After a successful Cruise to Middle-earth in November of 2008, and a sequel cruise in December 2012, it is time to complete the Trilogy. This Journey to Middle earth starts on January 2, 2023, in Sydney, Australia as you board the Celebrity Eclipse, and runs 12 nights long, ending in Auckland, New Zealand on January 14, 2023. This is not a LOTR convention at Sea, but more of a Mobile Middle-earth Moot where we get to see the real-world Middle-earth while enjoying the benefits of a luxurious cruise ship.
This 12-night cruise will take you to such filming locations as Hobbiton and Edoras, with the option to visit the WETA Workshop in Wellington on a private tour. Other ports visited will be Melbourne, Dunedin, and the Bay of Islands. And for those choosing to arrive in Sydney a few days early, you will be able to celebrate the New Year’s Celebration near the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge for fireworks (not included, but I can assist in securing a hotel and flights).
Once the cruise is finished, there will be an optional 2-night post-cruise stay in Auckland so that we can experience WETA Unleashed, and have a farewell dinner in the restaurant at the top of the Sky Tower in Auckland, and have a private tour and dinner in Hobbiton. This allows folks to choose a Cultural or Geological tour option in the port of Tauranga (Rotorua) rather than Hobbiton from the ship, which will be rather short and bunched together with other cruise passengers that might not be as geeky as those in our group. If you choose this post-cruise tour, there will be an additional cost, and you will need to remain in New Zealand at least until January 16, 2023.
If you choose to arrive on the morning of the cruise, you will have to depart North America on December 31, 2022, to arrive by January 2, 2023, or you can depart earlier and spend a couple of days in Sydney. If you wish to be in Sydney for the actual New Year’s celebration, you will want to depart North America no later than December 29 for a December 31 arrival. For those interested parties in Europe or Down Under, the time difference will affect you differently.
I am arranging an exclusive day tour to visit with WETA in Wellington for us when the ship is in port, which will include a private workshop. There will be a motorcoach to pick us up just outside the port area in the morning and take us over to Miramar to tour the facility, taking in not just LOTR projects, but some of the many other film projects WETA has worked on over the years. This will be topped off with a hands-on workshop on crafting leather and chain maille armor before the motorcoach will take us back to the city center for a self-guided tour inside the Te Papa Museum. You will not want to miss Te Papa, besides it being a world-class museum, there is a Gallipoli exhibit created by WETA that must be seen to believe, and the museum is free. We will then make our own way back to the ship before it departs. This tour can be purchased as a customized package not included in the cruise fare. A quote will be available shortly.
On the ship, there will be a few days at sea, with no port stops, so I’ll be planning a few group activities that you can choose to join or not, depending on whether you would prefer to go to the spa or partake in other Ship Hosted activities. There will be a Tolkien Toast on January 3, 2023, to commemorate the Professor’s birthday, and then there will be a few games and group discussions, and maybe singing along to some of Tolkien’s songs found in the books. And this cruise takes place just a couple of months after the Rings of Power airs, so lots to discuss and maybe an additional location or two to be seen. For those of you with Middle-earth costumes, feel free to bring them, especially if they are on the lighter side, for packing purposes. There will be a Costumed Cocktail reception, and for those without costumes, a geeky t-shirt will suffice. The bonus is that you can also wear the costume either in Edoras or Hobbiton or bring two costumes and do both.
The nitty-gritty information for this group is that it has been on sale for several months, so some room types are no longer available. The Cruise pricing fluctuates regularly, based on available discounts for persons who qualify (past passenger, Senior or military rate, etc.) and just what rooms are still open for booking. An interior room right now is starting at $2179 per person, a Balcony room starts at $2429 per person and a Concierge Balcony (more perks) starts at $2869 per person. The private tour to WETA during the ship’s port stop in Wellington will have its own price, to be finalized very soon, and the customized 2-night post-cruise tour in Auckland to Hobbiton and other activities is currently priced at $1170 per person, but that will go down with a few more people booked into the group. There is a small planning fee of $50 per person if booked by May 31, and then it goes up to $100 per person on June 1.
To make an inquiry, please contact me at Garfeimao@TheOneRing.net
The initial posters released by Amazon spawned a million questions, and then the Vanity Fair articles explained some things but spurred even more questions. Just before the teaser trailer, we released a staff “what we want to see” post, with some very specific hopes and questions; and now we find out if any of those were answered. Watch the trailer below, and then read on to see what the staff reactions were.
The world felt familiar and in line with my expectations of what Middle-earth and Númenor should look like. I felt there was visual continuity from the films. It’s difficult to tell much about the story, though there are hints, and I’m intrigued to find out more. Especially about the man in the fiery crater. Also, I’m curious what the meeting of the Elves in the golden woods was about.
Specific things I wanted to see that were shown:
Númenor. I also wanted to know what time-period it was, but of this I’m still unsure. In the last days, Ar-Pharazôn makes sacrifices to Melkor, and the skies become blackened with smoke by the unceasing fires. The skies in the trailer are blue, yet there is a tall tower that is sending out flames, yet it is not the domed tower that the Silmarillion mentions. Could this be the temple of Armenelos, indicating the later days? Or is this the port of Rómenna where the Faithful lived? My guess is Rómenna because the capital city was inland.
Khazad-dûm, I think, in the scene where Durin IV breaks the stone, but the background is out of focus, so we don’t get to see the scope of it or the West Gate.
Galadriel and Elrond. Galadriel’s fierceness and athleticism were as I expected from the hints and photos given prior to the trailer, and also in line with how Tolkien described how she acted in her youth. Though the ice wall immediately reminded me of Game of Thrones. Elrond was a surprise because he looks so angry or troubled, and I would not have imagined him having a contest of strength with Durin. What he is wearing is very cool and unexpected.
Gil-galad! His appearance is satisfying because his countenance and clothes are similar to the way he looks in the War of the Last Alliance in the film, so there is continuity.
A Hobbit–Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot. She has the look of a Hobbit, and her rustic clothes seem appropriate. I also wanted to see where the Harfoots lived, but we weren’t shown that. Nori speaks of wandering, so maybe there isn’t a settled community yet.
Weaponry. Arondir’s shooting skills seem in line with what we know of Elves from the films. Though it was too dark to make out his bow clearly, the shape, especially the ends of the bow, are similar to the Bow of the Galadhrim that Galadriel gave Legolas in the film version of FotR, and his arrows are also shaped like Legolas’, so I wasn’t taken out of Middle-earth as it was imagined by Peter Jackson and WETA. We also saw him with some kind of axe. In the battle scene, we got visuals of Elven helmets, armor and shields–gold, as in the Last Alliance in the films, but differently shaped. And we saw Galadriel’s dagger (Who else is waiting for a reproduction?) and the top of her sword slung on her back.
How people will sound. We only heard Nori, and she had a sort of Irish accent. I thought there was a hint of Elvish voices in the music, like in Howard Shore’s score for The Lord of the Rings, so I’m hopeful there will be Elvish/Dwarvish/Númenórean languages spoken at times.
Thoughts from Deej:
I liked what I saw, and it piqued my interest in seeing more, which is the whole point of a teaser trailer. I’ve seen a few responses from fans saying it looked too generic and ‘cheap’ – I could not disagree more. To me, it looked very much like the Middle-earth we’ve become accustomed to, just different locations and characters. I do hope that there are more physical sets and ‘bigatures’ (like The Lord of the Rings) and less CGI (like The Hobbit), but at this point, nothing about the show looks cheap.
From Madeye Gamgee:
My broad desires were to alleviate concern, particularly by demonstrating faithfulness to Tolkien and his source material; and to create a hunger to see more. For me, the teaser trailer was more successful in the latter area. We saw some iconic and exciting moments: our first-ever glimpse of Númenor, with Meneltarma looming in the background; Galadriel in her full Nerwen/Amazonian self (how’s that for an ironic nod to the money behind this project?); some wondrous, ax-swinging (and singing!) dwarves in their halls of stone; and some really beautiful scenic shots once again cementing the convergent glories of New Zealand as Middle-earth. There were snippets of intriguing characters that seem to have stories to tell, starting with the only words spoken in the entire teaser from young “Nori” Brandyfoot/Markella Kavenagh, alluding to “wonders in this world beyond our wandering” (a very pre-Tookish sentiment!). What is Dwarf Queen Disa singing about? Who is Silvan Elf Arondir fighting, and why is he chained? Why does Durin IV weep, and what is Elrond’s mission among the dwarves? Is that an “ice troll”? What in the world does that meteor portend, and who is this “Stranger” that may have emerged from it? This is a world that seems packed with beauty and history, danger and mystery, all waiting to be explored.
But is it true to Tolkien? We don’t know yet, and it’s unfair to expect this from a one-minute teaser that gives us flashes of 20 different scenes. We saw no rings of power. We heard no actual dialog between characters. We have seen some action but know little yet of the forces and passions that are motivating it. We have been teased. There is what could be an aroma of Middle-earth wafting in from some hidden kitchens, and the scents we’re catching seem promising. I’m happy to stick with my spot at the table as we wait for more. With Dwalin, though, I’ll toss in a hopeful, “where’s the meat?!”
WeeTanya’s 2 cents:
The Teaser Trailer’s opening focus on the large statue was probably meant to make us remember the Argonath, setting up the feeling that we were looking at something thematically familiar and different at the same time — a port city of men? Where is it? I loved that we got to immediately see the vast scope of the world, and that the city felt old and abandoned even for a place that should have been thriving. Where is everyone? Are the humans of that port city long fled? The questions started to mount in my head immediately, and I honestly felt as adventuresome as Galadriel climbing up a cliff.
I loved where the Teaser Trailer took us. We saw a bunch of Elves meeting in a place that looked a lot like Lothlorien, rife as it was with all the golden Mallorn trees (Lindon? Eregion?). We saw one very concerned elf staring up at the sky — who is that? Is it Cirdan, is it Gil-galad? Some breakdowns have already named him Gil-galad, but I am leaving room that it could be Cirdan — I’ve always wanted to see my favorite elf on screen.
The Teaser Trailer gave us a glimpse of Arondir — the way he looked and moved made me feel as if he was spiritually akin to Legolas and Tharanduil’s folk. It’s hard to imagine anyone faulting his grace (OK, I can imagine it) or likeness to other Peter Jackson-themed Sindarin elves. I hope we get to see more of his elf eyes tracking foes in the wood.
I enjoyed Galadriel’s adventures tremendously — she’s climbing the side of a mountain in the Northern Wastes, and hanging out near a waterfall that dwarfs the ones we already know (Rauros, Henneth Annun). She’s in a cave, encountering an albino … troll thing. She’s riding a battle-clad horse at the head of an army. I AM PROPERLY TEASED! I want to know more, these are adventures that probably happened between the words in the Unfinished Tales, and I want to know all about it.
Notes from Elessar:
So here we go.
As I stated I in our preview article I wanted to see the world in action. We got that. A lot of it really for a one-minute teaser trailer. What we saw looks really cool and I walked away pleased with what I saw. We didn’t get a lot of dialogue other than the narrator’s voice. So that was a bit of a bummer, but I’m sure we will get a full trailer this summer. So as someone who went in a bit reluctant, I’m pleased for now.
I wanted, first and foremost, to see Elves acting like Elves, which of course, covers many behaviors and actions, but it is the Action I was most interested in. Early in the teaser trailer, we see Arondir in the midst of a battle, arrows in the ground around him. He is seen reaching out to grab an arrow flying towards a second figure lying on the ground, turns it and let’s fly back to where it came. That sealed it, that was the Elven skill with a bow we have become accustomed to, and it made this teaser trailer for me. But then we got more of Arondir being amazing, when near the end he is seen leaping through the air with an odd looking ax in his hands, about to pounce on something or someone, all while having his ankle in chains.
My second point was wanting to see Dwarves, be it miners, builders, fighters, or anything that shows their culture and the realm of Khazad-dûm. We don’t get too much of the scope of their realm, but we do see Durin IV a couple of times. In one scene, he looks rather emotional, but the next time we see him he is splitting a mighty boulder in one blow, sending sparks out. This act is witnessed by at least three, elder looking dwarves with very long, grey beards (Gandalf would be jealous). Finally, we see Disa singing, which turns out to be how the dwarves find out where to dig, and more importantly, where not to dig, which we know they don’t always heed that warning.
There were no answers as to why Galadriel was in the ocean and needed to be pulled onto a raft, but we do see her looking pissed off when the man on the raft touches her hair to reveal her Elven ears. It would be interesting to see what happens next, does she begrudgingly tolerate it, or does she attack him?
As for my wish to see more of Lindon, we got that, with the scene of seeing Gil-galad, looking fabulous, but worried as he watches the meteor shoot through the sky. And later, we see a beautiful gathering area near the edge of a cliff where numerous Elves are meeting, for either a ceremony or a gathering to discuss important matters. Either way, Lindon looks quite lovely, with the golden leaves of white birch trees and waterfalls.
And finally, there was zero information as to why the Two Trees were the first image we saw from the production, but there were indications that there may be flashbacks into the first age, but the writers are walking a tightrope when it comes to that material. This teaser trailer did what it was supposed to, it intrigued me and left me with tons more questions about what we might see next, and that is a very encouraging thought.
Watch TORn Tuesday today at 5pm PT, 8pm ET with special guest Joanna Robinson, the author of many of the articles that announced Amazon Prime’s The Rings of Power to the world.
A report has appeared in Scotland’s Daily Record stating that representatives of Amazon Studios were scouting filming locations for their Lord of the Rings TV project in Scotland over the summer. This story is light on details, so we at TORn are treating this information as rumors, for now. These location scouts purportedly traveled as tourists, checking out various locales around Scotland, which offered the opportunity for a meaningful connection with the local communities. Continue reading “Is Amazon Studios scouting LOTR filming locations outside of New Zealand?”
This past week, the New Zealand Government and executives from Amazon TV held a meeting in an effort to address concerns about a lack of studio capacity in Auckland. This planned 5 season LOTR series is a big production that will require quite a lot of studio space for filming, post production facilities and local crews, so of course they want to make sure the resources exist that they need. It appears that a decision or deal may be made within the next month, so we don’t have long to wait. You can see the source of this story at Stuff.Co.NZ.
You may be wondering why Auckland and not Wellington, but that is easily explained by the fact that the Avatar trilogy of films currently in pre-production will soon be moving into full production. While the Amazon LOTR production will be big, Avatar is going to be much bigger, and there may or may not be enough room for both as far as studio and post-production facilities go.
This leads to a much bigger debate on whether or not this new series should look and feel much like the existing Middle-earth films or whether it should blaze its own path for design and locations. The appeal to any production of not having to look for too many new locations can’t be understated. Film and TV productions are always having to research and locate interesting places that fit what the production needs, so the fact that so many locations in New Zealand have already been established as feeling like Middle-earth is a boon. But then, there are hundreds of beautiful places around the world, and with chunks of filming now happening in studios, does it really matter where those studios are? Is it possible that Amazon can do location filming in New Zealand and Studio work in London, Hollywood or Vancouver? Or why not film in British Columbia, or Northern Ireland or Slovenia for that matter?
For those of you who have been lucky enough to visit the Hobbiton set (like me!), you know how magical it is to wander among the well-tended gardens and Hobbit-home facades, to rest in the shade of the magnificent party tree, and to enjoy a pint at the Green Dragon Inn. However, as most of us are aware, the Hobbiton set is surrounded by a 560 hectare (approximately 1,400 acre) working sheep and cattle farm owned and operated by the Alexander family.
Stuff.co.nz recently recounted a bit of the history of the Hobbiton and how Hobbit holes and sheep continue to coexist nicely in a quiet corner of the New Zealand countryside:
“Right alongside the tourism business is their sheep and beef operation, on probably the country’s most-visited farm. While not many of the tourists see the whole farm, the stock is still very much in the public eye, meaning Craig [Alexander] has to be strategic in where he farms stock because of the occasional gate left open by an unsuspecting tourist. Hobbiton is also ring-fenced with paddocks for stock on either side. “If we’re driving a mob of 1500-2000 ewes down the main track and there is a [tourist] bus going through that can be pretty frustrating.”
While the farm is family-owned and operated, Hobbiton is a 50/50 partnership between the family and Peter Jackson. “Today, the tourism venture has about 70 permanent staff and twice that number over the busy summer season. It’s given the Matamata district a huge boost in earnings and the region is now thriving.”
A group, that displays one man with 500+ Facebook friends, has started a GoFundMe page to build a 1 to 1 scale replica “of Peter Jackson’s depiction of Minas Tirith, as seen in his Lord of the Rings films.”
For American readers, if my pounds to dollars calculator is working right, that is about $2.8 billion, an ambitious amount to raise on IndieGoGo, or really any crowd funding site, or really, by any method. Still, the project would be a dream to visit and would create an economy all its own and would provide years of good media material as the world watched its progress.
“We aim to create both residential and commercial properties, allowing for sustainable growth and a high quality of life,” Jonathan Wilson says on his intro page. He also breaks down the cost, a little bit, to say, “The vast majority of this expense will cover building costs – £15m for land, £188m for labour and £1.4bn for material.”