Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Day 12 - Tue Feb 27, 2018 (Napier, New Zealand) - Crystal Symphony - Sydney to Tahiti

Day 12 – Napier, New Zealand

Napier is a city on the North Island of approximately 58,000.  The city is approximately 2 miles from where we are docked.  On Feb 3, 1931 it suffered a devastating magnitude 7.9 earthquake, lasting 2.5 minutes.  The town center was flattened, the fires burned for several days, 258 people died.  There were 525 aftershocks, many in the 6+ magnitude range over nearly 3 weeks time.  Amazingly, the entire area was raised up by the cataclysmic thrust 7 feet, creating 9,000 new acres of dry land filling in the lagoon and areas around the small island-town.  It was decided to rebuild.  Many tradesman came to Napier to find work in the construction industry, however, not all could take the aftershocks and left.  A temporary “tin town” commercial area was set up right by Clive Square and the rebuilding began.  European Art Deco was the style of the day, with geometric forms, stucco surfaces and relief decorations. They also chose to use reinforced concrete because they learned that brick houses do NOT survive a quake, but reinforced concrete does.

Julie booked a walking tour of the city center with the Art Deco Trust.  It was 1.5 hours long and very informative.  We learned about the earthquake, the rebuilding of the city and our guide pointed out architectural features that we would have never picked up on our own. There are many people in the city dressed in the Art Deco style as well as a number of beautifully restored vintage automobiles.  

Clive Square.

The ceilings were mostly glass to let light into the interior of the buildings.

The interior in many buildings are also art deco.

A pair of statues with 30's clothing. They are waving to each other across the street.

Next, a guided tour by the lovely Claudia in a 1929 restored Oldsmobile.  Claudia previously was an Art Deco Trust tour guide and knew the content of the walking tour that we had taken.  She tailored our 1 hr 15 min vintage car tour to see and hear different stories about Napier.  She took us out along Marine Parade to show us the “sunken gardens” the only area not raised by the earthquake, to the National Tobacco Building, regarded as the fanciest Art Deco building in the city. It was built by Mr Rothman who thought the Art Deco style too plain and wanted it to be fancy, telling the architects that money was no object.  He was quite progressive and treated his employees well.  He had a day care at the facility for women who worked, health care, excellent pay, and benefits. After the earthquake, he filled his pockets with cash so that he could distribute it as he met people in need post-earthquake.  And lastly, to a neighborhood of Art Deco homes built during the restoration.  All in all, a great way to spend time in an interesting city. Riding in the '29 Olds was quite an incredible experience.

The backseat was amazingly spacious.

What an incredible ride.

Art deco style made it to residences as well.


Back onboard we had a late lunch in the Marketplace, fixing ourselves salads.  Yes, we had wine with lunch. Normally we don't do that, but today was such a great morning, we decided - "why not"? Then (more true confessions) a trip to the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Bar, Scoops.  The ice cream is fabulous and they have toppings…. We just can’t make it a habit, not that we wouldn’t like to J

The lecture this afternoon was General Nick Halley on “The Life and Death Struggle for World Order- Radical Islam Fights for World Domination” providing analysis of the current war against Radical Islam from the point of view of a soldier who has been there.

Before we left port, the locals had brought up half a dozen vintage cars and a band to play music out on the dock from the 30's/40's era. It was a heckuva a sendoff.

Plus we had the proverbial massive number of logs on the dock waiting for transport.

Dinner tonight was in Silk, a Chinese specialty restaurant on Deck 11 that was added during the multi-million dollar Fall 2017 dry dock.  It is beautifully decorated and this is the first time we’ve eaten there.  We quite enjoyed the atmosphere, especially the living walls, as well as a different style of food.  

Our waiter suggested that we go with the “set menu” for the appetizers since we had not dined there before.  The meal served family style included:

Amuse bouche starter (pork)

Crisp Duck Salad

Dim sum sampler including:  Scallop Shu Mai, Truffled Wild Mushroom Potstickers, Pork Potstickers. Plus pork Spring Rolls and Crispy Fried Prawn Dumplings (we both thought that the dumpling was amazing).

Julie enjoyed the Sweet Corn Soup with Crabmeat while Bob had the Won Ton Soup.

The entrée we chose the Lobster & Scallop Wok with Black Bean Sauce and the Kung Pao Chicken.

While the desserts sounded wonderful, there was no room for it tonight, nor room for calories given our afternoon ice cream.

One of the things that has been expanded is the options for entertainment.  As an example, this evening’s entertainment included:
·       Vocalist Peter Cousens in the Galaxy Theater
·       “Sabor Latino” Dance Show in the Starlite Club featuring Latin Dance Artists
·       Piano Music in the Crystal Cove Lounge
·       “Heartworn Highways Revisited” in the Hollywood Theater
·       Cocktail Music in the Avenue Saloon
·       The Double Malt Duo for variety listening in the Palm Court
Lots of options during the evenings!

Today we walked 6.07 miles, 14,590 steps, 35 flights of stairs.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Day 11 - Mon Feb 26, 2018 (Wellington, New Zealand) - Crystal Symphony - Sydney to Tahiti

Day 11 – Wellington, NZ, Feb 26, 2018

Our stop today is in Wellington.  This is our first stop on the North Island of New Zealand. The Cook Strait between the South Island and the North Island is only 20 miles wide, but it has very strong currents, choppy seas, and is a wind tunnel.  We were tethered to two tug boats as we sailed in.  

We were up bright and early walking on the Promenade Deck.  Julie had gotten about 2.5 miles in when it started to sprinkle, and before she could get indoors, it was pouring rain.  We’ve been very lucky and had beautiful weather thus far, but it looks to be a rainy all day.  Our morning plan was to walk to the Cable Car, ride it up, then hike down through the Botanic Gardens and the Lady Norwood Rose Garden.  We scrapped that plan and are remaining on the ship this morning until our organized tour.

The population of Wellington is about 350,000.  Wellington is the seat of the New Zealand government.  It is a very modern city, often compared to San Francisco. 

We were able to make a couple calls home to talk with our kids via wifi calling while on the ship.  It worked great.  Having unlimited internet included is very nice.

What a stroke of luck. Our tour of Lord of the Rings Locations and Weta Workshop was originally scheduled for this morning.  A group bumped us off our tour and our time was rescheduled for 1:15 pm.  It sprinkled for a few minutes as we walked out to the bus, then it cleared and stopped raining.  

We took a few pictures along the way to Weta. The sign symbolizes the massive winds that they get constantly in Wellington. They said that it blows about 40 kph about every other day and over 100 kph about once a week. It is the core of film making in New Zealand. 

The first stop was at Weta Workshop where they showed us the process in detail for making makeup prostheses, and props.  They are a company that works globally for the movie industry.  The props that they demonstrated were amazing and so realistic-looking.  Peter Jackson owns Weta Workshop (about 75 full time people) that does the props and "stuff", Weta Digital (about 1000 people) that does all of the CGI for the films, Park Place (about 750) that does post production. He also owns Stone Street Studios (sound stages) and Portsmouth Road film equipment company. He essentially has created an end-to-end complete set of companies for making any film. When they are in the middle of a project, they roughly double in size with contract workers (who work hard to try and get hired full time). There are apparently other film companies in the area as well.

Most of the props and even the costumes are made out of heavy duty plastic (even the chain mail is now made of plastic). Their process is they do a ton of concept drawings until the get something that looks like they want. They then take those images and create a 3D model using ZBrush. They then use a CNC machine to create a physical prop (the material is similar to very lightweight wood). They then make a mold of model and from that cast the actual prop in plastic. They then paint it. The props were incredibly light weight, but they would often embed a steel rod in the middle to give them sufficient heft so the actor's muscles had to get involved in holding the object. When they need an extreme closeup, they will actually make a real object out of metal (such as a sword), but mostly they use plastic and paints.

Unfortunately they explained that all of the props and stuff inside of the tour area was owned by the companies that paid for them to be created. So they no pictures. But they did allow us to take a few pictures in the lobby.

The wall of many many awards 

The second part of the tour was to Mount Victoria where we walked in the Wellington greenbelt to view some of the locations for the opening shots of Lord of the Rings.  This is where we were really happy that the rain had stopped.  The “haunted woods” area is on a fairly steep slope and it would be slippery in the rain.  The Monterey Pines are imported trees and were planted too closely together for them to grow properly.  This gives them the haunted appearance.  The tour guide also talked a lot about the issues with filming LOTR – one of the major ones being scale.  The hobbits were supposed to be 3”6” tall and they had to deal with making them look that size.  They used different photographic tricks as well as hauling in very large tree stumps so that they looked dwarfed next to them.

The early scenes from Fellowship where they were escaping the Shire.

Tumbling down the hill in search of mushrooms.

We should not be on the road.

Views from the top of Mount Victoria. The cruise ship is on the right.

Peter Jackson (Director LOTR) is a resident of Wellington and has done so much for the film industry here.  The Miramar peninsula has be nicknamed “Wellywood” as it is the center of the NZ film industry.  The New Zealand tourist industry has really benefited from the LOTR movies. Tourism is now NZ top industry followed by Dairy, Agriculture and Wood exports (this is evidenced by all the logs awaiting shipment in each port we visit).

Dinner tonight was in the Waterside Dining Room.  Julie enjoyed the Fillet of John Dory with Porcini Ravioli in a Truffle Veloute Sauce for an appetizer and Crabcakes for her entrée. Pecan Pie was dessert.

Bob had Potato Cream Soup, Green Salad with Jalapeno Poppers, and Prime Rib of Beef for his entrée.  Caramel Apple Trifle for dessert.

The show tonight was 5 6 7 8, a dance production show and is always enjoyable.

Afterwards we attended the Big Band show in the Crystal Cove.  The Crystal showband played, Sarah Hayes sang and many people danced.

The crystal cove is just below the bistro.

We walked 5.81 miles, 13,916 steps and  36 flights of stairs.