We just returned from an extraordinary three-week trip which included a 12-day cruise of Australia and New Zealand. Here are the cities we visited: Sydney, Melbourne, Queenstown, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Tauranga, and Auckland. We explored by ship, tender, tram, bus, steamboat, and on foot. The scenery in the Fiordland National Park, New Zealand was breathtaking.
Sydney is a sophisticated harbor city of over 4 million people–it reminded us of Chicago. New Zealand is a gorgeous, young, vibrant country with more sheep than people. If these destinations are on your dream list, I urge you to go.
When we embarked, we were amused to discover that our stateroom was on Deck 10—The Library Deck! It was a lovely two-deck-high space with lots of light. Every time I passed by, there were people reading books and iPads.
Of course I checked out the collection, and was surprised by its quality. I had expected a ragtag bunch of books. Instead I found a neatly shelved popular collection. There were many titles with 2012 publication dates. I noticed The Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar (Suzanne Johnson) looked like it had spent time in the water—had it been rescued from the ocean?
I often assert that the quality of life of a city can be measured by the viability of its public library. Perhaps a cruise ship can be judged in a similar fashion–we found the services and accommodations delightful aboard the Celebrity Solstice.
During the days at sea, I explored all the outdoor seating areas looking for just the right sunny nook. It was such a pleasure to see the blue water, feel the sun, and read a book.
From the library I borrowed The Age of Desire by Nashville author Jennie Fields (2012). The novel explores the relationship between Edith Wharton, and her tutor and friend Anna Bahlmann. I also succumbed to the lure of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012), which has been on the bestseller lists for months. I was glad to be reading outdoors, so that the fresh sea breezes could blow away the book’s pathological malaise.
I took along Independent People by Halldor Laxness (1946), a saga, both elemental and comic, of the sheep farmer Bjartur of Summerhouses, Iceland. It seemed an apropos choice for New Zealand travel. For the long plane ride, I loaded on my iPad a Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon. If you don’t know this series set in Venice, Italy, I suggest it to you. But the best book I read on my trip was the new book by Kent Haruf titled Benediction (2013). It is a beautifully written, quiet book describing the love of family and friends as they await the death of the father, “Dad Lewis.”