Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Our Australia and New Zealand Cruise Adventure

We got off the plane and collected our luggage at the Sydney Airport International Terminal.   Our discombobulated family of four approached the Australian Customs x-ray area; our two-week long Australia/ New Zealand cruise holiday was really over.

The customs officer asked the usual questions.  "Are you carrying any fruit or nuts?  Any plants or meat products?".  And we confidently responded, "No, no, and no."  Then from behind me, I hear my seven-year old's little raspy voice say, "We're not going to get caught again, are we mom?"

And I could just imagine his outburst leading to the camera crew of Aussie TV show Border Security swooping down on us,  as it was only a few hours earlier (approximately 4:30am) that we had a small fiasco in the Auckland Airport.   Our seven-year old's Thomas the Train rolling carry-on bag was pulled for "additional security screening"-- you know, where they place the suspicious bag in a mysterious machine, that I'm assuming detects explosives and other really bad things.

And when they found the bottle of Little Noses saline spray stuffed in with Jack the Bunny, the thought occurred to me that I probably should have actually monitored what they put in their carry-on bags - which they were both allowed to pack without parental supervision.  This rings especially true after boarding the ship in Sydney, unzipping the luggage and finding that somehow my five year old had crammed his massively fluffy tiger costume in his carry-on, along with a wide array of blankies and stuffed animals.

Needless to say, our cruise on the Diamond Princess was awesome.

Sailing out of Sydney Harbour at sunset.

Sailing past the Sydney Opera House.

 Shuffleboard the first day at sea, Ollie is the tiger.
It wouldn't be a cruise without shuffleboard in a tiger suit, now would it?

Our first stop was Melbourne, Australia.  Within ten minutes of meeting our tour guide, we decided we'd be better off without him; what kind of tour guide asks where we want to go-- I've never been here before, how would I know? 

So we went off on our own...

Melbourne, Australia.

And wondered around aimlessly until we finally met our friends for a lunch date.

For lunch we met up with our fabulous American friends who used to live in Sydney.  And by fabulous, we're talking the kind of mom who cuts her kids' hair all cool and funky, and at the same time with her other hand she makes stuff like this.  For weeks now I've been trying to teach my kids the proper use of "air quotes"-- here my girl Nat is helping the cause.

Natalie demonstrating "air quotes".

Hobart, Tasmania was our second stop.  I could totally live there-- loved it!


Though I would probably try and avoid these cute but not so cuddly guys...

Tasmanian Devil with a bad attitude.
Tasmanian Devil with a bad attitude at the Bonorong Wildlife Reserve.

I think this little wallaby friend quickly responded to the mating call sounds my five year-old animal whisperer was making... apparently she or he was looking for some action.

Ollie and our tour guide de jour Michael in Tasmania.

By the way, we took a tour with Great Expeditions-- Michael (above) was our guide for the day, and if ever in Hobart, Tasmania I'd highly recommend you hook up with him, he made Hobart one of the highlights of our trip.

Next we hit Milford Sound Fjordland.  These were taken from our cruise ship balcony.

Milford Sound

Me and a fjord.Me and a fjord in reflection.
Dunedin, New Zealand was gorgeous!  Rolling hills sprinkled with sheep and bicyclists and playgrounds.  We had big, big plans for this day, first stop- The Cadbury Chocolate Factory.


Unfortunately, after we got the kids all jacked-up on sugar, it seemed the windy, mountainous roads were a little too much, and an eruption (literally) of carsickness sent us heading back to the ship.  We did however hit another playground before "the incident" and New Zealand playgrounds are so nice they're worth showing off.

Pre-vomit playground: (I'm sparing you the clothing-covered-with-vomit second playground photos... you're welcome:).


Playgrounds around the world-- we should write a book on that...

Christchurch, New Zealand was reminiscent of Victoria, Canada-- gorgeous flower lined streets, friendly people, and all-around nice nice nice.

They just learned about making funny faces to make someone smile for a photo.
My kids in front of the Harley building (incidentally our seven year-old's middle name) learning the fine art of making someone laugh to get a photo smile.

Oliver the Dog Whisperer finds the first dog to pose with on our trip-- more are coming.
More "Dogs Around the World."  Yes my child wears Crocs with socks-- international tourist extraordinaire.

Taraunga/ Rotorua, New Zealand was like the Daytona Beach of New Zealand, party city.  One lesson I learned during this trip was that the islands of New Zealand were formed by an erupted volcano, and this was evident throughout our trip as we visited beached covered in lava rocks and black speckled sand that was hot as hell.

Lava rocks at the beach New Years Day.

This is the beach that faces the Pacific Ocean, there was a rad party happening on our day there.

The harbour beach in Tauranga, NZ.
This is the inner harbour beach in Tauranga, with our ship, the Diamond Princess, in the background.
    During the cruise we had six days at sea.  Back in the day (when my husband and I were in the cruise business) we sailed as on the QE2  from New York to London, and six days at sea meant a whole lot of "afternoon tea", bingo, and cocktails. 

    QE2 Transatlantic Crusie 1996

     On Cunard's QE2 in about 1995, we had probably been dating about a year.

     QE2 Transatlantic on Deck 1996
    Sitting on the deck of the QE2 in the good ole days with my dear friend Rochelle.  Rochelle passed away last month from breast cancer, she was one of those people who everyone adored, and she will be missed by her many, many friends.

    Now this may sound ridiculous, but my husband and I have each been on over 100 cruises.   And we have had lots of "days at sea"... but cruising with 5 & 7 year old boys puts a whole new dimension to the whole thing.

    Take away food from the Trident Grill.  REAL American hamburgers and hot dogs-- yay!
    Pseudo- room service.  That means, Daddy goes to the buffet, loads up plates of food, and comes back to the room hoping we're happy with his chosen assortment... by the way, we always were.

    Brotherly love at sea.

    And did I mention there was a talent show? Warning: The Cruiseship Talent Show video below, may be absolutely hilarious-- or could potentially lead to a spontaneous narcolepsy attack; I cannot objectively determine which, you may or may not want to actually watch it.  Oh guess what, after TWO HOURS of trying to upload the video-- blogger says there's an error.  Y'all lucked out on that one.

    We had New Years Eve on the open sea, an evening which for most passengers involved seeing balloons dropped from the top of the ship's atrium lobby, and lots of cocktails and champagne.

    And you know you're on a cruise ship for New Years when:

    Sneak peek at NYE buffet items.

    For us, New Years Eve was incredibly exciting-- days earlier, we had told our seven year-old that if his tooth (which had been loose for a over a year) was out by midnight 12/31/2010 (or if you're in Australia that's 31/12/2010), then the tooth fairy would quadruple the going rate AND he'd get a sip of real champagne at midnight.

    Right after we pulled the tooth out at approximately 11:56pm Dec. 31.

    Oh yes he did!  Too funny.  We spent last year's holiday season similarly over-toothy and then, toothless.

    So that was our big trip, which had been preceded by months of nonstop visitors from the U.S., including my in-laws, my wonderful friend Shelby who owns this company, and my mom.  And now here I sit, no more houseguests and vacation complete.  There are three more weeks left of school vacation here, I've begun my next project--  convincing my husband we should get another puppy this year. 

    Ruby the Labradoodle, stayed at her friend Jaffa the Smokin' Hot Labradoodle's house while we were away.  She's been moping around the house for a week now that she's back to her boring life...  I'd say she really needs a friend.  But hey, it's not all bad... we did celebrate her 1st birthday last week, and she does live quite the posh doggy life-- though I am quite sure she'd be ecstatic if she had a new doggy roommate.

    So that's pretty much the last few months in a nutshell-- though I do have a secret...

    There's a really funny video from our cruise that's been omitted from this post, it's of my husband and I in an elevator after a couple of drinks, cracking up, and swearing at each other... but I have to leave something to your imaginations...  though I am considering adding it to this post... hmmm, should I-- or should I not?



    NessaKnits said...

    Who needs Oprah for tourism when you have Florida Girl? Bravo! Great photos, great holiday!

    Florida Girl In Sydney said...

    Nessaknits- Thanks! And I'm not bitter at all that I didn't get Oprah tickets... hahaha.

    suzinoz said...

    What a whole lot of fun. I hope you saw some good stuff in Melbourne. If I'd have known you were stopping by I would've sent you a few hot tips. Loved the stories and the photos. You are always so funny!

    C. In Oz said...

    IN LOVE with the photos of your son in the tiger suit. What an awesome mom you are! That cruise looks amazing, and makes me want to hit the high seas. Nice to see you back in blog land!

    Kate said...

    Looks like you had an amazing trip and great photos. I can relate to the carry-on story. My daughter was stopped at Singapore airport as we were changing planes and asked to remove the scissors from her hand luggage. Scary thing is the bag had already been scanned in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi and no-ne had noticed. Now I check!

    The Taskers said...

    I've wondered where you've been - and now I know! Sounds like tonnes of fun - great photos, especially the one with the tiger suit, that is just hilarious!

    I'm so excited that you caught up with Nat - I've noticed her personal blog is no longer available without invite, so if you have her email I'd love to get it from you (mine is gdayfromla @ gmail . com)

    We're pretty much settled back in Perth, though in reality I'd love to be back in Houston and I beg my husband every day to sell this place, quit his job and move us back (yeah, that's not happening). I've had both my kids home with me full time since May 21, not that I'm counting, and can't wait until school starts in 3 weeks (again, who's counting) and don't know what I'll do with all my time.

    Hope you enjoy the last few weeks of school holidays!

    The Baker Family said...

    love the photos Laura and with over two weeks of holidays left and me on leave surely we can manage to catch up??????

    Florida Girl In Sydney said...

    Suzinoz- Thanks! And if ever in Sydney, please email me, I'd love to meet you.

    C.in Oz- I'd definitely recommend a cruise to see these places, then you can decide where you'd want to go back to. Glad to be back-- I've been trying to organize a blog post for like a month alreday... it was ridiculous.

    Florida Girl In Sydney said...

    Kate- So comforting to know I'm not alone in this- haha. You just made me realize there was an Epi-pen 2pk (for nut allergy) in our bag too!

    Taskers- I"ll email you or ask Natalie to. And have to admit, we miss Texas too-- it was a surprising awesome place to live (we were in Dallas for 4 yrs).

    Skye- We MUST get together-- it has been such a hectic year, and we miss y'all! When can we come to the new house?

    Erin said...

    Yay! Love the cruise wrap-up post. I'm lucky enough to have seen your photos already, but they are always way better when they are in addition to your witty stories. I'm glad you had a great time! I think I'd love Hobart too. I think climate-wise Tasmania is my kind of place.

    Oh... and you KNOW I want to see that video of you and Big Daddy swearing. I would PAY to see it. I triple dog dare you. ;-)

    Oh and yes, Ruby needs a playmate. Believe me, I have two, and they need a friend. Start working your charm sister!

    Mwah! xo

    Florida Girl In Sydney said...

    Erin- Don't worry-- YOU will see it, if I have to drag you over here myself, it's so funny. And I know, and Big Daddy had just agreed that I should find Ruby a brother... so there you have it-- we're getting a puppy. When I had a yorkie, I got a cat to keep him company, and that was great-- but the Rubesmeister needs a friend, she's like the most social doggy loving dog ever. Let's catch up... when?

    Dina said...

    Awesome trip report!!!

    You have a great way of describing things.

    Funny that the Melbourne tour guide asked you where to go. Did he not even give you choices??? I can imagine someone saying "Would you prefer to go here, here, or here?" But to just ask "Where do you want to go?" He sounds more like a cab driver.

    I also like seeing your old cruise photos. I'm sorry about your friend passing away.

    rinniez said...

    This just looks like sooooo much fun! I havent been to Tasmania yet but pretty much everywhere else you went - i absolutely love milford sound in NZ its so beautiful!
    definately sold the idea of going on a cruise!

    Florida Girl In Sydney said...

    Dina- Thanks and thanks cuzzie! He did ask if we wanted to go to the tower overlooking the city-- but yeah, he was basically a cab driver for WAY more money!

    Rinniez- We loved loved loved Milford Sound too-- it was like being in Alaska, only slightly warmer. I think I belong living somewhere that feels like that!

    South Beach Mom said...

    Awesome story and pictures. Love the one of you with a fjord in the reflection. Been there "back in the day" as we call it too. I'm sure the whole cruising experience was different with the 5 & 7 yr old as I have experienced it myself. Wow, how the 7 yr old has grown!! Great post!

    Florida Girl In Sydney said...

    South Beach- Thanks! And we're going to China next-- wanna come?

    Marvin the Martian said...

    I'll show you my vomit photos if you show me yours.

    You CAN edit posts in Blogger after you posted them. You just can't edit comments, while in Wordpress you CAN (woo!).

    Awesome pix.

    Tamara said...

    Love this post, really funny! I could only imagine what happened to the tour guide after you ditched him. Hope you enjoyed!

    Florida Girl In Sydney said...

    Marvin- And in regards to editing a post-- would that be so I could add the elevator video-- or the talent show video?

    Tamara- Hmmm-- who knows? Thanks!

    Rassles said...


    Florida Girl In Sydney said...

    Rassles-matassles- I don't know if y'all could handle it. Well you could, but not sure about the rest of them.

    jpck said...

    Looks like an amazing time!!! How awesome are those fjords!?!?

    steck said...

    A fantastic trip, for sure.

    I have no snappy one-liners, sorry to say. But I'll mention that the highlight of my New Zealand trip was being evicted from my shared hostel room in Dunedin because of snoring.

    Florida Girl In Sydney said...

    jpck- They were amazing. Love them! You need to go to Alaska!

    Steck- Did I mention the highlight of our day in Dunedin was my seven year old barfing all over the car? Oh right, I did. Your story sounds like it was much more fun...

    Kristie said...

    Wow,that looks like an amazing trip! Can I just tell you how jealous I am that you have access to the most awesome Cadbury chocolate. I would give just about anything to tour that factory and load up! We have Cadbury chocolate here in Minnesota but it is no where near being as good as the stuff I had in Australia or Canada. Now I want some chocolate. Dang.

    As usual your pictures are stunning!

    Florida Girl In Sydney said...

    Kristie- Thanks! The Cadbury factory was cool! And we almost didn't get the tour because the "chocolate waterfall" inside the big silo was broken and tours were canceled that morning when we arrived-- then as if by miracle (haha) it was fixed and we got to go. woo hoo, must have been meant to be.

    PamelaRose said...

    Of course, I love all the photos but my fav's...as you may have guessed...are the amazing New Year's Eve tooth pull and the incredible fluffy tiger shuffle boarding!!!
    Amazing story telling on your part, too!

    Florida Girl In Sydney said...

    PR- Thanks mamacita.

    sophiebn0 said...

    Cool pics! You had an amazing Ship cruising ryte! I would also be considering a cruising trip next time.