Cruise Specialists hosts Steve and Wendy Bodenheimer are taking us along on another amazing journey. We hope this series shows you what you can expect on a Holland America Grand Voyage.
We made it in to Rarotonga, but it wasn’t easy.
The Captain told us he had to think long and hard before deciding he could have a safe tendering procedure. Due to the strong currents and swells, no walkers, wheelchairs, or scooters were allowed on the tenders and all passengers had to be able to walk on unassisted. It was very slow and a nerve-wracking day for the crew. In some cases, they had to lift the guests at exactly the right time between the waves.
We don’t think this should discourage anyone, but just know that these moments are part of what makes this an adventure. You can’t control the weather and the crew is very dedicated to your safety.
Rarotonga is part of the Cook Islands. Its citizens are actually New Zealanders, so they drive on the “other side” and use NZ Dollars for their currency. Originally settled by the Maori, there is still a strong cultural influence. There are loads of excellent beach resorts here for swimming and snorkeling and more black pearl shops. The local bus system circles the island every hour in both directions and is a popular way to get around.
We had an uneventful tender ride to the main town of Avarua and arrived about 9:15AM. We started walking clockwise on the ring road before branching off to a far less traveled parallel road.
It was quite beautiful as we passed orchards of mangoes, bananas, and coconuts; well-kept but simple houses were numerous and flowers were growing wild everywhere.
In Between ports
Two things happened today:
First, we lost an entire day by crossing the International Dateline. We went from January 28th to January 30th in a flash. One of our Guests who had a birthday on January 29 was forced to celebrate early!
Second, the weather took a dramatic turn for the worse. Gale force winds, rain, and fog took over from the sunny skies we have been having. We bounced around all day and will continue in this pattern for at least one more day. The seasoned travelers on this ship take it in stride and just continue on with their activities.
Three days at sea passed very quickly.
Ship life has drifted into a pleasant routine. We are especially enjoying Chat Time with our Cruise Specialists Guests. It has turned into a two hour social club. The ship generously provides coffee, tea, and fresh baked cookies to our gathering and that seems to bring people in, if only to grab a snack on their way to some other activity. But we do have a core group that comes every day and stays for a while, so it is never boring.
One of the amenities offered to our Guests is a group dinner at the Canaletto, the Italian specialty restaurant on board. We have almost 250 Guests and the restaurant comfortably holds about 38.
Do the math and you see that we need at least 7 dinners. We’ve already had 3, which were very well-received and a great place for our Guests to meet new friends.
Next stop on our wonderful itinerary is Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand and home to about 1 million people. It has a beautiful modern skyline, dominated by the 1,072 foot high Sky Tower, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere.
On our last visit here in 2016, we did a highlights tour of the city and spent time at the Auckland War Memorial Museum at the top of the hill that overlooks the city. As we mentioned before, this is a city dominated by boats and sailing related activities.
There is a wide variety tours offered here:
- make the 3-hour drive to Waitomo to see the glow worm caves
- Visit Kaipari Peninsula to experience a working sheep farm
- Become part of the crew on a real America’s Cup yacht
- See the King and Gentoo penguins at the Sea Life Aquarium
Right across the pier from our ship is the Ferry Terminal. It’s used by commuters to travel between Auckland and the suburb of Devonport, right across the harbor. We’d heard Devonport was a beautiful, quiet place, so we hopped on the very large and comfortable boat for the 15 minute ride.
What a good choice we made!
The ferry dropped us in the historic village filled with cafes, upscale shops, and surrounded by outstanding views. The colonial style architecture here is amazing and the houses are very beautiful. We loved the ornate trim that decorated almost every building.
There’s a peaceful path that follows the shoreline and everything is clean and well cared for. We wandered the streets here all day, making a big circle, but only covered half of the area we hoped to see.
One more interesting thing we saw this day.
As out ship was pulling out of its berth at about 8PM, we looked out our window in the dining room and spotted a very large crane on the opposite dock. And dangling from the cable on the crane was what we might refer to as an open pod. And inside the pod were a bunch of people having dinner, out in the open, dangling near the top of the cable!!!!
We’ve heard several things from other passengers about this activity – Cost estimates for this experience were between $300 and $600 per person. The guests are apparently strapped in as is the wait staff. This is a “pop up” restaurant in that it moves around the city and they also do breakfast, lunch, and wine tastings. About 20 people were waving at us from their incredible perch. Definitely not for everyone!
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