New Zealand among stops on New Kingston woman's long cruise
This is the third installment in a series following New Kingston resident Fran Faulkner and her sister, Sandy Holsten, as they sail around the world in 90 days.
We were at sea for three days before arriving at American Samoa. The first evening we experienced unusual ship motion before we retired and throughout the night. The next morning we were relieved to find the ship steady on its course. In his noon message to all passengers, Commodore Warner explained that very strong trade winds had caused rough seas overnight. Our morning walk on Deck 7 was a warm one, but it was quite windy. We sat in the sun in a protected area for a while. The Commodore had also stressed the urgency for support of those Australians who had suffered any loss or damage from the raging wildfires in that country. Passengers who wished to contribute to the Australian Red Cross were encouraged to do so (and more than $60,000 was raised for the cause).
We received invitations to join the Commodore and Senior Officers and all Full World Cruise Guests at a cocktail party in the Queens’ Room that evening. We dressed for dinner and went to the gathering. Drinks and appetizers were served, and we had the opportunity to meet fellow passengers as well as ship officials. Later we attended the stage show at the Royal Court Theater, which featured the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers in “On The West Side” with music from “West Side Story.” We very much enjoyed the entertainment!
The following day was lovely for our morning walk. We noticed three black birds perched on the deck. No one seemed to know the species. In Commodore Warner’s noon message today, he mentioned that tonight we would again cross the equator. That evening we watched the movie “Ghost Town” and later “retarded” the clocks one hour. We are finally getting used to that expression! We will be “omitting” Feb. 20 since we will be crossing the International Date Line.
On Feb. 19 we docked at Pago Pago. That morning we discovered that a white bird that looked something like a gull was resting on the floor of our balcony. We took photos of it through the glass door and did not disturb it. It was still there after we came back from breakfast and got ready for our shore excursion, a tour of Tutuila Island. Our bus drove along the shore road past Flower Pot Rock and on to Turtle and Shark Scenic Point. On the way back we stopped at the Governor’s House Museum and also at a tire repair station to get our flat tire fixed before we took a scenic drive back to Pago Pago. At this point the temperature was 78.8 degrees and the humidity was unbearable at 92 percent! Back at the ship we joined the Sailing Away Party on Deck 8. The QM2 backed up in the harbor and then turned around to head out to sea. We could see Flower Pot Rock and enjoyed views of the mountains as we went out to sea. When we finally returned to our cabin we were happy to find that our bird had left the balcony.
On Fran’s birthday she received a beautiful flower bouquet from her family! After our walk around the deck, we discovered that our cabin steward had arranged two white bath towels into swans and placed them on Fran’s bed, along with a Happy Birthday sign and a rose. What a lovely surprise! At dinner our waiters brought us a small birthday cake for dessert and they sang the birthday song as well!
We sailed away from Pago Pago that evening and many small boats were on hand to watch us. They blinked their lights and tooted their horns as we left the harbor on our way to Auckland, New Zealand.
New Zealand stop:
The Queen Mary 2 docked at Auckland, New Zealand. It was a clear day and we were able to see the city from the ship. The Sky Tower stands tall above the city. It is the highest tower in the Southern Hemisphere (more than 1,000 feet tall) and one can take an elevator to the observation deck to get a panoramic view of the city. Above that deck one can do a bungee jump. The individual is placed in a harness, then makes the jump and is stopped in front of the observation deck for tourists to take photos, then is dropped quickly toward the ground and slowed to a stop. Our dinner waiter told us that he had made that jump on his time off!
We took the “Bush and Beach” shore excursion. The bus drove us through the city of Auckland and up to the Waitakere Mountains where we made a stop at a park (Arataki Center) where we could view both the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea. Our next stop on the tour was a walk through a rainforest! We followed our guide along a dirt path and were amazed by the unusual foliage, including tree ferns, palm trees, and giant Kauri trees. At the end of the walk we enjoyed cookies and fruit juice. On the bus again, we drove to an overlook to view Piha Beach and “Lion Rock,” a huge rock in the ocean shaped like an lion’s head. We were taken down a steep winding road to that lovely beach to walk and watch the huge waves crashing onto the shore. Then we again boarded the bus for the ride back to the QM2.
After two days at sea we arrived at Sydney, Australia. We sailed into the harbor and sighted the famed Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. As we neared our dock at the Naval Yard, there were people lining the shore and others were in small boats to greet us! Bill and Yvonne Hayes of Lilydale (near Melbourne) met us at the dock and took us on a drive through Sydney and on to the Blue Mountains. (Bill and Yvonne are the parents of Noelene, who had worked on the alpaca farm in New Kingston a few years ago. We were disappointed that she was unable to join us.) After a hour and a half drive, we reached the mountains and stopped at overlooks that gave a superb view of the area.
At Echo Point Overlook, Bill called Noelene on his mobile phone and we all had an opportunity to visit with her. (She asked us to give her best wishes to all her friends back in the Catskill Mountains.) Later we enjoyed lunch at a café located on another overlook then headed back to Sydney.
We reached the QM2 in plenty of time to dress for a special dinner at the Sydney Convention Center. All full world cruise passengers had received invitations to this event from the President and CEO of Cunard and the Master of our ship. We were taken by bus to the Convention Center where we were greeted by our hosts. Then we were ushered into another room and offered drinks and appetizers. After enjoying the refreshments and socializing with fellow passengers, we went on into another large room where we were surprised to find representatives of the Featherdale Wildlife Park exhibiting examples of Australian animals. There were koalas, sheep (one was being sheared) and a young wallaby nestled in the arms of an attendant. Another young man was showing an Australian snake (an Olive Python) and Fran asked if she might hold it. Of course, Sandy took a photo!
Then we were ushered into the main dining room, and we located our assigned seats. There were about 300 guests. After welcoming speeches by Commodore Bernard Warner and Cunard President Carol Marlow, we enjoyed an elegant five-course meal accompanied by musical entertainment. About 10:30 p.m. we returned by bus to our ship after a most unusual and entertaining evening. The QM2 sailed away toward Yokohama, Japan, at 1a.m.