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Published: June 26th 2017
20th October - 5am. A loud crash woke Chris and Roisin up. The ship had just rode a wave that was at least 20 feet and being right at the bow, they had felt the full force of the pitching of the ship as it crashed nose first in to the ocean.
The ship had been rocking and rolling as well as pitching all night but that was by far the most volatile movement. The wind was howling outside cabin number C105 and the captain's log showed the wind strength as 45 knots or force 8 – strong gale.
At 8:15am Chris looked out of the balcony window to be met by grey skies, driving rain and waves he had only experienced through the magic of Hollywood. Unfortunately most of those films ended with the ship sinking!! The depth under the keel was only about 2000 metres or 6500 feet. This is only the shallow end compared to some depths the Sapphire Princess
had crossed during this voyage. Chris doesn't like treading water if he can't feel the bottom!!
The ship was due to enter the Fjordland's National Park at about 8am. The first Fjord would be Dusky
Sound followed by Doubtful Sound before entering the famous Millford Sound late in the afternoon. The scenery is supposed to be spectacular with much of the landscape inaccessible by road and only visible from a boat or ship. The backdrop of this scenic masterpiece is the majestic snow covered mountains of the Southern Alps and waterfalls several hundred metres high crashing down to the water below. At 8:15am Chris saw none of this. In fact he couldn't see anything except the sea. No land at all. This didn't look good.
At 9:15 came the announcement everyone had been dreading. "Good morning everyone. This is your Captain speaking. As most of you will have seen by now the weather is not good. This awful weather is expected to last for all of today and for this reason I have taken the decision to head straight for Sydney. It is frankly too dangerous to navigate the Fjordlands in this weather. I know that this must be disappointing for everyone but I must consider the safety of all passengers and crew, which is of paramount importance. “
And that is that. 3 days of cruising before the Sapphire Princess hits
Sydney and the end of the cruise.
German update: Chris and Roisin were sitting in the breakfast restaurant when the same announcement was made in German. Even for those who cannot understand, they knew exactly when the bit about 'heading straight to Sydney'
came as you could hear the groans emanate around Horizon Court!! For some people this must have been the highlight of the day!
This change of plan was disappointing but couldn't be avoided and everybody accepted this decision as being the best course of action.
At 12 noon came the 3rd officer's navigational report bang on cue. After his usual monotone spiel, he proceeded to describe the different movements of a ship at sea. ‘The rocking and rolling can usually be counter balanced by the ship's stabilisers. However, there remains no solution to reduce the pitching of a ship. Many people over the years have failed to come up with a workable contraption to stop this movement from occurring.'
The 3rd officer (still in his monotone voice) invited any passenger who had a solution to stop the pitching of a ship to contact the bridge. He went on to suggest, ‘if so, you may
want to think about patenting the idea and become very rich.'
If it weren't for the monotone voice, Chris and Roisin would have thought it was the bridge's idea of humour!!! Chris had this vision of the rest of the bridge rolling around wetting themselves as this poor 3rd officer (newly promoted, I suspect) with the personality of a glass of water drones on about the ships bearing of 35 degrees 27 decimal 14 South by 154 degrees 59 decimal 53 West. That means as much to the layperson as why ships fuel is always calculated in to kilograms and not litres!!! (Who cares??)
Due to the heavy winds, one was not allowed on to the deck. A yellow tape was sealed across the doors with the words ‘caution – no entry'
printed on it. Chris was asked what the pitching is like at the front end of the ship. He replied by saying that it was so bad they had even stuck one of these tapes across the cabin door!! (It was funnier at the time. You had to be there!!)
Immigration had boarded in Dunedin and set up shop in Club Fusion to process all the
passengers. This was relatively painless and Chris and Roisin were given a specific time slot. It took only ½ hour from queuing to be dealt with. The quizzes are normally held in Club Fusion. This played havoc with the timetable. Some people have no consideration! The quiz was moved to the Explorers lounge. This, as it turned out was a good thing as Chris and Roisin were once again on a winning team. Team Hodgson have now amassed 4 gold and 2 silver medals. Medals are only handed out for certain quizzes and they have also amassed a fair collection of ball caps, tote bags and playing cards.
The final day of quizzing and the Delta Delays laid on a small buffet with nibbles and drink much to the disgust of certain onlookers. The Delta Delays – the team Chris and Roisin play with when 8 team players are allowed, had become the team everyone loved to hate. From winning most things in the first few weeks of the cruise, they are now usually beaten by 1 point. Rich, the cruise director always asked how many points the Delta delays had (or the Brainiacs as he liked to refer
to them). When the Delta's score is announced a scream usually goes up followed by a cheer and they are beaten by 1 point! Any lesser person would think that there was a conspiracy afoot! It's only a game!!!
The rough weather lasted 2 nights and 1 day. By bypassing the Fjordlands, the captain took the ship northwards then in a westerly direction towards Sydney. The speed slowed down to only 11knots at one point. The Tasman Sea lies between Australia and New Zealand and is notorious for bad weather. You're not kidding! However, on the final full day aboard (Friday 22nd October), the seas had calmed down to ‘slight' and the winds reduced to a modest 15 knots.
The final gala dinner was held on the penultimate night onboard. Prior to the dinner Roisin had booked a very nervous Chris for a Rasul in the 'fun room'. Without going in to details it involved exfoliation salt; mud; a power shower that Chris says almost took the skin of his back; a private steam room and various moisturisers. He drew the line at the moisturisers but survived the rest of the treatment, ready and invigorated for the night
Chris and Roisin decided to have their portraits done with no obligation to purchase. These photos are different from the normal backdrop photos and are shot with a plain white background using different angles and poses. The studio was set up in the atrium right below where the Captain was due to make his closing address. When Chris and Roisin were called to take their ‘positions', they had quite an audience. This was confirmed by the number of people approaching them the following day saying how dapper they looked in all their finery!!
Chris and Roisin had agreed to try one of these famous Sapphire cocktails on the final gala evening. Chris ordered a Paradise Punch. This consisted of Absolut Vodka, Amaretto and Southern Comfort together with Lime Juice, grenadine, pineapple and orange juice while Roisin plumped for a Raspberry Shortcake with Absolut Rapberri, Amaretto, cream, raspberry puree and sugar syrup. Mmmmm!! After these delicious concoctions they ‘staggered'
(Was this still due to the ships movements or had the cocktails gone straight to their heads?? – One will never know!!) to the end of cruise party in the Atrium with music by the good ol' Vintage People.
Roisin knew that the alcohol must have been getting to Chris as, for a moment, she thought she saw Chris's foot twitch in time to the music!!!
Chris and Roisin had arranged to ‘slip the staff a few quid'.
They had bought a few thank you cards before boarding and were going to use these to tip Teody the Philippino cabin Steward (he really has both his arms!!) as well as Nadia and Florin, the dinner serving staff.
Teody was easy; the card was placed on the bed prior to going for dinner. On Chris and Roisin's return to the cabin later that night, the usual array of tomorrow's Princess Patter newspaper, a heart shaped chocolate and a reminder to put the clocks back 1 hour together with a thank you in the form of a dolly made from nothing but a common hand towel. So, it's taken 30 days and $70 for Teody to come up with the goods. Chris and Roisin's last cabin steward made something different almost every night. And he was only tipped $50!!
Tipping the dining room staff was a bit more problematic. Any tips have to be declared and checked against
the cabin number. If the cabin hasn't paid the recommended tipping (in this case a ridiculous amount of $US10.50 per person per day x 30 days – you do the maths!), the tips are taken from the individual and put in the pot. Florin snatched the ‘thank you' card and quickly put it in his jacket. Nadia wasn't so quick and she clocked her supervisor watching. After that, Chris and Roisin knew the game was afoot when Florin came and asked for their cabin number!
The scavenger hunt. This is the first time this gets a mention. It was introduced in the first week of cruising. It consists of answering 20 questions about the ship such as ‘Where are the 2 pool tables on board?'
The answer is ‘On the ceiling of the Churchill's bar!!'
The next section requested certain signatures from crew such as ‘The youngest cruise staff member'
to ‘an officer with at least 3 stripes'
The final challenge was to obtain certain items such as ‘an empty sprite can',' a tour sticker'
even ‘a set of teeth'.
Chris, in his excitement was happy to offer his before Donny suggested that they use a comb instead!! As
it turns out, in Tahiti, Roisin spotted a set of candy teeth in a sweet shop that did very nicely. With all this effort, out of 2,500 passengers – 3 teams turned up for the final count!! The Delta Delays, as did the other 2 teams, win a couple of bottles of bubbly and the obligatory ball cap!!
Since leaving Widnes 5 weeks ago, Chris and Roisin have travelled just over 15,000 miles, crossed the equator and somewhere down the line lost a full day. Losing days is usually alcohol related but in this case it was due to crossing the International Date Line. They will stay for 5 days in Sydney before starting the long journey home.
The adventure continues…
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