Last day of cruising…

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The last day of cruising and the sun rises in a huge ball of fire over the port of Tauranga.

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The morning sun highlights Mount Maunganui as the tug boats gently nudge the Oosterdam into the dock. Tauranga is the home of my daughter and we will be meeting her later today.

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Look at that blue sky it is a perfect Easter Saturday and we walk along the wharf and notice the cherry picker with a crew cleaning the outside windows. It certainly is a ship-shape ship. Only a 15 minute walk to the centre of Mount Maunganui and time for a short look around down town.

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The local art group have a display in the park. The standard is high and we admire the paintings.

Then Jackie picks us up and we go for a coffee, then on to her place.

I’ve developed a sore throat and a slight cough, I’m not feeling 100%. There has been a lot of coughs and colds going through the passengers and I hoped I had escaped it, but it seems to have caught up with me on the very last day. So far Jack is OK.

Being Easter it is the Annual Tauranga Jazz Festival. 3 years ago we were here and enjoyed the music and dancing in the streets (Take a look at that post here) So after lunch we walked the short distance to the Esplanade to join the crowds enjoying the music.

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Jack soon found a willing young woman to dance with him.

Then he found another willing person. I was fascinated with the dancing style of the bloke in blue behind Jack. What would you call his style?

We only had a couple of hours before it was time to head back to the boat. It was good to catch up with Jackie and Greg, even though it was only for such a short time. But we will be coming back again in a couple of weeks to stay longer.

So now it was time to pack our bags. The organisation of every thing on board is immaculate and the routine for the bags and leaving tomorrow morning is all orchestrated to the last detail. The bags must be outside our cabin door by 11pm with colour coded and numbered labels. Then some one will whisk them away ready for us to pick up as we leave. Tomorrow they have almost 2000 people to collect luggage and disembark. Without the organisation it could be chaos. I’m impressed.

Just a couple more details to tidy up, take the books back to the library and the video back to the front desk and at the same time check our account. There has been a couple of things I have to pay for but only expecting approx. $150 on our account. BUT it is just over $300… I scan the account. How can it be!!! Then I found it, “service charge”, Each day I had put the “service please” sign on the door, thinking, in my innocence, that was in the price of the cruise. The sign was to let them know we were not there and it was free for them to go in… Well I guess it must be some where in the small print that room service is an extra. Oh well I did enjoy not having to do any thing for 14 days and having clean towels, beds made. But it had gone through my mind that not many doors had the service sign out, I thought maybe they were all sleeping in….

Next morning we docked at Auckland the final destination.

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I had requested a 9am departure as my son and partner would be picking us up. So we had time for one last delicious breakfast. The intercom started calling the colour codes and numbers at 7-30am. It was just after 9 when I heard our “yellow 5” called. The bags were all lined up near the exit. We soon found ours and headed down the gang-plank with a group of the friendly staff waiting to wave us good-bye.

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So what was my final impression of the cruising lifestyle?

For a totally relaxing holiday I would rate it a 5 out of 5. The food was excellent, plenty of variety and choice of restaurants. Immaculate presentation, well organised. Friendly, helpful staff. Good variety of entertainment every night. Plenty of space to, surprisingly, find quiet spots to be on my own. The cabin had a window and was larger than I expected, another plus.

Value for money, definitely. The extras were there to pay for, if you needed them ie. alcohol, spa treatment, personal trainer, casino. But the basic fare covered all you needed for life on board. ( We could’ve made our own beds!!!)

On the minus side, the tours were expensive and only having a few hours in each port it is very restricting for actually getting to see and appreciate each place. I like to take my time exploring new places and do not like moving around to a time frame with a crowd. But I knew New Zealand so the reason for this trip was not to see the country or go on the tours, but to experience a cruise. So on that basis I thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

Would I do another cruise? I’m not sure… I certainly would not take a cruise to a country I had never been to before, preferring to fly there and take my time exploring and travelling on land to my itinerary.

A few days after we settled in with my son, Jack developed the cold. We both had a very bad dose. Maybe because we had not been able to have the flu injections before we left Australia. The weather also was dismal. So we just relaxed enjoying life with Laurie and Kerry. And unfortunately sharing our cold with them…

We had another 4 weeks in New Zealand and have now been home in Australia for 3 weeks. My how time flies…

Categories: cruise, Jazz festival, Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, Oosterdam, photos, Tauranga | Tags: , , , | 37 Comments

A Walk in Windy Wellington…

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and is at the southern end of the North Island. The cruise ship terminal was only a 20 minute walk from the CBD area. This was one of the only ports that we could actually walk off the port. Mostly we had to be taken in a bus as the port authority does not allow people to wander willy nilly due to security…

It was an overcast, cool sort of day but, unusually, only a slight breeze blowing. My plan was to wander around and see where it took me.

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The buildings of the CBD loomed around me and I passed a couple of sculptures with no explanations.

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Rounding a corner I walked past a very large, what looked like a sandstone building. I had to have a closer look when I read the information board and discovered it was built from wood.

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It was originally planned to have the building constructed in concrete and timber, but the cost of concrete at the time led to a decision to build in timber alone. The Italianate, Neo-Renaissance style was usually the domain of stone buildings, thus the building is designed to mimic stone. As an important symbol of nationhood the building was constructed to resemble an Italian stone palace to help convey its strength and stability in the expanding empire.[1] The timber is native kauri, which could not be replicated because New Zealand’s remaining public kauri forests are permanently protected. If the building had been constructed out of stone as planned, it may not have survived subsequent earthquakes, as it is situated near a major fault line.[3] The architect was William Clayton (information from Wikipedia)

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It is now the Wellington Law School but the public are allowed to look into the foyer area, so in I went through these ornate doors.

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A very grand staircase but I could not go upstairs, this was only for students use.

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Looking out through the window I could see the distinctive shape of the Parliament House, referred to as the “Beehive”.

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There it is, New Zealand’s seat of power. No time today to go inside.

So I walked on past the shops, restaurants and office buildings. All looking much the same as in Australia. Then I spotted a sign pointing down a narrow lane to the cable car and Botanic Gardens. This is more in my interest. I am not a shopping type of person…

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Here it comes.

The Cable Car has been in operation since 1902 and carries in excess of 1,000,000 passengers a year and runs every ten minutes between Lambton Quay and Kelburn, for the benefit of local residents and tourists alike.

 Only $4 for a one way ticket the cable car allows easy access from its terminal on Lambton Quay in the CBD to the top entrance of the Botanic Garden and the Kelburn lookout. Three intermediate stops allow for easy access to local residential and business addresses and at Salamanca access to the Kelburn campus of Victoria University.

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From the top I looked out across Wellington Harbour and the distant hills the city is built on.

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Directly opposite the cable car terminus is the entry to the Botanic Gardens. The brochure tells me it is a 40 minute down hill stroll back to the CBD. So in I went with camera at the ready.

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As I would expect in New Zealand it is very lush and green.

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With the tree ferns popping up every where.

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Morton Bay pine, Hoop Pine

At this time of the year, in fact most of the year, the New Zealand bush is not a colourful place, but the myriad shades of green are so peaceful. But I did spot some colour…


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These aloes were such a vivid contrast to the surrounding green.

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Here a lone tree flaunts its autumn foliage. (I spy a bench too)

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Nearing the bottom now as I walk down these steps.

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As I leave the Botanic Gardens behind I follow the path and then round a corner I come across a quite different garden.

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The Lady Norwood Rose Garden. They are at the end of the season but still putting on a colourful display.

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I see a begonia house and a café across the other side of the rose beds. But did you notice those 3 coaches in the top photo of the rose gardens? Yes it is the passengers from Oosterdam on their conducted tour and the café is full. So I wander round the tropical display in the green house.

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Peace Garden

This is just outside the rose garden.

The Peace Garden’s flame comes from fire created by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II.

The flame was presented by the people of Japan to New Zealand in recognition of their efforts against atomic weapons.

The flame is in the Japanese Pagoda and there were many Asian people here taking each others photos in front of this idyllic scene.

Not exactly sure which way to go next I asked a local and he pointed me through an old historic cemetery, which would take me across a bridge over the motorway…


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This is the bridge over the motorway and it was very controversial when it was built as it cut right through the centre of the cemetery.

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This is the remaining cemetery on the other side of the motorway.

It is a peaceful sanctuary of cultivated and forested open space. Over 1,300 carved and worn monuments are distributed throughout the Cemetery that straddles the motorway. A nationally important collection of heritage roses, some dating from the colonial era, inter-twine with other early plantings amongst picket fences and wrought iron surrounds. Walkways offer a unique stroll between the city centre and the formal Rose Garden of the Botanic Gardens.

Time had passed and now I had to walk briskly to be back at the cruise liner before it sailed. So it was back past Parliament and the old wooden Government House and then I caught up with a steady stream of other passengers heading the same way. The wind had picked up and it was a frisky head wind that we all battled into. Windy Wellington was running true to form.


“Restless Jo” leads a dedicated group of cyber walkers. They take us on walks all over the world. Go across and see where in the world they all are this week.


Categories: cruise, Jo's Monday walks, New Zealand, Oosterdam, photos, travel, Wellington | Tags: , , , , | 48 Comments

The day I met a fellow blogger Jill…

There are some days during a trip that stand out above all others, as a highlight, a memorable occasion. Our day in Napier was one of those days. It was the day we met fellow blogger Jill and her husband John.

They are intrepid travellers and Jill’s blog has been on my list of must reads since she recently started taking us on journeys around her world in New Zealand and beyond. She has a way with words that describe her travels so well they make me get itchy feet and want, no yearn, to visit the locations and adventures she shares. In fact her descriptions are so good she has been asked to write a guest post on “Travel Gumbo” Take a look, you will be entranced with the country of Laos that Jill and John recently visited.

So when I asked Jill what she could recommend for us to see in her home town of Napier for the few hours the cruise ship docked there. I received a very special reply from Jill.

 “How would you like a chauffeur named John and a map reader called Jill?”

Wow, would I ever. I immediately replied and that set in motion a very special day.

I have been to Napier several times (take a look here for the last time we visited)

The Oosterdam docked in Napier on Good Friday. A perfect Autumn day, warm and sunny and when we met it was like greeting long time friends. That sort of instant rapport. We never stopped chatting. 

They took us on a half hour drive into the countryside around Napier to Te Mata Peak.

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John was the ideal chauffeur, patient and accommodating of 3 photography tragics. Obligingly stopping as we ohhed and ahhed at the green lush scenery so we could hop out cameras at the ready.
Then we reached the narrow winding road seemingly reaching to the sky.
A straggly line of people appeared, trudging toward the summit. It was a poignant reminder that this is Good Friday as they paused to let us by.
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Then we were at the top…
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Look carefully you will see the narrow road with a vehicle like a matchbox toy coming up. The Heretaunga Plain stretches to the ocean.
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What a view it is breathtaking. But Jack is busy with his own version.
“Look at me” he calls…
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“Got ya'”…
As well as the road there are also walking/running tracks crisscrossing the slopes.
Dog walkers

Dog walkers

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I could feel her exhilaration at making it to the top.

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We had this magic place almost to ourselves with only a few other runners and walkers and another couple of cars. But time to move on. As John carefully backed out he is stopped and told to wait as 3 tourist buses are on the way up. We wait for one, then they let us go before the other 2 come up.

I  thank Jill and John and the wonderful connecting world of WordPress. Those 3 buses are bringing fellow passengers from the Oosterdam. Imagine 3 x approximately 40 on each bus milling around…

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Back down we look back to the formidable Te Mata Peak towering 399 metres above us.

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The scenery changes to lush green and the sheep are scattered across the paddocks.

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On the way back to Napier Jill and John still have a couple of surprise to show us.

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Te Awanga Beach, hopefully for a coffee, but being Good Friday it was shut. No worries Jack is still talking, maybe telling about the one that got away!!!

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One last place was up to Bluff Hill Lookout where we gazed down on the Oosterdam seeming to take up the whole harbour, dwarfing the tiny tugboat waiting to guide us out.

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As we walked toward the shuttle bus that would take us back to the Oosterdam these characters approached us asking if we would take their photo on their cell phones. Of course we took their photo on our cameras too.

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Just what were they doing we asked. Just having fun and making people smile they said…

What a great ending, the whole day has been about connecting and smiling. The few hours we spent together with Jill and John is a tribute to the strength of the WordPress community in sharing and connecting world-wide and is one of the aspects of this media that is so appealing.

A very big THANK YOU Jill and John for your generosity and giving us an unforgettable tour of your beautiful part of New Zealand.

Jill posted about our visit shortly after the event. It is written in Jill’s inimitable style, take a look here. 

But wait there’s more…Napier Jill John JC 104_2292x1832

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As we arrived back a 4 piece Dixie jazz band greeted us and a row of vintage cars with their owners dressed in the style of the era gathered to wish us “Bon Voyage” 

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It was a very appropriate and emotional farewell to Napier, the Art Deco capital of New Zealand. I had a lump in my throat as they played “Now is the hour” and waved goodbye as the cruise liner slowly pulled away from the port.

I took a rather shaky video of the moment. There is rather a lot of back ground noise as the tour director on board welcomed us back and started to tell us what we had in store for the evenings entertainment.


Categories: cruise, Napier, New Zealand, Oosterdam, photos | Tags: , , , | 56 Comments


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It was 7am and we ate breakfast and watched as the Oosterdam was slowly manipulated into the port of Dunedin by busy little tug boats.

Known as the Edinburgh of New Zealand, Dunedin is the country’s city of the south, wearing its Scottish heritage with pride. Surrounded by dramatic hills and at the foot of a long, picturesque harbour, Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. 

Cruise liners organise many tours at each port, but I consider them overpriced. Now the downside, for me, of cruising, is the short amount of time that is available to explore each port stop. If you have never visited a country  possibly the best option is to take a tour. After all you may never be back this way again…

It is many years since I last visited Dunedin so our decision was to take the shuttle bus, organised by the Oosterdam, at the cost of US$20 return, which took us downtown.

So come with me, the weather is perfect, and gaze at the magnificent Edwardian style buildings built-in the late 1880’s when, due to the discovery of gold, Dunedin became the largest city, by population in New Zealand.

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Time to stop for lunch, but still much more to see.

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Now this is the jewel in the crown of the buildings in Dunedin. It is reported to be the most photographed building in New Zealand.

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What a magnificent building, and it is still used as a train station. Admire the detail.

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The inside is also very impressive.

Benches for Jude

Benches for Jude

Dunedin was built on the remnants of an extinct volcano. The city suburbs extend out into the surrounding valleys and hills. One very little known fact is that the steepest street in the world can be found tucked away in these suburbs. We went to have a look at it…

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No we didn’t walk up, just took the photo then caught the local bus back to town…

The final place I left till last was the Chinese Gardens and they are so charming and exquisite that they deserve a post of their own.

To be continued…


Categories: cruise, Dunedin, New Zealand, Oosterdam, photos | Tags: , , , , | 25 Comments

Majestic Milford Sounds


During the 14 days cruise we called into 10 ports including Sydney, the starting point, and Auckland the disembark port. So almost every day we had a different place to explore.

From Sydney and along the coast of Australia it was a full day sailing and then a stop at Melbourne. Then another full day sailing to Hobart, before leaving Australia behind and taking 2 days sailing across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. So 4 full days at sea gave us time to explore all the Oosterdam had to offer on board.

Milford Sounds was to be our first sight of New Zealand, or as the Māori name it, Aotearoa, “land of the long white cloud”. These large liners could not go into the Sounds unless the weather was calm. Two of our friends had been on recent cruises that had missed the spectacular cruise through this World Heritage area due to wild weather.

But we were lucky…

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At 7am we rushed out to the Promenade Deck to see the misty, majestic cliffs of Milford Sounds slowly floating by.

We had been here before, but on a smaller boat. It was raining that day and the waterfalls were cascading down the sheer rock face. A very different experience to today. (Go here to see it)

“Milford Sounds has been judged the world’s top travel destination in an international survey (the 2008 Travelers’ Choice Destinations Awards by TripAdvisor)[1][2] and is acclaimed as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination.[3] Rudyard Kipling had previously called it the eighth Wonder of the World.[4]“(Wikipedia)

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This was the small boat we went in last time and quite a number of passengers had booked to take this tour which would take them closer to the waterfalls and further into the fiord.

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I took so many photos, it is mesmerizing.

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See how every one is dressed? It was very chilly on deck.

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By 11am we had moved through this fiord and could go inside and warm up with a cuppa and some food. But we still had 2 more fiords to cruise through. At 1pm we would be in Doubtful Sound

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By 1pm, as we sailed into Doubtful Sound, the mist had cleared and it can be seen why this land is called “the land of the long white cloud”

But the day is not over yet. At 3pm we sailed into Dusky Sound.

Slowly the mountain profile of this magical land disappears over the horizon and everyone on board is delighted that this time this huge liner was able to cruise through this very special place.

Now it was back to ship board life, as over night we sail to the next port of call. Tomorrow we wake up to Dunedin…

To be continued… 


Categories: cruise, Milford Sounds, New Zealand, Oosterdam, photos | Tags: , , , | 37 Comments

Fun and Games on Board…

Finding quiet moments on board a cruise liner are an option, but they have so many other options to keep every one amused that it is almost impossible to fit every thing into the day.

Here are a few of the things I enjoyed.

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Each day a computer workshop would be held to show how to do various things, usually quite basic. BUT they did not include any use of the internet. If you wanted to use internet connection it would cost US$55 for 100 minutes. The connection was very slow and unreliable so we all know how frustrating that would be… I didn’t connect with the internet for 14 days!!!!

The class is waiting for the tutor to arrive, notice what some are doing to fill in time????


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As I’ve mentioned the food was very good, and varied and regular cooking demonstrations were held. I went to a couple of them. After the demonstration we had samples to try. Yummy…


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This is the start of a dance class. The dance teachers, on the stage, very patiently took us through the basic steps of the samba, again and again. I have to admit that we just couldn’t get it. So when they had taken us through all the steps and then turned on the music we admitted defeat and just did our own bit of a boogie in the corner.

It was a competition and each session the best dancers, chosen by audience clapping, went on to the next round. On the last evening the finalists competed and the best couple won a cruise.


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If cards were your thing you could go along to this room and join in all different sessions.


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Are you a shopaholic? Then this is the place. A small shopping arcade and every time you bought any thing you received a raffle ticket. This is the scene at the big raffle draw…

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One of my favourites was the art auction.

Given a glass of bubbly and 20 minutes to wander round looking at the art. Any that interested you put a sticker on.

Just a small selection here. Then the auction began…

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It was a quick fire auction and some did get sold. I kept my hands firmly in my lap…


In the evenings the pace picked up with a choice of classical music played on the piano and violin.

Jack did this drawing of the pianist as I did not take a photo

Jack did this drawing of the pianist as I did not take a photo

There was also a piano bar playing popular tunes from the shows. A dance band in another area to dance the night away to. And BB King’s blues club.


Every night a different show was performed in the grand 3 level showroom. Singing, dancing, illusionist and my favourite was when our happy Indonesian staff performed a selection of songs and dances from their home country.

I did not take any photos of the showroom as the light was very dim, but Jack busily sketched away while we waited for the show to start.

These are just a small sample of the things to do.

Other things included an indoor and outdoor pool both heated with hot spars to soothe the aching muscles. The green room for massage, facials, hair care and all other things to pamper you (at a cost). The gym equipped with all modern equipment to keep you fit. And don’t forget we had to walk 3 times a day to the restaurant of choice for our meals.


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If it all became a bit too much you could just laze around and read a book on your Kindle.

But that’s not all… Most days we woke up to find we had docked at another port to explore…


To be continued….

Categories: cruise, Oosterdam, travel | Tags: , , | 33 Comments

WordPress photo challenge : Luxury Afloat…

What a perfect challenge from the WordPress team this week. After 2 weeks afloat in luxury I would love to share it with you…

Obviously a great deal of thought and design has gone into the décor. I found it restful and refined. The royal blue of the carpets with lots of brass fittings, the sweeping stairs down into the Atrium with the large, impressive, magnificent, revolving Waterford crystal world slowly turning and catching the light from the chandeliers. Exquisite artwork adorns the walls. a warm palette of colors accentuating an extensive use of crystal, marble, inlaid woods and brass, lovely flower arrangements, antiques and a full wraparound teak promenade deck with padded deck chairs. Words cannot really do the atmosphere and ambience of this cruise ship justice so I will take you for a photo tour through this luxurious ship I called home for 2 weeks.

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This impressive globe hung above 3 decks of the Atrium area. Behind it you can see part of the art gallery.

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Unusual light fittings glowed in the star encrusted ceiling that glittered with tiny lights.Watson Bay cruise day 1 pc 040_3000x4000

 This corridor leads to the Casino. No photos are allowed to be taken in that area, but it had all the equipment to entice you to gamble the night away. This is a no cash environment, your door card, with your number and name, acts as a credit card for all purchases. So easy to run up a large bill. We were very careful, everything, including all alcohol, is charged at US$. But there is so much more entertainment available for free.

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Looking through to the Pinnacle Restaurant. This restaurant offered a fine dining experience and was the only restaurant that charged for the meal. From $29 to $69. We did not dine here as the other restaurants were covered in the cost of the cruise and we considered their food to be of an excellent quality.

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But I did take a photo of this restaurant.

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This is the entrance to the Vista Restaurant, the A ‘la carte dining room, these meals were included in the cost of the cruise. When they had the formal evenings we would go here for dinner. Notice on the right hand side there is a hand sanitizer? They were set up every where and there was notices requesting us to wash hands and be aware of healthy habits, even told at the end of announcements over the intercom to wash our hands…

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Jack all togged out in his formal Suit

This is the Vista Restaurant.

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Seats are scattered everywhere.

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Fresh flowers are everywhere.

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 All the dining tables have a dainty orchid on them. Jack carried his sketch pad with him all the time and did 2-3 sketches of ship board life every day. This is a sketch of the orchids.

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The Vista Dining Room also served afternoon tea every day. This particular day it was an Indonesian theme with delicious Indonesian delicacies to have with our tea or coffee. 

 It was the small details that impressed me. Every day these delightful fruit carvings greeted us in the Lido Bistro Restaurant.

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I loved this “Tromp l’oeil” art work. I could imagine strolling around this classic Italian style garden, so peaceful.

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These are the lift doors. Each lift  has a notice board on the wall alongside to let you know exactly where you are and what is on this deck. This is absolutely essential as the ship is so large I easily got lost in the first few days.

I realised that I didn’t get photos of all the areas. I missed the Green Spa area, where, for a price, you could indulge in various massages, facials, hair styling and cuts, manicures, pedicures and all that sort of pampering. The gym and a number of the bars I also missed. Maybe I will have to go on another cruise…

But apart from eating and wandering around admiring everything there was a great entertainment programme and of course there are the ports to be explored…

To be continued…


Categories: cruise, Oosterdam | Tags: , , | 48 Comments

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