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Royalty, Wife, Mummy, friend, teacher, student & fitness blogger

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Quality family time

Cruising to New Zealand Day 11 -15

At 0906 Sea Princess entered Dusky Sound the first of the Fiord transits of the day.  Sea Princess exited Dusky Sound at 1023 and proceeded around the coast towards Thompsons Sound entering at 1150.  After winding through the narrow Fiord Sea Princess was clear of Thompson Sound at 1300.  At 1622 Sea Princess entered into Milford Sound the last of the Fiord passages of the day.  Once at the end of Milford Sound Sea Princess started her thrusters and swung around and proceeded back out towards the Tasman Sea exiting Milford Sound and disembarking the Fiordland Pilot at 1752. 

We tried to set ourselves an alarm so we wouldn’t miss any of the Fiordland National Park but we kinda either set it wrong or slept thru it, I can’t remember.  Either way, Dusky Sound and Thompson Sound was pretty boring really compared to the grandeur of Milford Sound at the end of the day.  The weather was rainy, cold & dreary, but it was still lovely.

After nearly 2wks of seeing nothing but sky and ocean when going out on the open decks, it was kinda surreal to walk out and see these towering majestic mountain surrounding the ship.  We are 14 floors above the water level as it is, so it was amazing to feel dwarfed besides these mountains.  Seeing snow atop them was pretty darn cool also !!!

When it came time for lunch, we were torn what to do as we wanted something more than the outdoor grill but didn’t want to head indoors and miss anything, so we went to the dining room and talked the waiter into giving us a window table and opening the curtains up as WIDE as they would go.

The chicken was to die for… and having the view we had out the window beside us….  perfection !!

The kids were all busy at the youth centres and were missing everything, so I went in search of them and dragged their butts out into the open to enjoy this most likely once in a lifetime experience.

Room on the front open deck was at a premium while in Milford Sound.  It really was breathtaking and everyone wanted to experience it to the full.  It was quite cold to be out there, but well worth it.

It was really interesting to be told that the Fiords are far deeper than they are wide, so this answers the obvious question of how such a big vessel can get in there.

The wildlife consists of dolphins, seals and birds.  Introduced species include mice, rats, hare and deer.  Among the birds are the Kakapo, the only flightless parrot in the world.  Also, of course, there is the Kiwi.

Access into the park is limited, with the drive in being a 9hr journey from Christchurch.  Helicopters and scenic flights run and we did see a helicopter during our day there.  We did also see some kayakers which was pretty cool as they seemed like little dots down there in the water.

Sadly, the day did need to come to an end and we began our journey home. There were mixed emotions that evening as we realised we’d hit our home stretch, as we were keen to get home and see loved ones, but also, life on the ship is just so relaxing and we knew that we just wouldn’t relax to that degree once at home.  Surprisingly, the last 3 days at sea really dragged.  Our first sea day heading home was also our second formal night of the cruise.

It was on this formal night that we had the Princess cruises 50th birthday dinner.  They’ve been having lots of different celebrations all through 2015.  This is the menu from the evening.

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Also, just to show how much I fully immerse myself in a cruise, one of my favourite parts of the day was straight after dinner when the following days ‘Princess Patter’ would be waiting for us outside our stateroom.  It told of the following days events, weather, destinations etc.  Each day also gave you a rundown on a particular senior crew member.

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In the last few days, I headed out with my camera to hopefully get some good shots of the ship etc.

The second last night of the cruise was hands down my MOST favourite part of the cruise.  Christmas Carols in the Atrium with the senior officers & crew !!  As the average age of passengers on the ship was about 65, the crowd was full of ‘older folk’ who REALLY enjoy their traditional carols.. and man did they all get into it.  You haven’t been apart of Carols until you’ve done it with 4 packed levels of robustly singing cruise passengers.  Jordan Peterson was on the piano and leading the singing but really didn’t need to do much leading.  Jordan was one of the cruise entertainers who we had come to love listening to most nights after dinner.  He really is very talented and would have a go at anything requested of him …. and basically do a great job every time.

The last sea day of the cruise involved a lot of packing & organising etc as everyone needs to have their luggage outside their stateroom before going to dinner that night.  This is so the cabin stewards can collect them while everyone is at dinner, rather than possibly disturbing people by doing it later in the evening.

Enjoying the last few days of the cruise….  favourite spots on the ship, favourite food, favourite times of day (Movies Under the Stars), seeing the last few sunsets over the ocean.

Sadly, the day of disembarkation had to come around eventually, and on Friday 18th Dec, it was upon us.  We had chosen the latest disembarkation timeslot of 9.45am thinking we may as well not have to rush off the ship, but something more like 8.30 would’ve been better as nothing is really open & available anyway as the crew is busy preparing for the next influx of passengers arriving that afternoon.

Top things I’ll miss about the cruise & therefore the biggest blessings of going on a cruise –

  • Endless hours with my husband
  • no cooking & cleaning
  • staring out into the stunningly blue ocean with no land in site
  • Talking to my Heavenly Father on Promenade deck looking out to sea.
  • the cruise atmosphere.
  • Yeah ok…. THE FOOD !!  (However, I do only put on 200g, so I think that’s pretty darn good… the secret is to always take the stairs.)

So that’s it peeps…  Cruise done & dusted !!  I really want to shout out right now to my DH who, without his years of hard work and dedication to providing for our family, this cruise would not have come about.

The ships final log read…

At 0200 the Brisbane local pilot boarded us as we commenced our alteration to port to enter into Moreton Bay to assist us with our transit up to the Portside passenger terminal.  The passage itself took around 5 hours, with us approaching the berth to be all fast starboard side alongside by 0700.  

& finally, all I can say is… if you’ve ever dreamed of cruising.. you should so do it !!!!!!

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Blessings Peeps !!!  xox

Cruising to New Zealand – Days 9 & 10

Sea Princess log Saturday 12th December 2015.

In the early hours Sea Princess made her approaches to Akaroa Heads.  From there Sea Princess proceeded toward her anchor position in Akaroa Bay.  When in position Sea Princess let go her Port Anchor at 0644.  Shortly after, the first passenger tenders proceeded ashore.

Akaroa was our only port that required use of the tender boats.  We were going on another booked tour today..  Scenic Akaroa by Double decker bus.  This was a great sightseeing tour around Akaroa and the spectacular Banks Peninsula area while riding on board a beautifully restored 1960s London Routemaster Double Decker Bus. ( of course we sat on the top level.. why go on a double decker bus and sit on the bottom level?  I mean, seriously)  We headed all the way up into the hills and made a stop at the Hilltop Cafe (aptly named right) We had a great morning tea there as well as had pictures with a particularly friendly sheep.

While on the tenderboat heading ashore , we were chatting with the gentleman I was sitting next to.  He asked where we were from etc, all the normal question guests ask each other when chatting, but while talking to him, I really seemed to recognise his voice. Anyway, he went on to ask us if we ever attend the EKKA and as soon as he said that, I knew where I knew his voice from.  He’s an announcer at the EKKA, and has been for as long as I can remember.  It was really fascinating hearing some of his stories.  He actually does announcing work all over Australia, including all of the other ‘EKKA type’ shows in other states.

We sat with him & his wife up at the cafe and continued to chat while having a very nice coffee/hot chocolate.

The town of Akaroa was originally founded by the French, and it has certainly retained a lot of that heritage throughout.  Jaz unknowingly dressed to fit in beautifully.  LOL.

After being dropped off in the town centre by the DD bus, we leisurely made our way through the town and back towards the ship.  There was a lighthouse we’d been told was worth seeing up past where we would re-board the tenderboat.

The sights, mainly the gardens, in the town centre really reminded us of having been in NZ back in 2008.  The soil must be fantastic over there as the gardens are always stunning, as well as the general countryside being so green & lush.

This stop in Akaroa was the closest to anything we saw last time we did NZ.  We didn’t go to the North Island at all last time, so each stop there was completely new, and we also never got to the very bottom of the South Island, so the next stop of Dunedin was much anticipated.  One of the tours available from Akaroa was a bus trip into Christchurch,  which was one of the places we based ourselves in 2008.  You could also do the Tranz Alpine  train journey over Arthur’s Pass from this destination also. We did this last time and it was AMAZING !!  I would highly recommend it to anyone going to NZ.

After exploring the lighthouse and surrounds, DH & Master 13 headed off up a bush track in search of further adventure while Miss 14, Master 10 & I headed back to jump on a tender boat back to the Sea Princess.

Being out on Promenade deck was interesting to watch the passing scenery as we made our way out of Akaroa Harbour.  The ships log read as follows.

With all passengers back on board and all tenders recovered at 1735 Sea Princess commenced heaving her port anchor.  The port anchor was ‘aweigh’ from the sea bed at 1755 and brought home at 1810.

Hearing the anchor come up was fascinating too as it was a full 15mins of very loud ‘clunk clunk clunk’.  You couldn’t hear it from inside but as we were out on deck, we could hear it very clearly.

Sunday Dec 13th brought us to dock in stunning, but bitingly COLD Port Chalmers. The ships log read..

At 0537 Sea Princess embarked the local pilot and made her approach into the channel.  Swinging the vessel in front of the berth arriving all fast at 0722.

(I’m thinking whichever Officer did that log wasn’t in the mood for chit-chat.. LOL)

We had been warned by the Captain the previous night that the temperature in Port Chalmers/Dunedin was to be a chilly 11 degrees.  I promptly went to the store onboard and purchased an additional jumper, as well as a scarf.  As we were lining up to disembark, you could feel the cool air coming in through the open door at the gangway and many of us were commenting that it didn’t seem too bad and we’d probably find it quite pleasant.  Well, the very instant that you stepped out of the ship, the cold wind hit you.. and I’d say the wind chill factor was -50… ok, it probs wasn’t that cold in reality, but it sure felt like it.

We had a booked tour organised for Dunedin and the train we were to board was waiting for us on arrival and sitting only 50m from the ship.  You’d have thought we would have found it ok, being such a short distance, but no, that was the longest 50m of my entire life.  Brrrrrrr.

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The train took us through the dramatic Taieri Gorge on a journey that crosses 19th century cast-iron bridges and travels through 10 mountain tunnels.  I just LOVE train journeys so I really enjoyed this trip.  The commentary was great by the volunteers in our carriage.  They told us all about the lore of the central Otago region and it’s colourful gold rush days.

Disembarking the train at the heritage listed Dunedin Railway station, we boarded a motor coach for the scenic drive to Larnach Castle.

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William James Mudie Larnach, of Scottish descent, was born in 1833 in New South Wales, Australia. His banking career began in Melbourne then followed the gold rush to the Australian goldfields where he was manager of the Bank of New South Wales at Ararat. His bank was a tent and his equipment consisted of dogs, a gun, and strong boxes.

Gold was discovered in Otago, New Zealand, in the 1860’s. Larnach was offered the position of manager of the Bank of Otago in Dunedin, which serviced the extensive goldfields. He sailed for Dunedin in 1867.

Larnach’s brillant career encompassed his merchant empire Guthrie and Larnach, banking, shipping, farming, landholding, politics and… speculation. He travelled extensively and was a cabinet minister in the New Zealand Government, holding various portfolios, over a period of twenty-five years.

Larnach was married three times and had six children. He was pre-deceased by his first two wives and his eldest daughter, Kate.

He took his own life in the New Zealand Parliament Buildings in 1898.

Building Larnach Castle
Larnach was a man of great vision and created a magnificent residence for himself and his family.

A story is told that William Larnach and one of his sons went for a horse ride along the top of the Otago Peninsula to choose the best site for their home. Today you can still see why this site was chosen as it has wonderful panoramic views of Dunedin, Otago Harbour, the Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean.

First the site was clear-felled, then the hill site was levelled by putting pegs into the volcanic rock and pouring salt water on them to split the rock. Approximately 200 men spent three years building the shell of the Castle and then gifted European craftsmen spent 12 years embellishing the interior.

Materials from all over the world were used – marble from Italy, slate from Wales, floor tiles from England, glass from Venice and France. No expense was spared in creating Larnach’s dream home! Many New Zealand native woods were also used – kauri ceilings, rimu floors and honeysuckle panelling. In 1885 a 3,000 square foot Ballroom was added.

The Larnach Family
Larnach’s first wife Eliza Guise, had six children – Donald, Douglas, Kate, Colleen, Alice and Gladys. Eliza died at the age of 38 when Gladys was still a baby. Larnach then married Eliza’s half sister Mary Alleyne. They were married for 5 years when sadly Mary also died at the age of 38. Larnach then married a much younger lady, Constance de Bathe Brandon.

Larnach was struck by tragedy when his favourite daughter Kate died in her 20s. Five of the children were sent to England for their education. This meant long sea voyages and a lot of time away from the Castle and family.

After Larnach’s suicide in 1898 the family was further torn apart by legal battles over Larnach’s property as he died intestate. The family then sold the Castle in 1906.

Going up the very narrow 27 steps to the tower was pretty cool.  You can defs see the full 360 degrees from up there.

You can see from the picture above that the castle was built was scottish ‘castle like’ features, but also the Australian ‘Queenslander’ style with the wide verandahs.  You can see they are now glassed in, but originally there were open as William Larnach was  used to in Australia, but apparently they were soon to learn that they were very unprotected high on the hill, back when there were no trees to form a wind break etc.  It was very unpleasant to be outside so the verandahs were closed in with the glass you see now.

During the drive back, we were treated to all sorts of fun info on Dunedin & surrounds.  For example, one of their streets is in the guiness book of records as being the steepest street in the world.  Some of the other passengers from the Sea Princess had a go at running down it. (the younger passengers clearly)

The buildings throughout Dunedin were really lovely.  Very obviously Scottish design etc.  Another interesting note was the Welsh Dragon over the doors of the Dunedin Fire station.  I could show you soooo many pictures, but I’d be here all day.

At 1703 all passengers were back onboard Sea Princess and at 1704 The Captain gave the order to commence singling up the morning lines.  At 1705 all mooring lines were back onboard and Sea Princess began thrusting off the berth and proceeding out through the narrow chanel before setting South Westerly courses around the southern coast of New Zealand toward the Fiordland National Park.

Ok…  that’s it for days 9 & 10.  Man this holiday is taking forever to blog post.. mainly because my internet is rubbish…  bring on NBN…  hopefully that will greatly improve things.

Blessings peeps !!!

 

 

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