The Captain has impressed me once again. He announced yesterday morning that he was going to be driving one of the tender boats as part of our tender service. I don’t recall ever seeing a Cruise Ship Captain doing this. After the tender boat that I was escorted to was loaded, the last person to come on board was the Ship Captain and his security. I then noticed that his wife and young entourage were already on the tender boat.
The tender boat passengers cheered when the Captain arrived and he just beamed. He then got on the microphone and chatted with everyone saying, “Do You Want Donut” – I thought we were going to be served donuts but no, the Captain turned the tender boat in circles – was great fun – the passengers ate it up. After the 20 minute transfer was finished the Captain was the first one off the tender boat so he could personally help everyone off – he is “one of a kind” and a “true gentleman”!
If Celebrity Cruise lines promoted Captain Taos’s Kafetzis as the Captain I’m sure consumers would book knowing he was on board. Its not an exaggeration to say that I hear passengers talking about him all the time – he is so well liked.
We tendered into the small community of Akoroa, New Zealand – only 650 residents. In 2011 after an extremely devastating earthquake in Christchurch many of the cruise ships transferred to this port and have been docking here ever since.
I was with a group in the Garden City, Christchurch the day before that big earthquake. Thirty-five thousand homes were destroyed and in turn most insurance companies went bankrupt. Of course there has been a housing boom since, many smaller outlying Christchurch communities have grown substantially.
Some of the most memorable experiences when traveling is meeting the locals so I suggested to my group that they consider the “Sheep Farm, Dog Show plus Winery Visit” Excursion.
During this excursion we drove passed some of the World’s most beautiful scenery. Every corner we turned offered a new spectacular view. We headed over 2 major hills (little mountains) with no guard rails in sight.
Our first stop was at the Sheep Farm where we were graciously welcomed by our hosts. The personable owners presented a thrilling dog and sheep show. This is the best sheep dog presentation I have ever seen. He sure had control of his dogs which he said is key – they need to know who the boss is. When he later sheared a sheep, he explained to us that when you purchase a wool suit – the farmer makes the amount of the 2 pockets on the suit jacket …. so not very much.
Sheep farming is in a bit of a decline in New Zealand but there are still a few million sheep roaming around the green hills – dairy farming has recently picked up.
After our farm tour we were welcomed into our host’s historic family home to see their recent renovations. The new kitchen is the pride and joy – glossy white cupboards, European appliances. We were served – tea, coffee or a non-sweetened berry juice and we were were seated in their backyard garden where home made shortbread cookies and phyllo covered lamb sausages were waiting for us. I have noticed the large teapot that the locals all seem to use which has a 2nd handle on the front of it which makes pouring easier.
They offered a few items for sale – I purchased the farm history/family favourite recipe booklet.
We continued our journey to a 12 acre winery for a tasting. The owner was informative. They produce 15,000 bottles a year. They are known for their own variety called, “Summer Love” – which has won many wine awards. Their banquet facility was busy – along with us there were 2 Christmas Parties in house – one for doctors and the other was a local pharmacist gathering.
When we arrived back to the port there were around 600 passengers waiting for tender boats. This delayed our sailing departure for an hour. So many excursions ended at the same time and this caused the backlog but the shuttle line moved quickly because a number of tender boats were in operation.
We docked at Wellington, the Capital at 8am this morning (Monday). This is the “coolest” little capital in the World. Wellington is known for its arts scene, coffee, dining culture and active lifestyle. An easily walkable downtown area is set around a scenic waterfront precinct, and is surrounded by a green belt filled with trails to explore.
Locals are proud of the National Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa.
Many tourists experience Wellington from above, taking in the panoramic views of Mount Victoria. The snow capped Kaikoura Ranges are visible across the strait.
There was a major earthquake here on the 14th of November (just a couple weeks ago) so the city is in recovery mode. A number of buildings are now off limits including a new glass covered office tower that just opened 3 months ago. The earthquake hit at 4am which is a blessing as the streets were empty. Many glass windows etc were blown out. The locals experienced “another” quake yesterday at 4:20pm – registering 5.6 which is substantial and they have been told to expect a number of aftershocks for the next month or so.
The cruise port is damaged so we docked in an industrial area. This is the first time that the Solstice has docked in this location so the cruise staff wasn’t sure what to expect but in my eyes everything ran perfect today.
The port authority provided complimentary transit bus shuttles into the city core for those not on excursions and a small army of tourism volunteers were located throughout the city helping cruise passengers.
Today’s temp reached 70F. The morning was overcast but the sun and blue skies soon followed.
I retraced my steps going into some of my favourite parts of the city. Cuba Street is a trendy spot filled with local owned stores. I was disappointed that my favourite Wellington restaurant, Logan Brown doesn’t open for lunch until Wednesday.
I mainly window shopped because prices are overall much more expensive in comparison to back home in Canada.
A brass band played Christmas Carols in the city core adding to the festive time of the year. Store owners that haven’t been allowed to open since the earthquake want to open soon so they can welcome Christmas shoppers. Most stores just re-opened a couple days ago so have been closed for a substantial time.
We soon will say farewell to the beautiful South Island of New Zealand.
Tomorrow we are at sea enroute to the North Island.
Tonight’s Show is Australia’s hottest and most vocally powerful performance act, “La Zorza”. They sing the music of Josh Groban, Il Divo, Andrea Bocelli and Michael Buble.
All my passengers are looking forward to our upscale group dinner tomorrow night in the French restaurant on board, “Muranos”. We will be taking over the restaurant at 6pm. This is a “Bradley Walters Journeys” surprise.