You, no doubt, have been on lots of cruises but this is only my second (and my first was nothing more than three days traveling from Los Angeles to Encinada, Mexico and back) so perhaps this is perfectly normal, but after we embarked yesterday and after we had our mandatory lifeboat drill and learned how to properly put on our life preservers (true confession: even after being shown several times how to slip it through my arms, “just as you would a coat,” I couldn’t figure it out; a crew member had to put it on me), and after a lovely four-course dinner that included Tasmanian scallops and fillet of blue-eye trevalla, and slow-cooked loin of local lamb and vanilla bean panna cotta with strawberry gelato — even after all that, we were still berthed at the Beauty Point wharf across from Seahorse World.
Even more startling to me, we were still there (as was the short and stout Tassie security guard who wouldn’t let us board yesterday without passports) the following morning when Lobke, who I have developed quite a crush on, escorted me to a table in the Constellation restaurant on the Third Deck for, as she called it, “A little breakie.”
“Lobke,” I said, using the excuse of a whispered conversation to lean in close, “the ship hasn’t gone anywhere.”
Lobke laughed and patted my back consolingly. No, that’s right, she said. “Today you have the full day gourmet tour around Launceston (or “Lawn-CES-ton,” as Lobke pronounces it) and we don’t actually sail until late this afternoon.”
So an expedition cruise that stays berthed at the Beauty Point wharf for the first 24 hours of the cruise. That’s probably quite normal, isn’t it? After all, like I say, I haven’t done a whole lot of cruises. But in the movies and TV shows it seems like people get on the ship, a horn is blown, and off they go. But maybe that’s just what happens in the cinema.
Anyway, it’s fine. The rain has stopped; the sky is bluer than I can describe (Tasmania has air so clean that it is used as the baseline to measure particle emissions almost everywhere else in the world), and we’re off on our first little expedition this morning, a somewhat circular route around the northeast end of the island with stops at a chocolate shop, a cheese farm, and a honey producer before lunch at one of the island’s most famous wineries, Joseph Chromy. The only thing that could possibly make the day better is if Miss Lobke could accompany us, but, it seems, maitre’ds have things to do even when there are no passengers on board. Pity, that.
So we’re divided into two groups of about 30 each and escorted to two buses idling next to the entrance to Seahorse World (many of us sneering at the short and stout OFFICIAL SECURITY officer grimly staring at us as we file past) and off we go traipsing through the Irish-looking rolling green hills of the Tamar Valley (fields of just-mown hay, fat sheep, nursing cows, with copses of black wattle and gum trees) to Anvers where a Belgian named Igor Van Gerwen, who moved to Tasmania in 1989 to start up a little cottage confectionary — sort of like a Tassie Willie Wonka — makes truffles and fudge and all kinds of sweets, all made with rich Tasmanian cream and butter.
There are only two problems with our little tour: One, it’s a Sunday so there is no one there actually making chocolates, and, two, somebody forgot to let Igor and his staff know we were coming so the two lovely ladies working the counter and the cottage café are more than a bit surprised when 60 cruisers come in, most wanting a cup of tea or, in my case, some rich hot chocolate. “Oh, dear!” says the startled woman when we come in the door. “Oh, dear, dear, dear.”
Nonetheless, the ladies do a fine job taking orders, selling truffles, and serving cup after cup of hot chocolate to the rustic wooden tables out in the exquisite garden with blooming roses and Monet irises and many more vibrantly-colored flowers that I’ve never seen before. It takes a while for everyone to get served and pay for their bag of truffles but no one seems to mind; we’re on holiday, in late November (which is the beginning of summer here in the Southern hemisphere), and the weather is as delicious as Igor’s chocolates.