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Saturday, 10 March 2018 We left home at 7:45, Keith Firth, our lovely neighbour, providing the transport to the airport. Lifted off for Sydney with Virgin at 10:20; beautiful flight. We decided to catch a taxi ($67), rather than the bus, to our ship, the ‘Diamond Princess’ berthed at Circular Quay. Compared to the ‘Dawn’ or ‘Sun Princess’, she is huge. We are on Baha 500, which is the 11th deck and below is the view from our stateroom. We were in our stateroom by 1 pm, despite the horrendous Sydney traffic. Our Stewardess is Aileen from the Philippines. A leisurely lunch in the ‘Horizon’, a trip to the library and then on deck to explore and bid farewell to Sydney. We stayed there for a short time, but then drink in hand, headed down to our stateroom and balcony, where we could have an unimpeded view of our departure. We have been allotted Table 66 in the International Dining Room, which is on Deck 6, but can only be accessed directly from the aft lifts; this means we build up a healthy appetite with the daily walk from our cabin! Our fellow diners are Kaye, Kay, Sheryl and Dianne, all, with the exception of Dianne, from Shellharbour in NSW. They are a lovely bunch, down to earth, with great senses of humour. Like us, they save like crazy for the next cruise which, in their case, will be Hawaii for the second time. Our waiters are William and Ferdinand; our Maître de is Cicero. We assured William and Ferdinand that we would keep them fit as we sampled the lovely fare. Jim and I will definitely make good use of the Promenade Deck! The shows on all the Princess ships are excellent. The first one we attended was ‘Bravo’, starring Lena Mackenzie, a classical and pop singer (check her out on You Tube); singing songs and arias. What a magical night. We could not take photos and I could have kicked myself a couple of days later when Lena did an impromptu performance in the atrium, to which we had a ringside seat and I DID NOT HAVE MY CAMERA!!!! Her range is huge and her voice is that of an angel. Included in the orchestra were two lasses from Hungary. They call themselves the ‘Angelic Dream’ and they play the violin with aplomb, everything from Jazz to Classical. We had such an evening and many more to come. The following night we listened to Russell Harrison, a singer from New Zealand. About 6 feet 7 inches in height and with a build to match, he is a consummate performer. He got people onto the stage to help him do one number, and one of those who came up was a little girl with Downs Syndrome. Well, her dancing and chatter stole the show and hearts of most. I have never seen Jim move so fast at the end of the show, so that he could buy a CD, ‘Reflections’, which is excellent. He sings songs such as ‘Stay with Me’; he does a fabulous version of ‘Yellow Brick Road’. Jim is going to play his music on his radio show. Another show we attended was the ‘Helen Reddy Story’, narrated and sung by Nikki Bennet, who has a great voice; I knew that Helen had led what can only be called an interesting life, but I learnt a lot more about her resilience, her tenacity and was saddened to hear that these days Helen lived in assisted care in America. ‘I am Woman’ was written by her and sung by her, a song about survival, a song about her and still relevant today for all women. Our first port of call was Auckland. We had booked a tour to Waiheke Island, a gem of an island, about a 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland. The island, about 10 miles in length and about 5 miles in width, is home to around 7,000 people, but during summer this swells to many more and it is easy to see why. There are beautiful beaches, rolling hills, vineyards and a laid-back lifestyle. We visited Batch Winery, owned by a Canadian, where the grapes are still trodden down the old-fashioned way and Stoney Ridge Winery; both excellent, and whilst we preferred the views of Batch, preferred the wines of Stoney Ridge. One of the beaches we visited was Onetangi, which means Weeping Sands in Maori. Originally home to the Maru iwi (tribe), the inhabitants of what is now Onetangi were virtually wiped out when Hone Heke (later the first to sign the Treaty of Waitangi) invaded the island in the 1820’s. Today, only about 10% of the island population is Maori. Waiheke is expensive if one wished to live there. Petrol is over $2 a litre and because there is a 70 kmh speed limit, cars have to leave the island at least a couple of times a year in order to keep their engines ticking over (I always knew that freeways would be useful one day). Real estate is very expensive, with shacks enjoying an ocean view fetching over a million dollars and one bedroom bach’s exceeding $700,000; council rates are at least $3,000 per year. Groceries are expensive, but people are happy to endure this because of the lifestyle. Talking of which, we enjoyed afternoon tea at Charley Farley’s Bar, on the beach at Onetangi before heading back to the ship; highly recommended. Our guide on Waiheke was Nooroa, born on the Cook Islands, but having lived on Waiheke for many years. He and Jim got on like a house on fire, as Nooroa is also a cartoonist! He serenaded us singing Elvis songs, accompanying himself on the ukulele, when we were held up at roadworks. We were exhausted when we arrived back at the ship and had to walk extremely fast to get on board before she sailed. We could not face the idea of showering and changing for dinner, so just popped up to the Horizon for dinner. Wondered why there was a huge queue on Deck 6; they had a sale on at ‘Effy’s’, apparently a diamond earring giveaway. The only big-ticket item we tend to purchase is perfume, as it really is much cheaper, at least half of what it would cost elsewhere; someone, somewhere, is making a lot of money. This trip we also bought a binocular and whiskey. We both slept like tops. The following day (14th) we arrived at Tauranga and were picked up by our dear friend, Elma. The day was perfect, both in weather and the company. Elma took us to the Blue and Green Lakes, Lake Tarawera and the Buried Village of Te Wairoa, before taking us to Rotorua. The guide at the Buried Village was Wendy, who was dressed in period costume, which she had made herself. We commented on her beautiful outfit and learnt the story behind her superb sewing skills. Wendy could not read and write until an adult, due to an Italian father who did not think girls should be educated, but her mother taught her to sew, releasing creative skills that were clearly evident on the day we visited. We enjoyed a cuppa at beautiful Lake Tarawera at a café that must have one of the best views in the world. We chatted with fishermen; watched schoolkids in an amphibious craft take to the water; what an adventure for them. They waved madly at us. The eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886 in such a beautiful place is hard to imagine but would have seemed like the end of the world for the Maori and the European settlers. We could have lingered, but Rotorua called and there are only so many hours in the day; a good reason to return. Rotorua or Rottenrua, which is the name that Elma uses, certainly lived up to its name. I had visited the region before I married Jim and let me tell you the aroma had not changed. Rotoruan’s, in my opinion, are living on a powder keg. We went for a walk around Ohinemutu, a suburb of Rotorua, situated on the lake shoreline. Ohinemutu Marae is the very place that the people fleeing the eruption of Tarawera Mountain took refuge in 1886. I noted every house had steam issuing from the ground, never mind those with boiling pools. I commented that the residents would have little problems with burglars! Ohinemutu is home to the Ngāti Whakaue iwi, a sub-tribe of the Te Arawa; it was they who gifted the land on which Rotorua now stands. We visited the beautiful St Faith’s church there. Built in 1914, there are exquisite carvings that draw one in with their beautiful workmanship, particularly on the right-hand side. I was sitting there in contemplation when I looked more closely at the window overlooking the lake. Christ was etched there, in a Maori cloak and appearing to walk on water. The moment was sublime. Unfortunately, in my eagerness to take the photo, I deprived the figure of part of his head! We headed back to Tauranga and enjoyed a late lunch at the Coffee Club at Tauranga Crossing and Jim got to purchase some chocs for a dear friend. (He just loves being the choccie delivery man and is a chocaholic from way back). Elma then took us back to her home where we enjoyed meeting Mandy, her 18 year old cat, that has a certain attitude that goes with her great age, and who loved the tender ministrations of Jim. We had a very full day, but a very satisfying day, blest with the joy of getting together with Elma; it was hard to say goodbye. We hope to return the hospitality soon. Entertainment in the Princess Theatre was ‘I Got the Music in Me’; superb, as usual. Our next stop was Napier and our tour one of the highlights of our trip; magical Cape Kidnapper and its Gannet colony. Cape Kidnapper was named by Captain Cook after one of his crew members, Tatia, from Tahiti, who was kidnapped by Maori in 1769. They could see he was of the same hue as they and thought he had been kidnapped by the Pakeha (whites), so rescued him. Tatia was not too keen on staying with the Maori, probably thinking on his own country in which the odd piece of cannibalism occurred. Thus, he jumped into the water and swam, safely, back to the ship. Maori call the cape Mataupo Maui (the fish hook) and when one looks at the landscape, one can understand why. The road into Cape Kidnapper traverses some of the most scenic country in New Zealand. The original property was called ‘Clifton’, bought by James Gillespie Gordon in 1859. He bought it up in bits and pieces from the Rhodes brothers, before eventually owning 13,000 acres. Whilst the Gordon family still owns ‘Clifton’, the property was split at some stage and today, about 6,000 acres, on which part is the actual Cape Kidnapper, is the property of Julian Robertson, an American billionaire, and the site today of one of the most challenging golf courses in the world, where a game of 18 holes will set one back a mere $1,800, plus the cost of replacement of any balls lost. The course runs right to the edge of the cliffs and it would be a game man or woman who would attempt the retrieval of a ball at the edge or off those cliffs that drop 600 feet to the sea. Graham suggested that the 15th hole was not one for those afraid of heights! Our main destination was the Gannet Colony at Cape Kidnapper and what a sight it was. Home to 20, 000 Australasian Gannets or Takapu (Maori name), there were thousands of birds, but not as many as there would normally be, as many had left for the long flight to the Queensland coast. They have their chicks from July to October and once the chicks have fledged, they fly singularly to Australia, non-stop; it is an extraordinary journey. The birds live for about 30 years and mate for life; it is amazing that they manage to find their partners on their return to the colony, given they all look exactly the same and the sounds that emanate from them sound the same; well, at least to this ear. A magical experience that was topped off on our return to the ‘Diamond Princess’ with a vintage car exhibition on the wharf and a jazz band. Our next stop was Wellington; my birthday and more cake! A beautiful card from our dear friends, Janet and Keith. Janet hand makes the most exquisite cards. Our stewardess was admiring our respective cards and wanted to know from what specialist card shop they had come; found it hard to believe they were hand made. We chose the Storm Coast tour in Wellington, which takes you around the coast to Eastbourne and then onto the unsealed road up to Pencarrow Lodge; a stunning drive that takes your breath away, about 45 minutes from Wellington, situated at the entrance to Wellington Harbour. The suburb of Eastbourne has houses clinging to the sides of the hills, with the only access being by cable car; those houses at street level have walls that are supposed to retard water from the harbour, the road being cut and houses awash at least four times a year. The sand is stony and black, with heaps of driftwood, testament to the wild coastline. The Wahine, a roll on-off ferry that plied between Lyttleton in the South Island and Wellington, was wrecked on Barrett Reef, near Seatoun in 1968, killing over 50 people. Interestingly, those passengers in the water were blown toward Eastbourne on the western shore. The road to access the beaches where people were washed up was closed due to land slip; it is still a very dangerous road today. The Curtis family own Pencarrow, a working farm and lodge, that overlooks the entrance to the harbour and looks across to the now decommissioned Pencarrow Lighthouse that was built in 1859 and was the first lighthouse built in New Zealand. A woman was the first lighthouse keeper at Pencarrow; a widow, Mary Jane Bennett, with 5 children, would keep the light until 1865. Having come from a remote island, I can understand what kept Mary Jane there after her husband died. Yes, it was isolated, but a great place for kids to grow up, a contemporary visitor saying that the children ran about the place like wild goats. Whilst Mary later returned to her family home in Yorkshire, her youngest son would become Assistant Lighthouse Keeper at Pencarrow in 1880. We enjoyed afternoon tea in Pencarrow Lodge (sumptuous springs to mind) and then headed outdoors to views to die for and to watch a sheepdog demonstration by Stacey Curtis. The family run Perendale on the property, hardy sheep that can handle the terrain and produce good meat. The wool is generally used in carpet making. The dogs used for herding are the New Zealand bred, Huntaway, bred for its deep bark and separation skills, and the Bearded Collie. Whilst sheep farming is the main source of income for the family, there is another string to the Curtis family bow and that is the use of Pencarrow for weddings or just getting away, yet within an hour of Wellington. Our drive back to Wellington and the ‘Diamond Princess’ was filled with interesting commentary by our driver, including the fact that Sir Peter Jackson, film writer, producer and director (he of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Hobbit’ fame), owns the ex US air base at Shelly Bay, which is currently used by musicians in Wellington as a low-cost place in which to practice. The land is in two parts; one is part of a Maori Trust, of whom Sir Peter is a member, whilst the other is owned by the Wellington City Council, the latter is seeking to sell off its land for development, despite appeals to the contrary. Sir Peter believes the proposed sell off will finish up costing the Wellington rate payer millions as there is currently very little infrastructure. Interesting to see that NZ also suffers from a ‘development at any cost’ attitude. We passed Somes Island on the way back to the ship; called Matiu in Maori, the island is a reserve, owned and managed by the iwi (tribe), the Te Atiawa. The island has been a refuge for Maori in the historical past, a quarantine station and a defence installation. Just a few yards away, to the north, is Mokopuna Island, basically just a vegetated rock, which was a leper colony with just one patient in 1904. Tragically, its one patient did not have Leprosy, but was kept there, totally isolated, until he died there some months later; such was the fear of Leprosy then. Overnight, we sailed 175 nautical miles to beautiful Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. We have been here more than once and it never disappoints. What a wonderful day! We began opening our presents from our dear friend, Elma, in Tauranga. I received a beautiful glass sculpture of the Koru (Fern), whilst Jim received Guinness Chocolates. Jim vowed he would stay resolved not to open them until we got home to Tasmania. A bit overcast, with the possibility of a late shower, we girded our loins to get off our ship to board a boat that would take us out into the Pacific, looking for the very rare Hector Dolphin and other wildlife. We had gone with another wildlife company on an earlier cruise and enjoyed ourselves then, but this one blitzed the other. The catamaran was smaller, which meant it could get closer to reefs and under cliffs, was more modern and very comfortable, with Jim and I securing a seat in the sheltered area before you entered the cabin. We were greeted with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc (NZ of course) and settled down for the run down the harbour. We went into Cathedral Rock and got up really close to Elephant Rock. Look closely and you can see the trunk. There were many birds. You have, no doubt, heard the term, ‘Shag on a Rock’? Well, I have the photo to prove it: These marvellous birds meld into their rocky home; their diet fish. They can stay underwater for quite some time; the ones we saw were Spotted Shags, seemingly having a snooze. We were hoping to see some Penguins, but the only one we saw was dead! The poor thing may have been killed by a Fur Seal, of which there were quite a few, but more about that later. The waters into which our Akaroa Dolphins Tour ventured is a marine park and, since its institution, the number of Hector Dolphins has increased from around 200 to several thousand. They do not range far, about 25 miles from wherever they are born. You can spot them instantly, because they have a rounded, black dorsal fin, with a short nose, and they are small. Males are generally smaller than females and they live to around 25 years. We were blest with seeing dozens. They are so curious. I wonder what they see when they look at us? What attracts them to boats; it does not seem to matter whether they are sailing vessels or motorized. We sailed out to Whakamoa Reef and came in close to the cliffs, noting the fractures in the face and part of an extinct volcano. Akaroa was once a valley and was only flooded about 6,000 years ago. One of the fish that Hector Dolphin will eat is Squid and Squid abound on Whakamoa Reef, hence our visit. We came in as close as we could get then started to head parallel to the coastline and, just before the entrance to the harbour, we were rewarded with pods of Hector Dolphins; many pods. What we also saw, in fact, could not believe our eyes, was a Jet Skier out in the Pacific Ocean, next stop Chile! They are not supposed to go faster than 5 klm, as they can easily damage the Hector Dolphins. Well, this chap was flying; crazy! We entered the harbour again and, just near the mouth on the southern side, we came upon some New Zealand Fur Seals. These wonderful animals are protected and can swim as far as Australia (we have had a couple turn up in Hobart). They have 2 layers of fur to protect them from the cold, and they need it, because they can dive up to 200 metres chasing fish. There are now round about 100,000 Fur Seals in New Zealand and possibly a similar number in Australia. Jim made a new friend on the Akaroa Dolphin Tour; his name is Buster and he is a Miniature Schnauzer. Buster would traipse all over the boat and wore a life vest, just in case. Interestingly, there was a large handle on the vest, so that his owners could hook him should he fall overboard. He loved watching the Dolphins, but when a flock of birds appeared, he started barking loudly. Our tour ended all too soon, but we found ourselves in the right place, the Akaroa Wharf and the fish and chips van of Mr Murphy of ‘Murphy’s on the Corner’ fame (yes, I did eat the chips). Despite a scudding shower, a perfect end to a perfect day. We sailed overnight for Port Chalmers (Dunedin), arriving there at 6 am. We both love the region and have taken the Taieri Gorge train twice, but this time decided on a tour of Olveston House and the Botanical Gardens, via the railway station and a short tour of the city. Unfortunately, Jim did not feel well, so opted to stay on board and rest. He really missed a treat. I would have liked to have had a bit more time to explore the railway station, which is an absolute gem and the tour of the city was perfunctory, but the rest made up for the other. The railway station is an architectural gem and we have visited before, but happily enjoyed another visit, even if that visit was rather short. There is an excellent art gallery in the building, with the building itself being a work of art. The mosaics in the entrance and the stained-glass window are superb. The drive to Olveston was excellent, as it gave us the opportunity to check out the architecture of so many buildings, including Otago Boys High, originally Dunedin Boys High, founded in 1863, a magnificent edifice of bluestone and Oamaru stone, which is limestone. The tour of Olveston House was superb; the guide, Christina, taking us through a time capsule. There is no photography allowed, but you can take photos in and of the garden and the garage containing the 1922 model Fiat Tourer. Olveston, in the Jacobean style, owned by David Theomin, a merchant and his wife, Marie Michaelis, was built between 1904 and 1906, the family moving into their new home in 1906. They had two children, Edward and Dorothy. Whilst the former did marry, he died young without issue and Dorothy never married. The Theomin family were a family of collectors and their home reflects this. The house and contents are just as they were when Dorothy, a highly respected alpinist and photographer, died in 1966. The first thing one sees on entering the vestibule of Olveston is a collection of Japanese militaria from the 1600’s. Indeed, the collection of Japonica throughout the house is a marvel. What struck me was that the rooms were not as large as one sees in historic homes of this era; the rooms are well proportioned and flow well. The wood panelling, with the exception of the kitchen and servant areas is English Oak, whereas the kitchen floors are Jarrah. Hessian covers the main hall; the workmanship exquisite. The home has always been centrally heated and the original fridge is still in the kitchen and was working when Dorothy died in 1966. The drawing room is a delight, but very cluttered, as was the fashion when the house was built. The billiard table is amazing – weighing over 2 tons, with the floor having to be reinforced with steel girders in order to take the weight. Overhead are skylights that open; the idea being that smoke from cigars could escape from the room. There was also a raised area at one end of the room, with seating, thus people could watch the games in comfort. A little room runs off the billiard room that has a Juliet balcony looking down into the hall. The dining room looks out into the garden and the sideboard is around 200 years old. The library is a delight, but strangely located between the kitchen and dining room. Christina explained that it was originally the breakfast room. What strikes one is how dark everything is, although the method by which David read was very innovative, a portable light that held the book up to the light; all he had to do was turn the pages! The house had electricity from inception, but because of the wood panelling, the natural light is not the best. The garden at Olveston is gorgeous and the greenhouse conservatory a delight. The garden is not grand, but rather intimate, the trees protecting the vegie garden. The general planting is in the cottage style. There is something for all the senses. The entire family was philanthropic, giving much back to the city of Dunedin. The ultimate gift was that of Dorothy who will her home and all its contents to the city. The next place visited in Dunedin was the botanical gardens, the first one established in New Zealand; what an absolute treasure. Founded in 1863, the garden is a must to see. I only had time to visit the lower gardens and gaze up at the upper gardens. There was even a band playing, ‘Hyram Ballard and the Twang Tones’; love it! Actually, they were quite good and I hummed along as I walked. The bus picked us up and took us back to the ship, a great day that did not have enough hours. Weather was superb as we left Dunedin, but we were to face gale force winds between Stewart Island and Fiordland; we slept blissfully, although a fellow passenger assured us that she thought she would be toppled out of her bed! Morning saw us in Fiordland; but could not go into the some of the sounds as the weather was not brilliant. We made for Milford and it was magic. We have been before, but this time, because of the rain, it was as though all of Gods Angels were weeping, with every cliff tumbling water; a sight we will never forget. We sat on our covered balcony, sipping French Champagne (birthday present from Princess Cruises) taking it all in. We felt very privileged human beings. Our run back to Sydney was uneventful; arriving there at 6 am in drizzling rain, the Opera House showing a different face. What a journey we have experienced. We have visited fascinating places, met some wonderful people and are now looking forward to our next adventure, wherever that may be.

Diamonds are Forever

Diamond Princess Cruise Review by Judymacj

Trip Details
Saturday, 10 March 2018

We left home at 7:45, Keith Firth, our lovely neighbour, providing the transport to the airport. Lifted off for Sydney with Virgin at 10:20; beautiful flight. We decided to catch a taxi ($67), rather than the bus, to our ship, the ‘Diamond Princess’ berthed at Circular Quay. Compared to the ‘Dawn’ or ‘Sun Princess’, she is huge.

We are on Baha 500, which is the 11th deck and below is the view from our stateroom.

We were in our stateroom by 1 pm, despite the horrendous Sydney traffic. Our Stewardess is Aileen from the Philippines. A leisurely lunch in the ‘Horizon’, a trip to the library and then on deck to explore and bid farewell to Sydney. We stayed there for a short time, but then drink in hand, headed down to our stateroom and balcony, where we could have an unimpeded view of our departure.

We have been allotted Table 66 in the International Dining Room, which is on Deck 6, but can only be accessed directly from the aft lifts; this means we build up a healthy appetite with the daily walk from our cabin!

Our fellow diners are Kaye, Kay, Sheryl and Dianne, all, with the exception of Dianne, from Shellharbour in NSW. They are a lovely bunch, down to earth, with great senses of humour. Like us, they save like crazy for the next cruise which, in their case, will be Hawaii for the second time. Our waiters are William and Ferdinand; our Maître de is Cicero. We assured William and Ferdinand that we would keep them fit as we sampled the lovely fare.

Jim and I will definitely make good use of the Promenade Deck!

The shows on all the Princess ships are excellent. The first one we attended was ‘Bravo’, starring Lena Mackenzie, a classical and pop singer (check her out on You Tube); singing songs and arias. What a magical night. We could not take photos and I could have kicked myself a couple of days later when Lena did an impromptu performance in the atrium, to which we had a ringside seat and I DID NOT HAVE MY CAMERA!!!! Her range is huge and her voice is that of an angel. Included in the orchestra were two lasses from Hungary. They call themselves the ‘Angelic Dream’ and they play the violin with aplomb, everything from Jazz to Classical. We had such an evening and many more to come.

The following night we listened to Russell Harrison, a singer from New Zealand. About 6 feet 7 inches in height and with a build to match, he is a consummate performer. He got people onto the stage to help him do one number, and one of those who came up was a little girl with Downs Syndrome. Well, her dancing and chatter stole the show and hearts of most. I have never seen Jim move so fast at the end of the show, so that he could buy a CD, ‘Reflections’, which is excellent. He sings songs such as ‘Stay with Me’; he does a fabulous version of ‘Yellow Brick Road’. Jim is going to play his music on his radio show.

Another show we attended was the ‘Helen Reddy Story’, narrated and sung by Nikki Bennet, who has a great voice; I knew that Helen had led what can only be called an interesting life, but I learnt a lot more about her resilience, her tenacity and was saddened to hear that these days Helen lived in assisted care in America. ‘I am Woman’ was written by her and sung by her, a song about survival, a song about her and still relevant today for all women.

Our first port of call was Auckland. We had booked a tour to Waiheke Island, a gem of an island, about a 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland.

The island, about 10 miles in length and about 5 miles in width, is home to around 7,000 people, but during summer this swells to many more and it is easy to see why. There are beautiful beaches, rolling hills, vineyards and a laid-back lifestyle. We visited Batch Winery, owned by a Canadian, where the grapes are still trodden down the old-fashioned way and Stoney Ridge Winery; both excellent, and whilst we preferred the views of Batch, preferred the wines of Stoney Ridge.

One of the beaches we visited was Onetangi, which means Weeping Sands in Maori. Originally home to the Maru iwi (tribe), the inhabitants of what is now Onetangi were virtually wiped out when Hone Heke (later the first to sign the Treaty of Waitangi) invaded the island in the 1820’s. Today, only about 10% of the island population is Maori.

Waiheke is expensive if one wished to live there. Petrol is over $2 a litre and because there is a 70 kmh speed limit, cars have to leave the island at least a couple of times a year in order to keep their engines ticking over (I always knew that freeways would be useful one day). Real estate is very expensive, with shacks enjoying an ocean view fetching over a million dollars and one bedroom bach’s exceeding $700,000; council rates are at least $3,000 per year. Groceries are expensive, but people are happy to endure this because of the lifestyle. Talking of which, we enjoyed afternoon tea at Charley Farley’s Bar, on the beach at Onetangi before heading back to the ship; highly recommended.

Our guide on Waiheke was Nooroa, born on the Cook Islands, but having lived on Waiheke for many years. He and Jim got on like a house on fire, as Nooroa is also a cartoonist! He serenaded us singing Elvis songs, accompanying himself on the ukulele, when we were held up at roadworks.

We were exhausted when we arrived back at the ship and had to walk extremely fast to get on board before she sailed. We could not face the idea of showering and changing for dinner, so just popped up to the Horizon for dinner. Wondered why there was a huge queue on Deck 6; they had a sale on at ‘Effy’s’, apparently a diamond earring giveaway. The only big-ticket item we tend to purchase is perfume, as it really is much cheaper, at least half of what it would cost elsewhere; someone, somewhere, is making a lot of money. This trip we also bought a binocular and whiskey. We both slept like tops.

The following day (14th) we arrived at Tauranga and were picked up by our dear friend, Elma. The day was perfect, both in weather and the company. Elma took us to the Blue and Green Lakes, Lake Tarawera and the Buried Village of Te Wairoa, before taking us to Rotorua. The guide at the Buried Village was Wendy, who was dressed in period costume, which she had made herself. We commented on her beautiful outfit and learnt the story behind her superb sewing skills.

Wendy could not read and write until an adult, due to an Italian father who did not think girls should be educated, but her mother taught her to sew, releasing creative skills that were clearly evident on the day we visited.

We enjoyed a cuppa at beautiful Lake Tarawera at a café that must have one of the best views in the world. We chatted with fishermen; watched schoolkids in an amphibious craft take to the water; what an adventure for them. They waved madly at us.

The eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886 in such a beautiful place is hard to imagine but would have seemed like the end of the world for the Maori and the European settlers. We could have lingered, but Rotorua called and there are only so many hours in the day; a good reason to return.

Rotorua or Rottenrua, which is the name that Elma uses, certainly lived up to its name. I had visited the region before I married Jim and let me tell you the aroma had not changed. Rotoruan’s, in my opinion, are living on a powder keg.

We went for a walk around Ohinemutu, a suburb of Rotorua, situated on the lake shoreline. Ohinemutu Marae is the very place that the people fleeing the eruption of Tarawera Mountain took refuge in 1886. I noted every house had steam issuing from the ground, never mind those with boiling pools. I commented that the residents would have little problems with burglars! Ohinemutu is home to the Ngāti Whakaue iwi, a sub-tribe of the Te Arawa; it was they who gifted the land on which Rotorua now stands.

We visited the beautiful St Faith’s church there. Built in 1914, there are exquisite carvings that draw one in with their beautiful workmanship, particularly on the right-hand side.

I was sitting there in contemplation when I looked more closely at the window overlooking the lake. Christ was etched there, in a Maori cloak and appearing to walk on water. The moment was sublime. Unfortunately, in my eagerness to take the photo, I deprived the figure of part of his head!

We headed back to Tauranga and enjoyed a late lunch at the Coffee Club at Tauranga Crossing and Jim got to purchase some chocs for a dear friend. (He just loves being the choccie delivery man and is a chocaholic from way back). Elma then took us back to her home where we enjoyed meeting Mandy, her 18 year old cat, that has a certain attitude that goes with her great age, and who loved the tender ministrations of Jim. We had a very full day, but a very satisfying day, blest with the joy of getting together with Elma; it was hard to say goodbye. We hope to return the hospitality soon. Entertainment in the Princess Theatre was ‘I Got the Music in Me’; superb, as usual.

Our next stop was Napier and our tour one of the highlights of our trip; magical Cape Kidnapper and its Gannet colony. Cape Kidnapper was named by Captain Cook after one of his crew members, Tatia, from Tahiti, who was kidnapped by Maori in 1769. They could see he was of the same hue as they and thought he had been kidnapped by the Pakeha (whites), so rescued him. Tatia was not too keen on staying with the Maori, probably thinking on his own country in which the odd piece of cannibalism occurred. Thus, he jumped into the water and swam, safely, back to the ship. Maori call the cape Mataupo Maui (the fish hook) and when one looks at the landscape, one can understand why.

The road into Cape Kidnapper traverses some of the most scenic country in New Zealand. The original property was called ‘Clifton’, bought by James Gillespie Gordon in 1859. He bought it up in bits and pieces from the Rhodes brothers, before eventually owning 13,000 acres.



Whilst the Gordon family still owns ‘Clifton’, the property was split at some stage and today, about 6,000 acres, on which part is the actual Cape Kidnapper, is the property of Julian Robertson, an American billionaire, and the site today of one of the most challenging golf courses in the world, where a game of 18 holes will set one back a mere $1,800, plus the cost of replacement of any balls lost.



The course runs right to the edge of the cliffs and it would be a game man or woman who would attempt the retrieval of a ball at the edge or off those cliffs that drop 600 feet to the sea. Graham suggested that the 15th hole was not one for those afraid of heights!

Our main destination was the Gannet Colony at Cape Kidnapper and what a sight it was.



Home to 20, 000 Australasian Gannets or Takapu (Maori name), there were thousands of birds, but not as many as there would normally be, as many had left for the long flight to the Queensland coast. They have their chicks from July to October and once the chicks have fledged, they fly singularly to Australia, non-stop; it is an extraordinary journey.



The birds live for about 30 years and mate for life; it is amazing that they manage to find their partners on their return to the colony, given they all look exactly the same and the sounds that emanate from them sound the same; well, at least to this ear. A magical experience that was topped off on our return to the ‘Diamond Princess’ with a vintage car exhibition on the wharf and a jazz band.



Our next stop was Wellington; my birthday and more cake! A beautiful card from our dear friends, Janet and Keith. Janet hand makes the most exquisite cards. Our stewardess was admiring our respective cards and wanted to know from what specialist card shop they had come; found it hard to believe they were hand made.



We chose the Storm Coast tour in Wellington, which takes you around the coast to Eastbourne and then onto the unsealed road up to Pencarrow Lodge; a stunning drive that takes your breath away, about 45 minutes from Wellington, situated at the entrance to Wellington Harbour.

The suburb of Eastbourne has houses clinging to the sides of the hills, with the only access being by cable car; those houses at street level have walls that are supposed to retard water from the harbour, the road being cut and houses awash at least four times a year. The sand is stony and black, with heaps of driftwood, testament to the wild coastline. The Wahine, a roll on-off ferry that plied between Lyttleton in the South Island and Wellington, was wrecked on Barrett Reef, near Seatoun in 1968, killing over 50 people. Interestingly, those passengers in the water were blown toward Eastbourne on the western shore. The road to access the beaches where people were washed up was closed due to land slip; it is still a very dangerous road today.



The Curtis family own Pencarrow, a working farm and lodge, that overlooks the entrance to the harbour and looks across to the now decommissioned Pencarrow Lighthouse that was built in 1859 and was the first lighthouse built in New Zealand.



A woman was the first lighthouse keeper at Pencarrow; a widow, Mary Jane Bennett, with 5 children, would keep the light until 1865. Having come from a remote island, I can understand what kept Mary Jane there after her husband died. Yes, it was isolated, but a great place for kids to grow up, a contemporary visitor saying that the children ran about the place like wild goats. Whilst Mary later returned to her family home in Yorkshire, her youngest son would become Assistant Lighthouse Keeper at Pencarrow in 1880.

We enjoyed afternoon tea in Pencarrow Lodge (sumptuous springs to mind) and then headed outdoors to views to die for and to watch a sheepdog demonstration by Stacey Curtis.



The family run Perendale on the property, hardy sheep that can handle the terrain and produce good meat. The wool is generally used in carpet making. The dogs used for herding are the New Zealand bred, Huntaway, bred for its deep bark and separation skills, and the Bearded Collie. Whilst sheep farming is the main source of income for the family, there is another string to the Curtis family bow and that is the use of Pencarrow for weddings or just getting away, yet within an hour of Wellington.

Our drive back to Wellington and the ‘Diamond Princess’ was filled with interesting commentary by our driver, including the fact that Sir Peter Jackson, film writer, producer and director (he of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Hobbit’ fame), owns the ex US air base at Shelly Bay, which is currently used by musicians in Wellington as a low-cost place in which to practice. The land is in two parts; one is part of a Maori Trust, of whom Sir Peter is a member, whilst the other is owned by the Wellington City Council, the latter is seeking to sell off its land for development, despite appeals to the contrary. Sir Peter believes the proposed sell off will finish up costing the Wellington rate payer millions as there is currently very little infrastructure. Interesting to see that NZ also suffers from a ‘development at any cost’ attitude.

We passed Somes Island on the way back to the ship; called Matiu in Maori, the island is a reserve, owned and managed by the iwi (tribe), the Te Atiawa. The island has been a refuge for Maori in the historical past, a quarantine station and a defence installation. Just a few yards away, to the north, is Mokopuna Island, basically just a vegetated rock, which was a leper colony with just one patient in 1904. Tragically, its one patient did not have Leprosy, but was kept there, totally isolated, until he died there some months later; such was the fear of Leprosy then.

Overnight, we sailed 175 nautical miles to beautiful Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. We have been here more than once and it never disappoints.



What a wonderful day! We began opening our presents from our dear friend, Elma, in Tauranga. I received a beautiful glass sculpture of the Koru (Fern), whilst Jim received Guinness Chocolates. Jim vowed he would stay resolved not to open them until we got home to Tasmania.

A bit overcast, with the possibility of a late shower, we girded our loins to get off our ship to board a boat that would take us out into the Pacific, looking for the very rare Hector Dolphin and other wildlife.

We had gone with another wildlife company on an earlier cruise and enjoyed ourselves then, but this one blitzed the other. The catamaran was smaller, which meant it could get closer to reefs and under cliffs, was more modern and very comfortable, with Jim and I securing a seat in the sheltered area before you entered the cabin. We were greeted with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc (NZ of course) and settled down for the run down the harbour.

We went into Cathedral Rock and got up really close to Elephant Rock. Look closely and you can see the trunk.



There were many birds. You have, no doubt, heard the term, ‘Shag on a Rock’? Well, I have the photo to prove it:



These marvellous birds meld into their rocky home; their diet fish. They can stay underwater for quite some time; the ones we saw were Spotted Shags, seemingly having a snooze. We were hoping to see some Penguins, but the only one we saw was dead! The poor thing may have been killed by a Fur Seal, of which there were quite a few, but more about that later.

The waters into which our Akaroa Dolphins Tour ventured is a marine park and, since its institution, the number of Hector Dolphins has increased from around 200 to several thousand. They do not range far, about 25 miles from wherever they are born. You can spot them instantly, because they have a rounded, black dorsal fin, with a short nose, and they are small. Males are generally smaller than females and they live to around 25 years.



We were blest with seeing dozens. They are so curious. I wonder what they see when they look at us? What attracts them to boats; it does not seem to matter whether they are sailing vessels or motorized.

We sailed out to Whakamoa Reef and came in close to the cliffs, noting the fractures in the face and part of an extinct volcano. Akaroa was once a valley and was only flooded about 6,000 years ago.

One of the fish that Hector Dolphin will eat is Squid and Squid abound on Whakamoa Reef, hence our visit. We came in as close as we could get then started to head parallel to the coastline and, just before the entrance to the harbour, we were rewarded with pods of Hector Dolphins; many pods.



What we also saw, in fact, could not believe our eyes, was a Jet Skier out in the Pacific Ocean, next stop Chile! They are not supposed to go faster than 5 klm, as they can easily damage the Hector Dolphins. Well, this chap was flying; crazy!



We entered the harbour again and, just near the mouth on the southern side, we came upon some New Zealand Fur Seals.



These wonderful animals are protected and can swim as far as Australia (we have had a couple turn up in Hobart). They have 2 layers of fur to protect them from the cold, and they need it, because they can dive up to 200 metres chasing fish. There are now round about 100,000 Fur Seals in New Zealand and possibly a similar number in Australia.

Jim made a new friend on the Akaroa Dolphin Tour; his name is Buster and he is a Miniature Schnauzer.



Buster would traipse all over the boat and wore a life vest, just in case. Interestingly, there was a large handle on the vest, so that his owners could hook him should he fall overboard. He loved watching the Dolphins, but when a flock of birds appeared, he started barking loudly.

Our tour ended all too soon, but we found ourselves in the right place, the Akaroa Wharf and the fish and chips van of Mr Murphy of ‘Murphy’s on the Corner’ fame (yes, I did eat the chips). Despite a scudding shower, a perfect end to a perfect day.

We sailed overnight for Port Chalmers (Dunedin), arriving there at 6 am. We both love the region and have taken the Taieri Gorge train twice, but this time decided on a tour of Olveston House and the Botanical Gardens, via the railway station and a short tour of the city. Unfortunately, Jim did not feel well, so opted to stay on board and rest. He really missed a treat.

I would have liked to have had a bit more time to explore the railway station, which is an absolute gem and the tour of the city was perfunctory, but the rest made up for the other.



The railway station is an architectural gem and we have visited before, but happily enjoyed another visit, even if that visit was rather short. There is an excellent art gallery in the building, with the building itself being a work of art. The mosaics in the entrance and the stained-glass window are superb.



The drive to Olveston was excellent, as it gave us the opportunity to check out the architecture of so many buildings, including Otago Boys High, originally Dunedin Boys High, founded in 1863, a magnificent edifice of bluestone and Oamaru stone, which is limestone.



The tour of Olveston House was superb; the guide, Christina, taking us through a time capsule. There is no photography allowed, but you can take photos in and of the garden and the garage containing the 1922 model Fiat Tourer.



Olveston, in the Jacobean style, owned by David Theomin, a merchant and his wife, Marie Michaelis, was built between 1904 and 1906, the family moving into their new home in 1906. They had two children, Edward and Dorothy. Whilst the former did marry, he died young without issue and Dorothy never married.

The Theomin family were a family of collectors and their home reflects this. The house and contents are just as they were when Dorothy, a highly respected alpinist and photographer, died in 1966.

The first thing one sees on entering the vestibule of Olveston is a collection of Japanese militaria from the 1600’s. Indeed, the collection of Japonica throughout the house is a marvel. What struck me was that the rooms were not as large as one sees in historic homes of this era; the rooms are well proportioned and flow well. The wood panelling, with the exception of the kitchen and servant areas is English Oak, whereas the kitchen floors are Jarrah. Hessian covers the main hall; the workmanship exquisite. The home has always been centrally heated and the original fridge is still in the kitchen and was working when Dorothy died in 1966. The drawing room is a delight, but very cluttered, as was the fashion when the house was built. The billiard table is amazing – weighing over 2 tons, with the floor having to be reinforced with steel girders in order to take the weight. Overhead are skylights that open; the idea being that smoke from cigars could escape from the room. There was also a raised area at one end of the room, with seating, thus people could watch the games in comfort. A little room runs off the billiard room that has a Juliet balcony looking down into the hall. The dining room looks out into the garden and the sideboard is around 200 years old. The library is a delight, but strangely located between the kitchen and dining room. Christina explained that it was originally the breakfast room. What strikes one is how dark everything is, although the method by which David read was very innovative, a portable light that held the book up to the light; all he had to do was turn the pages! The house had electricity from inception, but because of the wood panelling, the natural light is not the best.

The garden at Olveston is gorgeous and the greenhouse conservatory a delight. The garden is not grand, but rather intimate, the trees protecting the vegie garden. The general planting is in the cottage style. There is something for all the senses.



The entire family was philanthropic, giving much back to the city of Dunedin. The ultimate gift was that of Dorothy who will her home and all its contents to the city.

The next place visited in Dunedin was the botanical gardens, the first one established in New Zealand; what an absolute treasure. Founded in 1863, the garden is a must to see. I only had time to visit the lower gardens and gaze up at the upper gardens. There was even a band playing, ‘Hyram Ballard and the Twang Tones’; love it! Actually, they were quite good and I hummed along as I walked.



The bus picked us up and took us back to the ship, a great day that did not have enough hours.

Weather was superb as we left Dunedin, but we were to face gale force winds between Stewart Island and Fiordland; we slept blissfully, although a fellow passenger assured us that she thought she would be toppled out of her bed!



Morning saw us in Fiordland; but could not go into the some of the sounds as the weather was not brilliant. We made for Milford and it was magic. We have been before, but this time, because of the rain, it was as though all of Gods Angels were weeping, with every cliff tumbling water; a sight we will never forget.



We sat on our covered balcony, sipping French Champagne (birthday present from Princess Cruises) taking it all in. We felt very privileged human beings.

Our run back to Sydney was uneventful; arriving there at 6 am in drizzling rain, the Opera House showing a different face.



What a journey we have experienced. We have visited fascinating places, met some wonderful people and are now looking forward to our next adventure, wherever that may be.
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Cabin Review

Balcony
Cabin BA B500
Loved the walk in robe, but the fridge never seemed to keep very cold and the bathroom was a little tired, despite being refurbished in 2014.
Baja Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Akaroa
    Once again, we struggle with a superlative to express what a wonderful tour we enjoyed. Greeted with a glass of wine, we headed down Akaroa Harbour, visiting Cathedral Rock, Elephant Rock (most apt) in our hunt for the Hector Dolphin, one of the rarest on earth, but now coming back thanks, arguably, to the marine reserve across which we traversed. We visited Whakamoa Reef and slid in under the cliffs, before turning back towards the harbour entrance. Next moment we were surrounded by dozens of Hector Dolphins; a wonderful sight. This was followed by the bizarre sight of a fellow riding a jet ski! We were treated to the sight of New Zealand Fur Seals lounging on the rocks and dozens of Cormorants. Quite apart from the wildlife, the scenery is spectacular, with sheep clinging precariously to the cliffs and an almost ethereal feel with the mist gently caressing the hills, with the gorgeous town of Akaroa at their base.
    View All 12,402 Akaroa Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Auckland
    Our guide, Nooroa, had a wonderful sense of humour and an excellent knowledge of the history of the island. We had but one hold up at some road works. Nooroa promptly started to serenade us with some Elvis ballads and the time passed quickly. The scenery is spectacular and the stories surrounding the vistas have a little of something for everyone. We would be quite happy to return.
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  • Botanical Garden
    This Botanical Garden is a gem, with an amazing collection and a wonderful use of space. Paths meander into various themed areas. There are wonderful statues and fountains, herbs, Black Dahlias, along with an Arboretum that has plants from around the world. Unfortunately, we missed the peak rose bloom. I was lucky enough to sit in the sun and listen to a local band. For those who have difficulty walking, there is a little blue train upon which you can hop on or off at will. The time spent there was all too short
    View All 6 Botanical Garden Reviews
  • Olveston House
    Olveston House is an absolute gem. Unfortunately, you may only take external photos, but there is a gift shop on the way out! The house is designed along Jacobean lines and was built over a 2 year period, before the Theomin family took up residence in 1906. The walls and floors are of English Oak, whilst the Kitchen and Servant quarters are of Jarrah from Western Australia. The house and contents were gifted to the City of Dunedin by Dorothy Theomin in 1966. The family were collectors, particularly from Japan (there is militaria in the entrance from around 1600), but also from Italy and France. There was only ever one fridge in the house and it was still working in 1966! The gardens are superb and there is even something for the car lover, in the form of a 1922 Fiat Tourer, that was used to travel all over the south island; given the roads of the era, an amazing testament to Fiat. I could have spent many more hours there exploring the nooks and crannies.
    View All 11 Olveston House Reviews
  • Cape Kidnappers
    We really don't think there are enough superlatives for this excursion. Our tour guide, Graham, was a font of information and a very good driver. We travelled, via 4 wheel drive, across a landscape that can only be called spectacular. The violence of the earthquake that hit the region in 1931 is still visible in the cliffs along Hawkes Bay and the surrounding hills. Our goal was the Gannet colony at Cape Kidnapper. Whilst we did not visit at the height of the season, there were still hundreds of birds that showed not an ounce of interest in us, but were a source of fascination for we tourists. Our tour was topped off with a delicious, home cooked, afternoon tea, followed by a short tour of Napier. Highly recommended.
    View All 5 Cape Kidnappers Reviews
  • Tauranga
    We had made a friend on an earlier Princess cruise, who insisted on picking us up from the ship and showing us her neck of the woods. What a wonderful day we had. We visited all the tourist spots, but we also visited areas that are not normally accessible to cruise ship passengers on a tight schedule.
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  • Pencarrow Station
    We have visited New Zealand many times and each time discover another gem. This cruise it was Pencarrow Station, with views across Cook Strait to the South Island and back to Wellington; the scenery alone would gladden the hearts of the most jaded of travellers. One looks up at lonely, Pencarrow Lighthouse and thinks on the widow who was once the keeper. We imagined that the lady would have loved Pencarrow Lodge, with its beautiful decor, delicious afternoon tea and every mod con. We were treated to a sheepdog demonstration and told a little of the history of the working dogs and the station. Whilst only an hour from Wellington, it was as though we were on another world, in another time.
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