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Auckland

Despite an inauspicious start, everything has turned out well so far. On Friday, our first of three flights was set to leave Montreal around 11:15. Not wanting to add to what was going to be a bejezused long day of travel, we drove out from Ottawa the night before and stayed at a hotel just outside the airport grounds. Regardless of our (Sarah’s) good planning and our (Sarah’s) travel keenness in general, the weather was not our friend. My peeps in the GTA know what I’m saying. Twenty plus centimeters of snow across most of Ontario meant flight cancellations galore. We were lucky though, we were just delayed… long enough to arrive in Chicago at precisely the same time our Chicago flight was set to leave. Fortunately, there were enough folks on our flight who needed the same connection (all fellow cruisers), so they held the next flight for us. Four hours later, that flight landed in Los Angeles—and let me say right now that LAX is the most ghetto airport I’ve ever seen in a developed country. Everything is ripped up in half-stages of construction, the duty free shop looks like a timeshare booth, and (at least past security) there’s exactly one place to grab a drink, with seating for eight people. Awesome and awesome.
Then it was onto our transpacific flight on (wait for it, Rain Man fans…) Quantas Airlines.

Turbulent, turbulent flight, every half hour we got rocked and rolled in our seats, but because it was a big-ass 747 there weren’t any stomach-churning drops so I didn’t mind so much. We also managed a few decent hours of bent-legged sleep, although I was wide awake after three a.m. and burned the rest of the trip watching the Darjeeling Limited and playing Chess on my cool little personal entertainment centre. Off the plane, through immigration, and lo and behold our luggage was actually there! And that wasn’t the only surprise of the day. Seeing as there was about six hours between when our flight came in and when we could board the ship, Celebrity arranged driving tours of Auckland for everyone arriving on our flight. Our driver, Peter O’Toole’s long lost Kiwi brother, took us around the city in a thankfully air conditioned coach. Stop one was Savage Memorial Gardens, grounds named in honour of one of New Zealand’s former prime ministers, Michael Savage. Our guide told us how Mr. Savage performed some sort of philanthropic and/or valiant and/or otherwise superheroic activity that warranted the making of the garden, but let’s face it, I was jetlagged all to hell and only half paying attention. There was a quick stop at Mission Bay next, a popular beach, so we’re told.

The best stop, though, was the Auckland Museum. Celebrity had set up their check-in booth there, so once we burned through that we were off on a very quick guided tour of the exhibits. There was a section on the geographic changes to the land mass over time, a section on Maori culture, and a section on birds... and which do you think was the most interesting? Would you believe the birds? New Zealand was mammal-less until Europeans starting importing them, so in place of mammals were a strange and diverse array of birds. My favourite is the kiwi (no, not this kiwi. And not that Kiwi either). The kiwi is about the size of a coconut, has a long thin beak, cat-like whiskers, and no wings. It doesn’t sound cute, but it is and I want to take one home very badly. The award for freakiest bird goes to the Moa (extinct, thankfully). The Moa was this nine-foot ostrich-like monstrosity with the oversized, clawed feat of a raptor. I hated it. I would have punched the shit out of the model they had if it wasn’t protected by glass.

Our tour turned slightly ugly after this. Our driver started on a rant about the rise of graffiti in Auckland that shortly and strangely ended with the suggestion that New Zealand should bring back the death penalty. Little odd. Fortunately, we had another stop after this, at the Wintergardens. We scored tea and sandwiches, and walked the grounds of twin atriums holding various pretty flower-type things.

Once on the ship, we unpacked fairly quickly, took the most glorious and well-needed showers ever, and then stomped the familiar grounds. Different ship, same features. I say this not as a criticism because it’s actually quite comforting. We had a private tour booked for the next day, and the lady who put it together arranged a meet-and-greet for everyone involved. I dread these kinds of things because it’s generally a bunch of board-posters who already know one another, and I’m not one of them. But while that was kind of the case, it was also just a bunch of cool, friendly people sitting down for drinks. On these cruises, we usually establish a bunch of friends by the end of the trip, but this time around, between the flight, killing time in airports, and this meet-and-greet, we got those friendships at the start. (And we ended up seeing these same people everywhere we go.)

Dinner was quite good. Our table mates and a nice bunch, though we were short one couple that first night. We did the whole what’s yer name, where ya from, whadaya do bit, and the night passed well. We’re exhausted by the end though and I’m dying to just crash down asleep in my dessert (which was crème brulè—and would have been all crunchy and dramatic at first, but soft and comforting in the end.) Back in the room, we fell within about a minute, and we didn’t move until sunup the next morning.

Comments

Leanne said…
Ohhhh play by play! I love it! Keep them coming...it's like I am there! Tell me how warm and sunny it is and allll the hot guys running around...DON'T leave any detail out Dave. (= lol
Anonymous said…
Do you guys ever work?? You don't have jobs in Ottawa do you. You just wanted to get out of buying Dad's tickets every week. Enjoy your trip.
Kelly said…
The link to your first kiwi reference is FORBIDDEN!

Also, whatta trip!
Anonymous said…
I'm convinced that Dave and Sarah are superspies with wads of cash.

I have to say that I don't feel sorry in the slightest that their driveway will be full of snow.

Of course, the Rent brigade will probably be doing some shovelling...
Beth said…
I'm with you on LAX being the most ghetto airport in the developed world. I had layovers there on my way to and from Santa Barbara and there was fuck all there. On the plane on the way home from LAX, some peeps told me that "oh no, you were just in the wrong part, there *tonnes* of stuff in LAX. But I'd been exploring and unless there is a secret passageway... perhaps if you walk through the solid wall between gates 9 and 10, there is a magical gate 9 3/4 where all the cool shops and cafes are.

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