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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Auckland to Vancouver cruise - March 23 to April 30th/2017.....


On Friday, the ship docked at Chalmers, about half an hour from Dunedin.  We took the Holland America excursion Taieri Gorge Railway (Superior Package) ($249.95 US).  We left the ship at 8:30, and the train picked us up right outside.  If you take the lesser package, you take the bus into the train station into Dundein and the train picks you up there - the same coming back.


The train was old fashioned, and had very comfortable cars - volunteers work on the train, tell you the best place to take your pictures, including opening the windows, and make you feel very welcome.  This Superior package tour had an included lunch, and free beer and wine. 


Once you climb up the Gorge, there was a little farmers market at Pukerangi, which was the turn-around stop for the train. They also sell souvenirs on the train to help support the Railway. 

 
Dunedin has the most amazing train station - the tiles on the floor are made by Royal Dolton. 
The Tour lasted for 8 hours -  very interesting and famous train tour.


When the ship leaves the port at 6:30, you will see an Albatross colony right besides the lighthouse.  This is the only land colony in the world – be sure and take binoculars with you on this cruise. 
For dinner, I had shrimp and Crab Louis, chicken soup and weiner schneitzel.  And for dessert, chocolate cake.




 Photos belong to Phil Bianco  

Monday, 11 December 2017

Auckland to Vancouver cruise - March 23 to April 30th/2017.....


On Thursday, the ship docked in Akaroa, about 30 miles out of Christchurch, because of prior years’ earthquake damage.    Our Holland American excursion departed at 9 am, so we had breakfast at the Lido buffet.  We toured The Scenic Peninsula and the Giant's House ($149.95 US).   We tendered in to the dock, and the bus was again just about full, with the driver and tour guide.

First, we stopped at Barry's Bay Cheese for a sample – saw some NZ cows, and how they make cheese.  The country side is very scenic. 

 
Then we went on the bus down some steep hills to arrive at the Okains Bay Maori Museum, done up like an old village.  The museum was in the middle of nowhere, but again, such scenic countryside.  Old stuff galore….. 

 
Then we went to the Giant’s house in Akaroa, a bed and breakfast run by a local artist - no pictures allowed in the house or of the artist, and quite the driveway to climb. The artist breaks up ceramic tile, and does animals, statues of people - the garden is terraced and is full of wonderful mosaic sculptures.   


Then back on the bus to the dock (Tip $5 NZ) – we had lunch at a restaurant right besides the wharf  - cheese pizza and a local ale ($22 NZ).   A little shopping and then took the tender back to the ship. 


The tour lasted 4.5 hours, and we found it quite expensive.   The main event for the Tour was the Giant’s House, and we could easily have taken a cab from the dock to it, as it was right in Akaroa, and paid the $20 entrance fee, but I think another cruiser was turned away because she did not have the excursion badge, so maybe it is open only for excursions.


For dinner, I had bean soup, rack of lamb, and for dessert, lemon trifle.  


Photos belong to Phil Bianco  

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Auckland to Vancouver cruise - March 23 to April 30th/2017.....


On Wednesday, the ship docked at Wellington, the capitol city of New Zealand.  Our Holland American excursion  - Te Papa, City Sights and Mt. Victoria ($92.95 US) - did not start till 12:30, so we had breakfast in the dining room.  This tour was in the city of Wellington, and the bus was just about full. 


Our first stop was Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand.  This Museum is free to all, and I think today was a school holiday, so quite busy. We had just over an hour here - the Maori had a very good exhibition.


Then we toured the outside of three buildings, including The Beehive, a government building. 

And then to old St. Paul's Church - this is a wooden church, no longer being used.  

 
Then we went on a cable car - Wellington is very hilly. There was a cable car museum at the top, and also a cafe here, where we stopped for coffee and scones. 

And then the Botanical Gardens - very nice roses, and indoors, a begonia garden and lily pad pond.

Then we went up a steep hill to Mt. Victoria, but unfortunately, so much fog and rain that we could not take any photos.  It was quite rainy out all day, so we enjoyed just seeing around Wellington in a nice, warm bus.  We arrived back at the ship at 6 pm (Tip $5NZ). 
 
For dinner, I had potato soup with lobster (very good),  roast turkey dinner, and for dessert, whisky chocolate cake and orange sorbet.  I also had a local wheat beer, which was also very good.
 
 
 
 
Photos belong to Phil Bianco  
 
 
 

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Auckland to Vancouver cruise - March 23 to April 30th/2017.....

 
On Tuesday, the Noordam docked at Napier.  If we have time, we eat breakfast in the Dining Room - our Holland America excursion today, The Arch of the Ancestors, did not start till 12:30 p.m. (Costs $136.95 US – 4.5 hours).


The bus, with a driver and a Maori tour guide who led us in sing alongs, drove us through Napier and then on to a Maori boys boarding school, ages 13 to graduation, about half an hour drive away, at the Te Aute College.  This was the school's first visit from a cruise ship, and they were very interested in having our opinion.


First, we took off our shoes and entered their meeting house – the men were invited to sit up front.  After some welcoming speeches, and more sing alongs, then we toured their complex.  Built on a hill, you get amazing views of the country side.  We toured their church, listened to a commentary about healing, and visited with some of the students.  Then we went to the dining hall, where there were impressive Maori drawings -  the junior boys performed a haku. We enjoyed this tour (Tip $5 NZ).


When we got back to the ship, there were old cars there from Napier, with the drivers and passengers in period costumes.  There was also a brass band, which played as the ship left the harbor - very nice. 

 
For dinner, I had Ceaser salad, prime rib, vodka martini, and for dessert, a lamington and raspberry sorbet.   
 

Photos belong to Phil Bianco  

Friday, 8 December 2017

Auckland to Vancouver cruise - March 23 to April 30th/2017.....


On Monday, the Noordam docked at Tauranga.   At 8:30, we took the Holland America excursion Waitomo Caves & Kiwi House – Costs $209.95 US.   This was about a two hour bus drive from the ship, so you saw lots of scenic country. 

 
First, we went to see the glow worms  - this is a limestone cave with a river running through it.  The cave is in a rain forest, and the water seepage causes stalagmites and stalactites to form.  The glow worms are not worms - they are a fly larvae which uses photosynthesis to attract insects in to eat them.  At the end, you get into a little boat on the river and the tour guide uses a rope to pull you through as you admire the glow worms on the ceiling.  You are taking stairs from the top of the cave down to the river, so be prepared.  A very interesting stop - no photos allowed in the cave - this picture is from a postcard.


Then we went to the Crosshills Ranch for lunch - this was a dairy farm -  an older house with lush gardens.  They were well set up - lunch tables set out all around - we had roast lamb, meatloaf made from lamb and beef, lots of vegetables and salads, with ice cream for dessert.  You felt welcome here.


Back on the bus, and we went to the Kiwi House.  No photos of their live Kiwi, but they did have some stuffed ones - note the size of the egg.  They also had an Avery, some geckos and lizards, a large duck pond, and some birds of prey. 

 
Then back on the bus for the drive back - the tour lasted for about 8 hours, and we found it very interesting (Tip $5 NZ).


For dinner that night, I had escargots, duck with dressing, and for dessert, lemon cheesecake and a vodka martini.  This was a gala night, so everybody in the Dining Room was dressed up. 



Photos belong to Phil Bianco  
 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Auckland to Vancouver cruise - March 23 to April 30th/2017.....


On Sunday, after another good breakfast, we checked out of the hotel.  You will enjoy staying at the Hilton – right next to the harbor and with attentive staff.   
 
Then we walked our suitcases over to the Queens Wharf, a 10 minute walk, where the Holland America Noordam was docked.  After checking in, we went for lunch on the Lido deck.  Then to the mandatory Life Jacket drill, which took a long time.
 
We stayed on the lowest passage deck - Main Deck - in adjoining interior cabins because of sea sickness.  My cabin was roomy, with lots of closet space.  

We booked dinner at 8 o'clock in the fixed seating dining section – the Dining Room had a Chihuly glass flowered ceiling.  There were 4 other cruisers, plus my travelling companion.  I had French onion soup, a New York strip steak, and for dessert, key lime pie and a vodka martini.
 
A quiet day just checking into the ship...... 




Photos belong to Phil Bianco  

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Auckland to Vancouver cruise - March 23 to April 30th/2017.....


 On Saturday, we had the free breakfast at the Hilton – this was a full breakfast, everything provided, in a very nice restaurant at the front of the hotel looking out to harbor views. 
Then we took the Hop On/Off bus in Auckland - the stop was about a block from the hotel, and you buy your tickets there ($45 NZ).  The Bus was busy, but not jam packed.

Our first stop was the Parnell Rose Garden – this was a little park outside with over 5000 new and old rose varieties – beautiful.  We spent about half an hour here at this free stop.
 

Then on to the Holy Trinity Cathedral, an Anglican church noted for the unique Stained Glass windows, and also the church of St. Mary is in the back.   Sir Edmund Hillary's funeral was held here in 2008.  Very interesting - free stop and nice bathrooms.


Back on the bus to the Parnell Village, an older suburb named after Samuel Duncan Parnell, who introduced the 8-hour work day in New Zealand.  We toured an older church here – St. John the Baptist - and did a little window shopping.   Then we went to Osteria for lunch – we sat at an open table facing the sidewalk and split a cheese pizza and a coke ($12 NZ) - very good.
 

Then we took the bus to the Eden Garden - this was an old quarry made into a garden, with a large collection of camellias.  The cost was $6, and there was a cafe there where we had a coffee - restful and beautiful gardens.


Back on the bus to go to a free stop at Mt. Eden - you have to climb uphill for about 20 minutes, including steep stairs - but you will get amazing views of Auckland and the volcanic crater. 


Then back to the hotel for a rest - with the Hop On/Off bus, you will see some major sites in Auckland.

For dinner, we went to White and Wong’s Chinese food, just a block from the hotel.  I had Hot and Sour soup with shrimp and Peking Duck with pancakes - and a Tiger beer ($45 NZ) - very good.  Then we joined the many tourists walking around, and then back to the hotel.



Photos belong to Phil Bianco