Sunday, January 2, 2011

Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific Island Cruise Postscript

This was by far the longest vacation trip we have ever taken and we enjoyed every minute of it (sea sickness aside). Our longest previous cruise was 14 days. All totaled, we were at sea for 28 days and were away from home for 30 days.

Thanks go to our great neighbors for watching the house and to my brother Jim and wife Sondra for storing our car and transporting us to and from the airport.

We picked up just over 25,000 United miles each (fairly useless anymore). They will most likely expire before we get to use to do that within a year or they are gone.

We took over 6,000 photos/videos between us. About 3,600 are left and that number will shrink with time as I comb through the photos again to do a little more organization. Less than 10% of those made it to the blog.

Our next big adventure will be South America (a new continent for us) later this spring. We are going to visit Machu Picchu in Peru as well as the Amazon River. This is only a 14 day trip, but it will be very different than what we just did. Most of our time will be spent above 8,000 ft in the Andes instead of at sea level. Stay tuned.

A/NZ - Auckland, New Zealand - Day 30

We arrived in Auckland about 8:00 am on our last day in New Zealand. Too bad it couldn't have been a sunny send-off. We will hop on a tour bus for a drive around the city before being dropped of at the airport around 2:00 pm.
The Ferry Building is straight ahead.

Our last look at our home for the last 28 days.....the m/s Volendam. It is was great ride.

As has been the case before, we are on a bus with little opportunity to take any good photos of what we see. We took pictures but most had to be thrown away due to blurring or reflections in the bus windows. Here is one of the older churches in Auckland.

Our main stop for the day was at The Domain, Auckland's War Museum. There are displays of military hardware and memorials to the countrymen and women who fought for New Zealand during various wars. The museum also honors other countries who fought with New Zealand like the U. S.
However, the war related items are completely overshadowed by the incredible collection of Maori and other Polynesian items. In fact, the collection is considered the finest in the world. The museum is probably misnamed. I would call this a natural history/cultural museum rather than a war museum.

Auckland's Sky Tower dominates the skyline.

Stained glass ceiling in museum.

Part of the war memorial section of the museum. The names of all those killed in war are engraved on the stone walls.

A recreation of old Auckland.

A Japanese Zero fighter.

World War II airplane propellers.

As you travel around the world, you realize how small it really is when you see images so similar to what you have seen in other places. These types of figures are all over Polynesia. They are very similar to totems and figures found in Alaska, Africa, and even South America.

It's a natural history museum any time you have dinosaur bones.

The Kiwi.........the national symbol for New Zealand.

Maori canoe.

A panoramic view from Mt Pukekawa.

When we got to the airport, our bags were waiting for us right where the bus stopped. We got checked in and just relaxed for the remaining four hours before our plane departed. It was a nice trip back home which I detailed in an earlier post on December 5th (We are back home).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A/NZ - At Sea - White, Hole in the Wall, and Mercury Islands - Day 29

We are in the home stretch. This is our last day of cruising before we get to Auckland.
Today, we will be cruising by a number of small islands. The first is White Island. Capt. Cook wasn't the first European to the island, but he did give it the name, White Island. The name reflects the color of the sulphur crystals that are on the floor and walls of the volcano. The volcano is the only active one in New Zealand. There were several commercial attempts of mine sulphur for fertilizer from the island, but all failed. There is very little vegetation on the island due to the toxic fumes. There are colonies of birds that have found places to nest away from the fumes.

The white areas are where the birds nest on gravely spots.

A larger nesting area.

You can take a helicopter tour of the island. Walking around the island has been compared to walking on the moon.

You can see the small red helicopter on the ground.

The same picture enlarged and cropped for a better view. I guess I held the camera fairly still and then utilized all of the image's resolution to get this shot. You can actually see the people outside of the helicopter.

The back side of Hole in the Wall Island.

The sea is littered with little islands in this area. I am sure glad we have modern navigation equipment on the ship to avoid hitting something just below the water.

Hole in the Wall Island.

From rugged rocky terrain to gentle grassy hillsides.....never a dull moment.

The Frans Hal Lounge just before the going away program.

The host was the Cruise Director, Jimmy Lynett. We got all the instruction we needed for disembarking the following morning in Auckland.

Representatives from all the various functions on the ship were there for a musical goodbye.

The crew was absolutely fantastic throughout the entire time we were on the ship. Many of the crew members are from the Philippines and Indonesia. They have trade schools in those countries that train people to work in the cruise industry. All the chef's were graduates of the schools.

Everyone was sincere and energetic with their goodbyes. Even though the crew goes through this every two weeks with a new bunch of passengers, they still make you feel like they are going to miss you. You do get to know many of the crew and they greet you by name whenever they see you. I never saw a crew member having a visibly bad day. They were always cheerful.

We are in Auckland tomorrow morning.