travel, music, food

We all have passions. Mine are travel, music and food. I have traveled much of the World and invite you to join me on a upcoming Bradley Walters Journey. Follow my blog as I take you on my journeys around the World!

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The “Coolest” Capital City – Wellington

The Captain has impressed me once again. He announced yesterday morning that he was going to be driving one of the tender boats as part of our tender service. I don’t recall ever seeing a Cruise Ship Captain doing this. After the tender boat that I was escorted to was loaded, the last person to come on board was the Ship Captain and his security. I then noticed that his wife and young entourage were already on the tender boat.

The tender boat passengers cheered when the Captain arrived and he just beamed. He then got on the microphone and chatted with everyone saying, “Do You Want Donut” – I thought we were going to be served donuts but no, the Captain turned the tender boat in circles – was great fun – the passengers ate it up. After the 20 minute transfer was finished the Captain was the first one off the tender boat so he could personally help everyone off – he is “one of a kind” and a “true gentleman”!

If Celebrity Cruise lines promoted Captain Taos’s Kafetzis as the Captain I’m sure consumers would book knowing he was on board. Its not an exaggeration to say that I hear passengers talking about him all the time – he is so well liked.

We tendered into the small community of Akoroa, New Zealand – only 650 residents. In 2011 after an extremely devastating earthquake in Christchurch many of the cruise ships transferred to this port and have been docking here ever since.

I was with a group in the Garden City, Christchurch the day before that big earthquake. Thirty-five thousand homes were destroyed and in turn most insurance companies went bankrupt. Of course there has been a housing boom since, many smaller outlying Christchurch communities have grown substantially.

Some of the most memorable experiences when traveling is meeting the locals so I suggested to my group that they consider the “Sheep Farm, Dog Show plus Winery Visit” Excursion.

During this excursion we drove passed some of the World’s most beautiful scenery. Every corner we turned offered a new spectacular view. We headed over 2 major hills (little mountains) with no guard rails in sight.

Our first stop was at the Sheep Farm where we were graciously welcomed by our hosts. The personable owners presented a thrilling dog and sheep show. This is the best sheep dog presentation I have ever seen. He sure had control of his dogs which he said is key – they need to know who the boss is. When he later sheared a sheep, he explained to us that when you purchase a wool suit – the farmer makes the amount of the 2 pockets on the suit jacket …. so not very much.

Sheep farming is in a bit of a decline in New Zealand but there are still a few million sheep roaming around the green hills – dairy farming has recently picked up.

After our farm tour we were welcomed into our host’s historic family home to see their recent renovations. The new kitchen is the pride and joy – glossy white cupboards, European appliances. We were served – tea, coffee or a non-sweetened berry juice and we were were seated in their backyard garden where home made shortbread cookies and phyllo covered lamb sausages were waiting for us. I have noticed the large teapot that the locals all seem to use which has a 2nd handle on the front of it which makes pouring easier.

They offered a few items for sale – I purchased the farm history/family favourite recipe booklet.

We continued our journey to a 12 acre winery for a tasting. The owner was informative. They produce 15,000 bottles a year. They are known for their own variety called, “Summer Love” – which has won many wine awards. Their banquet facility was busy – along with us there were 2 Christmas Parties in house – one for doctors and the other was a local pharmacist gathering.

When we arrived back to the port there were around 600 passengers waiting for tender boats. This delayed our sailing departure for an hour. So many excursions ended at the same time and this caused the backlog but the shuttle line moved quickly because a number of tender boats were in operation.

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We docked at Wellington, the Capital at 8am this morning (Monday). This is the “coolest” little capital in the World. Wellington is known for its arts scene, coffee, dining culture and active lifestyle. An easily walkable downtown area is set around a scenic waterfront precinct, and is surrounded by a green belt filled with trails to explore.

Locals are proud of the National Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa.

Many tourists experience Wellington from above, taking in the panoramic views of Mount Victoria. The snow capped Kaikoura Ranges are visible across the strait.

There was a major earthquake here on the 14th of November (just a couple weeks ago) so the city is in recovery mode. A number of buildings are now off limits including a new glass covered office tower that just opened 3 months ago. The earthquake hit at 4am which is a blessing as the streets were empty. Many glass windows etc were blown out. The locals experienced “another” quake yesterday at 4:20pm – registering 5.6 which is substantial and they have been told to expect a number of aftershocks for the next month or so.

The cruise port is damaged so we docked in an industrial area. This is the first time that the Solstice has docked in this location so the cruise staff wasn’t sure what to expect but in my eyes everything ran perfect today.

The port authority provided complimentary transit bus shuttles into the city core for those not on excursions and a small army of tourism volunteers were located throughout the city helping cruise passengers.

Today’s temp reached 70F. The morning was overcast but the sun and blue skies soon followed.

I retraced my steps going into some of my favourite parts of the city. Cuba Street is a trendy spot filled with local owned stores. I was disappointed that my favourite Wellington restaurant, Logan Brown doesn’t open for lunch until Wednesday.

I mainly window shopped because prices are overall much more expensive in comparison to back home in Canada.

A brass band played Christmas Carols in the city core adding to the festive time of the year. Store owners that haven’t been allowed to open since the earthquake want to open soon so they can welcome Christmas shoppers. Most stores just re-opened a couple days ago so have been closed for a substantial time.

We soon will say farewell to the beautiful South Island of New Zealand.

Tomorrow we are at sea enroute to the North Island.

Tonight’s Show is Australia’s hottest and most vocally powerful performance act, “La Zorza”. They sing the music of Josh Groban, Il Divo, Andrea Bocelli and Michael Buble.

All my passengers are looking forward to our upscale group dinner tomorrow night in the French restaurant on board, “Muranos”. We will be taking over the restaurant at 6pm. This is a “Bradley Walters Journeys” surprise.

A Train PLUS Castle Day – Dunedin, NZ

Kia Ora – WELCOME – from Dunedin, NZ

The train route from Dunedin to Central Otago was chosen in 1877 from seven proposed routes. Today we traveled by train on the winning route – it was the most direct route that presented the fewest engineering difficulties – along the Taieri River Gorge.

Construction on this line finished in 1921.

The Taieri Gorge Railway has become the major tourist attraction of Dunedin. The first tourist train service started in 1987. The Otago Excursion Train Trust was instrumental in encouraging cruise ships to make Dunedin a port of call. Most of the fine folks that served us on the train today are local, proud volunteers who know the train could not run without them. The lovely volunteer in our car was a hoot – we constantly teased each other. Just couldn’t help but to like her.

What a scenic ride – the deep Gorge is covered with a bush that is currently in full bloom with yellow flowers. This bush of course is a pest but there is nothing they can do about it – its taken over.

The train was waiting for us at the Cruise Ship Pier when we got off the ship and we then traveled on to the Dunedin Railway Station – the most photographed building in NZ. The volunteers then went into the Station and carried out pots of freshly brewed, steaming tea and coffee for our morning treat.

The Taieri River Gorge which has been called “one of the World’s great train trips”!

We continued our train journey as far as Pukerangi where a number of ladies sold handicrafts along a dirt road next to the tracks in an outdoor market and then we continued back to the Dunedin train station.

Many of the vantage points we enjoyed are only accessible by train. We passed through 12 tunnels during our journey.

Lunch was served by the volunteers on the train, picnic in style and delicious – everything was homemade – cheese and crackers, pinwheel sandwiches (the ones they serve at wedding showers back home – smile), a hearty vegetable scone, potato salad that was SO good, moist carrot cake, grapes and a couple glasses of local, New Zealand wine to wash it all down.

When we departed the train we continued to the Larnack Castle – the only castle in New Zealand. I’ve past it many times over the years but have never actually been on the grounds until today – the entire experience well exceeded my expectations. Our guide of the Castle’s interior (the original owner referred to it as a camp) was great fun, he brought the place to life. As interesting as the interior is, it was the tower, the grounds, gardens and most of all the view that is just spectacular.

There was a 5pm wedding on the grounds so we departed just before they were going to start the ceremony. I can’t think of a more beautiful location for a wedding.

On our return to Port Chalmers where the Solstice docked we enjoyed a panoramic tour of Dunedin – the University is so important here. The city features is a large downtown shopping district with a couple and a very impressive Botanical Gardens, some stately looking churches too.

Just before our 7pm departure our comedic Captain addressed us saying he had good and bad news – there will be no pilot to bring us into the next port of call which is a little more than 100 nautical miles away but we don’t have to worry because he’ll look it up on Google so he knows the way.

We continue to have a fantastic time! Most of my passengers traveled with me today but a few did their own thing and enjoyed a great time too. I chatted with my passengers that spent last evening in Queenstown and even though their excursion involved hour of travel and a very late night they had a great time and said it was well worth it.

Tonight a few of us dined at Tuscan Grill which is on Deck 5 at the back of the ship – we picked the perfect night – our departure view due to floor to ceiling windows is one to remember. Fresh basil was purchased at the port today so my waiter is taking advantage of it – he took kitchen shears and cut the tender basil leaves, placing them into the olive oil and balsamic for bread dipping. The flat bread was topped fried basil too and you guessed it, the chicken parmesan was topped with basil too. Every course was scrumptious. We enjoyed a long conversation with our waiter from India who is getting married next March – he is 28 but quite honestly looks 18 – 1000 guests are coming – 20 minute traditional Hindu ceremony on a stage in front of all guests, vegetarian curry meal, a number of curries are served but the main curry dish is served with rice – no entertainment – water and lemonade to drink.

We missed visiting the Farmers Market next to the Train Station in Dunedin – it sure looked inviting when we passed in while on the train. Maybe that is where tonight’s basil came from. Its cherry season here – makes me crave one of your sour cherry pies, Mom!

The rolling hills that surrounded us as we left the port are covered in every shade of green that you can imagine. The view stunning. The sky is a little moody tonight with many shades of grey. The green and grey contrast is most interesting.

Tomorrow many of my group are traveling into the countryside – the Christchurch Region – we are visiting a sheep farm and a winery.

Celebrity Solstice”Tidbits”….

Euphoria, last nights Main Production Show was superb. Celebrity Cruises has really up’d the quality of their production shows – no more broadway reviews like we have seen on cruise ships for years. I must say I am really impressed with the quality of the production shows – on some recent cruises I often skip these shows because it the same old all over again. If I was on land I would have paid top dollar to see Euphoria it was that good.

Dinner was back in the Asian Restaurant, Silk Harvest with some of my passengers. I wish this restaurant was on more than just 2 of the Celebrity ships. Everywhere on this ship the cuisine has been excellent. My passengers have been raving. I really like Silk Harvest because its a really nice change from the norm. Their Asian food is North American style – shrimp wonton soup loaded with lemongrass, cream cheese wontons, orange chicken, Pad Thai etc – all delicious. Like everywhere on board the service is also excellent.

I’ve never met a Captain like the one of this ship. He is young – we are guessing in his late 30’s. His even younger looking, very attractive wife is traveling on this sailing. He is Greek, so funny, so personable, so approachable. Everyone is talking about him. The crew love him too. I’ve only heard them say very positive things about him. Someone was telling me that he was on the sea working at the age of 10.

Its very much a North American/Australian/NZ group of passengers on board plus a contingent from Asia. We are the only Canadian group on board. I’m a little bias – as we are the finest group onboard! I’ve met the Group Leader with the Hong Kong passengers. He told me the travel firm he works for is the largest in Hong Kong – they have over 400 tour guides! He has a small group with him – just 14 passengers. There is a wedding group on board – the ceremony was yesterday in Blu Restaurant. There is also a group on board in conjunction with a popular Palm Springs, California Restaurant – I believe there are 40 of them.

Our group is really enjoying the Classic Beverage Package. I have been avoiding the alcohol beverages but I stop by the coffee cafe a few times a day for a Chai Latte which is covered in the package. It really is a nice treat. If the Cafe isn’t full I enjoy grabbing a table – its relaxing and the Romanian server is such a pro so the service is top notch. If the cafe is full I order a latte take-out for my room. Let me tell you its pretty difficult to pass up the many cakes and desserts that they display – they all look so delicious….

Even though I have visited this part of the World many times I still really look forward to returning. I enjoy seeing all the changes. The locals are lovely. Its a special part of the World – the only disadvantage is its a long way from North America or I’d be here with groups more often. Australians and New Zealanders are pretty isolated from the rest of the World. When they travel they often go for weeks at a time. I’m starting to notice that North Americans are starting to follow suit. Many North Americans I have met on board are on 2-3 month travel adventures. This cruise is just a small portion of their getaway.

We are enjoying long sunny days – the sunrise is shortly after 5am and its still light until after 9pm. Of course at home the days are short this time of year.

We have also enjoyed seeing the ship turned into a Christmas Wonderland. Every morning when we rise we see the newest decorations. Santa’s helpers must keep busy all night long. It truly is a class act – I’ve been on many cruise ships this time of year and must say this is the most tastefully decorated ship I have seen.

I take for granted the well-designed staterooms on the Solstice Class ships – the dim light that is always on in the decent size bathroom so if you get up in the night you are not going to disturb your cabin mate – the curved wall so you can easily get around the bed – the ample storage etc..

Ben the Cruise Director left me a message last night – in his typical excited voice, “Bradley, when are we getting together”, “you know that we are going to go back and forth with our messages until we reach one another”, “let me know if you need anything”. He is really the best of the best. I look forward to getting caught up with him one evening at dinner.

Today is Dunedin day – many of us are on a 8.5 hour journey – train and castle – everyone is excited. 70F today – everyone is asking – how is the weather at home so let me know ok.

During breakfast I was getting some work done and a English lady stopped at my table concerned that I was working. She was so charming. We had a good chat.

Well I need to update my board so my passengers know the latest and then is time to board the train.

The Stunning SOUNDS of New Zealand

We enjoyed another smooth transit day of the Tasman Sea yesterday. We are so fortunate.

A number of us gathered for a group lunch and enjoyed a number of ship-board activities.

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Early this morning we reached New Zealand. Our introduction was one of it’s most famous natural attractions, Milford Sound. My group was invited to the helipad for our sailing into this spectacular natural attraction. We gathered at 6:45am, yes EARLY but well worth it. Two of our passengers are part of a group of 100 who departed the Solstice when we pulled into the Sound for and evening in Queensland. A catamaran appeared to usher them away.

We are blessed with excellent weather today. This is the rainy part of New Zealand but we enjoyed the brightest royal blue skies without a cloud in sight. It was nippy on the helipad early this morning and the wind roared past us at times but blankets and hot chocolate kept us warm.

As we sailed into the narrow fjords of Milford Sound our massive ship seemed to sink in comparison to the towering cliffs topped by lush mountain terrain. Situated within Fjordland National Park, this natural wonder is part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site and is protected by its natural geography which makes it a haven for all types of wildlife.

I’ve have travelled though these Sounds a number of times over the years and today our weather conditions are so ideal. When it pours rain hundreds of waterfalls form but its much more comfortable enjoying the sights on a beautiful sunny day like today.

We departed Milford Sound on schedule at 9:!5am. I headed to the dining room for breakfast and the waiter Christian remember me by name. Some of you will recall Christian as he was one of our waiters while we cruised Norway.

I sat on my balcony while the sun beamed down – had to put some sunscreen on as my fair skin started to burn.

At 12:30pm we arrived at Doubtful Sound where we breathed the natural airs. Surrounded us was the serenity of the atmosphere. Doubtful Sound is inarguably a favored peaceful destination. As cold mountain water flows from the cliffs it creates an unusual phenomenon, a dual layered marine ecosystem of both fresh and saltwater. This attracts many species including fur seals and two types of penguins – the fjordland crested and blue penguin. Some cruise passengers were lucky and saw a whale.

During our transit of Doubtful Sound the blue sky suddenly was streaked with perfect lines of white, looked as if a painter did his magic.

Finally we spent from 3-430pm in Dusky Sound where we were surrounded by steep cliffs that have been carved over centuries by dozens of waterfalls. This is the largest and most complex of the many fjords along the New Zealand coast. Dusky Sound is an important bird area due to the breeding of the fjordland penguins. Its also a wildlife paradise with seals and dolphins patrolling the water and birds like broad billed prions, mottled petrels and sooty shearweaters floating on the overhead thermals.

One of my fondest travel memories was sailing through Dusky Sound a number of years ago with my dear friend, Cathy Bingham. We were out on deck taking pictures when the winds became so strong we felt as if it was going to topple us. When we tried to open a door to get back into the interior of the ship the strong wind kept that door shut. We started laughing and couldn’t stop. Ok, you had to be there but it was a memory I will never forget.

A solo singer that entertains all over the ship is from Edmonton. He is a young, talented guy who says he is not a professional but likes to sing songs they people like to hear. I chatted with him at length today – what does he miss about being on the ship – no avocados! I told him my friend illusionist, Ryan Joyce is coming to the Solstice in January so he’ll have another Canadian to hang around with. Ryan is from Elora and emailed me yesterday. I’m so sorry to miss him.

I also chatted with two Australians – one from Queensland and the other from Melbourne. Their accents were so different from one another. In fact I had a hard time detecting that they man from Melbourne was Australian. I was told to invest in land North of Queensland where you can still buy property and a modest home for $100G. The man from Melbourne said he luckily purchased a home 10 years ago in what is now the best part of Melbourne. He investment had really paid off.

Well I must get ready for dinner.  Wifi connection has been a challenge today so I am going to post this blog while I have connection.

Tomorrow, Saturday December 3rd we spend the day in Dunedin. Many of us will experience the Taiera Gorge Train and Scottish Larnach Castle. It’ll be my first time visiting the castle, can’t wait!

Tasman Sea – Enroute to NZ – Day 1

We are currently at sea – crossing the Tasman on our way to New Zealand – its a 2 day journey – don’t be fooled when you look at a map – Australia and NZ are a long ways apart from one another – both are very isolated.

The Tasman Sea can be grumpy at times, churning up massive waves but so far its been gentle to us and even though some passengers are hoping for a rough ride, for the majority of us a calmer crossing is most ideal. I’ve sailed this route a number of times and have never experienced a rough sail but I’ve heard some stories….

I think my passengers will tell you that they “really” enjoyed their time in Australia. I’m fortunate to visit this part of World often and I’ve watched both Australia and New Zealand grow up. Sydney and Melbourne are World Class cities that draw tourists from all over the World.

Sydney is not just about the Opera House. It certainly has put Australia on the map and its an impressive landmark known Worldwide but Sydney has many attractions. You can keep busy here for a number of days but like many World-class cities its a very expensive one to visit – accommodation, food etc. I negotiate some good group rates which certainly help.

Culinary wise things have improved drastically in both countries. I recall years ago when you’d often get a boiled piece of tasteless meat topped with a bright thick sauce. Once I was at a modest country inn with a travel colleague and the sweetest owner of the hotel proudly made dinner for us because we were in a pretty very area with no restaurants to be found. I’ll never forget the massive plate of food that arrived covered in “bright” colored thick sauces – looked like a rainbow on a plate – everything tasted the same – we spent more time laughing as we were eating – I’ll never forget it – but we were thankful – she went out of her way to impress us. Of course now these countries are filled with top chefs, eager to impress.

Melbourne has a thriving coffee culture. Budding chefs often invest in a whole-in-the-wall location, turning it into a cafe – if the coffee is good the locals will support the cafe and if the baking and cooking is great the crowds are even bigger. Starbucks has a tough time surviving here – many of their shops closed up… just can’t compete with the local cafes. As you drive through Melbourne you can’t help to notice the booming coffee culture. On our way to the wine region we even past many pop-up coffee stands, often located in converted trailers. I have never drank a cup of coffee and am not going to start but in destinations like Melbourne I am certainly a “little” tempted.

Some of us met for lunch today as its a sea day. Our groups knows they have an open invitation to join fellow BWJ passengers for lunch in the Main Dining room on Sea Days. Those interested show up a few minutes before they open the doors so I can arrange the reservations. I enjoyed a stimulating conversation today with some of my group and the food was very good too!

Tomorrow I have arranged a private Galley (Kitchen) tour for my passengers. They are excited about that.

The following day we arrive in New Zealand – I was told that my request to get the group on the Helipad for our Milford Sound arrival was honored – so everyone is getting private invites for this amazing event. Milford Sound is one of the most scenic spots in New Zealand. It’ll be an early 645am arrival – but I reminded everyone its a once-in-a-lifetime experience not to be missed, well worth getting up early for.

I do love the Solstice – it really is a well run quality ship. The staff is so professional. I feel the dining-room cuisine on Celebrity Cruises is a step-up from the other main stream lines. Their speciality restaurants are excellent – Murano, the French Restaurant, I feel is the best speciality restaurant afloat. Our entire group will be dining there during this cruise. Tuscan Grill, the Italian Steakhouse has a new menu which I really like – some terrific additions but they sadly took away the shrimp. Silk Harvest is a unique restaurant as its only on 2 of Celebrity ships. I think its great – its superb Asian cuisine is a nice change from the other restaurants. When you are on a cruise ship for a few weeks a culinary diversion is welcomed. There is a new Sushi restaurant on board which has replaced Bistro on 5. I’ve been keeping my eyes on it but on this sailing its not doing that great – very few passengers are attracted to it. This is surprising because on other cruise lines the Sushi restaurants do really well, but it could be this sailing. I applaud them for trying new things – of course some ideas are going to work, some aren’t.

I think a day-at-sea is a wonderful thing. A perfect opportunity to relax. After our long journey I know my passengers are enjoying this break too.

We all send greetings to those back home – wish you were with us!

I tried to upload some pictures of tonight’s sunset but no luck – connection just too slow…

Wallabies and Wine – Only In Australia!

We enjoyed a terrific day in Melbourne, Australia.

There is a little rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne – residents of both think they live in the best Australian city and are quick to tell you.

Sydney may have the Opera House but Melbourne offers a great deal of culture – its a very artistic community. Its skyline is dominated with an 88 story residential tower that has a terrific observation deck which attracts many tourists.

The downtown core is a mix of old and new – the many rod-iron balconies remind me of New Orleans.

A number of us headed out of the city – a 90 minute drive – into a famous wine region valley where our first stop was at a very impressive non-profit Wildlife Sanctuary where we got close and personal with the wildlife that Australia is famous for – kangaroos, koalas, wallabies…. I admit I avoided the snake pavilion….

We spent 90 minutes strolling – the scenery was special – volunteers were plentiful and more than happy to direct or answer questions.

The weather was perfect – 75F with blue skies – couldn’t ask for anything better.

Our next stop was at a famous winery where we enjoyed a tasting and a superb lunch – I selected the swordfish – was just delicious.

This winery brings in big name entertainment a number of times a year – they are set up with major staging.

We have now started our 2 day crossing to New Zealand – last cruise they hit some very rough seas so I’m hoping that today’s nice weather is good luck charm for us. My past crossing experiences in this part of the world have always been smooth ones.

I’m horrified to learn about the terrible wildfires that are threatening Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN. I just sent messages to my wonderful tourism friends in that area letting them know that my thoughts are with them and their families. Hope these major tourist destinations are not hit – would be devastating….

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Relaxing Day at Sea

This morning we once again enjoyed the wonderful breakfast spread at the Swissotel. I will definitely bring future groups to this hotel. I am so impressed. I know they don’t have many tour groups stay here as they cater to the business crowd but they do a stellar job. The staff is so accommodating and professional.

Sydney’s downtown stores opened at 10am but we were scheduled to depart the hotel at 11am so those of us that wanted to shop had less than a hour – I guess you call that POWER shopping.

I had my passengers confirm that the bell man collected their luggage before we boarded the coach for the Port of Sydney.

Our first glimpse of the Celebrity Solstice was an impressive one. What a stately looking vessel she is.

Check-in was well organized and quick. Our documents were presented, processed and then we met with a Australian custom official who noted that we were leaving the country. Finally we went through security and then boarded the Solstice where a glass of bubbly champagne was waiting for us.

I was busy with a number of meetings with ship staff when I got on board ship to make sure that everything was in place for my group.

My passengers are receiving a few nice Bradley Walters Journeys Surprises during this sailing.
1. A Bottle of Champagne
2. A Ship Board Credit to be used however they wish
3. A Culinary Evening in Murano – the upscale French restaurant on board

Plus they will enjoy a Beverage Package which covers pretty well all of their alcohol or without beverages.

When my passengers boarded the ship they enjoyed a welcome lunch and before heading to their well designed staterooms so they could get organized and unpacked.
I’m sure some of them had a little nap too.

The mandatory lifeboat drill took place later in the afternoon.

Many passengers enjoyed watching the dance party that was took place soon afterwards on the top of the port building. The young dancers looked like they were having a great time. The DJ used a bubble machine which made the atmosphere festive.

The Solstice events co-ordinator is from Victoria, BC so she is pleased to have us, a Canadian group on this sailing – she is looking after 10 large groups so its a busy time for her. She invited me to the helipad to enjoy the dramatic sail away from Sydney harbour – one of the most scenic harbours in the World. Many locals and tourists lined the shore to watch our 6pm departure.

Most of our group enjoyed the opening night show in the Main Theatre but I admit I was tired so I turned in evening. Usually I am hit with major jet lag after long haul like this one but surprisingly it hasn’t affected me this time. I’m wide awake with the 5am sunrise and that is ok with me. Everyone that went to the show last night has reported that it was terrific – I guess the band was hot!

Monday Morning

Its predicted to be a 75F day – we are at Sea on our way to Melbourne, AU – the locals pronounce this artsy city, Melbun so that is the way we should pronounce it.

Ben is the cruise director for this sailing. I’ve got to know him well over the years. We will get caught up during this cruise and hopefully I’ll get him to a function so he can personally meet my passengers. He is a terrific cruise director who prefers sailing this part of the World – his home.

When sailing with Celebrity I enjoy starting my day in the coffee bistro – Cafe al Bacio where I always order a Chai Latte. They haven’t unloaded all the supplies for this cruise yet so the Chai tea hasn’t arrived in the cafe so the staff created their own version for me – black tea with crushed cinnamon sticks along with other spices – delicious – I prefer it so hope I can request their version for the entire journey.

I haven’t been on the ship for 24 hours and already I have met many staff members that I know. If I don’t spot them – they seem to spot me – they meet thousands of people so its amazing they remember past passengers so well.

I don’t think I have even seen the Main Dining Room so packed for a Sea Day breakfast. There was a line-up to get in when the restaurant opened at 8am. Usually you just walk in. As the Restaurant Manager proudly said to me – an empty restaurant is not a good one – isn’t that a true statement!

My group will gather for lunch today in the main dining room. I find everyone enjoys getting together for lunch on sea days.

There are many activities to keep everyone busy today.

Tonight is a dressier evening. The Captain will mingle with passengers in the Atrium.

My passengers and I are anxious to see tonight’s production in the Main Theatre called, Broken Strings. The advertisements for it remind me of the Broadway Show, “Beautiful”. This is a new production for the Solstice.

The weather today is typical for Melbourne as it often experiences 4 seasons in 1 day! This morning it was overcast and cooler this afternoon the sun reappeared and so did a war ship that seems to be following us – or we are following it – smile. We should be well protected!