I am writing this from our stateroom on the Regent Seven Seas Voyager. It's about 4pm, and we don't leave port until 9pm. The last 24 hours have been full, so I'll start by writing about where I left off yesterday.
After lunch yesterday we went out of the hotel with the good intention of going for a walk. We were warned that Auckland is a hilly city, but we didn't realize how much until we got to the end of the block. Auckland can easily match San Francisco for steeply inclined streets. The first one we attempted to walk down was tilted both forward and sideways, making it very difficult to walk. After 1 block down we decided this was beyond our physical abilities and decided to turn up the next street to just go around the block. The 4th side of this block to get back to the hotel was the worst, a very steep uphill climb. We were very glad to get back to the hotel. The Pullman hotel is across the street from the University of Auckland, so we saw many very healthy college students during our walk. This is definitely the college to attend if you want to get in shape!
At 6pm we went down to the lobby to join our group for a bus trip to dinner at the Sails restaurant. The buses were a little late, but once they arrived it was a short ride to this restaurant on one of the many marinas. The evening began with a Maori welcome/challenge at the entrance to the restaurant. (video will be posted after we get home from this trip.) Once inside, a couple serenaded us with music throughout a wonderful 3 course dinner. After dinner the Maori performers came in to dance and sing traditional music. As we left the restaurant, another group of drummers, fire dancers and hula dancers performed in the parking lot. It was a very enjoyable evening.
To make it even more enjoyable, we sat with 2 other couples, Donna and Elliot from Massachusetts and Lynne and Ron from California. The table conversation was lively and very enjoyable. I feel like we have made some new friends. As it turned out, all the people who Regent booked into the Pullman are people who have booked the cruise all the way to Beijing or, in a few cases, even further. Guests booked on shorter segments were booked into two other hotels. So we have an opportunity to really get to know some of the people we met at the Pullman, as we will be on this ship together for the next 60+ days.
This morning we got to talk to a number of other of our fellow travelers. Our bags had to be in the hall by 8am and check-out was by 10am. After that we had to wait in the lobby until 11:45am before the buses would take us to the ship, so we had almost 2 hours to socialize. We met and talked to Laurie, Martin, Barbara, Ernest and Lena. (I'm recording names in the hope I will have a better chance of remembering them.) Once the ship was ready for embarkation, 3 buses were filled with people and luggage and we took the short ride to the pier. Check-in was divided into 4 steps - checking our passports against the passenger list, carry-on bag scanning, customs check, and finally, check-in. It was pretty quick. The Voyager is a relatively small ship, holding only about 700 passengers, and the fact that they provide hotel accommodations the night before allows them to bring passengers to the pier one bus at a time. We arrived at noon and were having lunch at the poolside cafe by 12:30pm.
Now our bags are all unpacked and we are settled in, waiting for the lifeboat drill. After that we'll go to dinner and come back to our room to share a bottle of champagne for bon voyage. One of the perks of taking a cruise this long is that it has qualified us for free Internet for the cruise, so I should be able to provide regular updates on this blog, as long as we are in satellite range.