World Wonders Cruise Diary – Day 34 – Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Cruise day 34 – Feb 7

After leaving Dunedin’s harbor we sailed around the southern tip of New Zealand and cruised through Doubtful Sound.  After looking at the jaw-dropping landscapes there we continued on to Dusky Sound.  These weren’t stops for the ship, but rather a day of sailing through some of the most gorgeous glacier-carved sounds in the world within New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park.  These pristine waterways contain incredible steep and heavily-forested mountains with waterfalls measured not in hundreds of feet, but in thousands!

These pictures don’t do justice, but they’re all we can offer.  Unfortunately, the third sound we were to explore, Milford Sound, was closed to marine traffic due to massive rains and mudslides that had made the waterway perilous.  We were happy that we had previously traversed Milford sound – exactly 14 years ago to the day – on our last cruise here, but we would have loved to see it again and it was a pity that the rest of the passengers missed it.

It reminded us of remote areas we’d seen in Alaska

Crossing the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Australia was the roughest we’ve experienced so far – high waves and brutal winds kept everyone inside the ship, with many folks suffering varying degrees of either seasickness, dizziness or bad moods.

It was Mona Liza’s birthday and she wasn’t feeling very well, but amazingly she seemed to snap back to perfect health when presented with a delicious cake and a bottle of bubbly, courtesy of the Viking crew.  I tell you it was a miracle, she was cured!  Viking came through again with such a nice surprise.

Happy birthday, madam!

Hobart Sights Excursion

An early morning arrival at Hobart, Tasmania, our first port of call in Australia, gave us a good view of the port-side city that we would spend a cloudy day touring.  Although we were now in Australia, the situation of homes and businesses filling seemingly every square inch of land continues.  However, the population of 220,000 has managed to keep everything accessible; many homes are within walking distance of downtown businesses, restaurants and shopping areas.

The same goes for the port – although we didn’t have much time here because of our multiple excursions, we could tell there was easy access from the port to several miles of pleasant walking to parks, historical sites and several overlooks:

Hobart is the capital city of the island state of Tasmania, and a lot has happened since our visit 14 years ago.  The population has grown by over 50,000, and the city’s modernization is easy to see.  Typical 2-3 bedroom homes with a view but not really fancy otherwise go for around a million bucks (I don’t know where the young people get that kind of money!).  Traffic didn’t seem too bad, but our tour guide reminded us that most working people walk or use alternate ways to get around, since parking is at a premium.

As usual, the bus tour included a history lesson, and we learned that Tasmanians are proud of their rich convict history.  During the late 18th and early 19th centuries about one-fifth of all convicts transported by the British Empire were brought here.  They worked off their sentences by building roads and infrastructure, then were released to begin their lives of freedom.  Many of the current residents are descendants of those convicts, and they’re proud of it.

We visited Australia’s oldest brewery – Cascade Brewery – for pictures of the buildings, but we didn’t get to tour their operation 😦   At least we were given an hour to enjoy the beautiful Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens:

I liked the way the reds popped in this photo.  Oh, I’m a photographer now!

On the way back to the ship we crossed the Tasman bridge, an interesting time to hear about the 1975 Tasman Bridge Disaster.

This excursion was a good introduction and update covering the city and its outlying areas.

A new bird for ML – Black-faced Cormorant

Barilla Bay Oyster Farm and Winery Excursion

This 4-hour excursion with 2 fun stops was a blast!  It started as another bus sightseeing drive through the city on the way to our first stop, the Barilla Bay Oyster Farm.  We both like fresh oysters, and we got a short overview about oyster farming and grading, and how this place grows millions of them every year:

We next visited another operation on the same property.   Gillespie’s Ginger Beer is bottled and shipped from a building right here.  We thought it tasted just so-so, but knowing that ginger is helpful for seasickness we bought some of the non-alcoholic variety for you-know-who…

Yet another enterprise here is catching and processing abalone.  We knew nothing about that, but our guide schooled us in how it’s caught in the deep waters of Tasmania, then shucked, washed and dried for several weeks to several months.  It’s a cultural delicacy that’s exported mainly to China and Japan, and wow is it expensive!  She explained that the Tasmanian abalone industry is the world’s largest sustainable wild abalone resource, providing around 25% of the annual global harvest.

The abalone are left to soak up the Tasmanian sunshine in these drying racks.  There are several hundred thousand dollars worth of them just in these racks!

Finally, it was time to go back to the main building and enjoy a half-dozen freshly shucked oysters, and we weren’t disappointed!

Puddleduck Winery

Another fun stop, with the energetic winery owners guiding our group through the story of how their enterprise came about, using the area’s favorable weather to produce good wines.  I’m not much of a Riesling guy, but we both liked theirs so we bought a bottle of it plus one of their higher-end Pinot Noirs.

A nice tasting, with crackers and very good cheeses
A confusion of Guinea Fowl are the natural pest control in their vineyard, allowing grapes to grow pesticide-free

We’ve been on countless winery tours and tastings over the past 20 years, and we never get tired of them.  Making wine is the kind of endeavor I could see myself getting involved in if we lived in the right place.  Those were my thoughts as we left this beautiful appellation for the scenic drive back to our beautiful ship.

The Viking crew welcomed everyone back with music and dancing, these folks rock!

That evening we had a Tomahawk Steak dinner.  It was huge, and we felt so guilty that we couldn’t finish it 😦

Finally, the Viking Vocalists along with the cruise director and assistant director put on a great show:

These are not your typical cruise entertainers, they are really good!



World Wonders Cruise Diary – Day 30 – Dunedin, NZ

Cruise day 30 – Feb 3

Today we docked at Dunedin, completing our last port stop in New Zealand and the first month of our cruise.  During the first week as we crossed the Pacific Ocean it seemed like four months at sea would be forever, but now that we have a fourth of it completed time is flying by!

This was our second time in Dunedin, the first being almost exactly 14 years ago to the day and also on a cruise (Princess).  So we had a faint recollection of the large port container operation and the general layout of the area.  This is another large city, which we never prefer over places with tree-covered mountains anchoring an occasional small town here and there.

I can spend hours watching these guys zip around in controlled chaos

Mona Liza and I took separate excursions on this stop, because the optional one she wanted conflicted with the included tour I took.  This way we could both see interesting things and share with each other and our readers.

Dunedin City Tour –

Like most excursions at large city ports, mine was all about…guess what…the city.  This would have been an excellent tour for someone thinking about moving or going to school here, but that’s not me.  The driver/guide was knowledgeable and spouted tons of information, including where to spot albatross on the way out of the harbor, so I was looking forward to that.

Otago Art Society

Being less populated than places like Auckland, this city of around 130,000 has managed to retain more of a laid back atmosphere.  It’s a vibrant college town with plenty of parks and nice areas to walk around.  Although parking is a mess like every other city we’ve visited recently, the traffic here isn’t as bad and they somehow make it work.  There are two large ports several miles apart, so perhaps that helps to spread out the density of folks scurrying around.

Moeraki Boulders –

(Written by Mona Liza) I’ve seen pictures of the Moeraki Boulders in photography books, so I immediately booked this reservation long ago.  It was an hour’s bus ride from Dunedin along scenic backroads:

Oh dear, it’s a deer farm!
Hillsides dotted with flocks of sheep
The ratio of sheep/people in New Zealand has declined from 22 to just 5.6 sheep for every human

I’ve seen concretions previously at White Pockets in Utah (very small ones called Moqui Marbles) and at the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  But I’ve never seen any as huge as these exposed ones right on the beach!  The scattered spherical concretions are called the Moeraki Boulders, originating in shoreline cliffs and exposed through erosion of those cliffs.

The area around this boulder will eventually erode away, leaving it to sit exposed or roll down onto the beach
There are only about 50 boulders left on the beach today, some were taken before it was illegal to do so
The biggest ones weigh 7 tons and measure over 7′ across

According to geologists, each boulder started life as a pebble or fossil on an ancient seafloor, and over millions of years new layers of mud and lime added to their size.  Eventually the seafloor was exposed and the softer soil around the boulders eroded away.  Cool!

It looks like a …?
Fellow cruiser and friend Marilyn hopped on one with me to strike a pose

As you can see, my excursion was much more interesting! We had so much fun that we got back late and made me missed the Galley Tour.


Back on the ship, what better way to celebrate being in New Zealand than with a dinner entree of roasted rack of lamb!

Tender and very delish!

As we sailed away our eyes and camera were trained on a hillside, gawking at a rookery of albatross.  Unfortunately, they were too darned far away and Mona Liza didn’t have her zoom lens with her – rookie mistake!

Those white specks are albatross
The lonely lighthouse bade us farewell



World Wonders Cruise Diary – Day 29 – Akaroa, New Zealand

Cruise day 29 – Feb 2

We pulled into the bay of this mountainous seaside city around 7:30am and set anchor.  This is the New Zealand we remembered from our honeymoon cruise in 2006 – gorgeous mountains surrounding small towns spread around a massive crater that created the terrain millions of years ago.  Last time we had stopped at bustling Christchurch up the coast about an hour and a half by road, and coming to a quiet and charming new place this time was fine with us.

With a busy day ahead, we first took the optional “Harbor Cruise” excursion followed by the included “Dramatic Coastlines Along the Banks Peninsula” bus tour.  It was an unseasonably hot day in the ’90s, but we enjoyed both tours and spending some time in this beautiful place.

Harbor Cruise Excursion –

We tendered ashore for our first adventure, a catamaran cruise out of the harbor and along a mountainous shoreline, ending at some caves where we explored rock formations that created the area.  At the caves we were told that we’d likely see some Hector’s dolphins, but so far we were dolphin-less.  There was also a chance of seeing Blue Penguins, the smallest of the species that have been sighted here on occasion.  We’d never seen a penguin in the wild before!

An arch resembling an elephant’s head?
The wind and water have done their work here, creating several caves

We departed the caves and began crossing the bay toward cliffs on the other side of the entrance to the Pacific Ocean.  In a few minutes we saw several cute little dolphins jumping out of the water and heading right toward us.  Everyone was super-excited as they circled the boat several times.  Very cool!

Hectors Dolphins are only found around the inshore waters of the South Island of New Zealand
They are distinguishable from other dolphins by their rounded black dorsal fin which is shaped like a Mickey Mouse ear, and their short snout
These cute little guys are classed as “nationally endangered”

We continued across the bay, and I could swear I saw a Blue Penguin in the water.  We went by too quickly for a picture, but when I compared it to a stuffed one they had on the boat it was a match.  Oh well, no picture, no proof!  I’ll always wonder though…

While I was busy searching for the seals that looked like rocks until they moved, Mona Liza captured gulls fighting over a fish, which ended up getting away:

Our final stop on this fun tour was at the base of a large rock face protruding from the water, another part of the volcano’s gigantic rim.  There we saw many fur seals along the coast, doing what seals do – swimming, sunning, just taking it easy.  I decided right then that I want to be a fur seal in my next life.

Probably discussing the Super Bowl…

Dramatic Coastlines Along the Banks Peninsula –

This excursion was a winner as well.  The bus ride over the incredibly steep and beautiful mountains to the tiny town of Little River was full of expansive views of the entire area, again showing the outline of the massive volcanic rim that formed this place.  We spent 40 minutes walking around the tiny town.

Strange looking neighborhood… yes those silos are for rent!

We really enjoyed our quick stop at this charming little town, and realized we’re now in the heart of New Zealand’s natural wilderness area.

Back to the ship for dinner after a little shopping
On deck 2, we walked off dinner calories with friends while enjoying the sunset



World Wonders Cruise Diary – Day 28 – Wellington, New Zealand

Cruise day 28 – Feb 1

After leaving Rotorua, our next scheduled stop was at Napier the following afternoon.  The winds were strong on the way there, so strong that we had trouble doing our laps around the deck without getting blown over:

As we approached Napier’s port the wind got even stronger, and I noticed that the ship had come to a stop a few miles out.  Oh oh!

The chair that almost got away

Soon the captain came on the intercom and announced that the winds were far too high for an attempted approach to the port, and we would sit for a while to see if the weather settled down.  Less than an hour later he gave us the sad news that the winds had gotten even worse at the dock and our stop at Napier would have to be canceled.  BUMMER!  The small town looked nice from where we were sitting, and we had been told that it had one of the best wine regions in New Zealand 😦

Well, nothing anyone could do about it so the ship turned around and headed back out to sea for our next stop at Wellington the following morning.  The winds eventually decreased, and folks drowned their sorrows at the bars that night:

Well, no sorrow here!  Mona Liza with the boys at the bar – Ardel, Arsa and Nelson

The next morning at Wellington the island was under a mist as we docked, but we were excited to get off the ship and begin our explorations:

After a good workout in the gym followed by many walking laps around the ship, we departed on our included “Wellington Highlights” excursion.  It was well done, with an excellent driver/guide.  I enjoyed watching him negotiate the huge bus skillfully down narrow streets, and he gave us a great history lesson about Wellington while driving through several different areas surrounding the port.

We learned that Wellington is the windiest city in New Zealand, with the prevailing northwest winds producing 173 days of wind over 32 knots annually.

Several high-end hilltop homes have no access from the road, so they had personal trams installed to get between their garage and the house. Seriously!
At the top of Mount Victoria with a 360º view of the city

Left-hand driving is “the other side”, according to Americans, while Europeans call it “the wrong side”
Instructions for tourists on how to cross the street

Our next quick stop was at a hilltop cable car station where we watched the car descend into the city.  There was a cool little museum there that we enjoyed too:

We’d never seen one of these before – description below…

Finally, Mona Liza was very happy with the highlight and last stop of our excursion, a 30-minute self-guided tour at the Botanic Garden:

He’s learning!

Our thoughts on Wellington?  Well, it’s the capital of New Zealand and a very busy city.  But we liked the atmosphere here, a place with vibrant, fun people.  The most obvious issues were lots of cars with parking at a premium, and very expensive housing with homes and apartments stacked practically on top of each other on the mountainous island.  Fun to visit, but we wouldn’t want to live here!

Several New Zealand ports ship thousands of tons of logs to China and Japan each year

It’s been called “The coolest little capital in the world”, and we can’t argue with that.  The locals were friendly and the atmosphere wasn’t as frantic as at other recent stops.  We liked it!

Back on the ship, after dinner, we watched the National Geographic documentary “Free Solo”.  It’s a heart-stopping account showing Alex Honnold completing the first-ever free solo climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.  Amazing, see it if you can!

Just another night at the movies