We woke up on Christmas morning to a bright, sunny, beautiful day as National Geographic Orion made her way south from Vanuatu towards Norfolk Island. The ship was in great spirits as we enjoyed a beautiful breakfast on the back deck and a mellow morning. A record number of participants (a whopping 25!) joined wellness specialist Belinda Quinlivian in the lounge for Christmas Yoga! Meanwhile, red-footed boobies circled the ship and caught flying fish. It was not long before we were ready for our Christmas feast. Expertly prepared by the galley team, the offerings were abundant and luscious! No one was shy, and multiple helpings were consumed! The expedition staff helped serve the food and bus dishes, a small gesture to illustrate our gratitude for the amazing work and care that the crew puts into making this ship feel like such a wonderful family. Everyone certainly misses their home extra on Christmas, but I can’t think of a better place to spend Christmas than here on National Geographic Orion. At lunch, the winners of the Christmas door decorating contest were announced, and everyone enjoyed an amazing abundance of desserts. We gathered in the evening for a recap, followed by more feasting on the back deck. It was a relaxed but beautiful day out here in the Coral Sea. Merry Christmas to all!
National Geographic Orion
As the sun rose over the horizon and the ship glided over the silken blanket of the ocean, a royal albatross greeted us. Welcome to New Zealand. While the ship was being cleared by New Zealand customs, Massimo Bassano inspired us with insightful stories about his long career at National Geographic. It was humbling to hear about his work after enjoying his company on this cruise. Before going ashore, the kitchen prepared another scrumptious meal for us, and we were ready for our New Zealand adventure. Arriving at the Waitangi Treaty grounds, we learned about the history between the Maori and the British from our local guides. These grounds house several treasures, one of them a war canoe that fits 120 warriors and was made from a single tree trunk. Time was on our side, and we strolled through the museum and historical building before being introduced to the Maori assembly house, called a Marae. Here, we were officially welcomed in the form of a threatening challenge–a way to ascertain if visitors have come in peace or to cause trouble. Expedition leader Alex Searle ensured that we were welcomed, and we were treated to a cultural dance performance with explanations. Afterwards, there was time to visit the nearby town of Paihia, where we found a craft market. In the evening, we enjoyed a warm farewell with humorous anecdotes told by Captain Fredrick. Everyone was in their happy place as we retired for the night.