By Paul Bryers, 2015
New Zealand, or Scotland on the other side of the world if you like, is always associated with the outdoors, wilderness, extreme sports, etc – so why on God’s good Middle-Earth would anyone go there on a 2 week cruise? Well, for us it was because this was going to be our first trip of many to The Land that includes Mordor, so we thought why not make life simple and have a consistent base – the Celebrity Solstice.
We started our adventure off independently with a few days in Auckland, including a pretty good New Year’s Eve featuring fireworks from the top of the infamous Skytower (you can bungie jump off if you feel so inclined). Auckland is a bike friendly city and fun to cycle around, especially southwards along the coastal bike path. There are hills if you want them, well, volcanic cones, actually. Also, go to the nearby islands – Waiheke for biking and vineyards and Rangitoto for a short hike up the volcano.
Our 2 week cruise would take us along the East Coast of the North Island, then along the East and Southern Coasts of the South Island, and finally off to Tasmania, Melbourne and Sydney.
Next port was Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty, south of Auckland. As usual, Celebrity offered a great variety of shore excursions, but we decided to go independent and Heli-tour to White Island – an active, and I mean ACTIVE, hydrostatic volcano – about 30 minutes flying time from Whakatane Airport. This trip is not for the faint of heart – stick with your guide and follow in their footsteps. Apparently, the whole place can blow without warning. You will need to wear trendy gas masks thanks to the copious amounts of carbon monoxide and sulphur gas – phew!
Continuing south, we reached Wellington. What a setting! A hip place. Go see the fur seal colony out at Otaki.
We continue southwards to Akaroa, which has been the cruise port for Christchurch since the last earthquake devastated the city. This area is the gateway to the Southern Alps. We took the Transalpine Express from Darfield to Arthur’s Pass, followed by a jet boat ride on one of the local rivers. A very exhilarating day!
We were then off to Australia – Hobart, Tasmania followed by Melbourne and Sydney – but that’s another story.
So, our first trip to the Land that brought Hobbits to life was a great success. And yes, we have booked to go back in December 2015 for about 25 days. No cruising this time though. Instead, we have a sturdy SUV and a road plan that will take us from Queenstown to Picton via the mountains and West Coast. Can’t wait!