Number of Cruises: Most were seasoned cruisers
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Wind
Sailing Date: February 14th, 2002
Itinerary: Auckland to Sydney
Freestyling Down Under
The setup: I was the group escort and seminar facilitator for a group of 22 travel professionals aboard the Norwegian Wind on a 14-day itinerary of New Zealand and Australia. While I had been to both New Zealand and Australia a number of times surfing, this was my first cruise down under and to visit many of the ports on the itinerary and I was excited at the prospect of going to new places and experiencing new things.
My most vivid memory of New Zealand was when in the early 1970s as a young sales manager for Aloha Airlines and a member of the Los Angeles Airline Managers Club, Air New Zealand, NAC and Mt. Cook Airlines sponsored a lunch in Queenstown for the group. Every month one of the airline members would sponsor a luncheon and had the opportunity to pitch their airline. Of course, it became quite competitive, each airline trying to outdo the previous. On this occasion the trio of airlines decided to host the lunch at the Holiday Inn in Queenstown, New Zealand.
We left LAX Friday night and flew into Sunday morning before arriving in Auckland and connecting to NAC to fly to Christchurch on the South Island. Upon arrival we connected to Mt. Cook Airlines and flew into Queenstown and transferred to the Holiday Inn where we held our luncheon meeting. I must confess that all 38 of us enjoyed the first class treatment of Air New Zealand on the way down and did not take the opportunity to sleep. Our plan was to sleep in Queenstown and prepare for the return flight.
After our meeting some of us went into town and stopped at a small pub. It seemed that the owner had sold the pub and was going to hand over possession the following morning to the new owner. He took a liking to our group and decided, what the heck, “the drinks were on the house”…and so it started. Someone went back to the hotel and got the rest of the group and the party continued into the second night. Somewhere about 4 am we realized that we had an early flight out on Mt. Cook Airlines to connect to NAC so that we could make our connection to Air New Zealand to get back to work on Monday morning.
After two nights without sleep we boarded the flights and made it back to LAX in time to go to work. Again, I have to admit that few of us elected to sleep on the return flight, as well and that when we finally showed up for work on Monday, we were not very effective. Here is a shot of the group in Queenstown that was taken about 1974 or so (that is me in the back row on the right with the hair and leather jacket….does this look like the 70s show?) The event was submitted to the Guinness Book of Records as the luncheon meeting that people traveled the longest distance to attend but it was never included to my knowledge. I look back on that trip and laugh every time I think about it. Needless to say, I have fond memories of New Zealand and Australia where over the past four decades I have had a wonderful time enjoying the surf of Kirra, Burleigh Heads, Byron Bay and the rest of Australia’s prolific east coast. Going to New Zealand and Australia is kind of like going home if you live on the west coast.
Getting to the ship: I had elected to go into Auckland a day early to guarantee that I made the ship and found a reasonable airfare from Qantas Vacations (about $200 less than from Qantas directly) I made my way up to Los Angeles and allowed 3 hours for the International check in. Once the check in counter was opened it was a matter of minutes before I had checked my bag and obtained a boarding pass. With almost 3 hours to burn, I made my way to the gate and started working on this review. We finally boarded the 747 and eventually took off for Auckland. The 12-hour flight didn’t seem to take as long as other international flights as there was only a 3-hour time zone change from California. Departing at 9pm we flew in the dark for over 11 of the 12 hours it took to get to New Zealand. The flight on Qantas was uneventful and the arrival in Auckland was right on time.
Upon clearing immigration and customs I grabbed a taxi to my hotel, the Heritage Hotel close to the waterfront in Auckland. The trip from the hotel the following day was uneventful other than there was a delay in boarding the Wind that led to an extended boarding process. Once on the ship I unpacked, reconfirmed our group’s arrangements, completed the “Welcome Aboard” flyers for the group and distributed them to their cabins and made my way to get something to eat. I ran into a couple of folks from the group and enjoyed a quick lunch with them before getting off the ship to clean up e-mail and make some telephone calls (Hint: the Net Tel E-Phone prepaid telephone card is one of the biggest bargains I have ever seen for international calling. For NZ$20 (about US$10.00) I called the U.S. numerous times and had long conversations and barely used a small portion of the card’s value.)
Pre Cruise, Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland is a wonderful place for shopping and just hanging out. There is a wealth of restaurants and a cultural blend that is unique to New Zealand. The one change that I noticed was that there were thousands of young and sophisticated adults all over the city. Coffee houses (yes, Starbucks were plentiful) sidewalk cafes; boutiques and interesting shops of all kinds populate Auckland’s avenues. The waterfront area has been completely transformed into one of the most unique and populated waterfronts I have seen. When the World’s Cup took place in Auckland, the city spent millions to complete the transformation. Today there are numerous bars and restaurants side by side in the waterfront district that attract thousands of Aucklanders every afternoon for cocktails and appetizers. It reminds me of Pacific and Mission beaches in San Diego but only on a larger and more affluent scale.
The main attraction in Auckland is Sky City and its prominent Sky Tower. Sky Tower is the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere and offers an elevator to an observation platform that towers over all of Auckland and its surrounding harbors. While interesting, I found Auckland’s main attractions to be its cultural and culinary diversity. I paid my $NZ15 to visit the observation deck, took the obligatory pictures and then continued on my way. I found Queens Street’s shopping interesting yet still somewhat touristy, Queens Square is a town square at the foot of Queens Street where folks congregate for lunch, coffee and such and also the place where my own rules were broken in a moment of carelessness. I had purchased a latte from Starbucks and intended to make some telephone calls from the bank of telephones on the square. Because there was no place to set my digital camera case (my latte took the only place by the telephone) I set it by my feet and dialed the telephone. After a ten or fifteen minute conversation I departed for the Internet Café that was adjacent to the telephone. I then realized that my camera case had been stolen right from my feet. Feeling like an idiot I did the necessary due diligence to try and find it but knew that the case and all its contents were history (which they were)
The lesson learned is that when one is in an environment that feels safe in every regard one must still maintain caution, as they are a visitor and targeted by street urchins everywhere. Fortunately, I have never let these things bother me as I figure my life is entirely too short to empower possessions to dominate my attitude…I can always buy another camera (hence the absence of many pictures in this review,)
There are several things I really liked about Auckland. The food was to die for. I easily found 20 restaurants that I wanted to try. One just a block from my hotel was the best restaurant I have eaten at in a long, long time. Praxis Restaurant (at the corner of Victoria and Nelson) was an unbelievable experience. Set up as a casual corner sidewalk café, Praxis offered one of the most interesting menus I have seen anywhere. In addition to creative breakfast, lunch and dinner menus along with an excellent wine list of New Zealand wines, Praxis also offered indigenous cuisine as well.
Dishes such as “South Island River Rock roasted salmon upon a kamokamo and raison salad with warm seared scallops and truffle oil dressing” and “Seawood wrapped with Tuna Batons with a kumara and coconut ginger mash, with soya mustard cream sauce and shaved kumara wafers” are just an example of the creativity of the restaurant. I stopped there for lunch just by accident and liked it so much I went back for dinner the same night. I am not sure how long I would eat there before trying another restaurant if I lived in Auckland, but it would probably be several weeks. If you go, try the “Fettuccini Carbonara, a sauté of ham and mushrooms in a white wine cream sauce with smoked chicken an a soft boiled egg.” This was probably the best dish I had had in years. If you try Praxis, be sure try the unique wine list and give yourself a few hours to enjoy your meal at one of the street side tables. I guarantee you will love the experience.
For interesting shopping don’t miss the Victoria Park Market located on the downhill side of Victoria Street five or six blocks south of Sky City. This unique market offers numerous shops offering everything from south pacific woodcarvings to bikinis, mementos to books and just about everything else you can think of. Its setting is just as quaint as it resides in an old brick building that is on the unused side of the city dump.
My favorite part of Auckland was “K” (Karangahape) Road. To get there walk all the way to the top of Queen Street and then turn right on “K” Road. About 40% of the population of Auckland are cultures from the Pacific and “K” Road is home for these folks. There are numerous shops selling south pacific designs and fabrics as well as artifacts and many other unique items. I especially liked the Asian influence with the chemists, Asian food markets and shops and the wealth of restaurants representing virtually every Asian and South Pacific community there is. “K” street reminded me of Honolulu’s Hotel Street from several decades ago. It is somewhat raw but full of character and uniqueness.
Another staple in Auckland is Queen Street’s thousands of stores and shops. This is the shopping hub of the north island and there are stores selling everything you could possible want to find. The shopping extends all the way from “K” street to the east to the harbor and Queens Elizabeth’s Square to the west over a mile away. All in all, Auckland is a wonderful place to experience much of what New Zealand has to offer and is certainly worth a couple of days exploration.The Ship
The Norwegian Wind
Right off I have to tell you that I like everything about the Norwegian Wind. I have sailed her at least ten times over the years Joanie and I even attended the Wind’s inaugural back in 1993 when First Lady Barbara Bush christened her. When she was launched she was quite something as her terraced decks were an engineering marvel and she featured many innovations.. The Wind was “stretched” in 1998 by the addition of a mid section some 130 feet in length. The Wind was actually cut into two and the mid section floated in and then welded together. This added to her capacity and also added more public rooms but even with the addition the Wind is still a smaller ship at only 50,760 gross tons.
Even after she was stretched, the Norwegian Wind (formerly known as the Windward) gives one a feeling of spaciousness and comfort. The Norwegian Wind has been subject to many critical reviews indicating that her dining service is not up to par and that the dining room staff was unfriendly, even rude at times. A couple of years ago I wrote a review of the Wind trying to define the situation and help folks find their way to a more satisfactory experience. I am happy to report that the dining experience on the Norwegian Wind was absolutely wonderful!
The Norwegian Wind has converted to Freestyle Dining and staffed the dining rooms with a blend of women and men, primarily from the Philippines. This is a dramatic change from the primarily all Eastern European male staff that manned the restaurants prior to the change to Freestyle Dining. Everyone from the Maitre Di to the lowest busboy had smiling faces and wonderful, helpful attitudes and the service was excellent. Everyone should find his or her dining experiences on the Wind enjoyable, if not downright excellent.
Freestyle cruising is NCL’s signature of a new way of approaching cruising. Freestyle allows the passengers to make their own decisions about where and when they will dine and what entertainment venues they will attend and when. Rather than have a structured dining time, show time and entertainment, freestyle is more like going to a resort with several different dining and show venues to select from. I personally loved freestyle cruising as it allow one a maximum of latitude in the way they vacation. However, if one likes the more established practice of having a fixed dining time and table assignment, they can see the Maitre Di upon boarding and arrange to have an assigned dining table and time. NCL’s newest ships all offer numerous dining selections and are specifically designed for freestyle cruising. The Norwegian Wind was converted from conventional cruising to freestyle and has done a good job in the process, yet on a 14-day cruise there could be more of a variety to fully experience the benefits of freestyle cruising.
The Wind offers several different dining experiences and I am going to present them in the order that I preferred them.
Le Bistro, deck 9, mid ship
This is NCL’s signature alternative dining restaurant that has been featured for years on all of NCL’s ships. Le Bistro on the Norwegian Wind offers an intimate and elegant environment with exceptional service and food. Le Bistro’s menu always includes select meats and fish prepared and served in a gourmet surrounding. There is a $10 gratuity to dine in Le Bistro but I always left more as the experience was well worth it to me. We ate in Le Bistro several nights and had an anniversary party ffor a couple in our group there as well. I would highly recommend Le Bistro to every one that wants to have a wonderful dining experience on the Wind. Le Bistro requires advance reservations but we never found it difficult to be accommodated. Le Bistro is open for dinner only.
The Terraces Restaurant, deck 9, aft
The Terraces Restaurant is a beautiful restaurant that features several terraced levels falling away to the windows facing aft on the Wind. The first time you see the restaurant it is breathtaking and unique. The Terraces is open for all meals and was our favorite (other than Le Bistro) on the ship. Dinner in the Terraces is elegant and sophisticated and features an extensive menu consistent with cruise ship dining. Breakfast and lunch is a more formal affair in the Terraces Restaurant that everyone enjoyed. Seating in the Terraces is open and you can simply show up any time between 6 pm and 10 pm to be seated at the table configuration of your choice.
The Sports Bar and Grill, deck 12, aft
I really liked the Sports Bar and Grill. It was open for all meals but I found it unbeatable for breakfast and lunch (for me). First, for breakfast, there was always lots of fresh fruit, yogurt, juice and healthy choices. I liked that it opened early and that I could enjoy my breakfast in peace. There were also traditional breakfast choices as well such as eggs, sausage, bacon and so on. Lunchtime brought on my favorites. There was always a wok area set up that featured Asian dishes. On one afternoon the chef made a shrimp, pepper and vegetable dish that was to die for. I went back every single day hoping it would be repeated but it never was. Sushi, stir fried vegetables, steamed vegetables and noodles with seafood and/or vegetables were served daily along with a separate more traditional luncheon buffet in the normal buffet area.
The Sports Bar and Grill was also the scene of the evening’s dinner buffet and while I never made it to the buffet I understand it was fantastic. The Wind put on a seafood buffet a couple of nights and those that went raved about the quality and quantity of seafood (including lobster, crab and shrimp).
Trattoria, deck 11, aft
This is the Italian restaurant open for dinner and offers a comprehensive menu. We had two excellent meals here and one not so excellent. Trattoria is terraced offering excellent surroundings and atmosphere. It is well laid out and a special treat if you enjoy Italian cuisine. No reservations or gratuity are required.
The Four Seasons Restaurant, deck 9, mid ship
The Four Seasons Restaurant is the other main dinning room on the Norwegian Wind that is open for breakfast (buffet style with specialty egg dishes and fresh fruit stations) lunch and dinner. I didn’t like the restaurant because it always seemed crowded to me and the colors seemed drab, The service and food during the dinners we experienced in the Four Seasons were excellent is was just that there were other better choices to make for dinner in my opinion. However, obviously many folks really liked the Four Seasons Restaurant as it was always crowded to filled capacity.
Poolside Bar B Que, Deck 11, aft
NCL hosts a poolside Bar B Que (especially on days at sea) that offers freshly cooked fish, steak, ribs, hamburgers and hot dogs along with vegetables and salad right by the pool. It is hard to resist as they slowly cook the food over hickory coals and the smell of it cooking permeates the ship. People obviously loved the Bar B Que as their plates exposed.
Pizzeria, deck 11, aft
The Pizzeria is located in a little cubby of the rear pool bar and serves freshly cooked pizza during most of the day. It also offers a luncheon option for those wanting to stay by the pool during days at sea. There is a small buffet station along with the pizza area and also a drink station as well
The Ice Cream Parlor, deck 11, forward
The ice cream parlor opened every day at 3 pm and was greeted by lots of folks waiting for it to open. They served great ice cream that was enjoyed by many. One especially stormy afternoon crossing the Tasman Sea we were in the middle of our Jacuzzi party and hadn’t seen another soul for at least two hours when all of a sudden at least forty people showed up by the Jacuzzi. We couldn’t figure out what was happening until the ice cream parlor opened, then it all made sense.
Our group was located on deck 5 both forward and aft. I was located in cabin number 5000 all the way forward and port. (HINT: Avoid being either all the way forward or aft on the Wind as there is a considerable amount of commotion created by both the engines and the winches/bow thrusters in the morning time while docking, especially on the lower decks. Cabin selection is very important on this ship so be sure that you are buying your cruise from a seasoned pro.) The Wind’s cabins are generous in the space they offer. They have 2 twin beds that are combined to make a large queen size bed and all the necessary lighting controls for comfort during the night. I found the quality of the bedding very much to my liking and I had no problem sleeping quite nicely.
The cabin also features a small sitting area with a couch (that folds out into a small bed) television set, desk and drawers with its own chair, mirrors and a small table for miscellaneous items. All in all, there is quite a bit of room in the cabin area. There are also three closets, 1 full length, one ½ length with several drawers (and a safe) and a third that offers little storage. The closets in all the cabins were of ample size but take note that the closets in cabin 5000 (and presumably 5200 were smaller and would not accommodate full sized hangers. This was because of the narrowness of the cabin due to its location in the bow of the ship. It did not constitute a problem for me, but then I was traveling as a single as well. The bathroom is standard sized and NCL has gone to the wall mounted shampoo and soap dispensers rather than the foil packages they used to offer. The cabin was very satisfactory for this length of cruise.
HINT: Take along biodegradable detergent to wash your own socks and such as there are no self-service laundry facilities on the ship and cleaning is expensive. Also, take along an extension cord with multiple outlets and a travel iron.
Internet Café, deck 9, aft
The Internet Café offers 6 fast pc online connections but at an expensive rate. The normal rate for access was .75 cents per minute. NCL offered bulk purchase rates of 250 minutes for $100.00, which is the plan that I opted for. On the two-week cruise I went through two of these plans and did as much as I could off the ship in Internet Cafes, but then I am a heavy user as well. I never had any problem getting a computer to use and the connection was always DSL quick.
Another aspect of Freestyle Cruising is the diversity of entertainment venues one has to select from. Want to go to a show? No problem. Listen to soft music or slow dance? What to gamble or go to a disco? No problem. How about going to a more upbeat dance venue or simply enjoy a cocktail in relaxation? How about watching a first run movie? All of these choices are available every night. Here are the main entertainment venues.
The Stardust Lounge, deck 10, forward
This is the main showroom on the Wind. The main entertainment troupe is from the Jean Ann Ryan Company and they do an incredible job with their stage productions. Everyone on this cruise made sure that they didn’t miss a one of them and several folks went to the same show twice a night they like the productions so well. While the productions are excellent, it is the energy of this particular group of performers that won everyone’s enjoyment and admiration.
The Observatory Lounge, deck 12, forward
This a the ship’s main observatory lounge and it is large and open. A trio (Imagine That) played in the lounge each evening and they were excellent. A very wonderful young singer that coos love songs and other soothing sounds fronts the trio and during breaks they often mingle with the guests in the Observatory. As we continued our patronage of the Observatory we came to feel welcomed and comfortable with the staff and the entertainers and it became a high point during the evening. They are not only very talented performers, but they are excellent hosts as well.
Lucky’s Martini Bar
Here is another dance venue that features a duo, Patti and Jose. They sing popular dance tunes and were always treated to a full bar and dance floor. Lucky’s offers a large sitting area on both sides of the ship with several cubbies that are natural meeting places. I used Lucky’s for many of the meetings I had with members of our group and it proved to be a great place to sit and hold business conversation without interruptions.
There are several other bar/lounges on the Wind but I simply didn’t go any further than these as they served my every need.
The Norwegian Wind offers a number of pool areas. On the aft fantail there is a nice smaller pool that is protected from the wind and elements. Deck 10 offers a larger pool mid ship that was heated to about 80 degrees during the entire trip. This pool was the scene of the outdoor Bar B Que so one would need the constitution of a boulder to not nibble on the treats all afternoon if they sat at this pool. This is also the location of the main pool bar that offer a good number of stools and the Pizzeria.
Forward of the pool (up and down several terraces) is a small swim up bar pool. Unfortunately this bar was not open during this cruise because of the weather factor, but it looked like a great place to sit in the water and enjoy a beverage. Finally forward on deck 10 are the 3 Jacuzzis. These were right behind the other outdoor bar and proved to be an excellent location during inclement weather as they were protected from the wind and elements and their location made them easy to get to and from. We enjoyed the Jacuzzis on the Wind very much.The Cruise
Day One, February 14th, 2002, Auckland, New Zealand
After boarding the ship, confirming the group’s arrangements and distributing the group flyers I cleaned up for our welcome aboard cocktail party that was to be held in Lucky’s Martini Bar. It is always fun to meet the group for the first time and this trip was not any different. We all met one another and enjoyed our first hour together and then decided to proceed to dinner in the Terraces Restaurant. We had a great dinner and were able to celebrate one of our group member’s birthday with a group “Happy Birthday” song and cake. I was bushed from the day’s activities and chose to turn in for the evening to get a good night’s rest.
Day Two, February 15th, 2002, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
What a beautiful location. A small group of us had decided to strike out on our own and see the sites by sharing a taxi. We especially wanted to see the Glow Worm Caves. Unfortunately, we did not realize that there were only 6 or so taxis in Paihia, the town that the Norwegian tenders into. Paihia is quite an attractive little town and offers a good amount of water sports including, fishing, diving and so on. After an hour or so of trying to obtain transportation out to the cave we finally came to the realization that it probably wasn’t going to be possible to get there on this trip. (HINT: Paihia has limited transportation and cannot accommodate passengers arriving independently from the ship. If you intend to see the Glow Worm Caves be sure to book the ship’s tour and book it early. It sells out because there is limited capacity and you are unlikely to get there any other way.) After exploring Paihia we decided to take the ferry across the bay to the town of Russell. Russell is a quaint Victorian town that resides in a wonderful little bay and offers excellent shopping and a rather nice beach. We found the “Duke of Marlborough Tavern” and enjoyed a glass of ale and some fish and chips. The ale was great and the fish and chips, just OK. After more exploring we decided to make our way back to the ship by boarding the ferry returning to Paihia and then boarding the tender back to the Norwegian Wind. All in all, it was a good day but those that did go to the Glow Worm Caves felt that was the highlight of their trip.
If I had it to do over again, I would have taken the ship’s tour to the Glow Worm Caves in the morning and then gone to Russell on the ferry for lunch and the afternoon. Back on board our group met in the Observatory Lounge for pre dinner cocktails and then made our way to the Four Seasons Restaurant for a nice dinner. Once again I was quite tired and decided to call it a night so I turned in for another excellent night’s sleep.
Day Three, February 16th, 2002, Tauranga, New Zealand
Ahhhh, beautiful Tauranga. Located on a beautiful beach, Tauranga is quickly becoming New Zealand’s fastest growing community. One of the agents and I had decided to take advantage of the fabulous trout fishing New Zealand is famous for and signed up for the Wind’s trout fishing excursion. Not necessarily keen on catching a bunch of trout I was more interested in the New Zealand trout fishing experience and seeing some of New Zealand’s wonderful waterways and countryside. We were the first passengers off the ship and boarded a motor coach to make our way up to Lake Rotorua in the mountainous Rotorua Thermal area. We drove through Tauranga noticing the off shore winds and clean lines forming off the surfing beach just south of Tauranga (I was wishing I had brought my surf board) and into the country We continued our trip through the agricultural areas, into the foothills and then into the mountains of interior New Zealand. We went from shore side to farms and groves, to rolling brush covered slopes to pine covered mountains in about an hour. We passed a large lake that was downstream from Lake Rotorua and then entered the community of Rotorua itself. We drove by numerous businesses and finally made our way to Lake Rotorua. When we arrived there were several boats on trailers waiting for us.
After a quick break we were assigned to our boat and guide and made our way down to the launch area. There were several boats launching at the same time so we patiently awaited our turn. I thought it odd that the boats were not already launched and waiting for us as our time was so limited. Finally in the water, we dropped our lures and wet flys into the water to begin trolling about 50 ft. from the launch ramp. They had even gone to the trouble to mark the lines with red tape so that you would know exactly where the line should be let out. This was obviously a successful operation because our “guide” spent most of the morning booking additional clients on his cell phone instead of looking for fish. We trolled for about an hour within a hundred yards of where we launched before we had a hook up. While the rainbow trout that Jerry caught was beautiful, it weighed in at about 10 ozs. We went for a relocation on the lake and our guide fired up his twin 125 hp outboards and when we got up on plane I estimated we were doing about 40- 50 mph. I thought this was odd since the lake was only about a mile wide and two long. Once we reached full speed is when the first engine crapped out.
Fortunately our “guide” wasn’t on the telephone taking reservations and shut down the engines to see if he could figure out what was wrong. He worked on it for a while (I was thinking big deal, we could still cross the lake in less than 5 minutes with just one engine) Finally he got it going again and off we went for another minute or two until we had reached the other end of the lake. We stated trolling. It really got exciting when our “guide” was talking on the cell phone to the other “guides” about all kinds of things. Finally the word was out that there were fish on the side of the lake we just left and whammo, we fired up the engines and took off in a whisk only to have the engine fail again. Our guide was really getting frustrated now…he worked on that engine but just couldn’t get it going. Now that I think about it, we could have kept trolling on the 9 hp kicker and been to the other side by now.
At any rate, we finally got there and low and behold, another hook up. This time it was a larger fish (12 oz) so we released that too. Our “guide” felt is was time for lunch and our position was “forget lunch, let’s keep fishing.” Our guide then reported to us that it wasn’t his decision but that of the owners, a Mr. Bryran Coleman. We asked if he could call him so we could get permission to keep on fishing and skip lunch, but I guess that wasn’t allowed.
We ran into shore (again at full power, took about a minute and a half) and then joined the rest of the fisherman for a wonderful trout lunch. I made a trout sandwich and took a bite, chewed and then started picking the bones out of my teeth before spitting out the bite. I secretly threw the sandwich away thinking I got a bad piece of fish and made another….more bones.
Now I have to tell you. I have been fishing my whole life. I fish salt water and fresh water. I even have a bass pond on my property with huge bass in it just to fish for fun. I have filleted thousands of fish and there is no excuse for bones being in filleted fish. My fishing partner Jerry (a travel agent from south Texas) has also fished his whole life and his son is starting a fishing guide business in Texas. He agrees with me about the experience. Only the complete lack of regard for the person eating the filets by the person filleting is the reason for any bones to remain in the filet. The bones in the trout filets seemed to sum up the attitude of this whole operation….they couldn’t care less about their guests.
Upon departing Lake Rotorua good ol’ mate Bryan Coleman handed me a business card and wanted me to tell my friends about him. OK, here goes.
HINT: Do not take the trout fishing optional tour on the Norwegian Wind. It is simply a waste of time, money and is a degrading experience. If you want to go trout fishing. Bring a 3-piece rod and a spinning reel with 4-6 lb test, a few trout lures and hire a taxi to put you on some trout streams. If you want to fish the legendary waters of the Rotorua District, do not subject yourself to good old Bryan Coleman’s operation. Find someone from your travel agent or on the Internet. There ya go, Bryan, I hope that helps.
Back on board the Wind our group met for cocktails at Lucky’s Martini Bar and on to dinner in the Four Seasons Restaurant. I was bushed from the day’s fishing excursion and called it an early night.
Day Four, February 17th, 2002, Day at Sea
Our first seminar took place this morning in the Conference Room 1 on deck 10. The Norwegian Wind offers very good meeting facilities for smaller groups (up to 30 or so) and we enjoyed our time together in the seminar. I spent the entire afternoon working on my computer in my cabin before getting ready for the first formal night of the cruise. Our group met in the Stardust Lounge for the Captain’s Cocktail party. Champagne was plentiful and the Norwegian Wind Showband was playing dance music for everyone’s enjoyment
We chose to dine in the Four Season’s Restaurant and enjoyed a wonderful lobster and filet mignon dinner followed by elaborate desserts. Following dinner we attended the late show, the first stage production of the cruise performed by the Jean Ann Ryan Singers and Dancers. It was a show entitled “Jump, Jive and Wail” and it was excellent. The highlight, for many in our group was a duet performed by two of the female singers. It was very high-energy and wonderful. The audience rewarded the entertainment troop with a standing ovation.
After a quick walk through the various public areas of the ship I turned in for a wonderful night’s sleep.
Day Five, February 18th, 2002, Wellington, New Zealand
We arrived in Wellington exactly on time and enjoyed being in the marvelous city. A few of our group had decided to engage a taxi driver to show us the sights of Wellington and we made a great choice. Mr. Tony Kwok was a third generation Chinese immigrant to New Zealand and his family arrived somewhere in the middle of the 1800s. Tony took great pride in his hometown and showed us wonderful sites and took the time to make us feel very comfortable. He first drove us to the top of Mt. Victoria for a wonderful overview of the entire city of Wellington. We drove through the various residential areas and visit the botanical gardens. I was treated to my first vision of a Victoria water lily at the botanical gardens and while I have seen them in magazines about water gardening, had never seen one in real life. I have to admit that Wellington would have been the last place I would have thought I would have come across one as they are indigenous to the Amazon and rarely seen in cooler climates.
We continued our journey throughout Wellington learning many fascinating things and visiting the museum, Parliament buildings, the Kelburn Cable Car, St. Paul’s Cathedral and other outstanding sites. Finally, Tony suggested a restaurant/pub that might be a good place to take a late lunch so we arrived and bid Tony a fond farewell. All of us felt as if we had known Tony for years and would highly recommend Tony to anyone visiting Wellington that wants a wonderful guide. You can e-mail Tony and have him meet you at the ship in Wellington at firstname.lastname@example.org . We enjoyed a local beer in one of the pubs and then continued to a restaurant that featured Belgian cuisine and enjoyed a wonderful lunch of mussels and beer. After a wonderful lunch we decided to walk off the food by simply walking back to the ship. Wellington is indeed a very friendly place and very easy to get around.
Once on board the Wind, I rested in my cabin until our group met for pre dinner cocktails in Lucky’s Martini Bar and then went to dine in Trattoria. As we entered the restaurant as a group of 20 something, there were no tables together to accommodate us. The Maitre’ Di did accommodate us in our own private section by reassigning some servers to handle us. This was a good and also a bad decision as the service was slower than the group cared for and it proved to be our first (and only) negative dining experience. However, the servers did everything within their power to accommodate us. I just believe that it was the result of the expansion of an already full restaurant that created the problem. Many in our group had dined in Trattoria and experienced wonderful service and meals. Tired from the day’s events, I returned to my cabin for an excellent night’s sleep.
Day Six, February 19th, 2002, Lyttleton, (Christchurch) New Zealand
The Norwegian Wind made its way into the Lyttleton Harbor early in the morning and was tied up dockside by 8 am. Lyttleton is the main port for Christchurch and some 20 miles from downtown Christchurch. With the positive experience we had with Tony in Wellington the same group of us decided to engage another taxi for the day. This proved to be an excellent decision as we were treated to another wonderful day with our taxi driver and new friend; Barry Easton ( Barry_1_1@hotmail.com ) Barry took care of us like we were visiting relatives. He showed us everything about Christchurch like we were valued visitors on an important mission. I would highly recommend Barry if you want to go on your own in Christchurch as he knows exactly what to show you and is just a wonderful human being. We took the long way into Christchurch so that Barry could show me one of the main surfing spots in the area. And the trip went through several gorgeous suburbs of ocean side Victorian homes that were to die for (if you like Victorians) Upon entering the city we saw many of the usual sites including the Christchurch Cathedral, Bridge of Remembrance and the Town Hall. Christchurch is a large city with lots to see and do.
We told Barry of our fishing experience in Rotorua and it turned out that Barry was an avid fisherman. He said that he could have picked us up in Lyttleton at the ship and taken us for a two-day fishing trip to some of the most pristine fishing territory in New Zealand and delivered us to the ship in Dunedin for less than we paid for the Rotorua trip. The price would have included transportation, fishing equipment (everything needed) lodging for the evening….everything. If I had to do it over again, I would e-mail Barry and take him up on it.
Barry showed us everything that Christchurch had to offer. Of special note is the area known as Mona Vale. This is a wealthy residential area and also garden and public park. A trout stream meanders throughout the area of lush lawns, gardens and exquisite homes. It is truly one of the most beautiful places I have seen in residential areas. We then visited the Antarctic Center by the airport. This is the scene of activity that supplies researchers in the Antarctic with 2 C-5s on the ground loading up supplies while we were there. There is an excellent exhibit of the Antarctic that show all facets of what life in the Antarctic is like. I especially enjoyed a room that simulated the current temperatures and climate in the Antarctic. While I wore a thick coat made for the sub-zero temperatures in the Antarctic, I almost froze to death in about 30 seconds with my shorts on. The highlight of the visit was a ride in a Hagglund, the all terrain vehicle used for exploration in the Antarctic. The Center has constructed a course that challenges the Hagglund’s vast abilities and it is great fun to experience it. All of the guys that experienced the Hagglund wanted one for off road use.
We were getting hungry and some in the group wanted to do some shopping so Barry dropped us downtown Christchurch so that we could accomplish these tasks. We wandered through the main shopping streets of Christchurch and noted the diversity of restaurants and shops. After making several purchases, we ended up on a street of restaurant after restaurant. We chose “Coyote” as they seemed to offer a menu that pleased everyone’s taste. I order the “Coyote Breasts” and it one of the best meals that I have ever eaten. Everyone felt the same way about his or her lunch. I would highly recommend the restaurant to anyone wanting a great lunch while shopping. Unfortunately, I did not get the address or contact information but I am sure if you asked anyone where the Coyote Restaurant was they could direct you.
After a long relaxing lunch we made our way back to the Norwegian Wind just in time before they lifted the gangway and set sail for Dunedin. A group of us met in the Observatory Lounge and enjoy the soothing music of “Imagine That”, a wonderful trio playing relaxing and love songs. When they took their break it was time to head on down to the “Le Bistro Restaurant” where we had reservations for the evening. Le Bistro has a $10 service charge and is an alternative restaurant for the Freestyle Dining program. It offers fine dining in an exquisite surrounding and excellent service. It is certainly worth the cover change as the surroundings, service and quality of food is outstanding. We enjoyed a thoroughly wonderful meal in Le Bistro that left us wanting more. Since we had enjoyed a late dinner and managed to close the restaurant with table conversation we had missed the late show and decided to enjoy a nightcap in Lucky’s Martini Bar before turning in. The Wind offers several entertainment venues in the evening but unfortunately very few people on this cruise were out and about after 11 pm so the lounges were pretty much vacant. After a social drink, I called it a night.
Day 7, February 20th, 2002, Dunedin, New Zealand
Dunedin is the home of an Albatross colony located at the very tip of Taiaroa, a steep cliff marking the southern opening of the inlet that leads to Port Chalmers the main port for Dunedin. One of the agents wanted to visit the site so a group of us negotiated a taxi for the day and decided to take in the sites of Dunedin. We made our way from Port Chalmers into Dunedin noticing the vast number of Victorian homes along the way. We visited the University that is one of the mainstays of Dunedin as thousands of students from all over the world chose to attend the University’s fabulous campus and surrounding areas. The taxi driver mentioned that there were some surfing spots within the city itself and drove us to a couple of them. While the wind was blowing on shore, one could easily see the potential for quality surf within the area. I thought of my son and how he would have loved this spot. We continued to visit the city and had planned on visiting the Speight’s Brewery in Dunedin. We made our way to the brewery just in time to join a group tour. We made it about 3/4ths of the way through the tour before our taxi driver advised us that we needed to leave to make it to the Albatross Sanctuary in time to start our appointed visit to the viewing site (HINT: If you intend to visit the Albatross colony, you must have reservations to gain entrance to the viewing area. Have your taxi driver confirm that you can get in before taking the drive to Taiaroa Head.) We made the drive to the sanctuary in about 45 minutes along the coastline all the way out. The drive was almost as wonderful experience as seeing the Albatrosses themselves.
We had arrived in Dunedin directly ahead of a weather front and the wind was gusting quite heavily on the peninsula. We found out that this was the best possible conditions for viewing the Albatross in-flight as they tend to stay on their nests the entire time unless there is substantial wind. We were indeed lucky, as there were several Albatross flying around the viewing area and also several sitting on nests with their baby chicks sticking their heads out every now and then to see what was happening. This is truly a wonderful experience as you are involved with animals and nature whatsoever. The Royal Albatrosses have a wingspan in the range of ten feet and are simply beautiful creatures. I would highly recommend a visit to the center while in Dunedin.
We took the high road back to downtown Dunedin enjoying the breath taking views of the oceans and hills that surround Dunedin before finally returning to the main part of the city. Our driver had suggested a seafood restaurant that is famous with Dunedin locals but unfortunately it was closed. We finally found a small pub and enjoyed some local sandwiches and Speight’s beer before returning to the ship by taxicab. All in all, it was indeed a great day. Our taxi driver was excellent, but not exceptional like Tony and Barry that had won our hearts.
Back on the ship I enjoyed a quick Jacuzzi before getting ready to meet our group for our nightly cocktail party and then dinner. We ate dinner in the Terraces Restaurant once again and had a wonderful meal. Following dinner we attended one of the Jean Ann Ryan productions entitled “Smokey Joe’s Café.” This was a great stage production with music and dancing to many favorites that everyone enjoyed. This particular group of performers is extremely talented and energetic. I would make it a point to attend each production show on this cruise because of the choreography and talent of the entertainers. I enjoyed a nightcap in Lucky’s Martini Bar and then it was off to bed for a good night’s sleep.
Day 8, February 21st, 2002, Cruising Fjordland National Park
We awoke to somewhat rough seas as we entered the first of three fjords we were to visit today in New Zealand’s spectacular Fjordland National Park. As we entered the Dusky Sound I couldn’t help but see the resemblance between the New Zealand fjords and those of Alaska. Steep cliffs plunging straight into the ocean several thousand feet deep surrounding narrow inlets that allow ships to ply their calm and wind protected waters are simply breath taking to experience. The Norwegian Wind first cruises Dusky Sound and gradually moves into Doubtful Sound, the second of the exquisite natural phenomenon created by past glacial movement. After spending several hours in Dusky and Doubtful Sounds the Wind made its way back into the open ocean heading towards Milford Sound. Upon entering the open ocean everyone noticed that the wind was now howling so much that the ocean was solid white caps and even the water between the cresting white caps was wind swept. We later found that the wind was howling at approximately 85 miles per hour at that time.
After a short cruise we entered Milford Sound and its intense beauty. Milford Sound is one of the steepest and most dramatic fjords I have ever personally seen. It is trimmed with several waterfalls plunging hundreds of feet making their way to the ocean floor of the sound and there is a distant glacier to be seen in the mountains that reside at the head of the Sound. It is simply spectacular and is certainly one of the highlights of the cruise itinerary. On the ship’s return to the open ocean, the Wind stopped by one waterfall that fell from a distance higher than Niagara Falls and plunged directly into the ocean. This was truly a beautiful experience.
Once leaving Fjordland National Park, the Norwegian Wind turned her bow into the Tasmanian Sea and what turned out to be quite rough waters for the crossing. Our group met once again in Lucky’s Bar for a cocktail hour and then on to the Four Seasons Restaurant for a wonderful dinner. However several of our group members did not make dinner as the rocking and rolling of the Wind in heavy seas was taking its toll. After dinner Mr. David Burke was featured as the comedian entertainer for the cruise and he was funny indeed. Everyone enjoyed his humor and timely punch lines. From the show some of us continued to the nightclub for a nightcap and then turned in for the evening. The evening’s ride proved quite bumpy as the seas grew in intensity and size. I was in a bow cabin the furthest forward on the port side and many times the bow would lift a good distance and then plow into an oncoming swell that would bury my porthole under water (I was on deck 5.) While I suspect this weather was unusual for the passage to Australia, I also suspect that it is normally rougher than most ocean passages so I would recommend taking enough medication, patches or whatever your doctor recommends you take for motion sickness for two days. I think this preparation would make for a much nicer trip if you are prone to motion sickness.
Day 9, February 22nd, 2002, Cruising the Tasmanian Sea
We awoke to turbulent waters as we penetrated a storm front that was making its way across the Tasman Sea and heavy swells, gale force winds and some rainfall marked the day. After breakfast, I worked on my computer for a while in my cabin and then decided to take a Jacuzzi. Calling several of the members of our group we organized a Jacuzzi party and spent the balance of the day celebrating the weather in the warm Jacuzzi with some refreshments. All in all, it was one of the best days of the cruise. At one time it was pouring rain with gale force winds but no one seemed to care as they were enjoying the joke telling and other conversation that ensued all afternoon. I was amazed that no one else had the idea and we had the Jacuzzi area entirely to ourselves the entire time. We finally returned to our respective cabins to prepare for a 45th wedding anniversary party for one couple that was a part of our group. We had decided to dine in Le Bistro to celebrate the anniversary and the couple had provided several bottles of sparkling wine for the celebration.
Upon settling into Le Bistro and pouring the wine. I toasted the couple and a great party ensued. It is always wonderful to see new friends explore each other’s experiences in conversation and this dinner truly saw our group of 22 travel professionals become friends. It was a great party. Following a lengthy dinner where the conversation never ceased we went to the late show to enjoy more entertainment. We were first treated to a gifted singer named Mercedes from Sydney, Australia. Her wonderful personality and beautiful voice mesmerized everyone in attendance. Following Mercedes was another comedian named Ted Holum. Ted never really got the audience’s attention and he struggled with his routine. I suspect that Ted is probably a very funny guy as his gesticulations were interesting but on this night he missed the mark. In his defense the seas were really rocking and rolling and many folks were not in their usual good humor. Once again it was off to Lucky’s Martini Bar for a nightcap before turning in.
Day 10, February 23rd, 2002, Cruising the Tasman Sea
While the weather had calmed down a bit, we were still experiencing rough seas and the ship was pitching and rolling quite heavily. Our deck was to clear Australian Immigration at 9:30 am (the Wind was carrying two immigration officers to clear arrivals in Australia so they avoid delays) and the process was quick and efficient. Once cleared some of us decided that having had such a good time in the Jacuzzi the day before, we decided it would be a good idea to continue the Jacuzzi party, so we did. Unfortunately the pool pizzeria that fed us the day before was closed as were the pool bars. It was rather a bleak affaire with nothing open and no one around so we had to talk a waiter from on of the interior bars to serve us in the Jacuzzi. We broke the party up about 2 pm so that we could get some lunch. I came to my cabin and worked for the afternoon and also cleaned up much e-mail in the Internet Café. By this time the constant rise and fall of the ship in rough waters was taking its toll on the passengers who were getting grumpy and wishing they were on solid ground.
I overheard comments to the effect the Captain should have taken another course and so on and I thought to myself how sad that people tend to complain about things they can do nothing about and then let the same events affect their lives in such a negative way. Look, if there is a substantial weather front in a region there is not much to be done about it. The Wind is capable of handling much more weather than we experienced on this cruise and in my personal experience I would rate this crossing as a 4 or 5 on a scale of 10 (with ten being the worse I have been in) Passengers should lighten up and enjoy nature when she offers a chance to see her raw side and not hold the Captain or the ship responsible for elements out of their control!
A group of us met for cocktails in the Observatory and enjoyed the talented group ”Imagine That.” By now the staff of the ship knew us and were calling us by name and greeting us as old friends. This is one of the best features of a longer cruise. Once you have established a routine and taken the time to work on relationships with the staff of servers on a ship they return your efforts with friendliness and warmth (and excellent service to boot) After enjoying a couple sets of soothing music we chose to dine in the Terraces Restaurant and enjoyed another excellent meal. Then it was off to Lucky’s and then to bed for a great night’s sleep.
Day 11, February 24th, 2002, Hobart, Tasmania
The lack of the ship’s pitching and rolling woke me up as we were making our way up the inlet to the Derwent River that leads to the city of Hobart. I was looking forward to this port as I had never been to Hobart before and Tasmania has always held a certain mystic for me. I went to the Observatory to watch our arrival into Hobart and was surprised at the size of the city. We had decided to try to find some Tasmanian Devils to see in their natural habitat and that was the mission of the day. Once off the ship after a quick breakfast in the Sports Bar we negotiated a taxicab to take us on a tour of the area and also to the Bonorong Wildlife Park to see the elusive Tasmanian Devils. We left Hobart and drove up the Derwent River turning northeastward into the countryside of Tasmania. The area reminded me of my home in Valley Center, California as it was made up of small farms and ranches that were raising deer, sheep, cattle, fruit and vineyards. There were a good number of small (2 to 5 acres) vineyards that had just been planted hinting at a new region for grapes in Tasmania. After several miles we entered a small (and very quaint) town of Richmond. We visited the Catholic Church in Richmond as well as the downtown area with its Victorian homes and buildings. Richmond dated back to the 1800s and many of the original buildings have been perfectly preserved. While beautiful and quaint, Richmond was a little too touristy for my taste.
After visiting Richmond we continued on to the Bonorong Wildlife Park. This place was quite a treat. Kangaroos roamed throughout the park at will and just about every animal indigenous to Tasmania was on display in their ultimate glory. We came upon the Tasmanian Devils just at the right time as they were beginning to feed them. After witnessing the feeding process, I now know how they got their reputation for being aggressive and to be feared. While the devils look like overgrown rats they have no fear of anything and they are constantly growling and fighting amongst themselves. On this particular day they were feeding the devils raw rabbit and the devils were consuming them at wholesale speed. They eat everything including the fur, bones and meat. After watching the devils in amazement we continued through the park’s selection of animals enjoying each and every one of them.
After visiting the park we continued on through the country and made our way back to the city of Hobart. Since we were hungry we selected a sidewalk café to enjoy a leisurely lunch and sample some of the local Tasmanian beer. Both were excellent. After lunch we walked throughout the port area shopping and enjoying the variety of boutiques and shops. After visiting the port area we headed downtown to the main shopping area in Hobart. Unfortunately, many of the stores and one of the main malls was closed, as it was Sunday however some of the stores of interest to visitors did open for the day, as they knew a ship was in port. After a long walk throughout Hobart’s downtown area we made our way back to the ship stopping at one of the local waterfront pubs that compliment the waterfront area. Back on board the Norwegian Wind, I managed a quick Jacuzzi before getting ready for the evening’s cocktail get together and dinner.
We met in the Observatory and once again enjoyed the sounds of “Imagine That” and then made our way to the Trattoria Restaurant. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner with excellent service more than making up for the other dining experience our group had in Trattoria. Following dinner we made it to the late show in the Stardust Lounge. This evening’s performer was Mercedes, a wonderful singer from Sydney (however she was born in Seville, Spain.) During her act, Mercedes called for two volunteers from the audience and two of the men from our group made their way to the stage. It was hilarious as Mercedes continued to dress the men in Spanish garb and get them to sing with her in her act. Everyone loved Mercedes and she proved to be as friendly and sincere in person as she was on stage. It was an excellent show with outstanding music and songs. Following the show I turned in for the evening tired from a full day’s events.
Day 12, February 25th, 2002, Day at Sea
I was up quite early having turned in early and after a quick breakfast in the Sports Bar went Conference Room 1 to prepare for the second of two seminars I was to do during the cruise. I had chosen seminar content that the group had wanted but did two separate seminars making them attendance optional as the content was focused on the Internet and many people would rather take medicine than endure a seminar about the web. I was shocked that every single person in the group came to the seminar and stayed long after it was over asking more and more questions.
Once everyone left the conference room I took a quick lunch in the Sports Bar and then changed into my Jacuzzi mode to join members of the group who now associated being at sea with a hot tub session. We had a great time enjoying the smooth seas and warm temperatures. Since this was the second of two formal nights on the cruise I had arranged for the group photo to be taken before our evening’s cocktail party and dinner. Everyone looked wonderful and was in good humor. After the photo and a quick cocktail party everyone split into dinner groups and went their own way. A group of us had reservations in Le Bistro for 8 pm so we moved to the Observatory for what was now, a nightly session with the “Imagine That” trio. They were great!
Le Bistro proved to be a wonderful choice as once again the service, cuisine and total experience was excellent. We ended dinner just in time to attend the late show, the third stage production performed by the Jean Ann Ryan Company. The high-energy show entitled “Sea Legs Circus at Sea” was performed wonderfully by the entire cast of the group and won everyone’s admiration. I turned in after the show however, some in our group continued to the casino and won a good amount of money.
Day 13, February 26th, 2002, Melbourne, Australia
Once again we met for an early breakfast and made our way off the ship, this time to explore Melbourne. The Norwegian Wind docks right at the foot of the public transportation network in Melbourne so getting around town is extremely easy. We took a complimentary shuttle to the foot of the street, purchased transportation tickets (bout $US2.50 for the entire day with unlimited transfers) and boarded the streetcar for the downtown area. The first thing that I noticed was the diversity of architecture in the city. Old buildings in great shape next to modern high-rise buildings, glass and steel buildings next to gothic classics the city was simply more than eyes could comprehend. Melbourne’s skyline was varied and interesting just as its people were.
We wandered around Melbourne’s main shopping area for hours looking for gifts for the guy’s wives and such. Melbourne is a shopper’s paradise with stores of all types selling everything imaginable. We ended up in one of Melbourne’s oldest hotels and it was full before noon with locals taking a break. We enjoyed a refreshment and then continued on to the South Bank, an area that had been referred to us as an excellent place to experience a Melbourne lunch. After many blocks of cityscape we ambled into the restaurant district of the South Bank.
This was a chick area of quality restaurants and we selected upstairs seafood one. Taking seats overlooking the skyline and promenade below we settled in for a wonderful lunch, while the restaurant had wonderful selections we opted for a seafood platter for four. The two Jerrys, Jerry’s wife Janet and I thought it would be a treat to experience some of the local seafood. We treated ourselves to a glass of wine while we awaited our lunch and when it came we all sat there with our mouths wide open. We were served a platter of seafood piled high consisting of shrimp, mussels, calamari, several kinds of filleted and whole fish and who knows what else. The visual treat of the platter was overwhelming.
We ate, ate some more and then ate some more. Loving fresh fish, I was in total heaven. For me it was the best lunch I had ever had and we couldn’t finish the meal (even though I kept trying long after everyone else had stopped.) Relaxing after our fish feast we decided to continue along the South Bank and back into town to pick up the streetcar to make our way back to the Norwegian Wind. Enjoying the walk back through the huge downtown area of Melbourne reminded me of being in New York with its incredible diversity and density. Once back at the foot of the pier we stopped for some last minute shopping and then walked back to the ship.
After a short rest we met up in our now standard meeting place in the Observatory for a relaxing pre dinner period enjoying “Imagine That” and then on to a wonderful dinner in Le Bistro for one last time. The dinner conversation lingered and we ended up closing the Le Bistro Restaurant having missed the special “Cabaret” show for the evening. We made our way to the casino where some of the group began to gamble. I went to bed.
Day 14, February 27th, 2002, Day at Sea
This was our final day at sea and the end of our cruise throughout New Zealand and Australia. I spent the morning meeting with some of the folks in our group and then took a quick lunch in the Sports Bar before joining others from our group for a final Jacuzzi session. The weather was cool and overcast and there were not many people poolside so we had the entire area to ourselves. It is funny how one can make such close friendships in such a short period of time on a cruise and this cruise was no exception.
We enjoyed our final dinner together in the Terraces Restaurant before heading to our respective cabins to pack for the eventual departure from the ship in Sydney, Australia.
Day 15, February 28th, Sydney, Australia
I awoke as we started tying up to the dock in Darling harbor and took a quick peek outside to see that the skies had turned grey and were emitting a mild mist/rain. I was scheduled to spend the evening in Sydney and catch a flight out the following morning so after breakfast, I disembarked in Sydney and took a taxicab to my hotel, the Millennium Hotel in Kings Cross. It had been some years since I had stayed in Sydney and I was amazed at the growth of the city. Sydney’s skyline now rivals that of any major city in the world. After checking into the Millennium Hotel I decided to take the underground back to Sydney Harbor and do a little sightseeing. Changing trains at Town Hall I rode the train to Circle Quay, the final stop and home of the Sydney Harbor.
Sydney Harbor is quite an area. Of course, the Sydney Opera House is one of the main attractions as is the Sydney harbor Bridge that marks the entrance to the harbor. What makes the harbor so interesting is the surrounding areas. The main quay area has numerous restaurants that serve great local food. I enjoyed fresh fish at one of the little quayside restaurants for lunch and then decided to revisit the Rocks, a major tourist shopping area of Sydney Harbor. The Rocks go back a good number of years and are now marked by expensive fire opal shops, ethnic collectible shops, clothing stores, boutique restaurants, harbor side restaurants of every description and numerous stores catering to visiting tourists. One could easily spend an entire afternoon enjoying the various shops and restaurants in the Rocks. The Galleria is also a newer shopping center that is at the entrance to the Rocks that makes this area a shopper’s paradise.
Having revisited the area I also wanted to visit Bondi Beach, one of the first places that I surfed in Australia decades ago. I took the underground to the Bondi Junction and then grabbed a cab to walk the length of Bondi. The surf was blown and there were only a couple of kooks in the water but the memories flooded back as I recalled the excitement at being in a foreign land about to experience a new culture and surfing experiences. I came across an Internet café and spent an hour or so cleaning up e-mail that had been neglected before returning to Kings Cross and my hotel. I had recalled the Kings Cross area as being eclectic (and the choice for surfers visiting Sydney before heading out of the city) but now it is just downright sleazy and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It is funny too, as Kings Cross is in the heart of some of the better residential areas of Sydney.
I grabbed a quick dinner and turned in for the night to get up for my early morning flight back to the U.S. and home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it necessary to dress for dinner with Freestyle Cruising?
That is one of the most wonderful things about Freestyle Cruising. If you do not like to dress for dinner and prefer to remain relaxed, you could dine every night without dressing and never feel out of place. Even on the two formal nights on the Norwegian Wind, only one of the restaurants imposed a “formal only” policy. All of the other restaurants did not require formal dress to dine. On the other hand, if you like to dress you could wear a tux every night and never feel out of place. Many people would dress to dine in the Le Bistro restaurant simply because they enjoyed getting dressed up.
Freestyle Cruising works quite well during the evening as well. Imaging that you are in a resort where there is a formal wedding going on, a small convention of golfers and maybe some businessmen as well. You would probably see a little of every kind of attire in the resort’s lounge… the same is true for Freestyle Cruising. The freedom to chose how you dress, where you dine and how you entertain yourself is what Freestyle is all about.
I am worried about motion sickness. What preparations should I take.
We experienced some weather crossing the Tasman Sea. It was nothing like crossing the North Atlantic or other parts of the world where the oceans can become huge. There are several days at sea on this itinerary and if you are prone to motion sickness you might want to see your doctor for some medication before you depart for the cruise. I didn’t see numbers of people not feeling well on this trip because folks tend to get their sea legs after a few days, but for those that may have been affected having a remedy handy would have been the right solution.
What is the weather going to be like?
This is a tough one. The weather on the North Island of New Zealand and in Sydney can be warm, however as you go south the weather can cool off considerably. Fjorlands National Park is similar to South East Alaska and one can see glaciers from various areas in the park so as you can imagine, it can get cool. I would pack in layers so that you can add as the weather cools if necessary. Rain can also be in the cards so be sure to pack some weather proof wear just in case.