The Royal Palace in Nukuʻalofa, which is the capital of the Kingdom of Tonga. I took the photograph from our balcony as we slowly approached the wharf.

The maps below will give you an idea of the location of Tonga.

The pier as we came alongside. We could see the locals setting up stalls all along the pier.

As we came alongside a small band and a group of singers began singing songs of welcome.

Leaving the ship, we walked past a long row of stalls selling Tongan made items. The Tongans were polite and happy and did not try the hard sell – I don’t think this selling technique is in their nature.

Maureen & I in front of the Palace – the King no longer lives here, but the palace is still used for ceremonial purposes.
The Palace was dedicated in 1867as the royal residence of King George Tupou 1, and it is made from Kauru wood and has only required one major interior renovation, which took place in 2008.

Wherever we went we met happy friendly people, no wonder Tonga is also known as the Friendly Isles. Everyone smiled and wished us good morning or Malo e tau ma’u a pongipongini! which means good morning.

As we walked along the main street we came across a building flying the Union Flag of the UK so we looked closely and saw that it was High Commission of New Zealand, so I can only assume that the British High Commissioner was not in Tonga and the New Zealand High Commissioner was looking after British interests.
To clarify, amongst the members of the Commonwealth members do not send ambassadors to each other but High Commissioners.

Basilica of St Anthony of Padua

Just one of the churches that we saw in Tonga.

Nuku’alofa’s Free Church of Tonga.

The free Wesleyan church of Tonga was founded in 1885. In 1983 it was decided to build a Centennial Free Church of Tonga.
The foundation stone was laid in 1983 by his Majesty Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV and the new church was opened in 1985.
Unfortunately, in 2018, the church was so badly damaged by Cyclone Gita it was forced to close.
For those who remember, the Tongan King who laid the foundation stone was the son of Queen Sālote Tupou III who attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953.
Most British people have a soft spot for Queen Salote because when it rained during the drive to the coronation she refused to cover up. Her attitude was if the people can stand in the rain while watching the parade, I can ride in the rain and wave.

More damage could be seen down the side of the church.

Across from the church we could see The Royal Tombs, which were constructed in 1893, Mala’eKula (Red Ground) is the official name for the resting place King George Tupou 1, the modern father of Tonga. The area is part of the Royal Estate and the reason it is called the Red Ground was to represent the blood of Christ.
Queen Salote is also buried in the Royal Tombs.

We walked around the outside of the Palace and I put my hand through the railings to get the above picture, which also shows our cruise ship.

Maureen and the Coat of Arms for Tonga, which was designed in 1875 with the creation of the constitution.

The three swords represent the three dynasties or lines of the kings of Tonga, namely the Tuʻi Tonga, Tuʻi Haʻatakalaua and the current Tuʻi Kanokupolu). Tonga was united under King Siaosi Tupou I, who then orchestrated the formation of the first formal government and also the coat of arms. The dove with the olive branch symbolises the wish of God’s peace to reign in Tonga forever (the dove and olive branch are taken from the story of Noah and the Great Flood in the Bible).

The three stars symbolise the main island groups of Tonga, which are Tongatapu, Vavaʻu and Haʻapai. The Crown symbolises the ruling monarchy, the King of Tonga. The text on the scroll at the bottom reads Ko e ʻOtua mo Tonga ko hoku Tofiʻa in the Tongan language: ‘God and Tonga are my inheritance’.
Information taken from the internet.

We had walked all around the Palace and had hoped that we could walk along the waterfront area back to our starting point.
Unfortunately,the Palace grounds extended into the water so we had to retrace our steps, which was not far but it was a hot day.

It had been over thirty years since my last visit to Tonga and the only item that was ‘new’ for me was the wharf where our cruise ship berthed. The older but smaller pier remains could be seen. In town there were a few newer buildings but overall it was much the same as I remembered.

A couple of years ago I wrote about the history of Tonga and how they became Christian. If this is of interest the link below will take you to that blog.

If you have read the above older blog link, I never saw any old freighters just waiting and waiting, and the image of ‘Lord Jim’ did not appear, Tonga had moved on.

Mystery Island

We arrived off Mystery Island and anchored. The island is uninhabited but local people from another island arrived by boat to set up vendor stalls.
The local name for the island is Inyeug Island and is a few hundred meters wide and about a kilometer in length.
For me it had the feel of pirates and treasure and brought back memories of daring do of a twelve-year-old reader.

Looking back to our cruise ship and the larger island behind the ship is called Aneityum Island.
Locals who live on Aneityum Island believe that Mystery Island is haunted at night, so they make sure they pack up and leave Mystery Island before dark.

We arrived on a Sunday and most of the native stalls were not manned.

Many of the Pacific Island countries do not trade on Sunday. In Tonga it is illegal to do business on Sunday.

There is always an exception to every rule – the stalls were closed, but on the left of the picture you might be able to make out a large pot in which passengers could stand and have their photograph taken as if the locals were cooking him.

Cannibal Soup anyone?

It took Maureen and I about fifty minutes to walk around the island – it would have taken a lot longer if the stalls had been manned . . .

Many of the passengers took advantage to swim in the local waters. I believe that the reef protected the beaches from sharks, but not from coral that can cause distress to a swimmer.

You will find a Conway boy in the strangest of places.

On the island is a small runway and I assumed that it was just in case one of the islanders had an accident and he/she could be flown out.
I was wrong the strip had been built by the Americans during WW2 even though the island was uninhabited. The airstrip cannot be seen from the sea so the American bombers where able to take off to attack the Japanese and the Japanese could not find out where the bombers were coming from, so they used a code name ‘Mystery Island’ when reporting being attacked.

There is another story linked to the naming of the island – in 1974 Queen Elizabeth II was sailing from Vanuatu to Australia and stopped at Inyeug Island for a picnic. The island being uninhabited was an ideal location for a picnic and was referred to as Mystery Island.

In my opinion the use of the island to attack the Japanese rings true, even if the Queen did stop for a picnic.

Ship’s lifeboats acting as tender boats from ship to shore & return – the reef can be seen behind the boats.

The pier and the chemical toilets were the only ‘solid’ construction on the island. This picture was taken from our balcony.

That’s Entertainment

That’s Entertainment.


Celebrity Eclipse theater

On the first night of our cruise in Celebrity Eclipse it was easy to find a seat in the theatre, but as the cruise progressed it became harder to find a seat unless you arrived 15 to 20 minutes early.
The problem was that the first show of the evening started at 7.00 pm, (each show lasted 45 minutes ) but dinner began at 6.00 pm and if the restaurant was busy we would skip pudding & coffee to make sure we had a seat. A couple of nights we did stand because all seats had been taken.
The next show time was at 9.00 pm but this time slot did not fit our body clock because we like to chat and listen to live music with a quiet drink between 9.00 to 10 pm before returning to our cabin.

The first night’s show was a comedian – Darren Summers, I’d not heard of him, but he was entertaining, and I have since found out that he had is own TV chat show.

Darren Sanders

The following night it was a singer.

Will Martin who looked very young, but what a voice . . he is a New Zealander who had a number one hit in the UK Classical music charts.
While playing the piano he sang classical pieces and was able to switch to Elton John’s musical style.
After his UK hit, he was selected by Andrew Lloyd Webber to sing the title track of the Starlight Express album.

Will Martin

The single acts were followed on the next night by a production show called Broadway. I must admit that I failed to grasp the story behind the show.

It is probably my fault being unable to grasp the point of the show.

As you see we had acrobats as well.

Van Anh Nguyen music was a lot easier to grasp the following evening.

Born in Sydney, Australia, of Vietnamese parents and she began to learn the piano at 15 months of age and was one of the youngest in her generation to receive the highest Australian music qualification attainable at the age of 12.

Van-Anh Nguyen

Later in the cruise we had Patrick McMahon , which was different, because would jump around like a jack-in-the-box while playing his guitar. Not my normal taste in music, but I enjoyed his antics.

Patrick McMahon

The following night it was a production called Rock City .

As you see it included acrobats.

It was OK, but not to my taste. The whole thing was loud and the singers had to compete with the orchestra so the words of the song were lost in the ‘noise’.

More acrobats to music, clever and the male acrobat was very strong as he held a girl as she swung through the air using his arms.

After an energetic show of Rock City, the following evening we were back to a single singer and this time is was Nikki Bennett who sang in the style of Helen Reddy. She gave us Helen Reddy’s background and the troubles that Helen Reddy went through during her life.

Nikki Bennett 

Nikki Bennett also sings in the style of Olivia Newton John and Judith Durham

Nikki Bennett

The Oz Boys of Motown

A slick professional show that was entertaining.

For some reason we only saw three of the group, and I only found out that there used to be four as I checked into their background.

 OZ Boys

A show by the ship’s singers and dancers based on Mozart’s music.



The following night it was Liam Cooper – the Australian piano man, who also sings Elton John music as well as Billy Joel, Peter Allen, Freddie Mercury etc he was very good.

Liam Cooper

Scroll down to the bottom of the link to hear his music, he was very popular and had the audience ‘jumping’.

As the cruise drew to an end, we had another production with dancers and acrobats.

Skillful but  . . .


I know I couldn’t do this . . .

Difficult to photograph with the stage lighting.

The final night was a mix of Liam Cooper, Nikki Bennett & Patrick McMahon, an excellent show for the last night. Each played different material than their first show.

Overall, the standard of the Celebrity shows were very good and entertaining and worth skipping the occasional pudding and coffee.

Not all of the entertainment was in the theatre – one of the bar staff in the Ensemble Lounge, she was always pleasant and happy. 

The ports of India

Our destination was to be Calcutta – I’ll use the names of each port as it was named in the 1960’s.

After sailing from Karachi our first destination was Kandla, which is in the Gulf of Kutch in the Gujarat State of India.

Gujarat is the red area

The pink dot is Kandla  & the waterway to Kandla is the Gulf of Kutch.

This port was first considered by the British Royal Navy in 1851, but it was not surveyed as a suitable port un till 1922.
Kandla was created as a port in 1931 with a single pier and after partition, which created Pakistan in 1947, meant that the important port of Karachi was now in Pakistan.
India realised that that they required an additional port on the west coast to service the Persian Gulf, because Bombay had reached capacity.
The development of Kandla began in 1952 and by 1955 it had become a major port.

When I visited Kandla containerisation was in the future.

Kandla today, a very busy port.

Our next port of call was Bombay the Gateway of India.

In 1911 King George V, and Queen Mary, (our current King Charles, is King George’s great grandson), visited India for the Delhi Durbar, where they were proclaimed Emperor & Empress of India on December 12th, 1911.
King George was the first British monarch to visit India.
The Gateway to India commemorates King George’s & Queen Mary’s visit.
The foundation stone was laid in 1913 but work did not begin until 1915 and was completed in 1924 when it was opened to the public.
The last British troops to leave India after independence in 1948, (the Somerset Light Infantry) marched through the Gateway to India, which signalled the end of British rule. 

As one might think of Paris and the Eiffel Tower 

The Gate way of India in Bombay (now called Mumbai) brings to mind India.

but my visit in the 1960’s was not for seeing the sites, but for work.

The one place that we did not call at was Goa, which had been liberated (according to India), from the Portuguese in 1961, which was fourteen years after India had gained their independence from the British.
It would be 2016 before I eventually visited Goa.
 Maureen & I where on a cruise from Singapore to Dubai via India, and one of the ports that we visited was Goa.

I enjoyed the quiet streets and the homes.

The small parks that I saw added coolness to a humid afternoon.


Back to the next port that I did visit in the 1960’s was Cochin. We sailed down the Malabar Coast to the small harbour of Cochin (now known as Kochi), and at that time Cochin was a quiet port that felt like a ‘back water’.

I found the above picture on the internet and as soon as I saw it, I remembered the small pier. The picture was taken from a ship which must have been alongside the pier.
From memory I think there was only room for one sea going vessel at a time to be alongside the small pier.

In 2016 Maureen and I were on a cruise and one of the ports that we visited was  Cochin, which allowed me to bore her with ‘I remember’ . . .

Not sure what the top picture is but the one below is a hotel overlooking the harbour. 

The port can be traced back to 1341 AD as a trading port well before the Europeans (Dutch, Portuguese and finally the British) arrived.
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 created the requirement for an additional port on the west coast.
In 1920 the area was surveyed to expand the port. It was agreed that the port should be expanded, and it was opened in 1939.
During WW2 Cochin port was taken over by the Royal Navy as it was of strategic importance against the Japanese.

When the harbour was built they also created a railway terminus, which is no longer in use.

What it looked like in 2016 when I took the photograph. 

What it used to look like.

The trains no longer run, the rail line is overgrown but the station and surrounding area has gained a second life because it is now used as a movie location. 

Next stop was Tuticorin on the southern tip of India.

We arrived off Tuticorin in the late afternoon and anchored offshore and waited for barges to come out to us. Our visit was to be very short because we only had a very small amount of cargo to discharge, and I do not remember loading any cargo. 
It was not until 1974 that the newly constructed port of Tuticorin was declared as India’s 10th major port.
In the early 1960’s most cargo vessels anchored offshore and worked cargo via barges.
In late evening we sailed for Madras in India. It looks like a short voyage, but we could not pass through the Palak Straits because of shallow water due to sand and rocks.

    The green circle denotes the Palak Strait of water so we had to sail around Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka) to make our way to Madras (now called Chennai).

                                   A pleasant scene of Madras in the early 1960’s.
In August of 1639 Francis Day gained a land grant on behalf of the East India Company from the local ruler Damarla Venkatadri Nayakadu and which consisted of a three-mile strip of land and a fishing village called Madraspatnam. Copies of the arrangement still exist.
In February of 1620 the British began to build a ‘factory’ as a trading post was called at that time. 
On the land was founded a fortified settlement called Fort St George and the area was shortened to Madras.

A plan of Fort St George in 1726. 

In 1645 a new grant was signed with the area ruler that allowed Fort St George to operate under English Common Law amongst the British and Civil Law when dealing with other Europeans.

Fort St George on the Coromandel Coast. Belonging to the East India Company of England  Jan Van Ryne (1712–60).

                                    Fort St George – today it is a museum.

Madras was an important port for British India Steam Nav Co (my employer) because they operated a passenger service from Singapore to Madras. They had two vessels on the route Rohna & Rajula in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

SS Rhona – 8,602 gt. 30 1st class, 92 2nd class, 5,064 Deck passengers.

Both vessels were used during WW 2 as troop ships and other duties.
In 1943 Rhona was carrying troops from Oran in N Africa via Suez to Bombay in India.
The convoy was attacked off Algeria and SS Rhona was hit by a HS-293, which at that time was a radio controlled ‘glide’ bomb the first of what we now know as a guided missile.
It changed direction as required and it hit Rhona at the waterline opening the hull on both sides.
Overall, 1115 troops and crew members died in the attack. All of the troops were American, and it was not until 1995 that family members were told the truth about the ‘smart’ bomb.   

Rhona’s sister ship SS Rajula was also part of the convoy, but she survived.
SS Rajula in Singapore.

Built by Barkly Curl of Scotland – Launched in 1926 – 8,478 gt – 37 1st class passengers and 4,300 deck passengers – the most she carried was 5,113 deck passenger and her regular route was Madras – Penang- Singapore and return. 

During WW2 she trooped Bombay-Suez, repatriated 6th Australian Division Ceylon – Australia, took part in the Sicily landings, hospital ship for the Burma landings, trooped Malaya – Calcutta in 1945 & resumed her passenger life in 1946. She was sold in 1973 to Shipping Corp of India, 47 years old.
She was broken up in 1974.

As Rajula sailed from Singapore on her final voyage for the Company, the vessel received a cable from HM the Queen who was in  Britannia during her Majesty’s official visit to Singapore
“To the most elegant old lady under the British flag, Bon Voyage!

Rajula leaving Singapore in 1969.

My final Indian port is Calcutta (now Kolkata) and it is not long ago since I wrote about this port so will not repeat myself.
If you are interested go to the post of 2022 October, which also contains details of surfing the Hooghly Bore.



Australian Wooden Boat Festival.

This boat festival is held every two years (except during Covid) in Hobart, Tasmania and this year it was held from the 10th to the 13th February. Our cruise ship arrived in Hobart of the morning of the 14th February and I was hoping to see various older sailing vessels leaving port on the 14th because the festival had ended.

This did not happen but I managed to see certain vessels in port.

The approach to Hobart from our cabin.


The navy is in port – as we slowly approached our berth. 


It was a short walk from the ship to the boat harbour – on the left side of the picture you can see crew members repairing some of the gear.

It was difficult to photograph various ships because of the position of the sun – it was so bright that I could not see the target so it was a touch of point and click and hope for the best.

I recognised the ‘James Craig‘ having seen her in Sydney.

James Craig is a barque, launched in 1874 having been built by Bartram, Haswell & Co., of Sunderland, England.

Her history – originally named Clan Macleod for Thomas Dunlop & Sons of Glasgow. The company was one of the three companies that merged to create the British shipping company called Clan Line. 

Clan Macleod was sold in 1887 to the Fa. Russell & Co. Glasgow
In 1900 she was sold again to Mr J J Craig of Auckland and renamed  James  Craig and she sailed under the New Zealand flag.
In 1911 she was stripped and used as a copra hulk in New Guinea, later in 1918 she was refitted and traded as a sailing ship until the early 1920’s.
Later again she was a coal hulk in Recherche Bay Tasmania, and in 1932 was beached and abended after breaking her moorings during a storm.
It was not until 1972 when volunteers from Sydney Heritage Fleet re-floated her and had her towed to Sydney in 1981.

In 1985 Maureen & I moved from Melbourne to Sydney and that was the first time we saw the ‘James Craig‘ and wonder if she would ever be restored to be a sailing ship again. 
In 1997 the volunteers had completed their work and she was re-launched and rigged as a barque.

James Craig when she was a hulk in Tasmania – photo taken by Alan Edenborough about 1970.

A more modest sailing vessel – she is the ‘One and all’.

One and All is a South Australian vessel launched in 1985. The objective of One and All is to provide young South Australians the opportunity for self-discovery and self-development, and to experience adventure while learning.

Just to show how close our cruise ship berthed to the sailing vessels the bow of the Celebrity Eclipse can be seen.   
If you are interested in a short video of the James Craig click on the link below, the video is about five minutes.  

James Craig

The show must go on

We watched several shows while cruising with Celebrity Eclipse.

The above was an acrobat show with music and dancing.

Fish, I think.

and a dragon – but couldn’t see the link but that didn’t matter it was entertaining.

The acrobat/dancers were very fit and skillful.

Another evening it was a Rock show

                                               It was loud and fast.

The black circle is a lift that one of the acrobats used to exit the stage via summersaults – as he made his dive the stage opened. It was quite an exit.

Another night it was a female singer that sang famous songs and sounded like the original artist. She had a very powerful voice. I checked her on Youtube and it appears that she has been in many shows and is well known. I should get out more.

                   Check her out Debra Krizak

Not a very good photo of her, but I was a long way away. She sang virtually non-stop for 45 minutes.

Her act was – There’s a lady on Stage . . 

She was only on the ship for one night and left in Hobart to fly back to Sydney. I think she joined in Adelaide.

The dancers come acrobats were very good as were the singers and dancer during the rock program, in all cases they were backed by a live orchestra.  

We missed seeing the next singer 

Chantelle Delaney

We did see Jeff Green an Australian comedian.

Unfortunately we missed Andrew Lee who is a Mentalist & a Magician. He won the Britain’s Got Talent in 2018.

Andrew Lee


Celebrity Eclipse  at Sydney.

Our cruise was a nine day cruise based around wine – Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, and for the overseas passengers it also included New South Wales.

First impressions of our Celebrity Eclipse cabin.

Majestic Princess at Sydney

First impressions of our Majestic Princess cabin.

The cabins were similar in size Eclipse 23 sq mtrs (248 sq ft) and the Majestic was 28 sq mtrs, (300 sq ft) including the balcony in both cases for a similar cost. 
Overall, the Majestic Princess was better designed for stowage and cabin space, but Eclipse had a slightly bigger bathroom and a better shower, but the Majestic Princess shower was over a full size-bath.
At a flick of a switch the Eclipse shower allowed the water to spray one all over rather than just the traditional rose-head shower.

The Majestic had two large TVs, one facing the bed and the other in the sitting area. Eclipse only had one TV in the sitting area.
Majestic’s choice of films was far greater than the limited choice for the Eclipse

Majestic’s library was very limited, but the Eclipse’s library was magnificent with a dedicated lounge area for a quiet read.

If you get tired of reading you could always watch the silent lifts move up and down the heart of the Eclipse.

The Majestic carried 3560 passengers and the Eclipse carried 2852 passengers.

The Majestic is 330 mtr. (1083 ft) in length, and the Eclipse is 317 mtrs (1040 ft) long.
Majestic 143,700 gt and the Eclipse 122,00 gt.

When cruising with Majestic Princess we booked a mini-suite at a cost of AUD $264/night for eleven nights.
When cruising with Celebrity Eclipse we booked Aqua Class, which is the next one down from a full suite (similar ranking to the mini-suite of Majestic Princess) at a cost of $343/ night for nine nights.

On Majestic we ate each evening in the Symphony dining room and we were always asked if we wished to share a table. We were happy to do so up to a total of six people, and we met some very interesting people from the USA, Canada as well as Australia.

The Eclipse was different because we were Aqua Class, which entitled us to eat in a dedicated restaurant called Blu.

BLU Restaurant

We had the choice of eating in the main dining room or in Blu.
On our first night at Blu we expected to be given a choice of a table for two or sharing.
We were not given a choice but shown directly to a table for two in an area which had several tables for two. The tables where close enough that we did not have to shout or strain to speak to our neighbours.
The system worked well, and one could tell if a neighbour did not wish to join in a conversation – there was always other tables near.
The advantage of Blu was that we had the same staff every night and they soon got know our preferences, whether it be a particular wine for me or the sugar free tonic water for Maureen.
Maureen had never been able to obtain this type of tonic water on the Majestic. Eating in Blu for breakfast (when at sea) and dinner added that little extra to the cruise, plus the food was good. 


The above pictures show the Eclipse Ocean View Cafe, which is open for early to very late. On port days we would have our breakfast in this area.
The different types of food were spread over a large area but over each food location was a large sign indicating the type of food on offer. 
For example, they had an American Breakfast unit, muesli and fruit unit, Cheese, Lettice and cold meat unit if this was your breakfast taste, and a toast area that had various types of bread black, brown, white, crumpets, croissant, plus a range of marmaladed, various jams and savoury spreads.

The big plus for Maureen was the large choice of gluten free desserts at the Ocean View Cafe.
In the above picture is a just a few of the puddings/cake’s choice of gluten free items. Celebrity had a much larger choice of gluten free cakes, tarts, puddings as well as jellies.
Majestic offered a limited number of individual GF cakes or tarts and a few different jellies.  

To the right of the person in the white shirt is an area which is a self-serve if you wish for tea, coffee, ice water, iced tea and various juices. Staff wandered around with insulated jugs of coffee, tea, water if you did not wish to DIY. 
 Majestic had a similar system for tea or coffee, but not for juices, because they were available during your stroll    


The big difference for me was that with the Eclipse Ocean View I had to stand in the middle and scan all the notices indicating the type of food on offer, whereas Majestic World Fresh Market consisted of a number of walkways that allowed you to stroll down and scan the daily choice.

The crew in attendance on both vessels served the passenger once the food had been chosen.
I think the Majestic system was easier, but it was all a matter of personal choice.       Moonlight Sonata Restaurant.

When at sea we had lunch in this restaurant. Only the balcony area was open for lunch, the main area opened for dinner. 

Majestic Princess had the Allegro restaurant for lunch at sea.

Majestic Princess Allegro Dining room, which had a much warmer atmosphere than Moonlight Sonata on Eclipse.

Overall to choose one vessel over another comes down to personnel choice and ‘atmosphere’. We enjoyed our time in both vessels, so it comes down to a few specific items.

On both vessels the cost per night included gratuities, drink package, and wi-fi.

The wi-fi was very good on both vessels and as cruise lines are required to sell their cruises inclusive of gratuities if the cruise starts and ends in Australia – they were equal.
If a cruise starts in Australia and ends in Singapore the gratuities are shown separate, and you can have certain amount, or all of the gratuities removed if you wish once you are on the ship. Some people prefer to tip individuals for good service.   

The drinks package is a problem for me – I am happy to pay for my drink package, by doing so I am required to pay the same amount for Maureen who does not drink alcohol. 
In both recent cruises the drink package was included in the cost and both cruises had a maximum cost of $12 per drink.
People could pay more to have access to more expensive drinks – the next level on Majestic would increase the $12 value to $22 AUD per drink. 
The Majestic Princess charged any excess over the $12 value in Australian dollars, but Celebrity Eclipse charged the excess in US dollars.
I was asked by a friend for the cost of a bottle of beer on Majestic Princess if I wished to forgo the drinks package and pay for individual drinks – on the Majestic it was AUD $ 8.75, (listed on the Majestic bar menu) I then compared this to the Celebrity Eclipse bar menu 

the picture is not very clear but for the same beer Little Creatures Pale Ale, was $15, but not AUD but USD, which at today’s rate of exchange equals  AUD $22.30 a bottle.
The same beer when bought in Sydney costs me $2.75 each if I buy by a case of twenty-four.

Excuse the pun but this leaves a bad taste in the mouth- but it does encourage people to buy the drinks package.
Both vessels had a maximum of 15 alcoholic drinks in a 24 hour period (midnight to midnight) – which is not a worry because I could not drink that amount even when I was younger.

Once we booked Celebrity Eclipse, we were allocated USD $200 per cabin, which could be spent on anything onboard or excursions, but if not used would be lost. It is not difficult to spend USD$200 even though we could not buy duty free because we were on a domestic cruise.  

In conclusion I think I would pick Princess Cruises over Celebrity Cruises due to the cabin size, the overall ambiance, and that everything is priced in Australian dollars, particularly when on a domestic Australian cruise.

But – there is always a but, – in April we will be cruising in Celebrity Eclipse for a thirteen-night cruise to Fiji & Tong, so much for my conclusion.      


Fjords or Fiordland

which ever way we spell the name they hold a fascination of beauty.

Our first view of the fiords not long after sunrise – taken from our balcony.

We had passed through the Foveaux Strait, which separates Stewart Is. from the South Island of New Zealand.
The southern seaport of the South Is. is a town called Bluff, which, when I was at sea I visited in the 1960’s.
It is known for the wind. The ship in which I sailed was unable to unload cargo because the wind was so strong that it was considered too dangerous to work the derricks. It was four days before the wind eased enough for us to unload. This was before containerisation.
If you left Bluff, it did not matter which way you went, east or west, you were making your way back to London.


The top map gives you an idea of the overall area and I have blown up the Dusky Sound area and marked the track of our cruise.

and of course, we had dolphin visitors who liked to play in our small bow wave.

The main island on our port side is Resolution Island, which was named after Captain Cook’s vessel when he visited the area on his second voyage in March 1773. 


Exit gap ahead.

After a couple of hours sailing through Dusky Sound and Breaksea Sound we entered the Tasman Sea and sailed north to Doubtful Sound.

The Tasman Sea was kind to us as we sailed north to Doubtful Sound. 

We were not the only vessel interested in Doubtful Sound.

it didn’t matter where you looked there was a photo opportunity.

We exited Doubtful Sound via Thompson Sound and the island on our port side as we left the area was Secretary Island, which is uninhabited and is one of the finest conservation islands in New Zealand. All introduced animals have been removed making it a pest free island and only the native animals & plants have been allowed free range.

                                                          Secretary Island.

Our final Fiord was Milford Sound – fortunately we had visited Milford Sound in a previous cruise, when I managed to take some photographs.

Our arrival at the entrance to the Sound was nearly 5.00 pm which clashed with getting ready for dinner and we left Milford Sound around 6.30 pm, which was during during dinner – talk about timetables clashing!

Milford Sound February 2017 – 

rolling mist and waterfalls wherever one looked.

The 2023 visit was a beautiful day and dry, but I did not see any waterfalls or rolling mist in any of the Sounds.

I f you ever have the chance to visit Milford Sound jump at the chance – a Sound that I found more interesting than Doubtful Sound, but Dusky Sound has a charm that is different to Milford Sound. If you do go make sure you book a late evening meal. 

Once in the Tasman Sea again it was full ahead for Sydney and the end of the cruise.      











Towards the end

Our next port was Lyttleton, the gateway to Christchurch.

Part of Lyttleton harbour

We had visited Christchurch on our last trip via Akaroa, because Lyttleton port was still out of action due to the earthquake.
When we booked this cruise we were hoping that we would visit Christchurch via Akaroa again because during our last visit Akaroa was just a transit place to board the coach for Christchurch.
Akaroa looked an interesting place with the French influence due to Jean Langlois buying land from twelve local Maori Chiefs. Langlois planned to resell the land to French settlers back in France.

The original name of Lyttleton was Port Cooper after Daniel Cooper (1785-1853) from Bolton in Lancashire UK who was convicted at Chester for theft. He was transported for life and became a very successful businessman. His life story reads like a novel.
Later Lyttleton became known as Port Victoria until 1858 when it was formalised by the Governor as Lyttleton, after George William Lyttleton.

Map of Lyttleton in 1849

Lyttleton’s main shopping street (London Street)

Because we had seen Christchurch Maureen wanted to see more of Lyttleton, the last time I visited Lyttleton was in the 1960’s and it did not look like it had changed all that much, except for the closure of a few pubs due to the earthquake.

                                                       London Street

There were quite a few passengers from the Majestic Princess who had the same idea, so we joined the queue for the local shuttle bus rather than the Christchurch shuttle. At least the Lyttleton bus was free, and the journey was less than five minutes.

We walked the shopping street – both sides – and returned to the drop-off point.

You can see how close we were to the ship -on the left is one of the shuttle buses. 

We had hoped to walk to the Time Ball clock that had been repaired after being damaged during the earthquake.

The above shows what the Time Ball looked like before the earthquake. The whole building, including the tower, was reduced to rubble during the earthquake.

 The Time Ball had been in use since 1876 and up to 1934 was the only way mariners could check their chronometers to assist in accurate navigation.
In 1934 the time ball was replaced by radio signals. 
After the earthquake all the stones were rescued and numbered and the tower was able to be reconstructed, but unfortunately not the original building.

                                                  The current Time Ball
The climb to the view the Time Ball was all too much for Maureen, so we made our way back to the ship. 

I was hoping to take Maureen to the Mitre Hotel, which first opened in 1849 but was destroyed by fire in 1875 and rebuilt.
In November 1910 Captain Robert Falcon Scott had his farewell dinner in the ballroom of this hotel. 

Captain Scott and his wife Kathleen aboard Terra Nova 1910.

In the 1960’s I had experienced some happy times over drinks in this hotel, so I was disappointed that the hotel was no longer in business, all due to the earthquake.  

The last I heard was that the owners were asking for permission to knock the place down due to the high cost of repair. 

Simple answer to a simple question – where shall we go for a drink before lunch, the Mitre Hotel is closed so we will try the Majestic.

The view was pleasant, and lunch was ready when we wanted it . . . 


Our next port of call was to be Port Chalmers for Dunedin – once again we had visited Dunedin on our last visit and decided not to repeat the experience, because last time it rained, and the forecast for our visit was again, rain.

I took the above as we approached Port Chalmers – dramatic & beautiful, but not site seeing weather.

It was raining when we arrived in Port Chalmers. We, (as did many others), stayed on board, warm and dry.   

Marlborough Sounds


The area on the northern part of the South Island of New Zealand is known as Marlborough Sounds, which consists of a number of ancient, drowned valleys. One of the main bodies of water is called Queen Charlotte Sounds and it is this Sound that we entered to make our way to Picton.

It was just after dawn when we entered Queen Charlotte Sounds so as to make our way to our destination, which was Picton.

The scenery was dramatic, and one had the feeling of being on the only ship in the world.

Suddenly I saw a Cook Is. ferry come from behind an island – we were not alone.

The ferries run a regular service to & from Wellington, which is on the south coast of the North island of New Zealand and Picton is on the northern coast of the South island of New Zealand.
The ferry takes approximately three and a half hours one way, and the ferries carry cars, trucks and rail traffic, as well as passengers.
I have been told that the turnaround of a ferry in Picton is about an hour or so – one deck is dedicated to the rail traffic and road vehicles are able to be driven off by the vehicle’s driver-passenger.

When I mentioned to Will, a long-time friend from HMS Conway, who lives in Wellington, that Maureen & I would be visiting Picton during our cruise he suggested an introduction to his friend Jim, in Picton, who might be able to show us around.
Both Will & Jim are ex Master Mariners and they had been in command of one or more of the ferries during their sea going days.
I jumped at the idea – plus it turned out that Jim grew up in Birkenhead in the UK, the same town in which I lived before I went to HMS Conway.

The last time I visited Picton would have been about 1966 and we loaded frozen lamb for Calcutta.

The above picture is of Picton around 1966.

I was 3rd Mate in Bankura (6793 gt) –
she was a British India Steam Nav. vessel with limited freezer capacity. 

The above picture was taken from our balcony as our cruise ship moved slowly alongside. 

Once alongside the coaches arrived to operate a regular shuttle service from the ship to the town – the service was very efficient, and I think a shuttle left every ten minutes both to and from the town. The town didn’t look large enough to have so many buses.

Jim & I did not know what each other looked like so after being bussed from the ship to the small-town centre I rang Jim and described myself – the white hair came in handy – and a few minutes later Jim arrived and Maureen and I received the full ‘Cook’s Tour ‘of the area around Picton.

The one thing that was obvious was that the population in Picton loved messing about in boats. Everywhere I looked there were boats of various sizes, from large ocean going motor yachts to small run abouts.

Beautiful scenery, and perhaps I am stretching a point be referring to the Majestic Princess at 144, 216 GT as a ‘boat’. 

The ferry we saw earlier on her return trip to Wellington.

The site of Picton was surveyed in 1849 and the new town was named Newton, but over the years the town had a number of different names until in 1859 it was renamed Picton in honour of Sir Thomas Picton the hero of Badajoz & Waterloo. 

Sir Thomas Picton 1758 -1815

Sir Thomas Picton was born in Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
He joined the army in 1771 as an ensign and eventually became Lieutenant General. 
In 1810 Wellington appointed him to command a division in Spain during the Napoleonic war.
Picton fought in several battles and was wounded at the battle of Badajoz and was sent back home to recuperate.
While in the UK he was Knighted by the Prince Regent George, who later became George IV
Picton  was thanked seven times by the British Parliament for his bravery fighting the French.
In 1815, at the Duke of Wellington’s request, Picton was in command of the 5th Infantry Division.
During the Battle of Waterloo Napoleon attacked the British Centre at Le Haye Sainte.
Picton lead his men in a bayonet charge against the French columns to stop the advance. He was shot dead through the temple.
When they checked his body it was realised that General Picton had been wounded in the hip the previous day at the battle of Quatre Bras and had not told anyone other than his servant. 
General Picton was the highest ranking allied casualty at Waterloo.

       Jack Hawkins portrayed General Picton in the 1970 film called Waterloo.


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