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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
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
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