Tuesday 24 December 2019

Silver Muse cruise, Day One - Lovely little Lyttelton

With thanks to Silversea for this cruise
Car, ferry, car, road tunnel, plane, car, road tunnel, ship - the journey wasn't without incident, mainly because of the Chinese Uber driver at the end who didn't understand English, which you would have thought would be a fairly major daily handicap for him - but we got here finally. As a Mainlander, it's always good to cross Cook Strait and see the golden beaches along the top of the South Island, then the mountains with, currently, Indian snow (no? Apache here, Apache there (old joke, not mine)) and then the squiggly braids of the Kaiapoi and Waimakariri Rivers north of Christchurch.
The city itself looked lovely in its green, flowery, neat summer incarnation, but we swept straight through, under the Port Hills, end emerged in Lyttelton, somewhere I haven't spent any time for ages. 
So, spurning the elegant comforts of the Silver Muse, I headed straight out and up to the Timeball Station for an overview - and my goodness, it did look gorgeous today. Turquoise sea, sun-baked rocky ruined crater walls all around, and little Lyttelton's pretty wooden villas clustered around the port with its big cranes.
The 2010/11 earthquakes did some serious damage here, and the Timeball Station itself fell down over two shakes. The tower was carefully dismantled and then fairly recently reconstructed exactly as it was, which is lovely to see since it's not only of historical importance - erected in1876, one of only two purpose-built in the world - but also part of the backdrop to town life. The ball drops at 1pm, but I didn't see that. I did though see the bronze statue of Skippy, the local dog that used to come running every day when she heard the ball being wound up, to bark as it dropped. Cute.
Back down in the town, there are plenty of buildings still showing damage, but mostly it's a gently buzzing little place well supplied with coffee shops and bars, and boutiques selling the sort of quirky, arty items that are fun to look at but which I can only imagine (other) people buying. The shop owners will be looking forward to increased custom now the port is back in action and they won't be losing all those cruise ships to Akaroa any more.
On board Silver Muse, we had a personal lifeboat drill session (we alone are joining the cruise five days after it began) which surprisingly delivered new information. Did you know you should always clip the top strap. under your chin, so the crew can use it as a handle to grab you and pull you on board the lifeboat? Essential knowledge right there.

Still clutching our lifejackets, and thereby disconcerting a number of fellow passengers guests, we plonked ourselves down to eavesdrop on the Team Trivia session that was under way. We got about 12/20 ourselves, were impressed by the questions - what day was 9/11? what's a group of polar bears called? what colour hair did Christopher Columbus have? - and left hoping to infiltrate one of the teams tomorrow, with more luck than we had with the total washout team we joined on Silver Wind in August.
The Christmas decorations on the ship are lovely - very tasteful, as you would imagine - though I have to say, Explorer Dream's gingerbread houses were superior. The crew are all wearing Santa hats, and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas with apparent genuine good will; and the ones who came trooping through the bar we were in pre-dinner loudly singing Jingle Bells all seemed to be having a good time.

We joined a group table for dinner, which was long rather than round so not that great for conversation, but we still enjoyed chatting with the American bridge professionals on board (for a month, playing twice a day only on at-sea days - sounds like a pretty good gig), a couple from near Sydney and a Kiwi vet and his wife. Conversation topics: the days of the 10/6 leg of lamb; the superiority of a schnoodle to purebred schnauzers and poodles; the post-Inca Trail e.coli infection of a cruise ship (not Silversea). And the special Christmas Eve dinner (lots of Europeans on board - this is their thing, and very happy we were to share it with them) was very good - seafood bisque and then roast goose with caramelised shallots (the goose suprisingly meaty, but nice) and cherries jubilee.
In all, a very pleasant and encouraging start to this Silversea cruise which began in Auckland (not for us) and will loop around the South Island before heading over to Tasmania, Melbourne and smoke-choked Sydney. Ten days of nothing but enjoyment ahead. Merry Christmas!


the queen said...

Well, a Tuesday, because they had to cancel the NY primary. And I’d guess a shiver of polar bears, and red hair?

Pamela Wade said...

Yes; good guess, but apparently it's a celebration; and no, blonde. We only got the Tuesday one right too.


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