Holland America Lines Cruise - Auckland to Vancouver - 2017
March 21-23 - Home to Auckland
Several months ago, we received an email from John and Ellen Benson and Juan and Lynne Matute about a cruise that they signed up for. They asked us if we were interested. The ship was Holland America's Noordam. The 36-day cruise started in Auckland and ended in Vancouver. I took a look at the itinerary and saw that it went to parts of New Zealand that we hadn't seen. It also stopped in ports in Australia, the south seas, Hawaii and Canada, many of which we had never been to. We had sailed on the Westerdam, a sister ship, the previous year through the Panama canal and liked Holland America's service and amenities. Traveling with good friends on a nice ship that had appealing ports and interesting excursions made the decision to sign up an easy one.
On the evening of Thursday, March 21 we were picked up by the Bensons with their Highlander driven by son Sam. He drove us to SFO where we checked in with United, went through Security and ended up in United's business class lounge to wait for our flight. (I had passes to the lounge from my United Mileage Plus VISA card). We eventually boarded our plane and left on time at 10:45 PM. We signed up for Economy Plus which gave us more leg room. Our strategy was to take Tylenol PM so that we could sleep for most of the flight. After a bad dinner which we really did not need, we settled into our seats and got some adequate but very uncomfortable sleep. Thirteen hours later, the flight crew roused us for some breakfast - an omelette to give us some protein.. Shortly thereafter, we landed in Auckland. It was morning on Thursday. We had lost a full day because we flew over the international date line. But it felt like normal west coast time after a bad night's sleep.
The arrival procedure has changed in Auckland from our experience two years ago. Passport control has been speeded up with the use of new Kiosks. Agriculture inspection, however, is still very slow. After picking up our bags, we had to wait in a very long line so that a very friendly inspector could look at a card that we filled out that indicated that we had no banned products that we were taking into the country. The US women's field hockey team was in line with us. Our last step was running our bags through scanners to make sure we were not carrying anything illegal. We finally walked out of the controlled area and met Lynne and Juan who were waiting for us in the main terminal after their earlier flight from Los Angeles.
We used the ATM to get some New Zealand money and then waited for our pre-arranged van to take us to our hotel. At 10:05 we were on our way. Two of our van riders were Bill and Tina from Portland who arrived on the same flight and were going on the same cruise. (We saw them later several times on the ship).
Checking into the SkyCity Hotel was easy although some of our rooms were not ready. We shortly got into our rooms and freshened up. Our hotel was very nice. The rooms were large and clean with plenty of hot water. The bed were so comfortable that we wanted to ask what brand they were so we could get one at home. We were centrally located near the downtown area, the harbor and numerous good restaurants. We were next to the Sky Tower and could watch people sky jumping from the top to a target at ground level. The hotel also had a huge casino which we took a walk-through to see which games it offered.
For lunch we walked across the street to the Federal Deli for lunch. Ann and I split a salmon bagel and a salad. I had a good New Zealand beer.
After lunch, Ann, Ellen, Lynne and I took a walk to the harbor and back while John and Juan decided to turn back to the hotel. Our circular route took us downhill past some old buildings, churches and bars. At the busy harbor we walked past the old ferry terminal and the cruise terminals. Our walk back uphill was through the very busy downtown area crammed with pedestrians. After arriving back at the hotel, Lynne went to find Juan while Ann, Ellen and I stopped at Andy's Burgers and Bar for a brew for me and cider for Ann and Ellen. We were mellow enough to solve all of the world's problems.
Dinner for the six of us was at Andy's Burgers and Bar. It was conveniently in the hotel. I had told the waitress earlier that we would be back for dinner and would sit at her table because she was so nice. We couldn't find her until later. She might have been avoiding us.
Bedtime was at a reasonable hour.
Here are a few photos from our day: