Monday 25 March 2019

Whistle blower x2

I see the Viking Star is now safely in port in Norway after its engine failure and the dramatic helicopter rescue of its passengers and crew. Not great publicity for the cruise line - and here's some more.

While briefly on board Viking Sun recently, en route from Auckland to Wellington, I mentioned in one of my posts about the cruise that I had met a US government whistle-blower. Her name is Gwenyth Todd and it was quite by chance that we met - her Trivial Pursuit team had moved me on from where I had chosen to sit in the theatre, and she came to apologise, which was nice of her.

She lit up when she heard I was a travel writer, equating that with 'journalist', which is far from the truth, sadly. She was bursting with indignation and shocked hurt at her treatment by Viking, and eager to share. Turns out she’s a well-known whistle-blower, previously high-up in the Pentagon and White House, who fled the US in 2007 after upsetting the wrong people by revealing too much inside government stuff about Iran. She lives in Australia now, as she doesn't feel safe returning home ever again, and was invited by Viking to come on board in Valparaiso to give some enrichment lectures about sexual harassment in governmental/military institutions. Surprised to be asked, she accepted, and forwarded copies of her speeches for approval beforehand, which was given.

Unfortunately, after the first two of her six scheduled lectures, one of which had been about the Bill Clinton sex-scandal cover-up, some of the many very vocal ex-military passengers on board objected to what she was saying, and demanded the manager remove Gwenyth from the programme. That was a disappointment not only to her but also, she said, to the majority of her audience. She was especially wound up because the latest #MeToo scandal had just broken, about Senator Martha McSally, so what she was saying was especially apposite.

There was, however, no undoing the deed – and, in fact, the General Manager on Viking Sun became actively hostile towards her, in front of witnesses. Her presence on the ship was made so unpleasant by the cold-shouldering, black looks and non-accidental bumpings-into by the aggrieved passengers, that she had abandoned the plan to stay on board till Sydney, and wanted to fly home from Wellington the following day. I found what she had to say very unexpected, shocking and scandalous; and I was just sorry I’m not a proper journalist.

So I did the next best thing: I tipped off my newsdesk contacts, and they took it up. It was a little bit thrilling, I must say. I felt especially vindicated when, later that day, I had a chat with the Cruise Director, Heather, a forceful type who answered all my standard travel writer statistics questions with authoritative bonhomie and slightly bored ease. Until I asked about the bit of bother with Gwenyth: then all the shutters immediately slammed down, and she looked at me quite differently.

She marched us off to see the General Manager who freely admitted Gwenyth's invitation was a mistake and though he said, “We love her!” then made a less positive reference to “yesterday” which is when she said she was threatened. It was all very intriguing; and they were both anxious that I wasn’t going to make a feature of this incident in my cruise story. Suddenly, I wasn’t such a tedious travel writer any more. I told them that no, it wasn’t really appropriate, or relevant, to the sort of story I write. But I couldn’t say the same for other reporters, I added mildly.

I disembarked the next day, in Wellington, perfectly happy with my cruise experience, but quite startled by my brief encounter with heavy-handed pro-(Republican)-American censorship. The story was in the following morning's local paper, and there was more detail in Stuff's online version:

And if you'd like to read other comments on this from people on the same cruise, here you go:

There was no follow-up: the story died straight away. Unlike Finding Neverland...

Sunday 24 March 2019

Choppy seas and a chopper flight

Oops. At this moment, an identical sister ship of Viking Sun (on which regular readers 😃 wiil recall I briefly sailed a couple of weeks ago), the Viking Star, is listing and rolling in the North Sea near Bergen, as her passengers are winched off by helicopter. The captain sent out a Mayday call at 2pm after the failure of all four engines left the ship wallowing helplessly in swells of 6-8 metres, and being blown towards land in an area that has many reefs.

Of course it's all over Instagram and Twitter: clips of furniture in the elegant lounge sliding from side to side past the (fortunately secured) grand piano as the ship tips about 30 degrees, a soundtrack of crashing glassware and crockery, people laughing in disbelief, and then the seven blasts on the siren, followed by one long one, summoning passengers to their muster stations. 

Pretty terrifying, definitely: there are even clips showing water swilling about on board. After a bit, the engineers managed to get one engine going again, and an anchor down, but the main effort is to get all passengers - some of them injured - off the ship, by the laborious, and scary, procedure of winching them, in ones and twos, up into five choppers and flying the short distance to land. There are 1300 people on board, including crew, so it's going to take forever. I wonder what their criteria are for prioritising people on the list? If the passengers are anything like those I saw on the Sun, mostly British and American, they'll all be oldish, and some very elderly indeed. This really is an adventure they could do without.

The Star is the same age as the Sun, built in the same shipyard, as are the other four ships in their ocean fleet, so Viking will soon be pretty busy checking them all over, I presume. And those eight diehards on board the Sun, now halfway through its 130-day world cruise, who are already signed up for its Ultimate World Cruise of 245 days, beginning in August, might they now be having second thoughts?

I can empathise with the Star's passengers, a little: on our Silversea junket along the Norwegian coast last June, we had to hunker down in Tromso for an extra couple of nights because of 6m swells out in the Norwegian Sea, and miss out on three ports because of it. Weather, eh? Nothing you can do about it. Afterwards, Silversea did give everyone a $500 credit towards their next cruise. I wonder what Viking will do?

Thursday 21 March 2019

Waiheke Sculpture on the Gulf. Yay.

It's been a rough week, so it was a gift to wake up to a glorious sunny autumn morning and head out on the biennial Waiheke Sculpture on the Gulf trail. I don't know if it's a result of the shooting, or because I'm especially sensitive after it, but everyone I met was so friendly today: the ticket lady, the shuttle bus driver, the volunteers along the route, the other walkers. Lots of smiles and cheerfulness - it was good to see.
I was out early so the trail was quiet, which added to the enjoyment (it will be really crowded later, and especially over the coming, final, weekend) - birds singing, waves lapping, ferries buzzing past. The sculptures were the usual mix of pleasing shapes, impressive workmanship and ridiculous arty pretension - so, all just as it should be.
Metal, as rusted iron or polished stainless steel, seemed to be the material of choice this time; so it was pleasing to see some beautifully shaped and engineered wood being used.
This year's prize for pretentiousness goes from me to Garden Shed, which is a very faithfully reproduced scruffy tin garden shed full of tools and spider webs, with a screen showing drone footage of a garden. I didn't bother to photograph it, but this actual shed a bit further along the track was similar, if a bit tidier.
I have to say, though, the caption accompanying another work was a close contender for that award: "The artist aims to reconstruct Moholy-Nagy's concept into a participatory transitional approach of perceiving light and colour which visitors will experience in the work through navigating the Walkway". 
But it looked pretty (although, confusingly, no navigation was required. It's a box).
The Dance that lasts Forever was a variety of single-use plastic blowing in the wind, and of course that's a statement rather than art, and a valid one too - but it was hard not to notice that a lot less work went into stringing up a bunch of carrier and rubbish bags than, say, welding, painting and polishing the spheres in Round and Round.
As ever, it was the gloriously natural backdrop that stole the show: the sea, the islands, the sky, the trees. And there were some enviable houses, too.
But considering the art did - temporarily, natch - tune my brain into seeing art everywhere, suddenly noticing a pole with a plastic bag over the sign on top of it, and wondering what the message was (Er, this road sign is not yet operational?), or the interruption of horizontal planes by um, a crane on a building site. And how about this, for expressing the ephemeral nature of the human footprint, in contrast with the dark foreboding permanence of polythene?
Of course, it's a soapy shoe-washing spongemat for preventing the spread of kauri dieback disease. But you get my point. Anyway, Waiheke Sculpture on the Gulf. Always worth it.

Monday 18 March 2019

After Christchurch: what I think

I grew up in Christchurch. I’m old, so it was through the 1960s and ‘70s. It was a very white, monocultural city then. I remember, when I was about 14, being so delighted and astonished to hear a couple (of tourists) speaking French as they walked along Colombo Street and through the Square, that I followed them closely, shamelessly eavesdropping on a language I’d just started to learn, thrilled and amazed to hear it being used so casually.

I was at least fortunate to go to Avonside Girls’ High where our roll included students from all over the country who attended Te Wai Pounamu girls’ boarding college. So we had a strong Maori presence at school, which was unusual for Christchurch; and I was a member of the Maori Club, learning action and poi songs, which I can still sing along to now.

But that was the limit, as far as non-English cultural contact went. It was only the sainted OE that brought me into contact with other nationalities and ethnicities – starting with my first taste of Parmesan cheese, in an Italian restaurant in Sydney, in 1973. I’ve come a long way since then.

Now I’ve been fortunate to have travelled to every continent, and been in contact with most major ethnic groups, as well as some very small ones. It’s been fascinating and enlightening, surprising and rewarding, mind-opening - and reassuring. Because of course I’ve discovered that everyone, all over the world, is pretty much the same.

The clothes, customs, religion, architecture and superficial appearances differ, and thank goodness for that. I remember the Blue Mink song that came out in 1970, ‘Melting Pot’, which said “What we need is a great big melting pot… turning out coffee-coloured people by the score” and at the time I thought how that would solve so many problems.

Now, though, I think how boring that would be. Not the brown people bit – to be honest, I think mixed-race people are the most attractive of all of us – but the cultural amalgamation that’s implied. It’s the differences that make the world interesting, worth travelling to witness, our own domestic lives richer when those cultures are brought into our own country.

I love that New Zealand is now one of the most ethnically diverse in the world. I enjoy going to a coffee shop and hearing lots of different languages being spoken as we all enjoy our flat whites. I like seeing saris and the hijab and lavalava being worn around the streets. I think it’s great that kids at primary school learn everybody’s different greetings and important days.

And I hate those who want to get rid of it all, to go back in time to when we were so limited, and our lives so narrow and pale and dull. I hate their ill-founded self-importance, their bigotry, their self-deluded sense of superiority, their retrogression, their ignorance. I’m sorry that their lives are so impoverished – but I’m glad that they are in the minority and that they will be pushed aside, and they will not get their way. We are moving on towards our rich, colourful future, and they will be left behind. No-one will miss them.

Guns and roses

Both have been selling fast over the weekend. Florists have run out of stock as people have poured in wanting flowers to place at the various sites of remembrance around the country, mostly outside local mosques. The most prominent site nationally is along the railings of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, on the other side of Hagley Park from the Al Noor mosque where most people died - 50 of them now, since the discovery of another body as the police sorted through what must have been a scene of ghastly chaos. 

And, disappointingly, guns have also been being snapped up as people rush to get in before the laws are tightened here about registration and licensing, and semi-automatics are banned. (Apparently the machine guns are claimed to be necessary by hunters culling wild goats. Since I've never heard of massive herds of goats here needing to be mown down, to me that suggests a lack of skill in the hunter, who needs a stream of bullets to be sure of hitting individual goats. Case closed.)

The flowers outnumber the guns, though. Let's keep it that way.

UPDATE: 50 dead; time from first 111 call to arrest of the shooter - 21 minutes; time from shooting to banning of semi-automatic guns in NZ - 6 days.

Saturday 16 March 2019

15/3 = 9/11

I really believe that's not an exaggeration. Yesterday was New Zealand's 9/11 - the same scale (somebody has calculated that 49 out of a population of 4.5 million equates to almost 3,000 in a population the size of the US), the same sudden shock, the same feeling of violation from outside, the same loss of a sense of security - and innocence.

Today we woke up to the realisation that our physical isolation is no longer a protection; that the world is so closely linked now that ideas and connections are just a couple of clicks away. And that the confidence and support that social media now give to idiots who can only hold one idea in their heads, can lead to events that affect everybody else, forever after.

The white supremacist bigot who killed 49 people in two Christchurch mosques yesterday (he was the only shooter) has appeared in court, accused of murder. Our news media pixelated him by order, but I don't want to see his smug, stupid face anyway. He will, in due course, have the entire book thrown at him and, I hope, be deported back to Australia so we taxpayers don't have to fund him.

The families and friends of the victims are anxious and frustrated because many of the bodies are still lying in the mosques, unidentified - and unidentifiable, easily, because Muslims put aside their phones and wallets etc when they are praying - and already well outside the traditional 24 hours from death to burial. The media have been full of stories about close escapes, rescues and deaths; bravery, sorrow and horror. Sites all around the country are filling with flowers, drawings and messages of comfort and solidarity. There have been vigils. 

The shock is fading. Now it's all about sympathy for those who are grieving, anger at the perpetrator, and deep depression that we have now joined the rest of the world in losing a big part of what we love about our country: its safety. When we travel overseas, we're always aware in the big cities of what's happened there before, and could happen again - and it's always a relief to get home. Right now it's hard to feel that we'll ever get back to that in quite the same way.

We're also starting to question things: about the racists and white supremacists in our country, the gaps in surveillance, our gun laws. One heartening thing is that our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has been getting everything right so far, being human and one of us, and responsible and determined that this will not happen again, and saddened that the people who died, many of whom had fled their own countries to come here, should have been safe, and weren't. I did enjoy her response to Trump:  "He asked what offer of support the United States could provide. My message was: 'Sympathy and love for all Muslim communities'."

Already, semi-automatic rifles are to be banned. I'm hopeful that more measures will follow swiftly to make something like this much harder to happen again. But mainly, I just feel depressed.

Friday 15 March 2019

Kia kaha, New Zealand

Shit. I never wanted to be right about this. 

This afternoon a scumbag armed himself up with an illegal semi-automatic rifle and shot dead 41 people - men, women and small children - in a mosque on one side of Christchurch, while an associate killed seven in another mosque a few kilometres away. Currently there are 48 people in hospital with gunshot wounds, one of whom has died. So today 49 people were killed while peacefully going to Friday prayers. In Christchurch. In New Zealand. By terrorism.

I've written so often in this blog about places I've been to that have suddenly been all over the news because of mass shootings - no need to list them, you know them as well as I do - and I've said more than once, with no smugness, but unease, that if terrorists really wanted everyone in the world to feel afraid, they should stage an attack in New Zealand, because that would prove that nowhere is safe. And that's exactly what's happened - the greatest ever loss of life here not caused by a natural disaster.

The perpetrator, whose name we all know but no-one is using, was all over Facebook with a 37-page manifesto in which he said just what I did. He'd come here FROM AUSTRALIA to plan and prepare his attack, and it was only then that he realised we would be the ideal target, for exactly that reason. Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, put it very well this evening: 

"We, New Zealand, we were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate.
We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, or because we are an enclave for extremism.
We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of those things.
Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion. A home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who need it. And those values will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.
We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities, 160 languages. And amongst that diversity we share common values. And the one that we place the currency on right now is our compassion and support for the community of those directly affected by this tragedy.
And secondly, the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this.
You may have chosen us – we utterly reject and condemn you."

And you know what makes it even worse, if that's possible? That he chose to stage his attack in Christchurch. Just eight years after massive earthquakes wrecked the city and the lives of its people, who are still struggling with the aftermath, physical and mental. Poor, battered, brave Christchurch. My home town. 

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Haere ra to Wellington

With thanks to WellingtonNZ
After the brownest Bircher muesli I have ever encountered (and I am an expert) I went back down to the waterfront for this morning's activity, which began at Te Wharewaka o Poneke by the Wairepo Lagoon. Here I met Ariki, a tall and strong-looking, thoughtful and intelligent young Maori woman who welcomed me to the architecturally untraditional whare with a karakia and took me for a walk around the area, giving me the other side of the European history that was all I ever learned back in the unenlightened days. At least I did already, thanks to Jimmy yesterday, know that it was Kupe depicted in the statue outside, and I was able to show Ariki that I knew the creation story behind Wellington Harbour too. Points!
It was interesting, though - Ariki is from Taranaki and her maunga is naturally the one I spent a couple of days circling and obsessively photographing recently, but I never noticed that all carved figures there have pointed heads in recognition of its mana. 
We spent an hour walking and talking, with me learning a lot, and then, after a coffee and pain au chocolat at the gorgeous Louis Sergeant café, I was finished with Wellington for the present, and headed home again, well satisfied with my short-notice junket.

Monday 11 March 2019

Wellington: windless and wonderful

With thanks to WellingtonNZ
A clear, calm, sunny morning is a gift wherever you are, but especially in Wellington, emphasis on the ‘calm’. This was a to be bit of a theme on my second activity today, an e-bike ride around the harbour to Miramar, but first I went to Parliament. 
I've done the Parliament Tour before, but a while ago, so I needed a refresher for my story, and it was interesting - firstly, that I was the only Kiwi in the group, which apparently is the norm. Astonishing. We trailed along the literal corridors of power, past the old iron liftshaft that's the backdrop to all the news interviews with the politicians, into the library, debating chamber, committee rooms, hearing history, looking at statues (Kate Sheppard the first) and portraits, works of art and the building's clever anti-earthquake base isolators. It was all very neat and, today, since it's not sitting, deserted. We weren't allowed to take photos, but afterwards, wandering back out by myself after a coffee in the Parliamentary café, there was no-one around, so I did.
I headed back to the waterfront via the National Library for a dutiful look at the Treaty(s) of Waitangi, the Declaration of Independence and the huge rolled-up Suffrage Petition - 1893, we were first to give women the vote, you know; and a quick circuit of Old St Paul's where they are certainly very forward in their expectation of a donation. 
Next was my Switched On Bike Tour in the company of guide Jimmy. I am already a fan of e-bikes (it only takes one ride to convert you) but these bikes were even better than my first experience, being a bit less heavy and clunky, but amply powered for today’s 25km ride which was mostly on the flat.
We skimmed off along the wide pedestrian waterfront, which is continuously busy with walkers, joggers, bikers, skateboarders and dog-walkers – so there was a bit of weaving in and out, which added to the fun. We stopped to admire the Kupe statue – he discovered New Zealand, about 1000 years ago, a very impressive achievement of navigation, but it was his wife who first saw land and gave it the name of Aotearoa. (There was a bit of a flurry recently about using that as our official name, but it faded away almost immediately.) We also stopped to admire Solace in the Wind, which I had always thought, without knowing its name, was a statue of a man about to dive. But he's braced against the wind that Wellingtonians automatically deny (sorry about that ill-placed reflection).
We cruised along the cycleway past marinas, pretty boatsheds, Oriental Bay with its lovely artificial beach of golden sand (imported originally from Golden Bay in the South Island), rows of cute wooden two-storey villas interspersed with private cable-car rails shooting remarkably steeply up the cliff, and fetched up at the Zephyrometer – a similar but different wind-powered kinetic artwork from New Plymouth’s Wind Wand, and onto its second incarnation because it’s built to swivel and, this being Wellington (average wind speed 27km/h, highest recorded 250km/h during the Wahine storm in 1968) its tip has occasionally bent a bit too low for the peace of mind of passing traffic.
We continued past the end of the airport runway, past the wind-swept Hollywood sign rip-off, and turned off along the edge of the Miramar peninsula towards Shelly Bay. New territory for me, and what a revelation! So close to the city, humming away across the harbour, but cicada-buzzing bush on one side of the narrow road, and little beaches on the other, where fabulously clear, blue water was lapping on the sand. It was a whole other side to Wellington for me, and not just geographically. We skimmed along to the Chocolate Fish Café, in its picturesquely peeling old navy/air force building, had a nice smoothie and a chat in the sunshine, and then headed back along the road again.
At the end of the peninsula, we headed up the hill towards a lookout on the headland, and here was another revelation: the road was quite steep, but I cycled up it sitting up straight! Clicking on up to Turbo setting meant that I just kept pedalling at the same easy rate, but got enough of a boost from the motor to flatten that angle out completely. Fabulous. And all completely silent, of course.
We looked out over Wellington’s lovely harbour, noted that the planes taking off and landing had changed direction because of the wind, I listened to a Maori legend/geography explanation that was as inventive as always, and then headed back to the city. It was just after 5pm by now, and the commuters were heading home, Wellington-style – that is, walking and cycling along the waterfront (more ducking and diving required), and queuing patiently for ferries. We got back after almost three hours, that had zipped by as effortlessly as if on an e-bike. Brilliant invention!
We ate very well at the Thistle Inn in Thorndon, in the very building patronised by both Katherine Mansfield and Te Rauparaha, if you could ever think of a more unlikely pairing (though it wasn't of course) where young barman Matt was a star with clearly much more ahead in his future than advising customers to choose the venison risotto (though I did, and it was delicious).
We finished the night with a trip in the cable car up to the top for a splendid view over the city on this beautifully warm, calm night, with the city looking exactly as lovely and interesting as it actually is.

Sunday 10 March 2019

Wellington: cruise over, so just cruising

With thanks to WellingtonNZ
We woke this morning moored already in Wellington, whose harbour we had eased into in the early morning. It was cool and cloudy – it’s officially autumn now, after our long hot spell – and we disembarked with absolutely no ceremony (this has been the least official-feeling famil I have ever been on) but also no bills to pay. Always good! And now, goodbye Viking Sun, and on to the next thing: collecting story material in the capital.
Wellington was quiet – it is Sunday, after all – but it’s still a cool little city, with an abundance of stately and official buildings, and interesting shops, and heaps of restaurants. I did a bit of an explore of Hannah’s Laneway where Fix and Fogg the peanut butter specialists were officially closed, but their premises occupied today by Duck Island, who make what Lonely Planet has decreed New Zealand’s best icecream – high praise indeed, but well deserved, judging by the coconut caramel sesame peanut praline (a mouthful in all senses) that I enjoyed.
The Wellington Chocolate Factory is nearby in this fashionably grungy little street, making ten flavours as block chocolate plus individual ones from beans imported from Peru, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Purely because I was surprised and delighted by a similar combination in Copenhagen last year, I bought a block of craft beer-flavoured dark chocolate. (Eaten later, it was interesting but the arty dried hop flowers stuck on one side were much less fun to eat than they looked.)
Appropriately, next I went into Fortune Favours, a craft brewery in a former factory where there were many hipster beards and black t-shirts, and the Beachcomber wheat beer was very good. 

Sunday afternoon was winding down, so that was that for exploring, and I wandered back along Lambton Quay to the Park Hotel (workmanlike and handily central). Later, I ate at the always excellent Ortega FishShack, where my admiration of my juicy prawns equalled that for the friendly efficiency of the staff in their leather aprons, whisking up and down the steps and welcoming every diner like an old friend.

Saturday 9 March 2019

Viking Sun, Day Three - Good bits and not so great

With thanks to Viking for this cruise
We are at sea today, and Aotearoa is living up to its name, the land having a low fluffy duvet of cloud its whole length - but at least the sea is calm. Today is about onboard activities, if that’s not too strong a word for the clientele, most of whom to my observation seem to hover (again, probably too active a verb) outside the upper 60-70 age range that was claimed by my guide on the first day. They had parked themselves all around the ship in its many nooks and crannies with iPads and books, puzzles and games, and seemed to be settled in for the duration. I, however, dear reader, began my day in the spa with some Nordic bathing.

This was my first, and not my last, encounter of the day with a territorial fat old white (self-)entitled American man, a demographic which now has to prove itself to me, individual by individual, as worthy of space on this earth. The cause for my getting growled at here was pausing in the doorway to take off my fogging (not a euphemism) glasses, and accidentally letting out some of the steam. I’m a sauna novice, and perhaps this is the ultimate sin, but it felt like an over-reaction and certainly didn’t help me to relax. So I sat, tense and sweaty, and much closer to him than I would have preferred, space allowing, until it felt like time to cross over into the snow room, which was small and obviously chilly, snow heaped up around the walls and on the benches, clinging to the walls and visible as frost crystals in the air.

As instructed previously, I scrubbed my skin with handfuls of snow – thus exfoliating it, which is why people rave about their smooth, glowing skin afterwards – and then sat, a bit bored, waiting to get cold enough to leave. Repeat twice. I finished up with a longer session in the steam and then popping into the bucket shower next door, to pull the chain and empty a wooden bucket of cold water over my head. It was more funny than bracing. A quick wallow in the warm pool facing the flickering pretend flames along one side was the final duty – intended, probably, to induce what the Danes call hygge.
Next (today is all about experiencing what’s available on board) I went to the pool, aft, which I had all to myself. Actually, pools – there’s a Jacuzzi but the main one (still small) is an infinity pool perched right at the back of the ship, overlooking the swirling aqua and white of the wake. It’s pleasurably mesmerising to hang there gazing at it, even on a dull (but warm) day. There is a bigger one, incidentally, on the pool deck, which has a handy retractable roof.
A bit later, I passed through the Knitting Class in the Wintergarden – a busy group of women clearly of differing abilities, needle-wise, but all looking contented. I had heard that there was some shock at the prices of NZ wool – but have every confidence that they will be impressed by the quality.
I’m not eating much today, having rather overdone it in the main restaurant yesterday, and we had the Chef’s Table degustation menu to look forward to this evening, so I kept on moseying around, signally failing to get the layout straight in my head (it doesn’t help that the ship is not symmetrically organised) and fetching up at the wrong end as often as not. There were people everywhere, scattered about in comfy chairs inside and out – but nowhere looked crowded.
The theatre was busy, though, come Trivial Pursuit time. We wandered in, looking for a team to join or, failing that, somewhere to sit – but were summarily moved on from our seats by yet another officious OWM who stated that that was where his team sits. There were plenty of seats, dear reader – but these were his, and we were evicted. Then it happened again, but more politely, and we ended up on our own, a team of two amongst twenty of six each, and took on what turned out to be Round 38 of the game. It was a brisk affair, soon over, without the entertainment value of Moss running it on Silversea, and we did ok, considering: 7/15 (should have been 8, if I hadn’t been overruled on my K=potassium answer) – that’s equivalent to 21/15 if we’d had a full team, so my head is high. (The actual highest score was 14/15). More interesting than that, though, was my encounter with an actual US government whistle-blower - but that can wait for a separate post. 
Next I thought I would have a go at the art class, since I disappointed myself so deeply trying that on my last cruise. But, though I got there right on time, the class was already full and silent, people heads down busily sketching kiwis. This is the downside of joining a cruise halfway through: everyone else is onto it, their territories claimed, friendships established. The same thing happened at the choir in the shiny black windowless bar: the auditions were done ages ago, everyone had their parts and their music, and there was no room for me to croon along in their rehearsal of 'Danny Boy'.
The official Cruise Critic Awards gloating round the pool yesterday afternoon naturally focused on the category that Viking Sun was absolute top for, which was Entertainment, and tonight’s show (as well as last night’s) certainly vindicated that vote. Christina Bianca was the sole star this evening, doing song impersonations of every diva you could think of – perfectly performed, funny and thoroughly entertaining. She was excellent, and the full theatre gave her a standing ovation that she totally deserved. (Yet another Titanic reference, though - she naturally included a Celine Dion number in her performance.)

It was a very satisfying end to an evening that had already begun at The Chef’s Table with a 5-course degustation menu that was interesting and delicious, and very much complemented by the knowledgeable and enthusiastic input from the serving staff. So, well done, Viking.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...