The New Zealand port city of Napier, in the vast Hawke's Bay region on the eastern seaboard of the North Island is like nowhere else on the planet. A big call perhaps, but when you consider that the entire city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 and completely rebuilt in the dominant architectural style of the time, Art Deco, Napier is a design time capsule.
It seems around every corner you find yet another striking example of this distinctive building style. You'll see antique emporiums, 1930s vintage cars and enthusiasts pointing and chattering excitedly about architectural details or following guides around town in close formation.
Beyond the city limits is the world-renowned Hawke's Bay wine region where visitors can discover superb Bordeaux-style red wine, making this ornate city quite the tourism gem.
Hawke's Bay is New Zealand's second-largest wine-producing region -- behind Marlborough. Take a tour of nearby wineries, or get an education in wine appreciation in Napier's own New Zealand Wine Centre. Otherwise, choose to stroll along the Marine Parade promenade, perhaps with a stop at a seafood restaurant and a visit to the National Aquarium of New Zealand or the art gallery.
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Napier, about 1.5 miles from the city center. It's a working industrial port, so walking from the ship is not possible.
As a commercial port, cruise passengers are not allowed to walk off the ship and into town. Instead, a complimentary and efficient shuttle with greeters transports passengers from the ship to the i-SITE Visitor Centre on Marine Parade in the center of town. Return shuttles run every 15 to 20 minutes. Once in town, anything a cruise passenger desires is within a 10-minute walk, including attractions, banks, ATMs, Internet access, shopping and dining.
Between the costumed guides leading tours, the classic cars on the streets and the 1930s Art Deco architecture everywhere you turn, you might think you've become a character in "The Great Gatsby." Don't worry -- it's still the 21st century. On a more practical note for U.S. visitors, when crossing the street, remember that New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road.
On Foot: Napier's top attractions are close by. If you are looking for a relaxing walk and a view of the area, a walking trail to the Bluff Hill Lookout begins at Coote Road off Marine Parade.
By Bus: Public buses travel throughout the Hawke's Bay area, and timetables are available at the i-SITE Visitor Centre. If you want to tour the wineries, a shore excursion or organized tour is probably a better bet.
By Taxi: Taxis are available at specified taxi stands throughout the city or can be booked at the i-SITE Visitor Centre. Typical rates are approximately NZ $70 per hour.
Currency is the New Zealand dollar. For currency-conversion figures, visit xe.com or oanda.com. ATMs and banks are plentiful throughout town and are usually the cheapest way to get New Zealand dollars. Credit cards are widely accepted.
English, with a distinct Kiwi accent, is the predominant language in Napier and all of New Zealand.
Thanks to a wide variety of restaurants right in the center of town -- and voluminous Hawke's Bay-centric wine lists -- lunching in Napier is a tasty part of the port experience. Ethnic cuisine and seafood are among highlights to expect during a leisurely lunch in the shadows of Art Deco wonders.
Kilim Cafe: Turkish cuisine is popular throughout New Zealand, and you can't go wrong with the Ottoman-inspired kebabs, falafel, hummus, dolmas and meze at Kilim Cafe. (193 Hastings Street; open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday)
Cappadonna Cafe: The alfresco ambience of Cappadonna Cafe, set along a pedestrian-friendly street, makes this European-style cafe the place to see and be seen in Napier. It's a perfect spot to take a break from sightseeing and grab a sidewalk coffee, tasty sweet or light lunch. (189 Emerson Street; open 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily)
Cafe Ujazi: For the breakfast-lover (any time of day), Cafe Ujazi drips with an alternative vibe and offers delicious coffee, friendly staff and substantial food, including the rewana -- a heaping breakfast special on traditional Maori-style bread. (28 Tennyson Street; open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily)
Med Wine Bar & Bistro: Part of the 100-year-old Masonic Hotel, this might be the quintessential Napier dining venue, with a cool, sleek interior, alfresco dining overlooking the Marine Parade, lots of Hawke's Bay wines by the glass, a delicious Mediterranean-leaning menu (can't go wrong with the creative antipasto platter for two) and free Wi-Fi. (Corner of Emerson Street and Marine Parade; open at 11 a.m. for lunch only on cruise ship days, from 4:30 p.m. Daily for dinner)
Hawke's Bay wines make the best souvenirs, and specialties include Bordeaux-style reds, shiraz and chardonnay. You can purchase them at the New Zealand Wine Centre on Shakespeare Road or at several grocery stores throughout town. Also, consider a bottle (or three) to enjoy in your cabin (corkage fees may apply). (See airline restrictions on carrying liquids aboard.) For the teetotaller on your list, you can find the softest and warmest clothing and woollens at Opossum World, across the street from the Napier i-SITE Visitor Centre.