Monday, 30 December 2013

Home

Sailing up Sydney Harbour around 4.30am.


One final titillation - avert your eyes - I took the above photo standing buck naked on my balcony. Don't tell anyone!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

At sea again

The final two full days of our cruise were spent on the Tasman Sea headed for home.

There were many onboard activities. We continued to perform well at Trivia with numerous 2nd and 3rd placings but never the winners.

I attended an interesting Q&A and back stage tour with the singers and dancers who performed in the nightly shows. They were disbanding as a group at cruise end after completing a 17 months' contract with Princess Line.

The performers' Q&A

There was 'Liar's Gameshow' where passengers had to guess which of three 'celebrities' was giving the truthful definition of obscure words.

Liar's Gameshow

The last day at sea was the roughest sailing of the cruise. Not rough enough to be scary but sufficient to make walking in a straight line difficult.

Bouncy seas

Walking the long corridor to my State Room on the last night

Friday, 27 December 2013

Fiordland

Fiordland sounds like the name of a theme park but is in fact the Fiordland National Park in New Zealand which if I understand correctly contains 14 'Fiords' or 'Sounds'.

Today's activity was a majestically slow scenic cruise through three of those sounds each of which was more spectacular to the eye than its predecessor. The third sound we visited was Milford Sound, a justifiably renowned scenic location. Some of its mountains, jutting straight from the water were said to be the tallest of their type in the world.

Here are some shots of Milford Sound.

Approaching the concealed entry to Milford Sound

Entering Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Snow capped mountains

The Lido Deck and Milford Sound
Other tourist vessels on Milford Sound

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Dunny Din

I heard a news broadcaster on the esteemed BBC pronounce the New Zealand city of Dunedin precisely as in the post title back in 1974.

Well today's port was that very city. Unfortunately, like Wellington, the weather was wet. Very wet. Very, very wet so that we did little other than wander around the town centre, an area named the Octagon for obvious reasons. We also took a circuit on the Hop on, Hop off bus tour without actually doing the on/off part; except at one point. Most of what was described to us was obscured by wet window and misty skies. A pity.

Hence an absence of photos.

The one exception to our on/off 'ban' was at Dunedin's former railway station, an exotically grand old building now used for other purposes.

Here are two photos of what looks like the former ticket hall.



The port for Dunedin is Port Chalmers where we berthed alongside a sister ship, Dawn Princess. The passengers and crew of that ship gave us a rousing farewell as we departed shortly ahead of their own departure.


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Ice and Quakes

Christmas Day, our visit is to Akaroa, the port for the nearby city of Christchurch devastated by earthquakes in 2010/11.

The drive to the city from the port is about one and three quarter hours through very scenic countryside including mountainous territory.

First stop was to the International Antarctic Centre where you can learn much about that continent and experience life there without actually setting foot there. A very enjoyable experience.

International Antarctic Centre

We had an extremely rough and tumble trip in these sled vehicles to replicate local travel in the Antarctic.


We spent time in this chill room where the temperature was lowered to -18Âșc.


Christchurch remains a site of major destruction with empty lots where buildings once stood, other buildings abandoned and boarded up and others still, like its Cathedral, still bearing its damage.

Christchurch Cathedral
We travelled on a couple of trams that run on a limited track of what remains of the former city loop.



The view towards Akaroa;


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

WWW

Wet and Windy is the reputation of Wellington, New Zealand's capital and that is exactly what greeted us in today's visit to that city.

The poor weather constrained us from the wider range of available activities and we confined ourselves first to a trip on the Wellington Cable Car ( or funicular, if Andrew prefers).

Wellington Cable Car

Apart from the terminus at each end, the cable car has two intermediate stops, one of which is at the local University. The entire trip, with stops, lasts about three and a half minutes.

The view from the top station

Later we walked around in the wind and rain to the National Museum, Te Papa, which is very interesting, brilliantly presented and highly recommended.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Art decor life

Today's port is Napier, destroyed by earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt in art deco style with its claimed 'largest collection of authentic 1930s building styles in the world'.

Local newspaper building

The port was very welcoming to the ship's visit with guides everywhere many dressed in period costume.

A small fleet of 1930s (or thereabouts?) cars was available for short drives and photo opportunities.


A Dixieland band, residents in period costume and the cars then appeared dockside to farewell us in the evening.


Sunday, 22 December 2013

All things great and beautiful

Today we are in Tauranga. One of the main reasons the cruise stops here is that the town is a gateway to Rotorua but as I had visited there on my only previous visit to New Zealand I, and three of my travelling companions, chose alternative activities.

First we were taken by shuttle bus to the main shopping precinct which turned out to be one of those centres of the Westfield style with no other tourism interests in the vicinity; this being a Sunday. We made an almost immediate decision to return to the ship on the next shuttle and pursue another tour option but were thwarted by Ae who managed somehow to lose herself in the centre as we three others searched for her. That cost us an hour.

The alternative we chose, on return to the dock, was a walk around the base of Mount Mauganui a deceptively simple activity which took us about an hour to complete and exposed us to spectacularly beautiful scenery.

Mount Mauganui


The evening's 'Movie Under the Stars' (outdoor screening on the Lido deck) was 'The Great Gatsby'. Starting at 10.00pm and finishing at 12.30am this was always going to be an activity for the more dedicated cruiser. That didn't include me but I took a peek on that deck around 10.40pm and found about six hardy souls buried deep under blankets in cold and windy conditions intently viewing the film.

The Great Gatsby under the stars

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Recovery

The evening shows have improved substantially from that awful opening. Still performing strongly at trivia but some new shipboard pals are proving a worry with a startling lack of knowledge. The younger Queens are not a patch on our generation!

Spent the day in Auckland mostly visiting Devonport followed by an afternoon of bus touring. Found time late in the day to purchase a new Canon SLR to replace the drowned predecessor and it got an immediate testing on departure from the city.

Departure from Auckland

Friday, 20 December 2013

Land at last

First stop in the Bay of Islands and disaster strikes. I drown my expensive Canon SLR when a flask of water leaks in my bag and am left with only my iPhone for photography.

Toured Russell and enjoyed a burger lunch overlooking the Bay from the balcony of the local fishing club.

Lunch over the Bay

Later visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The Flagstaff marks the spot where the treaty between the Maori and the Crown was signed. Our ship can be seen in the distance anchored in the Bay.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Thursday, 19 December 2013

At sea

Days 2 (yesterday) and 3 (today) pleasant days at sea, participating in various activities. Shone at Trivia with my Queenly knowledge of films and minutiae and less Queenly knowledge of sport helping to contribute to the team effort.

Failed to impress at the formal dress Captain's dinner. I'm not a fashion Queen.

At sea, no land in sight

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Departure

I haven't been updating my blog since departing on the cruise; an indication that we've bee well engaged in our holiday and sea board activities. I'll try to catch up now with some brief and not very illuminating comments. If downloading photos proves to be a step too far under this maritime internet access then I may not post anything at all!

The departure was not without incident. Ae managed to lock herself out of her State Room twice and get her finger stuck between the door and the door frame all within the first hour on board before we had even sailed out of Sydney Harbour.

Departing Sydney


The evening showtime performance welcoming us aboard was not encouraging for the remainder of the cruise being of dubious quality.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Sux serves of fush and chups...

Yes, New Zealand here we come. As this is published we are scheduled to depart Sydney on a cruise around our Kiwi cousins and back. Thirteen nights and fourteen days as advertised; although the first and final days are 'quarter' days at best. We have eight stopping points.

I'll take my MacBook along and will try to post about the trip if internet access permits.

This is our means of transport;

Sun Princess

Monday, 16 December 2013

American Hustle


'American Hustle' has arrived in town amidst a blaze of critical acclaim. It is a colourful embellishment of actual events when the FBI set out to entrap a number of corrupt politicians.

I'm in two minds about the film. I found myself getting lost in the increasingly complex twists of who is conning who; on the other hand the film has an interesting technique, is quite stylised and is always attractive to view. The acting is excellent with Christian BaleJennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams leading the way but really the entire ensemble delivers.

The film contains a terrific 1980s soundtrack.

Perhaps I'm not as sold as the critics but this film is something different.
★★★1/2

Saturday, 14 December 2013

With help like this.....

Teenagers will be teenagers and nowadays are far more knowing than I was at the same age. I make no judgement about the actions of the three schoolboys who engaged in sexual activity with a fourteen years old girl - especially as I was myself sexually active at the same age - but I was interested in the comment of the private school they attended after being informed of what occurred; in particular

'...we worked with the families. As a result of those discussions, the boys are no longer part of the school community...'

In other words, the school expelled the boys. This may well have been the appropriate outcome but I wonder whether the families found 'working with' the school helpful.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

One promise fulfilled; one not...

The replacement jeans promised by the retailer when I notified them of Australia Post's apparent mis-delivery of my purchase have arrived.

Well done Just Jeans.

By the way, no response yet from Australia Post to my formal complaint about their mis-delivery.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

An update on online shopping

So far there has been no response from Australia Post to my complaint about the misdirected delivery of my online jeans purchase.

Now there is a surprise.

Some days after submitting my complaint it occurred to me belatedly that I should also complain to the retailer, if only so that they have feedback on the 'customer experience'. To their credit they  despatched another pair of jeans last Thursday, without cost to me, and have given me a number to call them to confirm successful delivery.

My faith in online shopping will be restored when the jeans arrive.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Coming out

(The New Yorker)

The Spectacular Now


A high school student, with a secret need for alcohol to camouflage his insecurities, pursues two romances whilst seeking out his estranged father.

This is a low key coming of age drama nicely performed by a mainly 'no names' cast who look and act like average people rather than the plastic beauties of a major studio production.
★★★

Saturday, 7 December 2013

It's an ill wind....

Sydney once had about 1,500 trams, 300 kilometres of track and the largest tram network in the then British Empire outside of London itself. There were 410 million passengers on Sydney's tram network in 1944; when the population of the entire country was only 7.3 million.



How tragic that the State Government removed Sydney's network entirely by 1961.

The light rail system reintroduced into Sydney in 1997 is being extended and plans have been announced for an extension that will run from Central Railway to Kingsford via the Cricket Ground and Football Stadium, Randwick Racecourse and the University of NSW. All at times are destinations for peak transport. That's fine.

The latest announcements include plans to remove hundreds of trees, albeit with the promise that replacement trees will be planted elsewhere along the route, the loss of hundreds of parking spaces at various points and even the destruction of an entire apartment block in Devonshire Street, Surry Hills.

This last point has perplexed me from the outset. Why are they routing the light rail via Devonshire Street? A narrower street for light rail could scarcely exist anywhere in Sydney. Why not use Oxford Street between Elizabeth Street and Taylors Square as did the original network so successfully? If Oxford Street does not suit nowadays then why not take the middle option and use Foveaux Street?

Additional plans are that existing bus routes from the south-eastern suburbs to the city will be curtailed or adjusted forcing passengers to change over to the light rail at some point. Included in those plans is a current service from Coogee to Circular Quay via Taylors Square. That service will instead divert at Taylors Square to Edgecliff.

Hello! Edgecliff? My ears prick up.

I live at Edgecliff. I live just one block from the bus and train stations in Edgecliff. That announcement will link my home through public transport to St Vincents Hospital, where I am volunteer; to Darlinghurst where my GP is located and to Randwick where I go to the movies so often. There is no direct public transport link between Edgecliff and those locations at present.

So amongst all those plans which upset so many people is one seemingly insignificant announcement which is music to my ears.

It is an ill wind.........

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

By online, buy often etc


There is a lot of discussion about online shopping versus in person shopping at retail outlets. Are shops and stores suffering because of an inability to match online prices; should the Goods and Services Tax apply online and if so at what level?

I've been shopping online for ages. That is; if you regard using my computer for theatre bookings, flight bookings, hotel reservations, car hire, travel insurance as online shopping. Even more so if you take into account online banking and payment of bills as online shopping. But I don't think that is what most people consider to be 'shopping'. I imagine most people think of online shopping as something you purchase online that has to be delivered to you.

I dipped my first toe in the water of online shopping about ten days ago. It has not gone well.

I tried on a pair of jeans at a store, found they fit well and that I liked them and decided I wanted to purchase multiple pairs. Unfortunately the store only had one pair in my size and two other stores in the same chain had none.

I went online to locate other stores in the chain that I could visit and found the jeans, in my size, available for purchase online. Not only available for purchase online but available for purchase $30 cheaper than the pair I purchased in the store.

Well, I thought, what better opportunity to start online shopping than this? I ordered and paid for the jeans online. I received an immediate email confirming the purchase and informing me I would be notified of the progress of the delivery of my purchase to my home. How wonderful!

True to the promise, two emails followed 'tracking' the delivery. Terrific, I thought.

Then something strange. A third email. My purchase had been delivered. But it hadn't. Not to me anyway. It was signed for by someone at Alexandria. I don't live at Alexandria. The delivery address was not Alexandria.

Now I'm in a formal complaints process with Australia Post to ascertain, who in Alexandria has taken delivery of my purchase, why they have done so and how do I get my purchase delivered to me.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Waiting for Godot

(Sydney Theatre Company)

A line in 'Waiting for Godot' something along the lines 'nothing much happens, no-one comes and no-one goes' pretty well describes Samuel Beckett's highly regarded play about two homeless men filling in time waiting for the mysterious and unseen Godot to arrive. No-one seems to know who Godot is, what he does or what will happen when he arrives but does that matter?

Not really, especially when performances are as outstanding as in this Sydney Theatre Company staging. Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving, Philip Quast and Luke Mullins deliver the exceptional performances.
★★★★1/2

Sunday, 1 December 2013

One Chance


'One Chance' is the story of Paul Potts, the shy carphone salesman, who dreamed of an operatic career and who entered and won Britain's Got Talent in 2007.

This is yet another of those British comedy dramas about someone on struggle street overcoming the odds to realise their dreams.

James Corden is engaging as Potts and scenes set in Venice provide a bright counterpoint to dour  Welsh scenery.

There are no real surprises and although the film is somewhat a case of 'heartwarming by numbers' it still is a pleasant way to spend a hundred minutes.
★★★

Ending HIV

'Test more' caravan at Taylors Square in Sydney for World AIDS Day