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Home > Virtual Cruises > Statendam: Auckland to Sydney
Statendam: Auckland to Sydney
Day 1: Auckland
Day 2: Auckland/Christchurch
Day 3: Dunedin
Day 4: Milford Sound
Day 5: At Sea
Day 6: At Sea
Day 7: Burnie
Day 8: Melbourne
Day 9: Sydney
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Day 5: Thursday, At Sea
At SeaOur first of two days at sea, which we'd hoped would be a much needed respite from frenetic sightseeing, was pretty hectic in its own right.

We were tired from the get-go, having crossed the Tasman Sea the night before. It was rough, so much so that during dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, the ship was listing so far to starboard that wine glasses looked as if they were almost at right angles to the white linen tablecloth on which they amazingly sat without sliding. (A hint to all who follow us: It's almost always very rough ... consider yourselves warned!)

Overnight, we dreamt of capsizing. The ship, which nevertheless handled the rough seas as impressively as possible, rocked back and forth, and after awhile I began to feel as if I were riding inside the belly of Jonah's whale as it leapt up -- and crashed down again -- over and over and over. Truly, seatbelts in the bed might have been a good idea.

It's a testament to how tumultuous it almost always is to cross this particular sea between New Zealand and Australia that one crew member, when asked how rough she rated our passage, boasted "this was smooth!" Indeed, last cruise, an even more turbulent sea was so powerful that her television set was knocked clear off the ledge upon which it sat and onto the floor. Fortunately no one was hurt.

In the morning, Statendam continued to rock and roll, and both the Lido and the Rotterdam Dining Room did a light breakfast. Afterward, even my beloved Bonine (a seasickness avoidance remedy that has never before failed me) ran out of strength against the force of the Tasman Sea and I went back to bed for a brief spell.

Soon enough, though, the waters stopped their most outrageous churning and normal sea day activities ensued. Indeed, there was so much to choose from beyond the usual (bridge games, casino, bingo, golf putting) that I found myself running from activity to activity and frankly the rest I'd hoped for was elusive.

First up: A hands-on cooking class at the Wajang Theater. These classes, part of Holland America's fleetwide Culinary Explorations program, are limited to 12 passengers -- the maximum that can comfortably stand around the demo kitchen's marble counter. There are a handful of offerings on this voyage, from wine and cheese to formal dinner parties, along with ours: focusing on a three-course meal that's influenced, as is the Pinnacle Grill's menu, by America's Northwest. Led by the Pinnacle's head chef, we took turns chopping, stirring, pounding pastry and picking through crab meat to make Dungeness crab cakes with Thai sweet chili sauce, grilled salmon with ginger-cilantro pesto (absolutely out of this world) and fruit cobbler.

Even more valuable than exploring new dishes was the chef's informal refreshers on cooking basics. Some were reminders, such as the best way to chop onions, celery and cilantro, and the importance of keeping your kitchen knives sharp -- and others were completely fascinating. Did you know that to get the most juice out of a lemon or lime you should stick it in the microwave for 10 seconds?

I was so absorbed in the experience it was easy to forget we were even on a ship, much less one that was sailing on waters that were still a bit rambunctious. Beyond that, the highlight of the course was eating what we made. In this case, our class ran too long and we had to slurp down the delicacies quickly, but it still served perfectly as lunch. (I almost felt sorry for a couple of participants who had reservations just afterward at the alternative restaurant. Who had room?)

These classes do fill up quickly so if you're interested, sign up as early as possible. There's a fee -- plan to pay $29.

After a short break, I headed up to the Pinnacle Grill, which was hosting a post-lunch wine and cheese pairing (also a $29 reservations-only experience, though there were empty seats). It offered a lighthearted chance to taste cheeses ranging from goat to an incredibly creamy blue -- and sip wine, too. The pairing was hosted by the culinary lecturer for this cruise: Laura Werlin, a San Francisco-based expert who's written "The All American Cheese and Wine Book" among other tomes. The most important tips she threw out included:

Taste wine before cheese (rather than the reverse) because the latter will often obliterate the flavor of former.

Watch out for rinds, which can make a cheese bitter.

Whiter (cheese) means lighter (wine) when pairing.

And finally, the most cheese-friendly wine? Try a dry Riesling. With the various soft, medium-hard and hard cheeses, we tasted wines ranging from Champagne to merlot to ice wine. Each had its own special pairing -- but the Riesling worked well with all of them.

After a quick pit stop at Explorations Cafe to check e-mail, and a short trip back to my cabin to tune in to CNN just to make sure the world was still spinning up there in the Northern Hemisphere, I headed for my last appointment of the day: an early evening Swedish massage combined with a lime and ginger salt scrub (the Greenhouse Spa offered a special combo deal today). I arrived 20 minutes early so I could spend time in the "thermal suite," which is outfitted with a whirlpool, two scented steam rooms and heated tile mosaic loungers. It was pleasantly empty and peaceful -- the room is only available to folks who've either booked treatments (and they are limited to pre-treatment visits) or those who have paid for a day pass. It was a lovely entree to my massage but I wouldn't be inclined to shell out the $20 per-day charge (for those who aren't booked at the spa) for it.

Having missed dinner in the Rotterdam Dining Room because of the spa appointment (and the buffet option closes early, at least to me, at 7:30 p.m.), it seemed like a good night to order room service before heading back out to sample the nightlife. Alas, dinner was the day's only disappointment. While you can order during meal times from the dining room menu, the reservations staff prefers to read it to you (rather than have them handy at steward stations). Fair enough. I decided to stick with something simple -- a burger and a salad.

Ultimately, the Caesar salad tasted fine but the crew needs to work on presentation. When my meal arrived, the crew member plunked the tray down unceremoniously on our coffee table and began to back out of the room. A request for condiments (why it would even be necessary to ask for mustard and ketchup is mystifying) fell on deaf ears, as he never bothered to come back. By the time I'd figured that out, and called room service to request the condiments, the burger was cold.

Our second night at sea should prove much more fun....

Day 4: Milford Sound red arrow Day 6: At Sea

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