Cruise days 24,25 – Jan 28,29
This is our first cruise stop in a big city (Auckland has a population of almost two million), and we spent two days here while the ship was re-stocked with supplies and personnel. It gave us a chance to get updated about life and culture around the port and downtown since our last visit 14 years ago – also on a cruise. Big things have happened, that’s for sure!
We docked early in the morning on the first day and departed on our included excursion – the City of Sails bus tour. Mona Liza noticed that we have experienced a progression in our bus excursions. During the first few island port stops we were transported in old beat-up school buses with tiny seats that we could barely fit into. I mean those things were in atrocious condition, and I practically cheered each time they started up successfully. But now we’ve moved up to a big city with modern buses featuring air conditioning and built-in PA systems. They even have seat belts – yay!
Anyway, we enjoyed the excursion which took us through several well-defined sections of the city. We saw beautiful beaches, uppity shopping areas, several blocks of nothing but restaurants, and super-exclusive homes on the hills overlooking the ocean. We also passed a couple of huge boat marinas and viewed the downtown skyline from the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
It was a comprehensive tour, and we picked up several ideas about where we would spend our time exploring on the second day, since we had no other excursions planned.
Some New Zealand tidbits:
- The first country to recognize sign language as an official language.
- The first country to acknowledge women’s right to vote in 1893 when it was a self-governing British colony.
- Known as the “City of Sails” for its more than 135,000 registered yachts and launches.
- Sir Edmund Hillary, most famously known as being one of the first confirmed climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest, is a native of Auckland
In the evening as a destination performance, we were treated to a Maori cultural Haka dance. The Haka is a type of ancient Māori war dance that was traditionally used on the battlefield, as well as when tribes came together in peace. Click on the video below to see how it’s both funny and scary to watch the performers dance and chant:
After the show we enjoyed a cool evening with a beautifully lit skyline:
Day 2 – on our own
We were ready to further explore some of the areas we’d seen during the bus tour. Walking almost 6 miles, we covered city streets, the wharf, a marina, a couple of city parks and the downtown shopping areas:
We’ve observed that Auckland is a clean and upscale city with a lot of wealth. And these folks take their boats seriously! We noticed dozens of multi-million dollar yachts docked amongst hundreds of other boats throughout the area.
There’s also a major construction effort going on, the biggest we’ve ever seen. An army of construction workers is building several new skyscrapers and 20,000+ apartments, and many streets are undergoing widening and/or utility upgrades and replacements. It’s a huge and impressive effort, and we enjoyed walking around this progressive port city.
Lunch was interesting. Our bus driver the day before had suggested The Occidental Restaurant for their steamed green-lipped mussels, a New Zealand specialty. They were just opening for lunch when we arrived and the delivery of fresh mussels hadn’t yet come in. They offered us a dozen grilled mussels, so we enjoyed them with a couple of good Belgian beers. Then we continued walking around the city for a while.
When we returned later the fresh mussels had arrived, so we ordered the steamed ones that we had originally come for. They were sweet and good, but not the best we’ve ever had – we still prefer the smaller Prince Edward Island mussels that we enjoyed in the Canadian Maritimes.
We got back to the ship in time for a stimulating session at the spa, followed by dinner – a seafood buffet! Is there such a thing as too much excellent fresh seafood? Stay tuned and we’ll let you know!
We bid adieu to Auckland, a short visit but we had a great time!