"" Writer's Wanderings: World Cruise - Auckland, New Zealand

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

World Cruise - Auckland, New Zealand

Our morning started as usual. The alarm went off at 7:30 and we turned on the TV and tuned to the channel that gives the live picture from the front of the ship. There before us was Queen Street, the main street running from the pier into the heart of the city of Auckland and in the distance the top of the Sky Tower, the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand. (Some also boast that it is the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere—maybe.)

There would be three days here to explore the city and surrounding area. Many were even planning overnight trips to places farther away. We chose to go shopping our first day. Bob had packed a pair of “good” pants that had seen better days and somehow gotten them past my watchful packing eyes. So off we went to look for a pair of black Dockers. Only one problem. Dockers don’t exist in New Zealand, he found out later online, or Australia for that matter. There was nothing that even came close and when it did, they were in the skinny style pant leg. I tried to talk him into it. You know, update him a bit but, oh well.
Our shopping expedition did get us out into some of the suburbs by way of the train system. It was easy to follow the map and the train schedule (helps when it’s in English) and the ride was smooth. We saw a little countryside and then returned with a few sundries that we picked up to restock our toiletries with. We’d also picked up several brochures to plan our remaining two days.

The next morning, we took off early and purchased tickets for a harbor cruise. The cruise was an hour and a half and included morning tea with a muffin. The start of it was nothing more than piers full of containers from ships. Then off to an old lighthouse that sits on stilts in the middle of the harbor. It’s been around since the 1860s.

As the boat sped up a bit to our next point of interest, we pulled out the jackets that someone had told us we wouldn’t need and donned them. The air was getting a bit cooler and the sky a bit grayer but the dark clouds were so distant that we thought they would miss us. At Rangitoto Island, the boat stopped for a ten minute look if you wanted to see the volcanic island close up. Ten minutes barely got you off the dock and back again but many walked it.

Motoring past Devonport, a suburb of Auckland across from the main city, we passed two more dormant volcanoes and then headed for the Harbour Bridge. It’s not as dramatic as the Sydney Bridge but close. There is also opportunity to climb it and bungee jump from it (we passed on both). The skies were getting darker again but still a distance away.

On the way back to the ferry terminal, we passed the Westhaven Marina. This is the place where they bring in the America’s Cup sailboats when the competition is here. We remembered seeing some of the boats on our very first cruise from Auckland years ago.

Our ticket included a return ticket (we would call it a round-trip) to Devonport so we hopped on the next ferry and rode it over. Devonport reminded me a little of Russell with its Victorian styled buildings. We found a little out of the way café that had pizza and indulged. We never seemed to find it on the ship. By the time we were ready to stroll along the waterfront, those distant dark clouds were upon us and it began to rain. A little spritz at first, then harder. We walked a bit, met a couple who’d forgotten to grab an umbrella and loaned them one of ours. A little damp but happy, we all made it back to the ship in one piece.

The last day in Auckland, we took the Hop On, Hop Off Explorer bus. There were two circles, one red and one blue, each taking about one hour if you didn’t hop off. We bought our pass and caught the first bus by the pier that started us on the red circle. There was commentary at the points of interest and we got a more extensive look at the city of Auckland and some of the outlying areas on the blue line.

The red line met the blue line at the Auckland museum but we were too early to get the blue bus and the museum wasn’t open yet. We opted for the winter gardens that were a short walk from the museum. It was Saturday morning and a beautiful sunny one at that. Hundreds of children could be seen spread out on the many surrounding cricket courts. We paused to watch a bit but we’ve never been able to understand it.

Then we noticed something else unusual. People running around in inflated bubbles like the ones they get in to roll down hills. As we passed a blue van with yellow letters that read BUBBLE SOCCER, we understood. There was a yellow ball they were trying to kick into their respective goals but if they got to close to another person, they were bounced away and often bounced to the ground. The closer we got the more we could hear the giggles and laughter. It looked like a fun time.
A stroll through the winter gardens, a cup of coffee at the garden café outdoors, and we were in time to get on the first blue bus for the day. It took us to Mount Eden, Auckland’s highest point, where if we wanted to, we could have climbed up for a good view of the city. Then it was on to the zoo that was packed with visitors on a sunny Saturday. We stayed on the bus and made it back around to the museum again where we boarded the red bus for the trip back to the city center. It was a nice ride and a good way to see Auckland and had we been more ambitious and had more time, we would have hopped off and on more but we needed some lunch (seems like we’re always eating) and a post office before it closed.

Lunch was had at the base of the Sky Tower. The post office was found just in time before it closed and the rain started. Our poor table waiter was not going to get off the ship again. We kept teasing him that if he took an umbrella he wouldn’t get wet—even offered him one of ours. He just smiled and shook his head like we were crazy. I did hear him say something about being made of sugar and melting—or was that Bob?

Just before dinner and after another muster drill required for world cruisers once a month and for the newbies who had joined this segment of our cruise, the Crystal Serenity set sail to the tune of It’s A Wonderful World. A group of wedding party guests stood on the pier, all dressed in white, and waved as we backed away.

Yes, it’s a wonderful world. Oh yaaaay.

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