Summer Sailing

New Zealand's summer cruise schedule helps clients escape the winter blues

By: Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Each day, the sun rises and sets first over New Zealand. Before leaving on our journey there last winter, my husband and I enjoyed telling everyone that we would be crossing the International Date Line and that we would return home from Auckland 10 hours before we left. And because our flight put us in Auckland around 5:30 a.m., we had a full day to explore the city before boarding Holland America’s Statendam the next afternoon.

Though it was January, it was summer in this part of the world, so we had blue skies throughout much of our seven-day cruise from Auckland to Christchurch, although we did encounter an occasional rainstorm. Our ports of call included Tauranga, a major vacation area; Napier (which rivals Miami as the art-deco capital of the world); Wellington, the southernmost capital city in the world; and the agricultural area of Picton. Most of our fellow passengers were baby boomers, like us, and retirees.

Much to our delight, by the second evening of the sailing, New Zealand options began appearing on the Rotterdam Dining Room menu, and kiwi fruit was dispensed with after-dinner mints. It was the perfect accompaniment to our days exploring the country.

On this port-intensive itinerary, I was glad we had pre-booked our shore excursions. After studying HAL’s Web site, we selected those that promised access to spots we couldn’t easily explore on our own.

In Rotorua, the first port, we chose an excursion to the Agrodome, where we saw 19 different kinds of sheep as well as a sheep shearing. We lunched on native Maori foods and watched a traditional performance, then took a tram ride through a park, featuring furiously boiling mud pools and spouting geysers.

On a hazy day in Napier, our tour took us over hill and dale, past vineyards and kiwi fields and through roundabouts galore, continuing on a winding unpaved road through the isolated private land of Summerlee Sheep Station. We even forded a stream. All this to view an extraordinary cliff-top colony of almost 5,000 squawking yellow-headed gannets a highlight of the trip for me. This was followed by morning tea in an authentic woolshed.

In Wellington, we chose to explore on our own. We walked to downtown and boarded a red cable car to the Botanic Garden for a panoramic view, then moseyed down to the blooming Lady Norwood Rose Garden and the Begonia House. We continued on through peaceful Bolton Street Memorial Park cemetery and later returned to town. After shopping Cuba Street and lunching at a tiny Malaysian restaurant on Courtenay Place, we toured the impressive new National Museum and caught a cab back to the ship. Other passengers opted for the popular “Lord of the Rings” excursion.

Action-packed days in port made us glad to have the Statendam to return to. I pampered myself with a pedicure in the Greenhouse Spa one day at sea. Gazing at the azure South Pacific from the salon’s floor-to-ceiling windows, I realized that cruising was such an easy way to see this diverse country. I enjoyed every minute of my shore time among the hospitable Kiwis, but was always pleased to be back on the ship again.

Holland America Line


Morning: Ride the local Link bus up through the Parnell area, to just past the Auckland War Memorial Museum stop. After exploring shops and breakfasting, perhaps in an inviting open-air Italian cafe, walk into Auckland Domain Park. At the War Museum, view the world’s largest collection of Maori artifacts, enjoy a Maori show and then pose with performers afterward for a fabulous photo.

Afternoon: While sitting at a breezy open bar overlooking the street action, dine on exquisite local hapuka fish and organic Phoenix ginger beer at The Fishmonger. Browse the shops, and catch the Link for a scenic loop tour back to Queen Street, the main shopping thoroughfare.

Evening: The place to be is Viaduct Basin, located along the pier where the Statendam docks. Dinner venues include pubs, Italian eateries and even a cook-it-yourself “barbie.”