My Cruise on the "Sun Princess"
DAY OF DEPARTURE
On Wednesday, 16th November, 2011 we started our holiday on board the "Sun Princess". It was a very warm day and the sun was shining down making it necessary for me to wear a hat. The car we hired dropped us off at the Cruise Terminal and a member of the staff helped us with our luggage to the area where you check it in.We had to place the walker into the luggage compartment because I was not able to take it with me on the ship. Once this was done, we were taken to another section to fill out the customs declaration card which we would need to hand into the Customs Officers along with our passports.
I was starting to think that this Cruise was never going to eventuate. However, it has and I am with my wonderful and caring husband Richard at the Cruise Terminal filling out our various forms. Of course being now in a wheelchair made it harder for me but that didn't matter as my adrenalin was in overdrive. This was my Cruise Day and I could see how excited everyone around us was. Some were like me, going on a cruise for the first time and couldn't wait to board this beautiful white ship.At the same time,we were getting organised the crew were placing all the necessary food, medical supplies and other necessities we needed on this voyage, onto the ship.
Boarding The "Sun Princess"
After doing all the necessary paperwork at the main desk we are shown to an area where several people had already gathered waiting to have their last minute arrangements carried out. We had to be assisted because of my hand luggage, and Richard had to push the wheelchair. It isn't bad having a wheelchair in this sort of situation because you have a seat all the time to sit on. Just my bit of humor.
Finally we are attended to and we are on our way towards the Customs Area. We placed our hand luggage in a basket separately to be photographed in the machine to make sure we are not carrying anything that we shouldn't be. Meanwhile, a woman steps my way carrying what looks like a wand of some description which she waves over my body from top to bottom. Well, she won't hear any little beeps going off on this middleaged lady. We are given the all clear and then a young man, definitely not Australian, but very cute, takes the wheelchair from Richard and from then on it is up to him to take me through to the different places to have my passport checked and various other formalities and last but not least, assist me from the terminal and onto this lovely ship.
Wow, what I saw when I finally landed on this majestic ship was nothing short of spectacular. It was like walking into a beautiful big ballroom. There were lovely shiny staircases with gold shiny banisters with people already walking up and down them. Over in the corner playing strings was a quartet, to welcome us aboard as well as people standing ready to welcome us officially on board the "Sun Princess and answer any questions we might have had.
When you go on a cruise they have a stateroom that will suite the preference you have and will also accommodate you with regard to the budget you have to stick to. These range from very spacious suites with your own balcony to cabins inside with comfortable interiors. If you have special needs, especially when you are disabled, they can accomodate this as well in the type of suite as outlined below:
Mini-suite with balcony
This is the suite that we chose to use as it is much larger that the balcony stateroom and has a queen-size bed, a separate dining area and sofa bed, with the other inclusions as a Suite with balcony. However, the other reason we chose this suite is because it is the only suite that is fitted out with rails in its bathroom and a suitable seat and shower recess for a disabled person. From personal experience it is very suitable and proved to be just what I wanted. This has a balcony also which was great because we could go and sit and relax and watch the "sea" lots of it .
FACILITIES AND ACTIVITIES
Once onboard and you are settled into your cabin you will find many things to occupy your time. There are games to play for the most active people and trivia and bingo for the people who are into that type of activity. You could go to the library for a quiet read to yourselves.If you like daily exercise, there are the swimming pools and a gym with all the up to date equipment that you'll need to facilitate all your exercise needs.
Then at night,you can dine at one of the many cafe type places of if you want something more fancy you could instead choose one of the very exclusive restaurants for a delicious a la carte meal with mouth watering desserts that are to die for. However, if you're watching your waistlines, it would be better to skip those or maybe have one or two at the very most.
After dinner, you can either retire to your rooms if you like an early night, but if you are still up to it, there are several shows a night to see. If you are into having a bit of a fun and trying your luck then there is The Grand Casino. After you're ready to go to bed, you could have a little nightcap at your choice of the many bars or coffee facilities. Doesnt this all sound great?
However, if you have a bit of sea sickness they can accommodate you for that or anything else that might crop up. They have a fully equipped medical unit which is more like a compact hospital with a facility to do any necessary x rays and also blood tests that might be needed. of course, if something very serious happens, then you would have to disembark at the nearest port. Wouldn't that be disappointing?
Well, I suppose you are probably thinking by now where are we going on this our first Cruise. Okay, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. We are travelling around the North and South Islands of the wonderful country of NEW ZEALAND. Yes, my friends we are going around New Zealand, which is another first for me. However, Richard has been on a cruise before and has also been to New Zealand. He was on a P & O Cruise that time.
We had been given a brochure by our Travel Agent as I said earlier and I had read our route around New Zealand several times so by the time we were due to leave I new which Ports we would be visiting. However, unfortunately when you are on a cruise, as anyone who has been on a cruise before will tell you, you can't always go by what is printed in the brochure. Sometimes, it isn't always possible to dock at particular ports because of inclement weather as we were about to find out.
There were some places where we couldn't dock because the weather didn't permit and this is a risk that you have to be prepared to take should the need arise. This did happen to us but it didn't stop us from enjoying our holiday.There was so much to see at the places we did get to that it didn't matter too much about those we missed. Of course we were disappointed but there will be another time. Hopefully if we can go back.
PLACES THAT WE VISITED
As I slowly sat up in my bed I was pleased to finally sea some land. Yes, we were finally away from the sea for a little while at least. It is Sunday morning 20th November and we are about to dock at Princess Wharf. We were so excited and at breakfast it was clear that everyone else was feeling that way also. We ate as the ship was being assisted by crew on the wharf to bring us closer and closer to the dock. By 6.30 am we were finally all hooked up and on the shore of Auckland.
After a rather unpleasant bumpy ride in my wheelchair down the gangplank, we boarded the bus which was taking us into the city. The first place we visted was the Sky Tower which is a rather tall building that has an amazing view of Auckland Harbour which is breathtakiing. We could see right across the harbour which is full of yachts. Auckland is sometimes referred to as the "City of Sails" because of all the yachts.We stayed there for a little while. After leaving the Tower it was onto the Auckland Museum which is an amazing place which holds the world's most extensive collection of Maori and Polynesian Artifacts. There was also various pieces of memorabilia from both of the World Wars which I found so interesting. We stopped off somewhere and had something to eat.
On the drive around Auckland I noticed that the landscape is very unique with cones, craters and lakes which seem to dimple the area. We were informed that this was due to eruptions from the Auckland Volcanic Field long ago.Another unique experience is the "Waitomo Glow Worm Grotto, where you go through underground caverns lit up by the flickering blue-green light which is caused by the glow worms.
We arrived at our berth Tauranga at 5.04 am and watched as the crew on dock took hold of the mooring lines being sent of the ship. We went to breakfast as they were taking care of things outside and then after given clearance we left the ship at 6.45 a.m. After another bumpy ride down the gangplank we proceeded to go into the local area and look at the shops,etc.
Tauranga is the gateway to the nearby geothermal city of Rotorua, where you can witness bubbling mud pools and spouting geysers in a lot of places, which includes the Te Puia Thermal Reserve, which is something you really must see. We saw sheep shearing in action at the Agrodome. After having lunch, it was onto looking at some Maori culture at the "Tamaki Maori Village", where we learned about traditional arts and crafts and also hunting techniques. This is so fascinating to watch.
Then it was back to our ship where I was pleased to be able to lie down as I was very tired after a very full day. Our ship unfortunately had to stay in Tauranga that evening due to strong winds. It was not safe for us to leave. I was awakened by a jolt and looked at the time which was 3.58a.m. which is a bit early to get up. I couldn't sleep so I watched as we began thrusting off the berth. The next time I woke up we were on our way to Wellington.
I woke up this morning in the early hours as the ship was slowly proceeding through Chaffers Passage, I hope I have that spelled correctly, and then she entered the Wellington Bay.At approximately 6.40 a.m. we were entering Wellington Harbour. By 7.40 a.m. we were securely moored alongside the Aotea Quay. We were eating breakfast by this time and at 7.47 passengers were given clearance to go ashore. We went a bit later than that.
With Wellington being the capital city of New Zealand there was so much we wanted to know and see. But we only had a certain amount of time. We could see now why they refer to this being the "windy city" as we were just about blown off the gangplank. It was blowing so much that I couldn't keep the hood over my head. The city was named in honor of the first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley in 1840 following settlement by British pioneers from the New Zealand Company.
Wellington is the culture capital of New Zealand. It is the home of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and the National Opera. It is some nice cafes, one of which where we had a bite for lunch. We saw some very interesting places such as "Te Papa Museum of New Zealand which were were told is around three football fields in length. It is divided into Past, Present and future. It has artifacts, a Maori Meetinghouse and some really beautiful ornate carvings. The Maoria culture is as much about the here and now as it is about the past. There were so many other places we could have see but I was getting tired so we got a taxi back to the dock and boarded the ship.
At about 6.00 p.m. after everyone was back on boad the ship began letting go of the mooring lines and were were on our way out to sea via Wellington Harbour and once we had cleared Cook Strait, we were heading to our next destination Akaroa.
The next morning which is Thursday, 24th November at 6.42 a.m. our ship is approaching Akaroa.. At 7.00 a.m. we passed between Akaroa Head and Timutimu Head into Akaroa Harbor. Because there is no dock here for the ship to tie up to, she has to drop anchor and this means that if people want to go ashore, they have to go by "tender boats". I was very disappointed as the only way to go ashore is by tender boats and they don't allow people in wheelchairs to go onboard. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. I booked myself in for some beauty work which took up a lot of the time. Richard took some great photos.
Although it is small in size, Akaroa is considered to be the oldest colonial town on New Zealands South Island. It represents an interesting blend of cultural roots that embody the country's long and intriguing history.It is no accident that the Maori, and later the Europeans, settled in the North Island first, and only moved to the South Island later,when they were more established. The North Island was more accessible and had an abundance of good things and a much warmer climate.
There is some beautiful countryside to be seen here . The main shopping area is in the Main Street of Akaroa which is a five to ten minute walk from the end of the pier. The things to buy here that are most popular are wool and sheep skin items. Some of the other buys are Maori and greenstone artifacts and paua jewellery. I wanted to buy something is this but because I couldn't go I missed out.
I have always wanted to see The Fiords and now we were finally going to see them. This is considered to be one of New Zealand's most dramatic and also beautiful parts, Carved out by glaciers over 100,000 years the breathtaking landscape where waterfallls cascade hundreds of metres into deep black fiords,where ancient rainforest that is untouched by man clings to mountains and where you will find shimmering lakes and granite peaks that still look like they would have one thousand years ago.
Fiordland National Park is a World Heritage Site and includes Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds. Rudyard Kipling described Milford Sound as being the eighth wonder of the world. You can explore these beautiful fiords by kayak. If you are more interested in seeing the less accessible areas also, you can do so by organising an eco-tour. We decided to play it safe and leave the more adventurous climbing to the ones who were the most experienced or who just wanted to try to see more of the landscape.
Some people on the ship liked hiking and they were really looking forward to hiking through the park on one of three walks which were available:
The first is Milford Track.This is without doubt one of the most famous of these walks. It starts at a place called Te Anau and it takes you about 53 kilometres, through the most breath-taking scenery.
You can see from this hub I have written about our trip that New Zealand is a wonderful country to visit. As this was my first visit there I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the amazing scenic landscape and the number of interesting places there are to visit. There just wasn't enough time to see everything.
This was also my first cruise too, and for anyone who hasn't cruised on the great Pacific Ocean or any ocean, I just want to say one thing YOU HAVE TO TRY IT. Going on a cruise is the most awesome way to spend two weeks.You'll have have the time of your lives. There are so many different things to keep you occupied. Once you have been on a cruise, like us, you won't be able to wait to book yourselves on another one.