Albatross, Robert Burns and possum socks: downtime on a New Zealand cruise

Land ahoy!

Although we have seen land – cruising through the dramatic New Zealand fjords – we haven’t stepped off the ship since we left Sydney. So we’re all very excited when we dock in Dunedin, the first of three “port days” when there are no Insight talks, so as a speaker, I have time off. 

Dunedin is the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh – hence the statue of Robert Burns, which (as my Scottish husband observes) is facing the pub, with its back to the church! 

I’m going birdwatching and these birds will not be hard to spot. Dunedin is home to the only mainland breeding colony of the royal albatross. It’s windy – “perfect albatross weather” – says our guide, David, a charming zoology graduate from East Grinstead, and he’s as excited as we are when we see these massive birds in flight and spot nesting chicks on the hillside.

Christchurch is a city still recovering from the devastating 2011 earthquake, so for the first time Queen Elizabeth anchors off nearby Akaroa. We take tender boats into harbour, on a calm sea. With its pastel clapboard houses and flower-packed gardens, Akaroa is incredibly pretty. It’s a day for wandering, coffee, cake – and possum socks (made from possum wool). I was so intrigued I bought some, then worried about the possums. But they’re really warm.

After a gorgeous sunset sailaway it is a shock when we wake up the next day in the capital – busy, buzzy Wellington. It’s known as “wet and windy Wellington”, so locals are surprised with the weather: “Strewth! It’s sunny!” We take the shuttle bus to the Te Papa museum. The Terracotta Warriors are in town and are too good to miss. They’re mesmerising – each one different, powerful, unsettling.

Spectacular view of New Zealand's South Island

Spectacular view of New Zealand’s South Island

Credit:
iStock

Queen Elizabeth’s Theatre Royal is packed out every evening for the varied entertainment shows. There’s a comedy magician, the Barricade Boys – a close harmony vocal group, Benjamin Makisi – “the voice of the South Pacific”, and tonight’s headliners Ilia and Oksana, who provide “vertical cloth choreography” to music. The couple hang upside-down on ribboned hoops and there is a lot of passionate entwining. Very supple and sensuous, but I’m not quite sure where to look.

Still, it paves the way for my next talk: Passion vs Romance. My question is: “We have romcoms, why not pashcoms? Isn’t passion funny?” The audience laugh a lot as I suggest passion is Last Tango in Paris, while romance is Last Tango in Halifax. Afterwards, I am interviewed for the ship’s Cunard TV channel by the entertainment director before an audience. We talk comedy and laugh even more. I love my job.  

Soon: Jan meets friends in Auckland and the Bay of Islands. And there’s a family welcome as Queen Elizabeth returns to Sydney Harbour

Previously: Jan on her life as a cruise ship speaker.

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