Friday 26th February – Auckland

Perfect day. Gorgeous weather (25 in the shade, blue skies, perfect), lovely city, friendly people. They even put out a red carpet for us! A bit expensive. Scratch that. Holy cow, NZ is expensive. I was a little perturbed yesterday, but today it really hit home. £5 for a bag of Haribo. No wonder everyone here is so virulently healthy. They can’t afford the naughty stuff!

We took the hop on, hop off bus to see the place. It’s very pretty by the water, and then becomes a city ‘proper’ as you go further inland. There is a lot of water. Auckland is spread across several islands, and has one of the highest rates of boat ownership in the world. So LOTS of water. It was a little alarming that the first thing you see when you boarded the tour bus was a massive great toolbox under the driver’s seat. And the double-decker bus (although not open-topped) clearly was not designed for the many steep hills on which Auckland is built. The engine had to work very hard indeed sometimes. Yikes. But we made it in the end, so all’s well that ends well, and all that.

We went to the Skytower and I went up it by myself. The view was spectacular, and the glass lift made my ears pop! Particularly excited to be able to get a student discount. Then we went to Viaduct Harbour and sat by the marina to have our lunch (the restaurant we chose was Neptun’s, for those of you who might be interested, and yes, that is the correct spelling), watching the boats and ships coming in and out – all different shapes and sizes; from one man standing on a surfboard, to a ferry carrying several hundred people, going out to one of the islands. The sea was turquoise, the food was delicious, the weather was hot and the sailing yachts were very, very pretty.

That’s about it, save to say that I think I now get why people want to move halfway across the world to live here. It’s very pleasant. The whole city is spotlessly clean – no graffiti, no chewing gum, no litter. Everyone is friendly and helpful and kind and considerate. They drive on the left. Their pedestrian crossings give enough time for even slow people to cross without fear. It’s very much a home from home, but the weather is never this good at home.

Had a bit of a barney with Security when getting back on board. When you show your cruise card, as you must (today FOUR times between land and deck – passport control (and yes, we had to show passports too), land end of the airbridge, ship end of the airbridge (how can you skip the inspection and arrive at one end of the airbridge tunnel without having got in at the other end?!), and then the barcode swipe at the door, where your photo appears on the computer screen to confirm you are who you should be (my pic has me in a fleece and scarf combo – I look very cold – well, it was taken in mid-January!). When this happens, some of them have this disgusting habit of insisting on grabbing it, in order to look at it. Some have learned that we don’t want them to do that, for hygiene reasons, but some have not.  This is a sector change hub. More than 500 people have embarked today, mostly straight off the plane, with all the germs they could accumulate in the space of 24 hours of recycled air. And the guy at the ship end of the airbridge is grabbing every single card. There cannot be a more efficient way to spread Norovirus between passengers. I wouldn’t let him touch it, only look, and so he grabbed me by the arm and, when I wrenched myself free, he shoulder barged me to try and stop me boarding.  That’s the legal definition of assault under UK law. Then he called his supervisor, and his supervisor blocked my path and called the Head of Security. Which fits the legal definition of imprisonment without cause (kidnap) under UK law (which is defined as being denied the ability to move in any direction, for the more detail-minded among you). The Head of Security, as those of you with good memories will recall, is named Martin, and we have already met. When he arrived, we had a chat. He said I should let them do their jobs. I said they don’t have to spread disease in order to read the cards. They need to think of us, too. We parted on fairly friendly terms, but now he can say he has “spoken to me” about it, and so all honour is served all round. But if another member of security ever lays a hand on me ever again, we will be having a FAR more serious conversation.

There is a very strange attitude on this ship to Norovirus. They seem thoroughly disinterested in prevention. It’s as if they have decided it will recur, no matter what, so there’s no point in stressing about prevention – only containment when it comes. But I have no intention of spending my holiday in the bathroom, thank you very much, so I will protect myself, and God help you if you try and stop me. I already have several waiters trained to give me two squirts of hand gel, instead of one. I’m not taking any chances. And letting some germ-covered security fool in a high viz pass other people’s germs on to me, just because he thinks it makes him look more conscientious, is NEVER going to happen. You’ll be kicking me off the damn ship before I’ll let that happen, you have my word on it. No one else is responsible for my health and wellbeing. I am. and I am not allowing anyone to expose me to unnecessary risks.

An annoying end to an otherwise lovely day. Tomorrow: Bay of Islands, wherever that is!

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