It’s Monday 20th February, my 66th birthday and I’m in the airport in Singapore heading for Perth for a family reunion.. It’s been an amazing 26 day trip on this wonderful ship the Seven Seas Voyager. The guests have been a special group, seemingly ‘up’ for everything, certainly everything I’ve been asked to do, with a large number who have previously sailed on cruises with me. The flight to Auckland was long and tiring with stops in Madrid and Dubai, before a morning arrival on North Island, and a car to the ship. Waiting for a beer and a bite were Den and Jen, friends from a previous Oceania cruise. And so off on our travels to explore the various ports along the ‘far side’ of both north and south islands. Tauranga, with a walk around the old volcanic hill, Napier and Picton, reminiscent of England in the days of yore, and Akaroa and Port Chalmers with their huge wood piles for export to China. It was a pleasant experience all around and topped off by our entry into the fjord of Milford Sound, with a ‘talk-in’ by me, where the clouds cleared and the sun gave of its best as we cruised in, pirouetted in front of the waterfalls and waited for our ‘overland’ guests to rejoin the ship.
And so to Australia. Two sea days across the Tasman Sea could have been much worse, as it often is, but we enjoyed mixed weather but nothing to be concerned about, for an early morning sail in to Sydney. As we went past the Opera House and under the Harbour Bridge the sun broke through and we began to appreciate this amazing city. I was able to spend most of the day with Terry and Sue, again friends from a previous cruise, and had a great lunch by Narra Been Lake, before we sailed away in the late afternoon. In Brisbane I met with Mike and Cassandra (yes, again good cruising friends), and a lunch by the water had been preceded by a meeting with an old school chum who I had not seen for 48 years! It could have been 48 days. I was able to visit Bee Gees Way, an avenue dedicated to the memory of the Gibb family who raised their sons here…full of photos, films, statues and music. It was a memorable experience to walk the street and sink into the nostalgia of the location.
In Cairns we experienced proper rain forest weather. Ten minute bursts of torrential rain and then ten minutes of brilliant sunshine. With many folk heading off to view the barrier reef (mostly disappointed by the lack of clear water), it was just pleasant to walk the streets of this well organised town.
At Cooktown the weather did turn against us, and the Captain’s decision to allow tendering was greeted with some incredulity by many – I had been preparing a reserve programme believing my services would be required to fill the gap…but they went ahead and ploughed through the rough seas to visit a small town shrouded in rain and low cloud. Many regretted the undertaking. Darwin was very special. I had met a couple, Linda and Don, from the USA. Linda had told me that Don had been the first pilot to land a huge B52 bomber at Darwin airport 36 years ago. I told her there was a B52 bomber in the aviation museum at Darwin – facts unknown to each of us. Put them together and you have an occasion. The three of us visited the centre, to be welcomed as honoured guests, to view the giant machine and for Don to regale them with his memories of the event. A ships tour party arrived and Don was able to help them understand what had occurred those many years ago. A day to remember.
At Komodo Island, Indonesia, the dragons were awaiting us in the forest. We trooped through in small groups, learning about the flora until we came to the waterhole where four or five of these giant lizards – the largest in the world – were dozing. They blinked, stuck out their tongues, but did little else. Remarkable none the less.
And so on to Bali for an overnight stop. For me it turned into a surreal event. The Cruise Director told me she was to make contact with another cruise director she had once worked with who was holidaying on the island. It was a man I knew well! Ray picked us up and we went to his beach front villa, where a big BBQ was being prepared. And other guests included two past cruisers that I knew well. It was surprises, hugs and smiles all round and we left with a feeling of ‘how did that all happen?’
And so the two sea days to Singapore. The trip ended with the completion of 18 lectures (I prefer to call them ‘presentations’), 4 cabaret shows, including an amazing ‘Aint Patricks Night’, where I was able to do all the Irish stuff complete with jokes and a star appearance of the guest entertainer violinist Juliette who joined me in a couple of tunes, where people were being turned away due to lack of space… a Liars Club session (Call my Bluff in English), the ‘bridge talk in’ to Milford Sound and the usual appearance as King Neptune for the crossing of the line. I sold nearly all the CD’s I brought with me, and a goodly number of the ‘Adventure before Dementia’ badges. It’s been very busy, but the crowd have been universally accepting of everything. A final flourish of a four hour city tour of the ‘Lion City’, complete with a ‘sling’ at Raffles, and then the superb organisation and comfort of the airport …I wish all cruises were like this.
A few days in Western Australia and Julie and I fly to Darwin to connect with the Seven Seas Navigator ploughing its way through rough seas (we hear) on its world cruise. We have 47 days through to Rome….many talks and shows in store…and hopefully smoother seas.