For the last few years I’ve taken Transatlantic repositioning cruises. These cruises are a great way to see some European ports and then spend lovely days at sea on the way to Fort Lauderdale.
This year I decided to try a Transpacific. If you can hook on to the last leg of a “special” cruise, like one around the Horn, or an Alaska-Asia-Los Angeles, you’ll get superb service and ports you might not ordinarily visit.
Regent was my choice with an 18 day itinerary including 12 sea days that started in Auckland, and passed through Tahiti and the Marquesas.
Our Qantas flight departed at 8:30 PM, a 747, and took 12 and a half hours. I read a lot of whining reviews on the net about Qantas, but my wife Michael and I were impressed with the service. We had a dinner, free booze, breakfast and very attentive, friendly flight attendants. The empty seat between us was a plus.
Warning, Qantas is very strict about carry-on. No more than 15 pounds per piece, and it better fit in that little measurement cage. There is an attendant that will pull you out of line and check if it looks like you are over their limitations.
Welcome to Auckland!
We went through the usual immigration. Ironically the entry form required a statement that you had not been in prison in the last ten years. I guess those that had been would be forwarded on to Australia.
The minute you board Regent you know you are on a ship that is not a cut, but a whole hairdo above the others. Champagne is poured; at every elevator stop there are at least two crew members waiting to greet, answer questions, or point towards your immediate goal. They all say good afternoon.
When we opened our Penthouse Suite on the tenth floor, Michael said “Wow”.
No more appropriate word could be uttered. It is a beautiful room, divided by curtains, with a floor ceiling glass running the width of the outside wall, and walk in closet.
A bit about the Mariner;
she is seven years old, two and a third football fields long and thirty yards wide. Full speed she can do 20 knots or 23 mph. She cruises at 18 knots or 20.7 mph and is 50,000 tons of class.
We lunched at La Veranda (the lido) and were blown away by the service. We had our choice of an outside grill presentation and eating at umbrella shaded tables by the pool, or a more inclusive buffet and eating inside or on the aft deck. The aft deck it was, and there was hardly a second when a finished plate was not cleared; drinks were immediately refilled, and the food was excellent.
The ship offers full editions of daily newspapers like the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Miami Herald, and others from a range of countries. They are delivered to your suite in the morning for a weekly fee of $40 or $6.50 a piece. So I caught up with McNews, and Michael grabbed a seven pound book about Boris Yeltsin.
Our first stop was the Bay of Islands, NZ, a charming town. Many use it as a summer escape, others live there year round. The police station is also the home of the only policeman and his wife.
The largest homes with a view go for about $700,000 US.
At a museum we stumbled across a bowl that used to hold missionary soup. Lucky for me they couldn’t decide what to do with agnostics.
Talking about food, well kind of, Mariner features Signatures, the only restaurant at sea under the auspices of Le Cordon Bleu and staffed with chefs trained at France’s pre-eminent culinary academy. The second specialty restaurant is Prime 7; streaks and chops. There is no extra charge for these venues, but reservations are required as are jackets for men.
The big shows are a pleasant surprise. The singers really sing, band really plays; the dancers do not sing, they dance. There are no prerecorded tracks; it’s all live as it happens. Most cruise lines use “click tracks” with prerecorded chorus and band. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a tap routine, listened to the taps, and then noticed the dancers are wearing ballet slippers.
We have been to Papeete over the years and had no real interest in going into the close-by town. Everything here has to be shipped in which raises the charge for, well, everything. Now factor in the conversion to the Euro and just buy what you need when you get home in Wal-Mart. I should mention that there is a flea market about two blocks in from the port that stays open until dark.
If you are in Papeete on a weekend, the Roulettes lot will be filled with food vans serving their individual specialties.
Dozens and dozens of food vans congregate around the outdoor performance area near the tourist center on the edge of Papeete Harbor You can find any type of food that you want. They have various types of Chinese foods, sashimi, sushi, pizza, French foods, steaks – you name it. This is the least expensive place to eat in Papeete.
On sea days there’s a lot to do on Mariner. One day alone featured a lecture on “Social Life in the White House”, a slot tournament, a preview for the upcoming Art Auction, a three hole putting contest, and more.
“Please set your clocks ahead ½ hour.” Huh? On my wrist is a world time watch that has a list of cities around the world. You point the indicator at a city, press a button, and the watch moves to reflect that time on the dial. There is no way possible to make it move ahead ½ hour. And, what’s the point, we’re on a ship? Leave the time alone until we pass the next ½ hour mark. Ah, it must be the Marquesas. I’ll bet the King’s watch runs fast and thus all watches must run fast.
At Nuku Hiva, I solved the mystery of the half hour time change. In a private conversation with a guide, he said, with a touch of pride, “We used to be cannibals,
and quarreling tribes.
They all finally came together under a King. My guess is the King, was the first to dinner as he had reset his rooster. The other courtesans, getting tired of left over elbows and knees, did the same. Thus the half hour time change came into common practice. You can look it up in hyperbolepedia.
The population of Nuku Hiva is only 2,600, and many of them play locally made Ukuleles. These ukuleles are the most attractive I’ve seen and I love that people just sit and sing and play.
An underground oven dug for a feast, instead of missionaries, produced piglets.
That I skipped, but I ate more than my share of the breadfruit with coconut milk. The breadfruit was kneaded like, well, bread dough, in coconut milk and then placed on a tray. I wish we could get breadfruit in the States. Once you have it fried, you’ll want it for every breakfast. Actually, one could live on breadfruit alone as it provides so many nutrients.
As we crossed the equator into the Northern Hemisphere the ship’s whistle blew and King Neptune emerged from the depths and declared that to celebrate the occasion he was hosting a Country Fair.
Every passenger was given $15 of Neptune’s Fair money. It was a dollar a go and the idea was to win as much money as possible in 45 minutes. Every time you got $20 you exchanged it for a raffle ticket for the grand draw.
The booths were a hoot. One had you guess your weight against cases of beer. The players would guess how many cases of beer would equal their weight. That amount of cases would be put on a platform. Next, a seat on a swing type seat attached to the platform. If they balanced…we have a winner. Another booth had Black Jack. Had it been real I’d be writing this on a new computer. But the favorites involved water or ice cream and a bit of aim.
For the farewell dinner, the entire dining room was candle lit and quite lovely. Caviar was good, main dishes excellent, and service as good as it gets.
Just a note about service; a female Sommelier was alone by the elevators and sneezed an itty bitty feminine sneeze.
Bless you!” I said.
She quickly removed the tissue from her nose and said, “How may I help you sir?”
Regent is at the top end of luxury cruise lines. Yeah, well top end luxury means top end money, right? Not always. Regent is offering some amazing deals without even a slight tarnish to the offered opulence. They’ll even hand you free unlimited shore excursions.
Do not miss this opportunity. www.rssc.com