Radiance of the Seas Cruise to New Zealand
Week 1, 6th – 13th January 2017, Days 1-8
We boarded the Radiance of the Seas ship on the afternoon of the 6th January in Sydney (Day 1). The first two days (Days 2 & 3) were cruising days so we had time to relax, get to find our way around the ship and prepare for the shore days in New Zealand. Both days we went to the fitness centre in the morning, followed by breakfast and some relaxation time. The sea was a bit choppy on these two days and although it is a big ship you could still feel the effects and it made us a bit queasy. I had my nails painted in the spa treatment centre and Mel had a go on the climbing wall (which he was very good at, of course).
We had our meals in the Windjammer restaurant (the self service buffet), which we found to be better than the Cascades restaurant that we had tried the first night. A Beatles tribute group were playing in the Aurora theatre on the first night and the Radiance of the Seas singers and dancers and the ship’s orchestra on the second night. Both were entertaining but the singers and dancers were particularly good.
On Day 4 we were transiting through Milford, Doubtful and Dusky Sounds in the south west of South Island of New Zealand. The area is known as Fjordland as these ‘sounds’ are actually ‘fjords’. There is spectacular scenery and interesting wildlife including fur seals and penguins but unfortunately we didn’t see much as there was low cloud and some rain. We caught glimpses of the waterfalls and mountain peaks and listened to the commentary provided by John Von Tunzelman, a fjordland expert. We went to his presentation about the natural wonders and cultural history of this remote area in the Aurora Theatre, which was interesting and informative.
In the afternoon we went to the cinema to see the film ‘Denial’ which we enjoyed and then after dinner we went to the evening entertainment provided by Paul Dabeck. Paul is a magician, comic and entertainer from the UK and we thought he was very good.
Day 5 was the first day of going ashore to a small city called Dunedin, founded by a group of Presbyterian Scots in 1848. After breakfast we left the ship and caught a shuttle bus into the city centre known as The Octagon. There is free Wi-Fi in this area and we were able to do a quick catch up with emails and Mel spoke to Laura & Caroline. We wandered around the city with its grand Victorian buildings and churches, visited the Toitu Otago Settlers museum and the railway station and then caught the Dunedin Railways train to Waitati and then back to Port Chalmers and the cruise ship. The weather was warm and sunny for most of the day but it clouded over as we headed back to the ship.
In the evening we went to the Colony Club to listen to the Jazz Cabaret with the RC vocalists which was very pleasant and we stayed there for a while reading our books before going back to the room to watch an episode of Silent Witness.
Day 6 the ship took us to Akaroa, the only French colonial settlement in the country. This is a relaxed and pleasant holiday town about 80km from Christchurch city. Many people were taking a coach trip to Christchurch but we stayed in the town after leaving the ship by tender. The tendering took some time, as there was another cruise ship in the bay and the tide was low so there was restricted access to the main wharf. But eventually we got there and wandered around the town after visiting the library where Wi-Fi was available. It was a warm day with some sunshine in the morning but again it clouded over in the afternoon. We returned to the ship and had some lunch and then Mel did his daily review of photographs. Later we went to the cinema to see ‘War Dogs’, a film based on a true story about two arms dealers in the USA after the Iraq war. After dinner we watched the second episode of Silent Witness.
The overnight sailing to Wellington for our Day 7 visit was very windy, in fact hurricane strength force and Wellington City itself was also extremely windy. After docking we caught a shuttle bus a short distance into the city centre. Mel contacted Pete Sweeney, a friend who emigrated to NZ 10 years ago, and we met up with him near to the parliament buildings. We had a coffee and a chat with him, hearing about his life in NZ with his family; it was lovely for Mel to be able to see him and catch up after all this time.
We walked back towards the city centre to find the cable car, which takes you from Lambton Quay to Kelburn. At the top of the cable car is a look out with views over Wellington and the harbour and a museum featuring two of the old cable cars situated in the original winding house. Then we went to the Te Papa museum, NZ’s national museum showcasing a huge range of exhibits detailing the country’s geology, biology and social heritage. We spent an hour in there but only managed to see a limited amount of what was on show. We caught the shuttle bus back to the ship and had lunch.
In the evening we went to see the comedian, Kelly Monteith in the Aurora Theatre. He delivered quite perceptive comedy, appropriate to the cruise ship audience and we enjoyed it. Afterwards we had dinner in the Windjammer restaurant as usual and then retired to bed. It was a very windy night again as we sailed across the Cook Strait to the Marlborough Sounds.
In the morning of Day 8 we sailed up Queen Charlotte Sound to Picton, a town at the head of the sound. We went for a session in the gym first and Mel ran round the running track a few times. It was a nice morning, sunny, windy but warm and after breakfast we took the shuttle bus into Picton. We had a walk round the town and had a coffee whilst trying to get some Wi-Fi, which proved to be a challenge. We decided to follow a walking track out of the town to Bob’s Bay, which was a very pleasant stroll taking about 1.5 hours there and back. Some of the views across the harbour and towards the cruise ship, which was docked in Shakespeare Bay were lovely.
We had lunch in a café in the town and I was able to sample one of the seafood specialities of the region – green lipped mussels. Mel had a steak sandwich and chips! We caught the shuttle bus back to the ship arriving back at about 3pm, having had a very pleasant, sunny day on shore in the heart of Marlborough a region acclaimed for wine.