I have sailed solo before so this was not my first rodeo. I've done lower-end cruise lines with 5,000 of my closest friends out of Bayonne and Florida. I've also done Seabourn, which I felt compelled to give up because of their disgracefully lax smoking policies. Last year, I did a nice, long, Oceania cruise from Chile to Tahiti by way of Robinson Caruso and Easter Islands -- where I discovered that I enjoyed the hikes and bird watching more than the passengers who complained that the hikes were too long.
So this year for my Christmas cruise, I chose something very different - an expedition cruise in the Sub-antarctic Islands of New Zealand. And what a wonderful trip it was. In fact, I'd call it life-transforming. I've lived and worked, biked, hiked and dived around the world but the sheer beauty and numbers of birds and plant life, stark islands, not to mention the sea lions and seals - gave me a new perspective. We traveled with people who really knew their stuff - they were not university has-beens looking for a cheap vacation providing boring lectures. These were experts of all ages, seasoned professionals and people who truly, thoroughly loved their subject-matter. The NZ Department of Conservation stationed someone on our ship to make certain that we complied with all of their stringent rules and did not adversely affect the environment - and she was a bonus insofar as understanding the local issues.
And if the ship's experts did not know every detail of their subject matter, there were passengers who often knew nearly as much and were happy to give you another point of view about volcanoes and sediment and rocks and such. We had about 45 fellow passengers and all were well-educated, knowledgeable, interesting conversationalists, and generally thoughtful. Only two were smokers -- one used the electronic variety -- but they were relegated in this behavior to a small area at the stern. Among the passengers were equal numbers of Americans, British, Kiwi and Aussies -- with a smattering of others from places like Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands. One was a travel writer getting grist for her work. Others included a chemist, geologist/map specialist, a retired judge, airline CFO, captains of industry, school teachers and administrators, attorneys, a Russian tour operator, a STEM Science promoter, at least one medical doctor -- and a host of people who never really discussed their backgrounds because they were so busy otherwise.
Well I learned something. The higher the pay, the more the sway. I was at the top level and it rocked and rolled. I had been upgraded to this bigger cabin but I likely would have been better off a floor or two below. Overall, however, it was a very nice cabin with all that I needed. There were some water issues but I expect that water pressure is difficult in this sort of ship. This ain't the "Something Giant of the Seas." And I was glad for that.
And my butler Mary Anne and the cabin steward were beyond outstanding.
I liked Auckland but I did not take a cruise excursion there. I likewise found my own hotel ahead of time.
All cruise excursions were great. We also had 2-3 hours to wander around town. I hired a bike across from the I Center and went for a lovely ride.