LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WILLS FAMILY THROUGH MARALYS' MEMOIRS: A CIRCUS WITHOUT ELEPHANTS AND A CLOWN IN THE TRUNK

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A MIXED BAG OF TRICKS--"DOWN UNDER"


It was mixed, all right—at least for me.   

The Sun Princess cruise ship, which Rob and I and Chris and Betty-Jo boarded for a round-trip from and to Sydney--with New Zealand lavished in between—stretched to some 857 feet, with our staterooms beautifully plunked at the far end.  Any farther back, and we’d have been in the water.  The view out our sliding glass doors--past the neatly-furnished deck--highlighted a churning, aqua-blue “wake.” The wake was a continuous flow of white and teal bubbles, reminiscent of blue champagne . . . provoking fleeting thoughts of jumping in.   

That was the good news. 

The not-so-good news was that one of Rob’s and my favorite restaurants, basically a buffet called The Horizon (aptly named), was at the opposite end of the ship, meaning a destination thousands of miles away, clear to the bow and four decks up.  If you stood at one end of the blue-carpeted hall, you couldn’t see to the other end.  I’d stare down that forbidding blue trail and ask myself if I really wanted the food that much.

And then we’d begin the trek.  And I’d be thinking, This is good for us, we need this hike, then, God, how I hate this ! until we finally stumbled into the distant elevator, in what appeared to be a whole different country.  (My view, and mine alone—but then I’ve never embraced pure exercise . . . unless, like tennis and pickleball, it involves points.  Still, I may be the only passenger who came home four pounds lighter.) 

Our elegant Regency Restaurant was somewhat closer, with a significant section (“Club Class”) reserved for passengers in suites. There we met two charming couples from Tasmania—and by the end the men were jumping back and forth between our tables, sharing their favorite jokes. Happily, I’d brought a few of my books, soon given to some of our newfound friends.

A third restaurant, “The Sterling Steakhouse,” cost most passengers $29.00 extra just to dine there, and served each patron such obscene portions, covering the entire plate,  that I swear each of them received close to half a cow.  Even Chris, a steak aficionado, couldn’t finish his Porterhouse. While the others sliced and devoured, I spent the time staring regretfully at my mostly-wasted slab.   

However, the four of us were granted unlimited visits, thanks to unresolved leaks that initially took over Chris’s and Betty-Jo’s suite—wherein a few days of rainstorms sent floods of water pouring into their stateroom in and around the sliding glass doors and even through the light fixtures.  Their emails to the family said, “It’s raining equally, both outside and inside.”  For days they traveled with a plastic aqueduct lining the tops of their drapes, complete with various holes leading to seven buckets spaced out along the floor.  By the end, Luca, the officer in charge of guest-services, granted them so many perks that Chris said, “I’d gladly exchange some rain water for all those goodies.” 

On our third night, I was dutifully flossing over the bathroom sink, when I heard a “clunk,” and looking down saw that one of my crowns had dropped into the bowl. Horrified at first, I soon realized that nobody, including me, would notice a difference.  Eventually I stopped approaching each new town with the thought, I wonder if they have a good dentist.            

My favorite impressions of the trip were three-fold---first, the Sydney harbor, with its perpetual flotillas of every size boat. Two--that every afternoon about 4:15, we’d go to Team Trivia,  where we found various smarties to join for a sixsome, then competed with dozens of other teams playing for small prizes, but mostly for ego.  Once we came within one point of “winning,” but usually we did slightly better than average. The third-- going to sleep each night in what amounted to an especially comfortable queen bed, which quickly became a rocking cradle.  After a while, Rob and I found we’d wake up abruptly if the ship stopped moving.

Since the trip, Rob asks everyone, “What’s not to like about New Zealand?”  Anyone who’s been there mentions the green and serene countryside, the looming mountains, the huge population of sheep, the soaring albatross, the ever-gracious people, the roads you can travel without seeing other cars. Driving or biking through the uncluttered countryside is a trip through paradise.  At nearly every stop, Chris and Betty-Jo disappeared and managed to bike or hike for miles.  

Rob and I, confined mostly to cities, rode coaches, a train, a private car, and eventually (at Chris’ insistence), a V-8 Trike—which is basically a three-seated motorcycle with two side-by-side easy chair seats behind the driver . . . a contraption that makes you a spectacle as you roar through town. Besides that, we hiked a bit, shopped, and managed to “park” frequently on dozens of public benches. But hey, we were once the Chris and Betty-Jos of our travels.

Today our grandkids brag to their friends about us—that at our very senior ages (and I won’t admit to how senior), we’re still traveling the world.  For me, the trip was something of a triumph . . . that I managed to walk my way across most of New Zealand.