Steampunk NZ Cruise – Boarding!

Well, boarding with so many people was really kinda hectic… and seeing I had made all the booking arrangements for everyone, I really felt very responsible for trying to make sure things went smoothly – which of course, they didn’t.  Mostly because the information that I gained from Ann and Suzie, the Princess travel consultants bore little to no resemblance to the actual procedures we encountered when we finally went through embarkation processes and the whole dealing with the Purser’s Desk to have people rooms re-keyed back to their proper cabins (remember we had mixed everyone up to maximise the past passenger discounts).

At the end of it all, and once on board, I found myself taking a few minutes to write a strongly worded email to Ann and Suzie about it… because I knew if I didn’t get it off my chest, I was going to end up exploding at the staff on the ship – and it is hardly their fault that I was given bad advice!

Dear Ann

I am writing to let you know that our boarding process today has been a complete cluster! Your fill in, Suzie, advised us that we should stick together through the boarding process and stated that we would be able to all use the priority boarding lane given we had a few platinum passengers in our largish group. At the terminal we were told this was not possible (in spite of the priority boarding queue being almost empty) and that, (and I quote here,) ‘the Princess travel agents don’t know anything’! 

However that has not been our worst encounter this afternoon. We have finally made it on board – over two hours in total – and all lined up at the empty pursers desk to have our cruise cards re-keyed to the correct room … and have just been informed that the can not re-key our cards, but that they need reissuing and won’t be available for collection until tomorrow afternoon!!!  This is completely unacceptable. We have 20 adults unable to recreate at their own leisure because they have to stick with their cabin mate given their second passengers keys don’t work!!!
I have several very annoyed passengers, whom I feel very responsible towards given I have been the one advising them of the applicable processes… None of which has turned out to be correct. 
I understand that you don’t work in the terminal or on the ship – but I never would have expected this level of disconnect of information. I am thoroughly unimpressed with our boarding process today. It’s been deplorable and I now find myself having to placate people who this morning were bursting with excitement.  🙁


Oh well, offloaded that crap, let’s move on.  I gave everyone their black and gold VIP lanyards, complete with their steampunk cogs and things that I attached (they seemed to be a hit, it’s nice to look like a group), and I had Mr K go ahead of us and put signs on all our cabin doors so we (and our cabin stewards) would be able to find each other easily.  We all dropped what we could into our cabins and went up on decks for sail away drinks. That first Mai Tai went a long way to soothing away the hassles of boarding.. as we excitedly sailed out under the Gateway Bridge, amidst lots of smiles and yahooing and (ZOMG, so many!) selfies all round!

sail away 2 Sail away 1


Steampunk Cruise New Zealand.

So… how did this come about?  Last year, Mr K and I cruised around New Zealand with Princess (for the 3rd time) and had a wonderful relaxing holiday which we naturally were posting about on Facebook as we travelled… as you do.  Quite a few of our friends commented that they’d love to go on a cruise and well, I just assumed it was lip services, so back in January this year, I created an event “New Zealand Cruise”, chose a date, 30th December on the Sea Princess (for New Years Eve fun, and school holiday convenience and a lot of our public service type friends are on leave around that time anyway) and I thought maybe half a dozen people would want to come with us…?

Little did I know that we would end up with 24 cruisers in 11 cabins from Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra all deciding to join us!  So in early Feb 2014, I did the bookings with a lovely lady – Princess Ann, I called her – and I did everything I could to minimise the cabin costs (this primarily involved switching all our past passengers around into different cabins to get a discounted cabin rate) and keep the initial deposit costs low.  We didn’t have quite enough past passengers for discounted cabins for everyone, but the one cabin that missed out had an ex-military member so they scored themselves a nice chunk of OBC which kinda balanced things out nicely.

After we made our bookings and paid our deposits in early February the watching and the watching began…  I was assured by Princess Ann that we could price match any discounted fares that we found along the way, and she was really helpful in doing that for us.  Thanks to constant vigilance on the website, newspapers and promotional emails, I managed to get our entire group’s passage down from the original $AUD61,453.00 to $42,714.00 by the time final payments were due.  Not bad if I do say so myself.

We’ve all been getting increasingly excited about the trip and there have been lots of questions flying around our little FB Cruise Group about packing, shore tours, cruise cards, embarkation processes, passport requirements and lord knows what else!  It’s going to be a LOT of fun.

Oh, and did I mention the Steampunk cruise bit?  My sister, BigSal and her family are coming along and almost literally the first thing she thinks of is ‘We will still be at sea for Borys’ birthday, we should have a Steampunk party in the Wheelhouse Bar!’  Because of course you can’t have a bar decorated like an Edwardian study without steampunk costumes… which is why we were all madly making steampunk costumes over the last few weeks!  Thanks BigSal.  Love your work *mutter mutter* sewing, extra luggage… hmmm.

80 Interesting Facts About Australia

1. Australia is as wide as the distance between London to Moscow.
2. The biggest property in Australia is bigger than Belgium.
3. More than 85% of Australians live within 50km of the coast.
4. In 1880, Melbourne was the richest city in the world.
5. Gina Rinehart, Australia’s richest woman, earns $1 million every half hour, or $598 every second.
6. In 1892, a group of 200 Australians unhappy with the government tried to start an offshoot colony in Paraguay to be called ‘New Australia’.
7. The first photos from the 1969 moon landing were beamed to the rest of the world from Honeysuckle Tracking Station, near Canberra.
8. Australia was the second country in the world to allow women to vote (New Zealand was first).
9. Each week, 70 tourists overstay their visas.
10. In 1856, stonemasons took action to ensure a standard of 8-hour working days, which then became recognised worldwide.
11. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke set a world record for sculling 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. Hawke later suggested that this was the reason for his great political success.
12. The world’s oldest fossil, which is about 3.4 billion years old, was found in Australia.
13. Australia is very sparsely populated: The UK has 248.25 persons per square kilometre, while Australia has only 2.66 persons per square kilometre.
14. Australia’s first police force was made up of the most well-behaved convicts.
15. Australia has the highest electricity prices in the world.
16. There were over one million feral camels in outback Australia, until the government launched the $19m Feral Camel Management Program, which aims to keep the pest problem under control.
17. Saudi Arabia imports camels from Australia (mostly for meat production).
18. Qantas once powered an interstate flight with cooking oil.
19. Per capita, Australians spend more money on gambling than any other nation.
20. In 1832, 300 female convicts mooned the governor of Tasmania. It was said that in a “rare moment of collusion with the Convict women, the ladies in the Governor’s party could not control their laughter.”
21. Australia is home to the longest fence in the world. It is 5,614 km long, and was originally built to keep dingoes away from fertile land.
22. Australia was one of the founding members of the United Nations.
23. Melbourne is considered the sporting capital of the world, as it has more top level sport available for its citizens than anywhere else.
24. Before the arrival of humans, Australia was home to megafauna: three metre tall kangaroos, seven metre long goannas, horse-sized ducks, and a marsupial lion the size of a leopard.
25. Kangaroos and emus cannot walk backward, one of the reasons that they’re on the Australian coat of arms.
26. Speaking of, Australia is one of the only countries where we eat the animals on our coat of arms.
27. If you visited one new beach in Australia every day, it would take over 27 years to see them all.
28. Melbourne has the world’s largest Greek population outside of Athens.
29. The Great Barrier Reef is the planet’s largest living structure.
30. And it has it’s own postbox!
31. The male platypus has strong enough venom to kill a small dog.
32. And when the platypus was first sent to England, it was believed the Australians had played a joke by sewing the bill of a duck onto a rat.
33. Before 1902, it was illegal to swim at the beach during the day.
34. A retired cavalry officer, Francis De Grootstole the show when the Sydney Harbour Bridge officially opened. Just as the Premier was about to cut the ribbon, De Groot charged forward on his horse and cut it himself, with his sword. The ribbon had to be retied, and De Groot was carted off to a mental hospital. He was later charged for the cost of one ribbon.
35. Australia has 3.3x more sheep than people.
36. Prime Minister Harold Holt went for a swim at Cheviot Beach, and was never seen again.
37. Australia’s national anthem was ‘God Save The King/Queen’ until 1984.
38. Wombat poop is cube shaped! This helps it mark its territory.
39. European settlers in Australia drank more alcohol per capita than any other society in history.
40. The Australian Alps receive more snowfall than Switzerland.
41. A kangaroo is only one centimetre long when it is born.
42. Sir John Robertson, a five-time premier of NSW in the 1800s, began every morning with half a pint of rum. He said: “None of the men who in this country have left footprints behind them have been cold water men.”
43. The Box jellyfish has killed more people in Australia than stonefish, sharks and crocodiles combined.
44. Tasmania has the cleanest air in the world.
45. The average Aussie drinks 96 litres of beer per year.
46. 63% of Australians are overweight.
47. Australia is ranked second on the Human Development Index (based on life expectancy, income and education).
48. In 2005, security guards at Canberra’s Parliament House were banned from calling people ‘mate’. It lasted one day.
49. In Australia, it is illegal to walk on the right-hand side of a footpath.
50. Australia is the only continent in the world without an active volcano.
51. Aussie Rules footy was originally designed to help cricketers to keep fit in the off-season.
52. The name ‘Kylie’ came from an Aboriginal hunting stick, similar to the boomerang.
53. 91% of the country is covered by native vegetation.
54. The largest-ever victory in an international football match was when Australia beat American Samoa 31-0 in 2001.
55. There are 60 designated wine regions in Australia.
56. Melbourne has been ranked the world’s most liveable city for the past three years.
57. If all the sails of the Opera House roof were combined, they would create a perfect sphere. The architect was inspired while eating an orange.
58. Australia is home to 20% of the world’s poker machines.
59. Half of these are found in New South Wales.
60. Moomba, Australia’s largest free festival, held in Melbourne, means ‘up your bum’ in many Aboriginal languages.
61. No native Australian animals have hooves.
62. The performance by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the 2000 Olympics opening ceremony was actually a prerecording- of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
63. The wine cask (goon sack) is an Australian invention
64. So is the selfie.
65. Durack, Australia’s biggest electorate, is larger in size than Mongolia.
66. The world’s first compulsory seat belt law was put into place in Victoria in 1970.
67. Each year, Brisbane hosts the world championships of cockroach racing.
68. In 1932, the Australian military waged war on the emu population of Western Australia. Embarrassingly, they lost.
69. Canberra was created in 1908 as a compromise when Sydney and Melbourne both wanted to be the capital city.
70. A gay bar in Melbourne won the right to ban women from the premises, because they made the men uncomfortable.
71. In 1992, an Australian gambling syndicatebought almost all the number combinations in a Virginia lottery, and won. They turned a $5m purchase into a $27m win.
72. Eucalyptus oil is highly flammable, meaning gum trees may explode if ignited, or in bushfires.
73. In 1975, Australia had a government shutdown, which ended with the Queen firing everyone and the government starting again.
74. A bearded Australian was removed from a darts match in the UK, after the audience started chanting ‘Jesus!’ at him, distracting the players.
75. There have been instances of wallabiesgetting high after breaking into opium crops, then running around and making what look like crop circles.
76. An Australian man once tried to sell New Zealand on eBay.
77. In 1940, two aircraft collided in midair, in NSW. Instead of crashing, the two planes became stuck together and made a safe landing.
78. The male lyrebird, which is native to Australia, can mimic the calls of over 20 other birds. If that’s not impressive enough, he can also perfectly imitate the sound of a camera, chainsaw and car alarm.
79. Some shopping centres and restaurants play classical music in their car park to deter teenagers from loitering at night.
80. Despite sharing the same verbal language, Australian, British and American sign languageare all completely different languages.
81. In 1979, debris from NASA’s space station ‘Skylab’ crashed in Esperance, WA. The town then fined NASA $400 for littering.
82. There have been no deaths in Australia from a spider bite since 1979.
83. There currently a chlamydia outbreak among koala species, which has led to a 15% drop in koala populations.
84. In NSW, there is a coal fire beneath the ground which has been burning for 5,500 years.
85. An Australian election TV debate was rescheduled so it didn’t conflict with the finale of reality cooking show Masterchef.
86. Chinese explorers travelled to Australia long before Europeans arrived. As early as the 1400s, sailors and fisherman came to Australia for sea-cucumbers and to trade with Indigenous peoples.
87. The first European to visit Australia was Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon, in 1606. More Dutch explorers visited the country over the next hundred years, plotting maps and naming it ‘New Holland’.
88. Captain James Cook first landed on Australia’s east coast in 1770. In 1788, the British returned with eleven ships to establish a penal colony. Within days of The First Fleet’s arrival and the raising of the British flag, two French ships arrived, just too late to claim Australia for France.

austrShamelessly stolen from Facebook… but I’m not going to link where from, because most of the stuff they post is xenophobic crap.

An Animal Shelter Manager’s Message

I saw this timely reminder on Facebook (shared through ARQ Foster page), that our pets are not for Christmas; they are forever.  When I went hunting for it, it took me ages to find, so I’m cross posting it here…  It is a very strong letter written by someone who lives this nightmare every day and it brought tears to my eyes.

Having saved two gorgeous little dogs from a puppy mill, both of whom have some weird arse idiosyncrasies as a result of their less than ideal early puppyhood, I can’t imagine life around here without them.  We shouldn’t buy our pets from unscrupulous breeders – we should adopt them.  We shouldn’t abandon our pets – we should re-home them if necessary.  Let’s not allow these overrun shelters, that have to euthanise, beautiful, perfectly healthy animals, become the norm.

“I am posting this (and it is long) because I think our society needs a huge wake-up call.

As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all – a view from the inside, if you will.

Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don’t even know – that puppy you just sold will most likely end up in my shelter when it’s not a cute little puppy anymore.

How would you feel if you knew that there’s about a 90% chance that dog will never walk out of the shelter it is going to be dumped at – purebred or not! About 50% of all of the dogs that are “owner surrenders” or “strays” that come into my shelter are purebred dogs.

No shortage of excuses
The most common excuses I hear are:

We are moving and we can’t take our dog (or cat).
Really? Where are you moving to that doesn’t allow pets?

The dog got bigger than we thought it would.
How big did you think a German Shepherd would get?

We don’t have time for her.
Really? I work a 10-12 hour day and still have time for my 6 dogs!

She’s tearing up our yard.
How about bringing her inside, making her a part of your family?

They always tell me:
We just don’t want to have to stress about finding a place for her. We know she’ll get adopted – she’s a good dog. Odds are your pet won’t get adopted, and how stressful do you think being in a shelter is?

Well, let me tell you. Dead pet walking!

Your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off, sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn’t full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy.
If it sniffles, it dies.

Your pet will be confined to a small run / kennel in a room with about 25 other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it.
If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers that day to take him / her for a walk. If I don’t, your pet won’t get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose.
If your dog is big, black or any of the “bully” breeds (pit bull, rottweiler, mastiff, etc) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door. Those dogs just don’t get adopted.
If your dog doesn’t get adopted within its 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed.

If the shelter isn’t full and your dog is good enough, and of a desirable enough breed, it may get a stay of execution, though not for long. Most pets get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment.
If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles, chances are it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because shelters just don’t have the funds to pay for even a $100 treatment.

The grim reaper
Here’s a little euthanasia 101 for those of you that have never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being “put-down”.
First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash. They always look like they think they are going for a walk – happy, wagging their tails. That is, until they get to “The Room”.

Every one of them freaks out and puts on the breaks when we get to the door. It must smell like death, or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there. It’s strange, but it happens with every one of them. Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by 1 or 2 vet techs (depending on their size and how freaked out they are). A euthanasia tech or a vet will start the process. They find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose of the “pink stuff”. Hopefully your pet doesn’t panic from being restrained and jerk it’s leg. I’ve seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood, and been deafened by the yelps and screams.

They all don’t just “go to sleep” – sometimes they spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves.
When it all ends, your pet’s corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back, with all of the other animals that were killed, waiting to be picked up like garbage.

What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? You’ll never know, and it probably won’t even cross your mind. It was just an animal, and you can always buy another one, right?

Liberty, freedom and justice for all
I hope that those of you that have read this are bawling your eyes out and can’t get the pictures out of your head. I do everyday on the way home from work. I hate my job, I hate that it exists and I hate that it will always be there unless people make some changes and realize that the lives you are affecting go much farther than the pets you dump at a shelter.

Between 9 and 11 MILLION animals die every year in shelters and only you can stop it. I do my best to save every life I can but rescues are always full, and there are more animals coming in everyday than there are homes.
My point to all of this is DON’T BREED OR BUY WHILE SHELTER PETS DIE!

Hate me if you want to – the truth hurts and reality is what it is.
I just hope I maybe changed one person’s mind about breeding their dog, taking their loving pet to a shelter, or buying a dog. I hope that someone will walk into my shelter and say “I saw this thing on Facebook and it made me want to adopt”.
That would make it all worth it.”

Author unknown