Holland America Lines Cruise - Auckland to Vancouver - 2017
March 24-26 - Auckland Sightseeing
We got up early after a good sleep. (Need to find the brand of the mattress). I browsed TripAdvisor to find a good breakfast cafe near the hotel. We decided to go to Remedy Coffee a high-rated hole-in-the-wall coffee shop which was up Federal Street and down Wellesley. I had fruit salad with yogurt and coffee. Ann had muesli with fruit and yogurt. The coffee and food were very good but the portions were small. It was not worth the trudge back up the hill.
We met the Bensons and Matutes back at the hotel and agreed to get two-day tickets for the Hop On, Hop Off Explorer Bus. It would gave us a good introduction to Auckland and stop at the best places to visit. Besides, it had a bus stop next to the hotel. From the hotel we rode along the waterfront and did our first hop off at Kelley Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium. The entrance to the aquarium is very unassuming. Alongside the road, it occupies a small building that looks abandoned. That's because all of the attractions are under ground. The first part of the route through the aquarium was a "walk-through replica of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctic hut complete with authentic memorabilia". (This is an accurate quote from the website). Next we saw live penguin exhibits followed by lots of sea creatures. The layout was nicely done - very entertaining and educational.
Back on the bus, we were getting hungry for lunch. Fortunately, Ann and I knew a very good restaurant a short walk from the next bus stop at the Parnell Rose Gardens. Rosie was just as good as it was two years ago, the first time we were in Auckland. I had poached eggs on rye with ricotta and mushrooms along with hot caramel/chocolate. Ann had a lamb flatbread sandwich. We all enjoyed our meals a lot.
The bus came by again and we rode it to the War Memorial Museum. Saving our visit at the museum for tomorrow, we transferred to the Blue Line and rode its loop taking in the scenery and points of interest without getting off. When we got back to the museum, we moved back to the Red Line and drove back to downtown. Ann, Ellen, Lynne and I got off there while John and Juan rode the bus back to the hotel. Our walk to the hotel took us through the city center and its masses of pedestrians. I bought some caramel popcorn at a small shop so that we wouldn't starve before we reached the hotel.
Our rooms at the hotel were on the same floor. There was a large sitting area between the floor's wings. We used it as our meeting area. It had floor to ceiling windows where we had a good view of the city and the Sky Tower and the daredevils who were getting their adrenaline rush by jumping off of the tower.
Dinner was at Midnight Express, which served Mediterranean and Turkish cuisine. It was very close to our hotel so we walked to it. Short walks were one of our objectives in hilly Auckland. I had a mixed grill - chicken, lamb and ground beef with hummus, yogurt, mashed potatoes and salad along with a good dark beer. Ann had grilled chicken and champagne. Our meals were very good which surprised us. Looking at the facade of the restaurant made us wary.
We were up early again after another comfortable night. Not wanting to go far for breakfast, we walked across Federal Street in front of our hotel to the Federal Delicatessen. This will be our go-to breakfast restaurant if we were ever in Auckland again. The decor is like a US diner, the staff is very friendly and the food and coffee are really good. This morning, I had muesli and a cinnamon bun. Ann had fritters and eggs. We both had lots of coffee.
Meeting the Bensons and Matutes, we boarded the Hop On, Hop Off Explorer Bus and rode it to the War Memorial Museum. We split up once we entered the museum because we had different interests and different touring paces. Ann and I toured the 3rd floor which was all about the wars that New Zealand fought in. It also had a library and a special exhibit of the history of Chinese families in Auckland. The second floor had volcanoes and natural history. There was a small house where, along with several children, we watched and felt an eruption that was shown on a huge screen on one of the walls. The first floor had lots of Maori and south sea island things. We met our crew in the cafeteria in the museum for lunch. The food was good for a museum. I had a BLT while Ann ate a club sandwich. After eating, we hopped on the bus and rode back to the hotel for some R&R.
Dinner was at Mai Thai, across the street from the hotel. This was another restaurant with questionable facade. It was very nice inside, though, and the food was excellent.
Here are some photos from the day's journey:
Ann and I had breakfast again at the Federal Delicatessen. This time we both had griddle cakes with crunchies, blueberries and syrup. Bottomless coffee made the meal even better. Back at the hotel, it was time to pack and check out. Although our room charges were correct, I had trouble trying to pay for our trip from the airport to the hotel on Thursday. Once that was corrected, we ordered a large taxi to take us to the cruise port. Our crabby driver found a way to get all of our luggage and our bodies in his van and he was able to deliver us to the Queen's Wharf. The check-in procedure took the Bensons and us a long time mainly because of the number of other passengers that were doing the same thing. The Matutes breezed through the process way ahead of us because they were 5-star Mariners and had priority. We were finally on board the Noordam for the start of our cruise.
The Bensons and Matutes had stateroom preassigned in the rear of the 8th deck. We were assigned a stateroom in the front of the 4th deck. This made communication more difficult. Our rooms, however, were identical. Their's had a narrower veranda though. And the 8th deck was much higher resulting in more movement while we were sailing.
It took a while to get our bags. They lagged behind the check-in time. We planned for this. Instead of waiting for them, we went to the dining room for lunch. I had trout while Ann had a burger. When we finished and went back to our room, our bags were there. We got unpacked and got our room organized in time for the 16:15 mandatory safety drill. We gathered on Deck 3 along with all of the other passengers in our group and listened to the safety instructions. The ship sailed at 17:00 under cloudy skies and a few showers.
Ann and I had drinks at the Ocean Bar and then met our crew in the dining room for dinner. The food was good and so was the wine. Being Mariner VIPs, the Matutes were able to buy a wine package for half price. Wine on board is very expensive, so this saved us lots of money.
We were in bed before 10:00. The ship was gently rocking. We had a few creaks and groans from our cabinets, but ear plugs made it easier to sleep.