“You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.
The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.”
~John O’Donohue, For the Interim Time
They call it Crossing The Ditch. The Tasman Sea, a 1,200-mile-wide body of water separating Australia and New Zealand. It’s considered a marginal sea of the South Pacific Ocean, but apparently there is nothing marginal about crossing it. I hadn’t given much thought to our three days at sea until stories began to circulate about the previous voyage. Phrases like rough seas, seasickness and all three days made me believe the Drake Passage to Antarctica has a distant cousin that flows between Australia and New Zealand!
I like to think of days at sea as in-between time, a bridge between one experience and another. You pack away newly-formed memories and impressions and prepare for the next adventure. And wherever that adventure is taking you, there is always some kind of shift, be it weather, terrain, language or customs. It’s an anticipation of what is yet to come that simmers inside, creating a quiet feeling of excitement and expectation.
Our Tasman Sea crossing seemed to be on a smooth course, and Herb and I were up early the first morning to map out a walking path on the upper decks. The Encore doesn’t have a promenade deck, but we found that a little creativity and willingness to be on an early schedule were a fairly good substitute for a dedicated walking track. Toss in some crisp sea air and a dash of early morning stillness, and you have a pretty great recipe for starting a day.
Activities and lectures abound on days when there are no port visits, and our Tasman crossing was no exception. The Seabourn Ventures expedition team led by geologist Juan Restrepo offered interesting lectures on what we could expect to see in New Zealand. Marine biologist Karlina See Kee spoke about the area’s wildlife, and ornithologist Joe Cockram gave such a detailed, rapid-fire talk about the endemic birds of New Zealand that I found myself taking copious notes as if there would be a follow-up exam!
Seabourn Executive Chef Timothy Dacey opened the ship’s galley to tours on a couple of sea days. Slots filled up quickly for this chance to peek into the culinary world on board. We met in the Restaurant, where the team was finishing a planning meeting before their dinner service. Chef Tim walked us through the galley, offering insight into the impressive 24-hour operation:
“We get fresh fish two or three times a cruise. You have to plan ahead. In some ports, if you run out of something, you may not be able to get it.”
Our three days in the Tasman Sea were wonderfully smooth and uneventful. Glorious summer weather had been on our side since we’d arrived in Sydney, but odds were that our luck wouldn’t hold out for the entire trip. New Zealand’s climate is notoriously unpredictable, and although it was the middle of summer, we had come prepared with everything from waterproof rain gear to puffy jackets. Our experience packing for Antarctica had served us well, and I figured if I expected the unexpected, we’d be able to handle whatever would come our way. Except the seas. That is the one thing no one can control.