretty bird with curly white feathers at its throat.

The museum was not something I’d naturally gravitate towards, being about nautical history, but I’ve taught a unit on the goldfields for eight years now and so I just had to take the opportunity to stand inside a genuine goldfields-era ship. I was glad we’d watched the information video on Picton, otherwise we wouldn’t have known what was behind the small front of the museum entrance.

A small model of the original form of the Edwin Fox.

Inside the building, the museum has a couple of small spaces filled with entertaining information boards and artefacts plus a video about the rescue of the hull, then out the back was a shed containing the hull of the ship and some recreated spaces, such as the steerage berths.

We climbed down to stand in the bottom of the hull and it was fascinating. The worn part of the wooden columns was where the hull had sat in the water and the worn parts had been exposed daily to air because of the tide. Below the tidal level the teak boards were in pretty good condition.

The tidal section is very worn.

What I’m saying is, if you’re in Picton, go see it if you’re even slightly curious. It doesn’t take long, it doesn’t cost much and it’s very interesting. Also of note, this picture frame, entirely done in knots!

Next we took a walk along the foreshore and over the coat hanger bridge. We walked along the opposite shore and found a sail school setting out. I immediately felt deeply envious of these small children, living in their picture-perfect town and getting to sail tiny, colourful boats as part of their daily life. Do they know how lucky they are? Everywhere we’ve been in NZ is positively cluttered with boats of all kinds and people who look like they should be in a North Face or Kathmandu catalogue.

Ok… you can have fun if you’re polite and sensible about it.

After our walk we had a great coffee at Gusto, and a feijoa and apple juice, as recommended by many friends on Facebook. While sitting at the cafe we saw a private bus with the name Bussy McBus Face, and I am very sorry not to have caught it in a photo.

After having moderate success posting the first few blog posts for the trip while sitting outside the Picton visitors centre, we caught the bus back. We watched Queen Charlotte Sound slide by from deck 17, and I spotted a sting ray in the water. We met up with Mum and Dad in the buffet then had dinner at the Symphony restaurant.

Luke and I finished the evening watching a rock violin show that was quite entertaining. The violinist was from Wales and had been working on cruise ships for 22 years. I have no idea how cruise ship work is perceived in the music industry, but that seems like a really long time. He said that featured musicians get to bring friends and family with them on cruises… I wonder if that means they have to share a room? I have so many questions about working on cruise ships but every staff member seems so busy that I don’t want to interrupt any of them to ask.

Majestic Princess Day 7, At Sea

It’s a wide angle lens.

Our room is right next to the laundry, which is handy for navigation to our room and for family members coming to ask us if we want our washing done with theirs. So far we haven’t needed to use it at all! Michael did a load two days ago and Mum did another today. Being a family of early risers has its perks, and getting to facilities before anyone else is definitely one of them.

We slept in today and had a late breakfast in the buffet. Luke and I are finally getting into our holiday routine of late breakfast and no lunch. When the meals are quite rich it’s better to have two than three. Michael felt a bit like he was getting a head cold so he and Izaac stayed in their room all day. My headache came back throughout the day and was very painful, I had a sleep for two hours in the morning and then went to a wine tasting event with Luke and Mum in the afternoon.

The wine tasting was fun, they had six wines to try, from champagne to Cabernet Sauvignon. Three sommeliers did the presentation, telling jokes and stories as well as giving information about the wines. The wines were from France, Italy and the USA, a strange choice given we were visiting close to Marlborough, the most famous wine region in NZ.

Upon returning to our cabin my headache became so painful I almost cried and then I slept for another two hours. Lucky this was a sea day, I guess. Luke went off to see a musical theatre performance which he said was a bit cheesy but fun.

When he came back I’d woken up and had some dinner and we tried to go to the second show of the evening but it was packed and there was a medical emergency in the audience (later someone told me they had heard the person died but I’m going to take that with a grain of salt, I imagine rumours spread quickly and alter dramatically onboard!) before the show started. I felt weird about hanging around for seats when it was so crowded so we went to the piazza and ended up having a bit of a dance to some rock and roll songs. We ended the evening watching the talk on Picton on the TV in our room.

Here’s a few more photos of the room to end the post:-) .

The balcony is a comfortable size. Salt crystals accumulate on the floor when it dries out. We are on deck 12. There is no deck 13 and we are towards the rear of the ship, the so we aren’t far from the buffet and bar on deck 16.
The bathroom has a lot of hanging space and the shower curtain does a good job of stopping water leaving the cubicle. Note that the release for the sink plug is behind the tap, my parents were unaware this is a thing and have been prising the plug open with nail scissors.
Lots of hanging space and hangers. Didn’t need to bring any.
There is an automatic light outside the bathroom that comes on in the middle of the night. It was very annoying but the room stewards covered the sensor with foil for me.

Majestic Princess Day 6, Auckland

First up for today was our only booked excursion, the jet boat! We had to meet in the onboard theatre, get a sticker put on our shirt then get to the meeting point just off the ship. We walked less than a km with our guide, Lucy, to the little jetty where the jet boat was tethered. The boat was driven (captained? Piloted?) by Nate, who had apparently been doing the job for 14 years and was yet to tire of it. Jet boats were invented in NZ and they get up to speeds of 100kph. We also got to experience what was essentially a handbrake slide, a 180 degree spin that sprayed water over everyone in the boat multiple times. It was super fun and Nate had a laugh at Dad, who had found goggles in his bag (according to Nate the first person he’s ever known to bring goggles on the jet boat) but didn’t manage to get them on until the very end. I don’t know why Nate thought it was so funny, from the moment the boat sped up I’d wished I had brought googles too, the worst thing about the ride was 100km wind in my eyes making them water and getting salty sea water splashed in my face. If you’re reading this and thinking of doing this excursion, take goggles!

Before the drenching!

Anyhow, despite stinging eyes, we laughed the whole way and it wasn’t at all scary, just very, very wet! I wore my raincoat, but wished I’d tightened the wrists and zipped it up properly because the angle of the water coming in meant it flew in every gap and down onto the seat, soaking all our underwear. Really, the best outfit would’ve been swimmers with a light windcheater. I hope this information is useful to someone!

We returned to the ship for a shower, noting the weather was getting finer. Entry to the ship was through the port authority building and there was a souvenir shop set up inside. Unexpectedly, the prices here were excellent (4 NZ themed tea towels for $35!) and the lady at the counter said they get that comment a lot.

After a much-needed shower, Luke and I walked into Auckland. We’d thought to go to the art gallery and the Weta Workshop but then decided against Weta since we hadn’t seen the films the exhibitions were based on. This turned out to be a mistake, as Michael and Izaac went and said it was excellent plus it turned out they did have artefacts from “Lord of the Rings” on short loan from the bigger Weta Workshop in Wellington. So if you’re in Auckland, and particularly if you have kids or are interested in special effects in films, make sure you go.

The walk to the gallery wasn’t far, although mostly uphill, and the front of the building has a beautiful portico of wood. We checked our bags, noted the ‘free wifi’ sign and went for a wander. In the gallery there was a group of Māori women doing a live demonstration of printing on fabric and singing.

It was beautiful in every way! We looked at more printing in traditional techniques by a lady named Anna White, whose work was also influenced by Japanese block printing. It was very beautiful and on a very large scale.

We also saw many paintings and photographs, my favourite was this contemporary portrait.

After the gallery we took a walk through the park behind the building and admired the huge Morton bay fig trees, and bright flower beds that contained many impatiens and miniature sunflowers.

We retrieved our bags from the gallery and enjoyed their free wifi for a bit before wandering back to the ship, stopping to buy six kinds of SnackaChangi chips on the way. The artwork is magnificent and I’m going to put them up on the toilet wall at home!

The back of the package is almost as entertaining as the front.

I’d had a headache on and off all day so I had a nap when we got back. In the evening we had dinner in the Concerto dining room then caught the last of the sunset over Auckland as the ship sailed out.

Finally, some blue skies!

Majestic Princess Day 5, Tauranga

The small town we walked around in Bay of Islands felt like a little NSW south coast town, but Tauranga (To-wrong-ah… I think! Pronunciation seems to vary from person to person) was much bigger and this was the first place we stopped where the ship was at a quay. It is far quicker and more pleasant to just walk off the ship, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most people with mobility issues or very small children didn’t alight in Bay of Islands at all. It felt like almost everyone went off to do things in Tauranga but, being a city of 100k people, it absorbed the horde much more easily.

Mum and Dad told us to go do our own thing, so Luke and I met up with Michael and Izaac and had breakfast while waiting for the crowd to abate somewhat, leaving the ship at 10am.

There were only two things I wanted to do at this stop: go to a supermarket and go to the hot springs. Luke found a supermarket a 30 minute walk away so we set off and got coffee along the way. $5 for a small cappuccino was a bit steep and we worked out that the currency conversion fee pretty much wiped out any gain from our $AUD being slightly stronger against the $NZD.

We saw some interesting sights (well, interesting to me) such as:

Not one but two doggie daycare vans.

A lovely mural.

A second hand vinyl and book shop.

Michael and Izaac decided to use the McDonalds wifi to sort out phone reception issues so Luke and I continued to the New World supermarket. I love looking at everyday things in new countries and, although most items were pretty similar to home, we did load up on fancy Whittakers chocolate and we admired the artwork on the ‘Snackachangi’ range of chips. I’ve never seen anything like it and totally regretted not buying any once I got back to the ship.

New World supermarket
Best packaging I’ve ever seen.

We rendezvoused back onboard before heading to the Tauranga hot water pools. They were a short walk down the beachfront and around a corner, right at the base of Mount Manganui.

Luke used his technology superpower once again and got us in twice as quickly by using the self-serve ticket machine rather than waiting in line for a cashier. Inside the pools were quite small, maybe about half a proper Olympic-sized pool spread over several smaller pools. There was one lower temperature pool and several pools that were almost 40 degrees C, which is HOT! I couldn’t get into the really hot one until I’d adjusted a bit in the temperate pool.

Photo courtesy of the hot pool’s website.

All the pools were quite crowded but no one was being very silly and there were lots of lifeguards and signs about not staying in the hot pools for too long.

If you’re reading this and thinking of going to the pools, I couldn’t tell you when they would be quiet… maybe first thing in the morning? We all agreed that if we were locals we’d be there every day. There are a couple of small adult-only pools off to one side but we had Izaac (13) and the main pools were pretty settled anyhow.

We sat for a while in each and chatted, admiring the view of Mount Manganui that loomed up dramatically right over our heads, shrouded in mist.

After about 40 minutes we’d had enough and walked back to the ship along the shore. It’s such a pretty area, if I came back to New Zealand I’d definitely return and walk the circumference of Mount Manganui. We got an amazing view of it as the ship left that evening. Clouds poured around the summit and we could see people around the shoreline waving us off and probably glad that the blight was gone ;-).

We’ve seen quite a range of tug boats during the trip.

After watching the view slide by we had a plate of buffet food in the Wake Bar and then Luke and I watched a recording of the Auckland information talk from the comfort of bed. All in all a lovely day and I’d happily come back to Tauranga.

Majestic Princess Day 4, Bay of Islands

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.

The tenders were a bit claustrophobic with tiny windows and lots of noise.

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.

There were lots of lovely flowers in the town.

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.

Beautiful paua shells.