What a swell party this is – Day 1 Proper on the Crystal Symphony
I hardly need tell you that after the “I’m on a boat!” exhilaration of the first night, Day 1 proper was a slow start.
The Banker and I went down to the Bistro cafe for breakfast mid-morning, a charming (in a nice, not patronising, way) French-inspired deli which serves up pretty good coffee and Totally Amazing fresh bagels, salmon, tomato, cream cheese, jams, muesli, yoghurt and pastries. We then did a couple of circumnavigations of the Promenade Deck on 5. It is 440m around, so would take the Banker 11.4 laps to complete a 5km run, which she vows to do. There is a sign stating “Today’s Direction” as you step onto the deck, and I doubt anyone dares to go against the flow. As it turns out, we didn’t pass anyone other than maintenance men standing around peering at the rigging that lowers the lifeboats (try not to be alarmed), but perhaps some days deck 5 is flooded with eager promenaders.
Speaking of our fellow passengers – they seem to be keeping a pretty low profile. Of course, we are still in Auckland for the day, so most people go out on one of the many available shore excursions. I’m not averse to trekking around foreign cities when I’m on holiday, but gosh it’s nice to smugly say “Been there, done that” and only have to decide where to eat lunch, what time to go up to the pool, and which book to take.
We explored the ship when we first came on board, and I was delighted to see the Hollywood Cinema/Theatre which screens someone’s bizarre movie choice each evening (tonight Morgan Freeman stars in The Magic of Belle Isle. I know a little about film and I have to say this isn’t one of his biggest hits of the last few years, but having IMDbed it, I see it is about a wheelchair-bound author who re-comes of age. There may be some subtle audience-appropriate decision-making here, so I can’t fault it, other than to say I won’t be going).
Better than that, though, we have one of Australia’s most entertaining and talented pianists performing one evening, a magician, the usual cocktail lounge accompaniment of In-Transit (knocking out The Girl From Ipanema and other cruise hits) and apparently The Big Show, though I am yet to discover when that is on or what it will entail. There is also a casino (quite subtle, thankfully, and thus far completely empty every time I’ve been past), some posh shops (all closed each time I pass) and a gym/fitness center. The usual suspects. Mostly this vessel seems devoted to ensuring we are well-fed and watered, and they do it with aplomb.
After lunch in the Lido resturant at the aft of the ship (handily just above our penthouse cabin) we went to the swimming pool. A modest size pool that doesn’t lend itself to laps, it is salt water and heated ever-so-slightly so that it is always perfectly enticing. The sun was shining brightly anyway, so despite still being moored in downtown Auckland and thus knowing I could drive home in about 15 minutes, I felt totally on holiday. I hauled my happy self off the sun lounger at one point to go up to the very top deck to wave at another working friend who was heading home on the ferry (me: swimsuit, sarong and floppy hat, gesticulating wildly; her: black work dress, wistful wave). Then back to my book.
3:30pm we dried off sufficiently to head into the Palm Court for high tea. In-Transit provided the tunes, and a miscellany of the 45 nationalitied staff brought round little sandwiches, scones, Earl Grey tea and a happy countenance. (Actually, I could have been projecting my own happy countenance – the Banker and I spend most of our time grinning and going “can you believe this??” so it’s hard to tell where the staff’s genuine warmth ends and my own contented haze begins.)
By 5pm we were showered and dressed in time for the compulsory lifeboat drill. The Banker has already informed me that if we go the way of the Titanic, she’s getting the door. Which means I’ll have to get used to the lifejacket, which is surprisingly uncomfortable as we put them on in our cabins and wait patiently for the warning horn to sound. Once again our cabin is well situated, as we only need pop down a few flights of stairs (outside, of course – no using the lift in an emergency) and our lifeboat, no. 10, is first up. We were herded into lines by our lifeboat captain (one of the more senior crew members who later sat us at our table at dinner) and our cabin numbers ticked off the manifest by a spiky-haired Australian. By then I felt sure I’d need chiropractic realigning when I get home, so it was good to shrug those off and return them to the shelf in our walk-in wardrobe.
Finally, at 6pm, it was time to leave Auckland. The weather couldn’t have been more stunning, Auckland’s already beautiful harbour backlit by the soon-to-be-setting sun as we rounded North Head and darted down between the East Coast Bays (where I am from) and Rangitoto Island. And then, out into the high seas as we prepared for drinks and dinner. This time, a much more low-key evening was had by all participants, as we enjoyed very fine food and comparatively little wine in the main dining room. Back to the cabin for an early night, as our ship purred across the ocean bound for Tauranga.
(I know what you’re thinking. 5 nights, Auckland to Wellington?? It doesn’t take that long! Hence 2 nights spent in Auckland, and now a jaunt that really ought to take only a few hours to Tauranga, but which is instead going to take all night. I baulked initially at the ineffeciency of it all – the fuel costs! The time! – when I realised that we do in fact head right out into open seas and then come back in. However, apparently this is often preferable to paying expensive port fees – hence, ships like to spend as much time at sea as possible. I don’t know how far out we went, but around 10pm my phone beeped to tell me “Welcome to the USA” and lay out the text/call costs! By 5:30am we were woken by the rumbling of our ship coming into dock at Tauranga (actually Mount Maunganui), so Captain Zander and his crew obviously made the most of their time on the ocean waves.)