All Good Things Must Come To An End

GoingHome-190327-01This is the smallest album of our trip, but it was a VERY long day….

We woke up at 4:30 am, straightened everything up, then by 5:05 am, we were leaving our room for the last time. We dragged our luggage across the street to the Skybus terminal. We had just missed one bus, but another one drove up about 10 minutes later.

We checked into our flights. We probably did not need to get to the airport as early as we did, but this way we were able to have a nice breakfast in the Virgin Australia lounge. This was probably one of the best airline lounges I have ever been to. Soon it was time to head to our flight. The lounge had its own security checkpoint which was pretty cool. We had first class seats on the flight to Sydney which was nice. 

At Sydney, we arrived a little early. We were supposed to have about a 1:40 layover. We were directed to take a bus that would get us to the international terminal. We checked in to the bus and were told they run about every 10 minutes. About 30 minutes later we were boarding the bus (we and about 30 other passengers were not very happy). Then it turns out they were training our bus driver which meant for slow going. What I found very odd is the bus didn’t drive across the airport. It actually left the airport and used the normal roads to get to the other terminal. It dropped us off at baggage claim. I told Cyn, if I had known this was going to happen, I would have had our Opal cards handy, and just taken the train. It probably would have been faster. 

Now it was 40 minutes prior to departure.. I got stuck at immigration’s automated kiosk (Cyn did not), then I got selected for random carry-on screening at security… Finally got to the gate, they were boarding Delta One, but of course, got stopped for security questioning. Finally, we were on board. We were in seats 4B/C. So both in the middle section so we could see each other in our lie flat seats 🙂.

Our meal choices were a bit fancy for me. Cyn had Balmain Bug, which is a small Australian lobster. I had the Thai chicken, which I did not like. The appetizer was okay. Mid-flight I had a hamburger. Breakfast was pretty good. I watched 2 movies but tried to sleep most of the flight (more resting then sleep). About 13 hours later we arrived at LAX with a 90-minute layover to get thru immigration and customs, walk to T3 after re-checking luggage and thru security For some reason did not get TSA precheck (but Cyn did). Did not bother with the club as the flight started boarding about 20 minutes later.

We were in first class from LAX to PDX, and arrived about 10 minutes early at 11:05 am, which was 5:05 am in Melbourne, exactly 24 hours ago we had left our AirBnB. We went over to Kenny & Zukes on concourse C to speak to our ride home. Emily was due to get off work in about 20 minutes. We then got our luggage, and Emily picked us up curbside, after getting Dutch Brothers.

We got home to a very excited puppy. Dylan was very happy, and even Nori the cat was happy. 

Overall, I think even by my standards, this trip was the most epic ever. We did so much, saw and experienced so many things. However, we only scraped the surface of Australia, and there is more to New Zealand. We must go back someday. I love both of those countries!

< Previous Day (Melbourne Day 2 & 3)

Trams, Trains, Boats & Geocaching

Melbourne-190325-09The original plan on the 25th was to head to Bendigo to the Gold Mine and trams. But, we were starting to get tired, and Melbourne has no shortage of trams (the largest tram network in the world), so we stayed in Melbourne.

Monday morning I met up with Mal and went around tram exploring, scouting the Art Trams, and him explaining all the differences between the tram types, and where the cable trams ran. It was great!. Then we parted ways, and I took Cyn out to lunch 

We went by tram to a hamburger pub called Easey’s. Its call to fame is that is located in a building that has 3 former Commuter rail cars on its roof. We ate in one of those railcars. It was actually one of the best hamburgers we have had, and of course fantastic chips (fries). Now that we are back home, I have been disappointed in all the fries I have eaten at a local place that I love their fries. Chips in Australia and New Zealand are so much better!. After lunch, Cyn was still pretty exhausted, So I brought her back to the room, then I went out again to from train/tram riding and geocaching. For dinner, I took her on a short walk to the Royal Melbourne Hotel. I had passed it earlier in the day and looked pretty cool. Part of it was an old prison. Loved the feel of the place. I ordered a Pork Schnitzel for dinner to share. It came out and it was HUGE. Sadly it was tasted horrible to both of us. Luckily the beer and coffee were good. I did not want to have dessert there and felt like gelato. So we hopped on the trams to head to the Italian district, where we had great gelato. 

The following morning, I headed out again with the goal of finding a couple of tram themes caches near the zoo. One was a 2 stage multi. I figured it should be good. The first stage was right by the tram stop, but the final was located almost 3 miles away, and not by a tram line. I did take a tram, then walked about a 1/2 mile to a different tram line. I stopped at a Letterbox cache by the tram yard, then a different tram line to get closer. But still walked another 0.5 miles to the cache final. It took a bit, but I found it. Since it was getting late in the morning, and I wanted to ride the underground rail city loop, I got on a bus to take me to the train. I thought the bus would be faster than walking and a tram, but it probably wasn’t as the bus was a few minutes late. 

I managed to ride the full city loop and illegally took a few photos as it is posted not to take any photos of the city loop stations (very odd). Then it was lunchtime. 

I took Cyn out to a German restaurant for lunch on the Southbank but had stopped first at an information center about Melbourne’s new metro line under construction. The folks there were very surprised with an American very interested in this project…

After lunch we did a little souvenir shopping, then took a boat our on the Yarra River towards the stadium area. Now it was 5 pm, I was interested in checking our St. Paul’s Cathedral. We walked in just as Evensong service had started. We enjoyed the Evensong service. It was a pretty similar format to the services my choir had sung at last year in Worcester. Very beautiful. 

For dinner, I decided we would go across the street to one of the oldest pubs in Melbourne, Young & Jackson. We sat in the restaurant upstairs next to Chloe’s Bar (named after a large portrait of a nude Chloe). We sat by the window so I could watch the trams.  Dinner was very good and filling. A good place for our final dinner of the trip.

We got back to the room and I started packing as we had to get up early the next day to head home.

< Previous Day (Melbourne Day 1)          (Flying Home) Following Day  >

Trams, Coasters & Tram-Fans

Melbourne-190324-18Today was a full day, but starting a little later than most “Mark” days. We had breakfast at a cafe in Southern Cross Station. A really nice cafe… We then walked down to Flinders Street to grab a 70 tram to the Melbourne Tram Museum and Hawthorn Depot. I had made arrangements for a tour at 11 am since they are normally closed on this day.

Russell Jones was my guide. He first had set up a display room so my wife would be comfortable, and with videos of the famous Melbourne Art Trams. Russell gave me a thorough tour of the collection and the history of Melbourne’s trams. Afterward, a tour of the gift shop was in order, where my credit card got a little workout.

After the tour, my wife and I hopped on the tram. Since it was past lunch time, we needed to eat. We needed to transfer trams to get to our next destination at Riversdale and Glenferrie. Right where we got off the tram was a small cafe, so lunch it was! I quickly developed the “squirrel” syndrome when a tram went by since we sat at a sidewalk table. The squirrel syndrome with trams continued throughout our entire stay in Melbourne.

After lunch, we boarded a #16 tram to head to Luna Park. A very classic, what I would call a trolley park. Our goal was only one, to ride the Scenic Railway, the second oldest roller coaster in the world, and only one of 3 that need a brakeman(person) on board. 

When we arrived I asked if the coaster was running, and they said yes, but with caution. They shut down the railway if the winds pick-up and the weather forecast did have gusty winds for later in the afternoon. 

So we bought single-ride tickets and got in line. The wait was estimated at an hour. I did see the winds gusting on occasion, so we both were crossing my fingers the entire time. Finally, it was our turn to board the train.

I purposely had us seat in the first available row behind the brakewomen. For our trip, it was a young lady on the brake handle. Soon we were off. We had only been on one other brakeman required coaster before, that was in Copenhagen at Tivoli Gardens but never got to see the person in action. It was so much fun. At one point the cars really bounced, my wife jokingly yelled out that they should fix the potholes, the brake-girl turned back and smiled 🙂. Soon the ride was over… After we got off and got our ride photo, we noticed the train had not left and the operators were on their radios. Soon they were pulling people out of the train. The winds had picked up enough to stop the ride. So we were on the LAST ride of the day. We were SOOOOO LUCKY!!

We decided that we did what we wanted, gave an extra ride ticket to another family and headed to the tram to take us back to our room!

I had made arrangements to meet with local tram fans for dinner. One of them,Mal, met us at our building and we rode together to the Terminus Hotel in Clifton Hill. We had a great evening, the guys talking trams and the gals probably talking about why trams? 

After dinner Paul and Robyn headed home, Mal and his wife drove us home with a little tour of Melbourne, which was nice!

< Previous Day (Cairns/Melbourne)         (Melbourne Day 2&3) Following Day >

Flying to Melbourne

ToMelbourne-190323-18It was time to move to our next and final city, Melbourne, but not without checking out Cairns a little more.

I did a walkabout in the morning, the main goal was geocaching. Checked out the Bat trees, the waterfront, and the train station. The train station is nothing to write home about as it is under a parking deck. However, did get to see the Kurunda Scenic train before it left. I spent about 2+ hours walking. The temperature was about 75 Degrees, and it was sunny, however, it was very humid. Even though it wasn’t hot, by the time I got back to our room my t-shirt was drenched. I took a quick shower and tried to dry my t-shirt before packing it as we had to head to the airport.

Originally I had booked a non-stop flight on Virgin Australia from Cairns to Melbourne. About a week prior VA sent an e-mail saying that flight was canceled. We were re-booked on a flight that left 30 minutes earlier, but went to Sydney, had a 30 min layover, then onto Melbourne, and would arrive an hour later than the non-stop. Not much choice as AA had no other non-stops that day. My guess is they had low ticket sales for Saturday, so they just moved the Melbourne passengers to the already scheduled Sydney flight There were about 30 of us in this situation on the flight.

Again, security did not look for ID or boarding passes. At the airport, we had a brunch that was pretty good! VA did feed us more than just pretzels on both flights. The transfer time in Sydney seemed rush, but no issue. 

One odd thing I noticed on each flight as the plan would arrive at the gate. Many passengers would unbuckle their seat belts, and some even would stand-up when we were close the gate. The plane was still moving and the seat belt sign was still on. It happened on every domestic flight (all 4 flights). I only ever notice that happen when flights land in NY airports, and the flight attendants have to yell out seat belts and sit down…

Once at Melbourne we collected our luggage and boarded the Skybus to the city (I had pre-purchases tickets which was faster and cheaper). The bus stopped at Southern Cross Bus station just feet from where I needed to pick up and AirBnB keys. We then crossed the street to our home for the next 4 nights. 

We walked into the room with a bottle of wine and a greeting card congratulating us on our Anniversary. It was very sweet! The place was a very clean and efficient one-bedroom apartment. The main selling feature was the view as we were on the 37th floor. A great view of Southern Cross Station, but also bridges, the stadium and beyond. 

We were a bit hungry. We decided to go to Hungry Jacks across the street. I say their logo and thought it looked like Burger King. I looked it up, and yes indeed Hungry Jacks IS Burger King in Australia. They had the Whopper.

After dinner, we grabbed a tram (86) to the Docklands. There we transferred to the City Circle Tram. The one we got went clockwise around the city. These are refurbished SW-class trams that had all the right traction sounds for me! We rode the car about 90% around the loop (I think we were on the last car of the night). We transferred at Flinders/Spencer to a tram to get us closer to our room. After getting to our room, I ran out to Woolworths at the train station to pick up a few things, then called it a night.

< Previous Day (Great Barrier Reef)         Melbourne Day 1 (Following Day) >

Snuba and Petting Fish

GreatBarrierReef-190322-12Today was all about the Great Barrier Reef. We started the day with breakfast at a cafe down the street from our room. It was pouring rain. After breakfast, we walked down to the Reef Terminal. It was still pouring. We got on the boat, and it was still raining. We pulled away from the port and the seas were VERY choppy. 

On the way to the reef, a Snuba instructor, Jenny upsold my wife to do a Snuba dive. Snuba is a combination of scuba and snorkel. She would be attached to a breathing tube that is attached to a tank floating on the surface. I told her to go for it. So she signed up. The only hitch was getting a Doctor clearance based on one Rx she was taking. They would contact the Dr. If she wasn’t cleared she would stay on the surface only. 

We got to the platform in 90 minutes. The seas were still rough, but it wasn’t raining. Cyn went out for a snorkel first thing, and she LOVED it. She then went out for a surface Snuba since Jenny had not heard from the DR yet. She was ecstatic! We then had lunch which was provided, it was pretty good. 

After lunch the seas had calmed down enough that the semi-submersible went out, that was my gig. While I was out, Jenny got word that Cyn was cleared for a Snuba Dive. So Jenny took her out again.
She saw so much more, and got to pet the Wally fish! When she got out, she was exhausted, but in 7th heaven!

While she was recovering, I went out on the glass bottom boat. That was more enjoyable than the sub. Not as hot, and could see the reef clearer.

Many of the photos here were either taken by the ship’s photographer, or by a waterproof Fuji Camera I got for Cyn to use. Out of water photos were mostly from my phone.

We cannot recommend highly enough Reef Magic Cruises. They are a local company with very good service. And Jenny went out of her way to make sure Cyn had a great time!.

After getting back to the dock (it was still raining) we walked back to our room. Cyn was exhausted, but I got her out for dinner, by driving to the local brewery. The food was okay, as well as the beer. 

It was then time to put her to bed, she was happily exhausted.

< Previous Day (Sydney/Cairns)             (Cairns/Melbourne) Following Day >

Good-bye Ship, Hello Bats!

ToCairns-190321-07It was a semi-sad day today as we had to leave The Ovation of the Seas, our home for the past 13 days. But we still had more vacation ahead of us!

We were walking off the ship at about 8:30 am. Just after we left the terminal the skies opened up and started pouring rain. Luckily I had my Columbia jacket in easy reach. While leaving, a young man approached us asking if we were flying out on Virgin Australia. We said yes, he then asked if we wanted to take advantage of luggage check-in at the pier for $20/bag (AUD). Looking at the rain and the fact we did not have to be at the airport for a few hours, we said yes. So he led us to a tent where they were doing that service. It took a bit, but soon our 2 large bags were checked in and on the way to the airport…

I headed to Circular Quay train station, where I got some shots of the trains, as well as the boats. Then off to Central Station. There we stopped for a mid-morning breakfast at the same place we ate when we first arrived in Australia. I also had a plan. We did not need to be at the airport until 12:30 for our 2 pm flight to Cairns. I had noticed that the ARHS bookstore has a new book for sale (Facebook notices are good and bad). The Illustrated Atlas of Tramways of Australia and New Zealand. Cyn indulged me to go while she had her coffee. So off I went one stop to Redfern to the shop. The book was right on the counter. Yep, worth it.. Then back to Central station. I took more photos of the trains at Central (it never gets old for me), then boarded the train to the airport. 

Since we already had boarding passes, we just went straight to security. I found it odd in Australia that there were no ID or boarding pass checks to go thru security. We had lunch at a nice brewpub in the airport (good beer too). Then we were on our 2.75 hr flight to Cairns. I was surprised that VA gave a small sandwich with snacks on the flight. That does not happen in the US!. 

Upon arrival at Cairns, our luggage showed up without a hitch, then picked up our rental car. I got a rental car rate that about the same as a round trip taxi, and I had free parking at our AirBnB, so no brainer. I would have felt weird loading all that luggage into a taxi anyway. Australia is now the 4th country I have driven on the left side of the road (and now the 4th continent that I have driven).

It was only a 10-minute drive to our room in central Cairns. As we were getting close to our place, we noted a lot of birds flying around in the rain. Then it hit us, they weren’t birds, they were bats or Flying Foxes. They were large! We got to our room okay. It was a nice 1 bedroom with a kitchen on the 3rd floor. We had a balcony overlooking the street. But even better, we could see the bats flying all over town. Just about 1 block away are 2 large trees that they roost in… 

For dinner, we walked around a bit. The goal was a Hemingway’s brewery. But upon our arrival, we were told they had a private party. They gave us a 10% coupon for a future visit. 

I decided to go to the Irish place closer to our room. In our room there was a coupon for a meal and beer for $10AUD, so grabbed it and off we went. 

We sat down, I ordered our food, both our meals came with a free shorty beer, which means I got 2 shorty beers.  After a little while, an entertainer started playing his guitar and singing just a few feet from our table. He had a great tenor voice, a great falsetto and could go into low baritone range. At one point 2 young ladies were looking for a place to sit, our table had plenty of room, so Cyn invited them to sit with us.

During the singer’s break, we started talking to the young ladies. They have recently graduated university students from London. They were on 3-month holiday going around Asia and Australia. They had no real plans on what they were doing when. One thing that surprised them is how big Australia is and it takes a long journey to get anywhere. There are used to the UK where if the journey was greater then 2 hours, they would spend the night. I happened to be wearing my London Tube map t-shirt, which they recognized the map. They could point out on my shirt where they lived and went to Univ. What a great conversation. However, we need to turn in as there was a big Great Barrier Reef day tomorrow. So we bid our farewells and went back to the room.

It was nice that the rain did not dampen our spirits. This trip keeps getting better and better.

< Previous Day (Sea Days)              (Great Barrier Reef) Following Day >

Exploring the Ovation

AtSea-190319-26We are now heading back to Sydney. These 2 sea days were very welcomed to relax after all the activities we have done over the past several days. The seas were much calmer then the 2 days at the beginning of the cruise. 

We were finally able to do the bumper cars in the Seaplex. That was so much fun. We got there early to get in line and watched them set up the court for the cars. A lot of work… 

I went to 2 Mixology classes. One on Rum and another on typical cocktails. I learned I still like Rum drinks, which I have been drinking along with beer the entire cruise with my drink package. 2) I learned that I like all sorts of Martinis. Also, a good bartender shakes a drink with style, love, and a smile! Because of these classes on the final evening of the cruise, we sat at the Schooner Bar and I had a couple different martini’s. Then the bartender started giving me others to try. I like them all, and yes I was still able to walk afterward. I think in the end I won on the drink package. I got it for $49/day. I think only one or two port days I may not have made it but made it up on other days, especially the final day. My favorite bars were the Schooner Bar and the Robotic Bar (where drinks were made by Kuka Arm robots). I really want to love the pub, but on this ship, they put TVs in the pub and so it was often loud with sports. Plus the bartenders were not as friendly, they weren’t bad, just not talkative.

On the final day, we took the All Access Tour of the ship. They took us up to the Bridge, the main galley on Deck 4, The provision storage areas, the engine control room (not the ending room), and the laundry area on deck 00. We also walked the I-95 corridor on deck 2. This is how the crew get from one end of the ship to the other and access their cabins away from the public areas. A very cool tour.

As far as dinner, we ate at the Main Dining Room (American Icon) both nights. One night being formal. We had enjoyable conversations with our table neighbors Royden and Jean who are retired farmers that live north of Newcastle in Australia. They are not on Facebook though,  but we did exchange contact info. Our waiter, Maria. and assistant Denico were both great. Maria always smiled, and one of the only staff to wear green beads for St. Pat’s Day. She also worked in the Solarium Bistro for breakfast and lunch. We went there for lunch many times. It was a buffet, but much quieter than the Windjammer. The only thing I would go to the Windjammer for was the hamburgers, I really like them there. We only ate breakfast in the main dining room once, and lunch once. I had thought about having dinner at the Amber & Oak, but the prices seemed high. Fish & Chips was $15, but at the Poolside Dining, they were $6. I didn’t eat at either location. In order of dinner preference, I liked Jaime’s, Izumi and the Main dining room. 

For the shows, on Day 12 we say Live, Love, Legs. We did not have great seats (Pillar in the way). It was very much a Vegas style showgirls show. It was okay… On the final night it was a variety show with music, songs, and a comedy routine by Gary Eck. The close out the show they brought representatives of each department on board to the stage and did the typical Royal Goodbye song. It was really well done and enjoyed it all. My favorite headliner show on the cruise was The Beautiful Dream, followed by Pixels and the comedy acts.

Our favorite place to hang out on the ship was Two-70. It is a really nice lounge. We ate there for breakfast many days. The barista’s Ida and Oliver know our names by Day 2 and knew what we liked to drink. They were always so friendly. For grab and go breakfast, it was the best and quietest place on board.

Overall I loved the cruise. It gave us a good taste of New Zealand. I need to go back and visit Dunedin and Christchurch someday and spend more time on the north island. The ship was great. Although I think I like the Oasis class and Freedom Class ships better. (I have been on Radiance and Vision class ships). However, this ship had the best cabin layout of all the ships we have been on. In addition, the Ovation has the North Star, iFly and the bumper cars!

< Previous Day (Bay of Islands)          (Sydney/Cairns) Following Day >

Waka Canoe and Anniversary Too!

BayOfIslands-190318-01Today is the reason why we went to Australia and New Zealand, it was our 30th Wedding Anniversary. This was the last port-of-call on the cruise, Bay of Islands at Paihia.

Today’s excursion I had booked thru the ship, a Maori Waka Experience. This was another tender port. Since the tender time was over 20 minutes, they were handing out tickets to use the tenders. Since we booked a shore excursion thru the ship, no tickets were needed, just need to go when our group was called.

We were first bussed 5 minutes across the bridge to meet our Maori guides. We were given a typical Maori greeting and blessing. Then given a paddle and life jackets and line up into 8 rows. We were given instruction on Maori commands to paddle the boat. We were then lead across the street to board our canoes. Cyn and I were separated due to her knee concerns. 

We all learned how to paddle as a team. We were also given a rest period while we were told many stories about the Maori family that were leading this tour. About life growing up. How the elders nearly lost their Maori ways due to schools trying to teach it out of them. But today, the younger generation has Maori schools, and probably know the Maori language better than the elders. It is good to see the culture survive. We got up to the waterfall and then turned around to head back. Along the way, we would give the Maori scare face to “muggles”, which was fun. We also had a race against the other team’s boat (which had the chief on it, we had the chief’s son). We won the race. It was great fun and a learning experience.

It was nearly 1 pm, and we were hungry, we took the bus to town and ate a nice brewpub in town. I had 2 different local beers from 2 different breweries. The food was good as well. We did a little shopping afterward. 

The bus shuttles were not keeping up with folks heading back to the tenders to the ship. The town pressed a ferry into service to help the buses. The shop we were at was looking for a skirt Cyn wanted, so we avoided the crowds and the ferry. 

About 10 before the “final” bus, we were in line. I noticed the bus we were on seemed like an old Japan city bus. And yes indeed it was a Hino bus, with only one sign that was in Japanese. I need to try to translate it, but I could make out Nakagawa. Just odd… Anyway, we then got on a long line waiting for the tenders. The ferry had also just arrived, but since the ferry was at the dock, they loaded the ferry first. So we were in line for a good 30~40 minutes. A young local girl was playing the violin at the dock. She was very good. I think she was very smart. Since this was our last New Zealand port, many folks (including myself) were throwing in our loose NZ coinage (And some bills) in her case. She deserved it!

Once on board, Cynthia was in for a surprise. I had arranged our cabin to be decorated for our anniversary, as well as chocolate covered strawberries. She was thrilled!! 

For dinner, we went to Jaime’s Italian again. We got the same waiter. Since the weather was nice, we ate Al Fresco on the patio on the outdoor promenade. We got to watch the sunset while eating dessert. The restaurant had also given us an extra dessert of Tiramisu with Happy Anniversary on the plate. 

Later in the evening, we went to see the Jazz combo in the Two-70, but by 11 pm, we were bushed. A great anniversary day!

< Previous Day (Auckland)        (Sea Days) Following Day >

Auckland Tram Day! 

Auckland-190316-05My plan for Auckland was to head to the MOTAT Museum (Museum of Transport and Technology). Cyn was pretty tired out from our Hobbiton tour the day before, so she opted to stay aboard the ship. 

Auckland was a tender port for our ship, so it took a bit to get off the ship. I was lucky enough to get on the 2nd tender. It was only a 5 min journey to the port. My first step was to get a transit card, which I got at the ferry terminal. I then walked over to the Britomart train station to take the train to New Lynn, then a bus to MOTAT (a bus was more direct, but I wanted to ride the train). As I was taking pictures in the station, security came up to me and asked me to stop. Sadly 2 days prior, the shootings in Christchurch had happened, so security was a little more sensitive than normal. Once at New Lynn, I got the 18 bus and headed to MOTAT.

It was my lucky day, it was tram day at MOTAT, which meant they were running all their available trams. Typically they operated in pairs or even triples on the single track line with passing sidings. Also, since it was the 3rd Sunday of the month, the steam train was also running. I think because it was St. Patrick’s Day, I was having a bit of luck of the Irish with me!

I was at the museum for nearly 5 hours, riding trams, walking around the displays, rode the steam train, went thru the aviation museum. I had met a Facebook friend who was operating the Double-Decker tram (James Duncan). All the staff was great. I rode every tram except the steam tram (it was simply too hot to ride the steam tram).

After the museum, I took to the bus back to the train, but this time transferring at Avondale. I then had decided to get off at Newmarket for some geocaching. I struck out twice, including an Earthcache (building construction blocked access to the location I needed to get to for the answers). But did get one cache at least, then Re-boarded a train to Britomart. I still had time, so went to check out the currently mothballed Auckland Dockline Tram. Building construction (and politics) in the area caused the operation to stop. They should return to operation someday. I found another geocache, and then went back to the ship.

Due to timing, we did not get our normal table for dinner in the main dining room (we had my time dining). Our servers were not as good as our normal servers, and our table mates were not nearly as engaging. I was disappointed that none of the dinner options had anything to do with the Irish or St. Patrick’s Day. The only place really celebrating the holiday was in the Amber & Oak Pub. At least they had plenty of Guinness in a can available.

< Previous Day (Tauranga)            (Bay of Islands) Following Day

Maori & Hobbits

Tauranga-190316-16Today was a long day. We booked a tour to see the Maori demonstration as well as Hobbiton. We got off the boat in Tauranga and boarded our mini-bus. The first stop was Rotorua. It is a thermally active area as it is a caldera. There we got to see steam vents, but the highlight was seeing a Maori Haka concert. We learned a lot about the Maori culture. Then it was off to Hobbiton. It was a 1.5 hour guided walking tour of the movie set. This is actually the 3rd Hobbiton set at this location. They decided when building the 3rd set to make it out of more durable materials so tours like ours would be possible. At the end of the tour was the Green Dragon Inn where there was a free choice of 2 different ales, a cider, or ginger beer. I have the dark ale, which was okay. Cyn had the ginger beer which was refreshing. Then we went back to the ship. We had left the ship at 10:30 am and were back on board by just after 7 pm.

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