Departure from Auckland was the beginning of a 3,500 mile cruise along the eastern coast of New Zealand, almost due west to Tasmania and then on to Melbourne and Sydney. There were seven stops including the final one in Sydney. The cruise to Wellington was 615 miles and took roughly thirty-six hours. It is a bit strange to go to sleep while the ship is moving at sixteen knots and then wake up, look outside, and see that the ship is docked — either a harbor view or a land view depending on which side of the ship is tied to the pier. The most noticeable thing on shore at Wellington, and some other stops, was an enormous amount of cut timber piled up and waiting to be exported to Japan or other parts of Asia.
(Note: I promise to post pictures in the photo gallery. Between the four of us, we took more than 500 pictures and I plan to weed out the duplicates and ooops’es before uploading to the gallery.)
The day in Wellington went quickly. We saw a few highlights of the capital city and visited a nice pub on the waterfront for lunch before heading back to the ship for departure to Christchurch. Very early in the morning, a ten-car train had pulled up parallel to the ship to take interested passengers on a scenic tour of this beautiful part of the southern island. Our friends decided to take the train but we decided to take a taxi and invent our own tour as we went. Organized tours can be great but there is a lot of overhead in getting everyone loaded and unloaded and making stops that you may not want to make. By doing your own thing you can decide instantaneously to stop to see something and stay a longer or shorter time as you choose. Christchurch is world-renowned for its beauty — especially the beautiful gardens. The homes along the Avon were gorgeous.
It was in the middle of the night on the next leg of the cruise that our friend was stricken with the Norovirus. When checking on how their day on the train was, we found out that she had been quarantined to the stateroom for forty-eight hours. We later learned that when the bio-suited team came to their room, that there had already been 150 cases. That evening, on the way to Dunedin, the Captain announced that the ship had been placed on "red alert". You could hear a pin drop in the dining room as the Captain was discussing this. Our friend recovered fully and none of the other three of us got sick, but daily life onboard changed for all 2,600 passengers and 1,200 crew for the remainder of the cruise.
Norovirus is a name created in recent years to describe the "Norwalk" class of gastrointestinal viruses. You can imagine the symptoms. The virus is believed to spread through physical contact. A number of measures were taken to get control of the virus. Dispensers of Purel-like sanitizing liquid were prominent at the entrance to all the ship’s seven restaurants. Crew members were dispatched continuously to wipe down handrails, elevator buttons, tables and chairs. Salt and pepper shakers and snack dishes were removed bars and restaurants. Buffet meals had additional staff assigned to serve rolls and salads. The ship’s officers and crew handled the incident very professionally. There were certainly inconveniences, but we still had a wonderful time.