Four days until the cruise ends…Fun coincidence!…Exchange rate shocker!…More of Tom’s food photos…

The shore in Akaroa.

Last night at dinner at a “sharing” table for 10, we sat next to a lovely retired couple from New Zealand.  Ironically, they’ll be our “neighbors” when we live in the Taranaki region in New Zealand less than 2 km, 1.24 miles from our new vacation home for the upcoming three months.

What a great resource we discovered in Audrey and Trevor! They even knew our landlord as alpaca farmers.  They, too had been sheep farmers before retiring a few years ago. 

We had a fabulous time discussing the endless options available in the area for shopping, farmer’s markets, grass fed meat suppliers, and fish markets. We couldn’t have been more thrilled to meet this couple.

View of the residential area on Akaroa, New Zealand.

Once we arrive at our new home in four days, the owners will further educate us as to the many nearby conveniences, all within a 20-minute drive, along with our research, for the availability of restaurants, sights to visit, a fitness center, and a dentist for Tom’s bad tooth which is no longer problematic (for now).

I’ve fully recovered from the annoying cough and cold I’d caught on the plane. Luckily, it never impeded any of the activities aboard the ship and we’ve had an over-the-top experience.

Having been on this same ship, Celebrity Solstice in September 2014, we feel right at home, easily finding our way around the good-sized (not huge) vessel that carries 2850 passengers and 1250 crew and is 1033 feet, 315 meters long. 

Passengers on a sailboat ride in the bay.

On March 1, 2017, we’ll be cruising on this same ship for 12 days from Sydney to Sydney that visits a new country (to us) we’ve yet to visit in the South Pacific. Then again, on May 17, 2017, we’ll board this ship for the fourth time to sail from Vancouver to Seattle for an inside passage Alaskan cruise. 

Once we’re done with the Alaskan cruise, we’ll rent a car in Seattle and begin to make our way to Minnesota to visit family where we’ll stay for at least a month. When we booked our several remaining cruises, getting to Minnesota seemed a long time away.  And yet now, it’s a mere 16 plus months. Yep, “time flies when you’re having fun!

Soon, we’ll start preparing the directions for the five-plus-hour drive from Auckland to New Plymouth, NZ, (population 68,900) the closest city to our new location. Once we arrive in New Plymouth we’ll stop for groceries and supplies before arriving at the house. 

According to Audrey and Trevor, it’s only a 20-minute drive from New Plymouth to the house. We’ll certainly appreciate the close proximity to shopping and other conveniences and also the abundance of available products after living in Fiji for four months.

Tom’s burger lunch a few days ago by the pool. It’s been too cool and windy to use the ship’s pool.

Yesterday afternoon, I visited the “guest services” desk to inquire as to converting AU $500, USD $349 to New Zealand dollars. Checking online for the current (changing daily) exchange rate, we were well aware that an even conversion rate would be AU $500 to NZ $539. OK. That’s fine.

Asking the “guest services” how many NZ dollars they’d give us by handing over the AU $500, US $349, NZ $539 after checking their computer they explained they’d give us NZ $416! 

In other words, the fee for handling the transaction was outrageous costing us NZ $123, AU $114, US $86.  I walked away empty-handed returning the AU $500 to Tom’s wallet. There was no way we’d suffer such a loss for money exchange. 

We knew cruise ships generally gouged passengers to exchange money, having never asked for an exchange on our prior 11 cruises. We’ve always waited until we arrived at our destination to use an ATM, most often away from the port or airport where exchange rates are typically poor compared to an ATM in a small town or village.

Once we have the rental car in our possession we’ll find an ATM. What an eye-opener! With several trips scheduled to return to Sydney including a 40-day stay in 2017, we’ll easily use the Aussie cash. 

Tom went for the big time yesterday, eating these two plates of food, one hotdog, and one burger. I’ve stuck to one meal a day (dinner) after I found I just couldn’t eat twice a day, feeling too full for dinner, if I had breakfast. (The blue cast in this photo if due to a reflection from the blue glass windows on the ship).

Luckily, when we were leaving Fiji we used the last of our Fiji dollars and small change when we paid with cash and credit card for our overweight baggage. It makes no sense to be carrying leftover cash from numerous countries we visit. 

Other than our leftover AU $500 dollars, some US dollars, and Euros, we’ve used all of the other cash we accumulated along the way except for $1100 Kenyan Schillings, worth a paltry US $10.74. 

Today, our ship is docked in Wellington, NZ where we’ll return when we tour the South Island in March or April, the suggested months to see the most greenery. 

For now, we’re as content as we could be, living in the moment, enjoying every last day on the ship. 

Photo from one year ago today, January 15, 2015:

One year ago today, Tom captured this unusual moon photo the evening before we left the Big Island after the family visit ended. For the final expenses for the holiday gathering, please click here.

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