We had a simple but lovely day in Wellington. Sometimes, when we hear of the numerous places people have visited in what sometimes seem like non-stop days ashore, we winder whether we should do more. David, our table companion is often exhausted at the end of one of his days ashore which often involve two excursions. By contrast, certainly today, we did very little. But, sitting on the Waterfront at a crab shack, having a simple lunch of hot chicken wings and fries with beer and wine was a special part of this day.
It started with my meeting an old colleague from the Civil Service who’s on secondment with the New Zealand Civil Service. We had coffee on Lambton Quay while Jan had a wander around the shops. We both had a look at the Parliament Buildings before getting the Funicular Railway – mysteriously advertised throughout the city as a cable car – up to the botanical gardens where we had more coffee as well as ginger beer before meandering down through the park, rose garden and cemetery and back to central Wellington.
There was a lovely feel about the waterfront with lots of young people, some bombing into the water, others having a drink and, in our Cafe, a girl from Sunderland proud to explain to some other British customers where she’d been in her two and half (and counting) year off.
We were off the ship just after nine after breakfast on the balcony:
We met my brother, Terence and our Kiwi Sister In Law, Annabelle and went straight for coffee in Mount Manguani, a lovely traditional little seaside town where the ship docked. We then drove about 40 miles up the coast to Waihi and to a nearby gold mine – still in limited use. The mine was stunning:
We then travelled to nearby Karangahake where there was a long closed mine, built in the gold rush of the 19th century. Beautiful countryside and a stunning river complete with rapids and waterfalls, is littered with plant and machinery from the mine. We walked along railway tracks and through numerous tunnels, in and out of the sunshine. It was marvellous. These, which look like Church Cloisters, are actually the remains of cyanide tanks, used for separating the gold from the quartz and other stone:
We stayed overnight, near Karanghake in a charming log cabin, set next to a waterfall:
We had a simple but lovely and inexpensive evening meal along with some very good Speights Beer. It was odd being overnight on land after 57 consecutive days at sea with the sound of the sea replaced by the sound of crickets.
We got back to the ship for about three thirty on the 5th after a trip to the supermarket for more New Zealand Riesling and some McGuigan South Australia Shiraz (for about a third of the price in the UK). We had time to grab sun beds at the back of the ship before an exceptionally pretty sail away at around 5.30:
Today was Jan’s birthday, which was touchingly remembered by our table companions and by the waiters who gathered together to sing her Happy Birthday. Her embarrassment was a pleasure to watch.
Queen Mary 2 – food poor and a sick ship?
I see that a discussion on Cruise Critic, to which I was alerted by Brian Lord is dominated by debate about illness on the ship and the alleged poor quality of the food in the Britannia Restaurant.
The food first: We’ve been eating in the Britannia restaurant now for just short of sixty days. Is the food outstanding? No. Is the food very good? Certainly. The desserts might be a little uninspiring – with the lavish menu descriptions rather exceeding the experience, but the starters are fine, with excellent soups. In any case, it’s always possible to select a main course as a starter, which I often do when there is Pasta or Lobster on the main course menu.
The main courses have all been of high quality, with red meat dishes being close to outstanding. The beef and the lamb are excellent and always, simply always – and despite serving a couple of thousand people every evening – my steaks are always served a perfect medium rare and my beef and lamb always beautifully pink.
Outside the main dining room there is an excellent range of food available in Kings Court (the self service restaurant). We don’t like Kings Court much, but that’s only because of the bustle of it and the sense of panic on the part of some passengers who apparently believe that each meal might be their last. But the quality, particularly of the breakfasts cannot be in doubt. And we often use room service both for breakfast (on a port day) or for lunch. The room menu is limited but we’ve never found it to be other than good and the Pasta Bolognese is simple but very well done, as is the Sirloin Steak. The coffee in the dining rooms is poor although there is much better – and free – coffee available at Connexions, coming from a machine rather than an Urn.
It’s hard to understand occasional claims that the food is poor. Jan and I are paying about £316 a night for this cruise (£158 a night each). That sum provides a forty thousand mile sail around the world, immaculate cabin service and all the food we could possibly eat (and more). So when value for money is taken into account, one would have to conclude that the food is outstanding.
A Sick Ship?
Rumours abound about the numbers of passengers who’ve died already and the fact that the Cunard Cough is transmitted via a faulty air conditioning system. We don’t know whether there have been any deaths, although we assume that’s possible when one considers the age and evident fragility of many of the passengers. There were certainly a lot of coughs and colds evident around the ship and for a few weeks after we left Southampton. But that was January 10 and I doubt that there was any workplace in the UK or the USA, which was not similarly affected. One of our table companions has been under the weather and has coughed and spluttered for a few days as we’ve sailed around New Zealand. But he’s not had to take to his bed.
And the theory about the air conditioning? I think it’s nonsense. We’re on a ship, at sea, and the availability of fresh sea air is unlimited. This is not remotely like being on a plane or living in a hotel and the hygiene standards of the ship and crew are of the highest. But those standards are let down occasionally by passengers who don’t accept the offer of hand sanitiser as they enter the restaurants or – as I’ve witnessed – give their hands the most perfunctory rinse after using a public toilet.
The food, the ship, the whole experience? It’s marvellous.