As Fremantle sees more cruise ships with the advent of summer, so too are ports on the east coast and those in New Zealand.
So, The Conversationalist is back at sea, and this report comes to you from the Tasman and Seabourn Odyssey after a jackpot day of fiord cruising through Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sounds at the southern end of New Zealand.
We are on our way to Melbourne, Eden and Sydney to complete a sector that began in Auckland with stops at Waitangi (where Māori and Europeans signed the Treaty that now governs New Zealand politics), Wellington, Kaikoura (recovering from a severe earthquake), Timaru (from where The Conversationalist went to his hometown of Ashburton for lunch), Port Chalmers and Dunedin, then the marvellous Stewart Island and its many walking tracks.
Many of Odyssey’s guests began their journey in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, and have enjoyed an excellent itinerary that took them to Hawaii, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands and several others.
But one of the differences for them in these southern waters is that sailing conditions are often stronger – right now we are in three to four metre swells, and the trip from Waitangi to Wellington was the hardest of the trip according to most. Even some of the crew comment on this.
Those crew are marvellous. The galley gang serve up a constant stream of amazing food, while the deck officer crew make everything look easy, most notably yesterday’s exacting navigation into some tricky waters to provide some of the world’s most scenic views. Unobtrusive cabin staff keep up room standards constantly, while the entertainment team deliver shows, competitions and social events that make most guests’ days exhausting. One highlight is the presence of the great songwriter, Jimmy Webb (Wichita Lineman, Up Up and Away, By the Time I Get to Phoenix etc) who is doing performances and Q&A sessions en route to Melbourne and Sydney concerts.
Another was the amazing live sand art creations provided by Māori artist Marcus Winter.
On this trip The Conversationalist is talking on a range of topics common to Australia and New Zealand (their respective roles in the Pacific, the making and nature of both countries, the origin and state of indigenous affairs, the rivalry between the two countries).
The other speaker is an expert on Captain Cook and the early explorers, so audiences have had a wide range of inputs to consider and, as usual, also made great contributions to the discussions.
And the usual bonus of all this? Meeting an extraordinary array of people from different cultures and backgrounds with a common set of concerns for what is happening in their home countries and the world, and the consequences of all that for the future.
We might be all at sea, but we’re trying to work it out.
* By Brian Stoddart. You’ll find more feature articles by Brian Stoddart, including his last two despatches from the Seabourn Sojourn right here!
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