23 Feb 2020

Wellington, New Zealand 2020 - A Day With Chef Shawn Clouston

 by Allyn Shiulman, Guest Blogger

What a spectacular day in Wellington, the capital of bustling New Zealand hosting 420,000 inhabitants, affectionately known as “kiwis.”

I chose to take a foodie tour with a famous local chef, Shaun Clouston.  We started the day visiting a local market.
I was amazed to learn that the markets do not have bakers or butchers.  The local bakers bring their goods in every morning.  One local baker’s bread is so popular, it is brought in four times a day, and never stays on the shelf!   
Similarly, the popular green lip mussels and tuatua are a local favorites. The tuatua, huge delicious clams, are indiginous to and only found in New Zealand.
They sell herbs and microgreens that are still growing as the kiwis are a very healthy bunch!
They support all homegrown activity and sell only their local olive oils and balsamic vinegars.
Then we headed to the beautiful Logan Brown restaurant where we started the festivities with a creative and fabulous gin and tonic.  
The sommelier began burning leaves that included kawakawa, a local medicinal herb.  She held a glass so the smoke went into the glass.  Then she added gin, a home made tonic and spooned a creamy white honey flavored mixture on top.  It was flavorful and appealing to look at.  She explained that New Zealanders as a whole, don’t like strong alcoholic drinks so she creates drinks locals will enjoy.
Next we were invited to enjoy a seven-course meal, with some of the local items we had purchased that morning. Did I mention the WINE PARING??  With one course, the sommelier decided we needed to taste TWO wines.
My favorite course was a small crayfish sandwich with herb mayo and summer truffles that were to die for, along with sipping a 2016 Pinot Gris.  I had never heard of a Pinot Gris, as opposed to a Pino Grigio until a wine tour a few days ago. The are the exact same grape, but one is Frech and the other Italian.  Pinot Gris wines are more full-bodied, richer and a bit spicier.
Their signature dish was lamb with smoked ricotta and pasta filled with Rabbit Bolognese with peas sprinkled on top.   Magnificent.
The meal wouldn’t be complete without a chocolate dessert with a seared marshmallow.  Wheel me back to the ship please!
The cuisine, the people, the chef, the wine, the restaurant, all top notch!  I highly recommend Logan Brown if you are in New Zealand!!


22 Feb 2020

Napier, New Zealand 2020

Napier is known for its art deco architecture. It stems back to the fact that the city was destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1931. It was then totally rebuilt in the modern style of the day.

Annually they have their Napier Art Deco Festival which fortunately happens to be this week. 
Last night people lined the streets for the kickoff. Besides locals, thousands of New Zealanders flock here as well as others from all over the world.
We ate at a wonderful local restaurant Hunger Monger  which is famous for its fresh fish and veggies. 
They dress as they did then and some even carried cups to beg for money (which they then give to charity). 
In fact the Vintage car parade was today, featuring 300 automobiles.
Here I checked out he carburetor, or is that the engine? 
Although far from China the economic impact of coronavirus is huge. China is New Zealand's single biggest export market and that is at a standstill. Lumber is stacked up as far as the eye can see. Most wool is now shipped to China for carpets. That industry is crippled now also.

19 Feb 2020

Auckland, NZ and The Muriwai Gannet Colony 2020

New Zealand is about the size of California and has 5 million inhabitants. (CA has 40 million). About a third of them live in Auckland. 
Day 1 was shopping and enjoying the city center. Every single person we met was nice.I even bought some shoes. I need to upgrade my attire.
Given that we overnighted here, we ate dinner off the ship with friends at Harbourside Ocean Bar and Grill in The Ferry Building  (yellow building in bottom right of top photo) . The food was great as was the ambiance. Service was slow but nobody really cared (once the wine came). 
After dinner there was an entertaining acrobatic couple performing on board.
Day 2 was the best though. Although Auckland is on the East Coast, it is about the narrowest part of the country making it just an hour drive to the West Coast. That is home to the Muriwai gannet colony, perhaps the most amazing sight to date on this cruise.
About 1,200 pairs of gannets nest here from August to March each year.
The nests are just inches apart. 
Many have left already as they spend most of their days in Australia. About five years later they return to lay eggs in the exact same spot they were born. Amazing.
Each pair lays one egg and the parents take turns on the nest. They are monogamous.
Even the view itself, without the birds, is magnificent.
Also included in the tour were two wineries with wine tastings. My favorite was the apron.

17 Feb 2020

Bay of Islands, New Zealand 2020

Today was our first of eight New Zealand stops on our cruise. Our port was Waitangi in the Bay of Islands which is the far north. It remains quite pristine.

Pulling away from our ship and just looking out the bay was extra magnificent because of the clouds. We started with overcast and a tiny drizzle that soon gave way to sun and a spectacular sky that magnified the pretty water. 
The islands were beautiful; each seemingly with its own unique vegetation.
We only saw a few boats. This one was a beauty.
In the middle of all this loveliness is their iconic Hole in the Rock. It is world famous and quite a sight.
Allyn thinks it's funny to capture me napping. Sometimes I get tired watching all of the beauty.
People ask why we would revisit a place where we have been. One of the reasons is we do different things. In 2009 we actually took an exhilarating speed boat ride in this general area, but the experience was totally different.
Speaking of exhilarating, last year we took a V8 Trike tour and it was fast, scary, and very fun. They are powered by big Chevy V8 engines.


11 Feb 2020

Our World Cruise and Coronavirus Impact

Friends and family are writing about what is happening to our world cruise due to coronavirus.

Everybody here is fine, but changes are happening all over the world. For starters, we are in the South Pacific and certainly not close to China, nor were we scheduled to be. 

Our ship, and the entire cruise industry, has instituted several policies:

Absolutely nobody can board if they have a Chinese, Macau, or Hong Kong passport.

 Absolutely nobody can board if they have been to China in the last 14 days.

No visitors are allowed on board.

Serious screening is being done to all boarding passengers and nobody with 100.4 fever or more gets on.

Extra special cleaning protocols are taking place all over the ship.

 All port, land and tour operators must sanitize all terminal areas as well as  vehicles transporting our guests.

We are on the Crystal Serenity and its sister ship, Crystal Symphony, was scheduled to go to Hong Kong and cancelled of course. Both Taipei and Manila would not allow them access. Singapore is their  new transfer point.

We were scheduled to visit Tonga today, here in the middle of the South Pacific, but they refused entry to all four cruise ships. Ridiculous in my opinion, but certainly no big deal from a tourist standpoint. It shows international uncertainty and panic though.

I feel safer onboard the ship than probably most other places.