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 Day 11, Fiordlands National Park

I just found this post in my drafts, sorry for posting out of order and four months late😂

I took pity on a very dusty Luke, and brought back breakfast and water from the buffet as the ship turned into the first fiord of the day. Mum and I went to sit on the promenade deck (7) and found some comfy chairs with a great view. Dad and Luke joined us and we watched the steep cliffs slide by and enjoyed the best weather we’ve had all cruise, which is lucky as this was the part of NZ that gets the most rain. Dad and I walked to the other side of the ship in time to see a pod of dolphins leaping up in the wake of the ship. They weren’t close enough for a photo but we could see them quite clearly.

The sun was hot, so after we had stayed there for quite a while we headed back to our rooms to sit in the shade for a while. Luke went to listen to the information talk and afterwards I wished I’d gone as it sounded very interesting. While in the fiords a local expert does a shipwide broadcast on the flora, fauna and history of the area. I went for a walk around the ship and was surprised to see how many people weren’t looking at the amazing views, mostly kids. I recall being unimpressed by most views and natural things when I was a kid, even though we regularly holidayed in the Blue Mountains and frequently saw quite spectacular views. Why don’t kids care about this stuff?

Anyhoo, we spent most of the day looking at the views but in the afternoon, as the ship set out into the open ocean, we played several rounds of Five Crowns, a card game Michael and Izaac brought. It uses mechanics similar to Rummy so it was easy for everyone to pick up.

Dinner in the buffet was followed by an early night for all.

When the desserts are so small two is a minimum!

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.