Sunday, March 6, 2011

MAUI - AUCKLAND 1/23 - 2/8/1

January 27 was Ron’s birthday and a wonderful one it was.  We had lunch with Frank and Julia (our new friends from Fort Collins, Colorado) and Kevin Spirtas, the singer I mentioned in my last letter.  Dinner was in one of the specialty restaurants with our dear friends from Florida, entertainers Rodi and Mark.  We were also thrilled to have the cruise director and his wife with us.  We have known Jamie & Dana since our first Regent world cruise in 2002 and it’s wonderful to be with them again.  (See attached pictures)

Kevin was the headline entertainer that night and had Ron stand up while he and the entire audience sang Happy Birthday.  When we got back to our room, we had another surprise.  Deepak, our darling cabin boy from India, had decorated the room with a huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY banner, balloons on the ceiling and an adorable monkey made from a towel hanging from a hanger.  Truly a birthday Ron won’t forget. 

5 beautiful, sunny days at sea delivered us to Moorea, our first stop in the Society Islands.  It is only 12 miles from Tahiti but 1/8 the size.  We rode an open air, 4 wheel drive truck up and over and around the majestic volcanic peaks.  The land is lush and bountiful with pineapples, mangoes, bananas and avocados and much more.  Then it was on to Tahiti and a tour entitled “In The Footsteps of Paul Gaugin.”  Ron had to go alone as I was suffering from a cold circulating around the ship.  We have been to Tahiti before and frankly, it is dirty and poor so I didn’t feel I was missing anything.

Fortunately, I was up for visiting the Lagoonarium on Bora Bora the next day.  The weather was picture perfect.  We circled the island in an open boat stopping at an out island where part of the ocean has been fenced in.  We were able to swim with stingrays, sand sharks and gorgeous tropical fish.  The stingrays feel like velvet as they slide past your arms and legs. 

On February 1, we crossed the International Date Line and went directly into February 3.  On February 4, we stopped at the island of Tonga and spent the day at a beach where a luau type luncheon was served followed by local music and dancing.  2 more sea days and we arrived at the Bay of Islands in New Zealand.  This is a series of 144 islands dotting the northern tip of New Zealand.  Absolutely beautiful.  Very reminiscent of the lush greens and hills of Ireland and England.  We visited Keri Keri, where the very first house in New Zealand was built.  It is made entirely of Kauri wood and looks as sturdy today as when it was built in 1822.  Kauri wood comes from the Kauri tree, the 2nd largest tree in the world.  We saw them up close in the Puketi Forest.  What remains of these towering trees that once covered the islands is carefully protected.  We enjoyed following a curving boardwalk through the forest where we saw Kauris of all ages.  Some live for over 1,000 years old. 

Now we are on our way to Auckland where passengers from this first segment will disembark and we will pick up about 500 new passengers for circling New Zealand and crossing to Australia.  By the way, Jamie our cruise director has a terrific blog wherein you can see pictures and read about everything that happens onboard.