Our little village, the Ms Amsterdam, sailed into Auckland, New Zealand this morning ready for another day of adventure and discovery. With just over 1000 passengers, the Amsterdam is like a small town moving across the globe sharing new experiences along the way. For the last few ports in the South Pacific, our influence was huge, the biggest show in town and we dominated the area for the day. Today is different as we are just another cruise ship in a long line of cruise ships whose influence is largely invisible outside the immediate port area.
It was nice to be alongside a pier, avoiding the additional travel “overhead” of tendering to and from shore. Our sail in was beautiful and since we are moored at the center of town we enjoyed magnificent city views as the ship maneuvered into her final position, bow facing forward, adjacent to the cruise terminal. Typical of many cruise terminals were the “Jet way” style bridges that connect to the ship some distance above the ground which allowed us to disembark the ship on deck three, in the bottom of the Atrium in the vicinity of the Hotel Directors office.
The Atrium was filled with travel agents, divided into groups of about 10, each being led by someone from the ship.
Leaving the ship we expected to find the New Zealand agriculture inspectors, but we were too late as they had already packed up and left, leaving us to the honor system to not introduce any banned items into the country. I was surprised to find in this port as well as the last port, that they were not in position all day, but I guess the possibility of them being present served the same purpose as them actually being there and acts as a deterrent to bringing prohibited items ashore.
Today’s plan was to take a taxi to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, about 2 miles away at the top of the hill, tour the museum and they walk back to the ship via Parnell Road and spend the remainder of the day in the shops near the ship. We had originally planned to get off the ship promptly at 8 am and tour the nearby Maritime museum, but we cancelled that and enjoyed a little more sleep.
We purchased the ATT International Passport Plan for $60 a month which allows unlimited texting, 50 cents a minute phone calls and 300MB of data – not a huge amount for a month, but manageable and an extra 300MB is $60 if you go over so it won’t break the bank.
We use UBER or LYFT wherever available over regular taxis and Auckland has a robust UBER service that produced a driver in a few minutes. The 2 mile drive was about $10 NZD and we enjoyed some interesting commentary along the way to the Auckland Museum.
Air New Zealand is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and they had a full size B737 nose section on a stand outside the museum entrance. Since the museum had just opened, there were no lines and we had ample time to enjoy the inside of the cockpit and mug for a few pictures.
Inside the Museum we paid our admission using American Express. Our cards all have “chip and pin” capability but here when we stick the card into the machine and press CRD for “Credit” instead of DBT for a debit card, the machine pauses while it gets authorization and then automatically prints out a slip for us to sign rather than ask us for the PIN.
The museum has 3 floors and we decided to start on the top and work our way down. The museum also has free WIFI which was very fast initially, but slowly degraded throughout the day as more and more visitors arrived. The Museum layout is HERE
New Zealand’s military history exhibits are on the third floor along with the WWII Hall of Memories with the names of New Zealander’s who have died in battles over the years. It is always interesting to view WWII history thru the lens of a different country’s perspective and experience.
The highlight of the second floor was the Auckland Volcano simulator. About 30 people enter a living room mock up where a large flat screen TV simulating a window view over Auckland’s harbor is displayed on one wall with a TV on the other. The TV starts showing a simulated news show warning residents about imminent volcanic activity and interviewing volcano experts while showing the city being evacuated. After a few minutes, the view outside your “window” shows the sea start to bubble and churn followed by a full scale eruption. The room you are in starts to shake as you watch the dark clouds race toward your “house” with the lights going out right before the screen goes black. That concludes the show and then an announcer appears and gives some advice about what you should do in an actual volcano emergency.
A Maori Village is mocked up on the first floor and they have cultural demonstrations periodically throughout the day.
Air New Zealand’s 75th anniversary exhibit occupies the rotating exhibit space on the first floor. The highlight was a Virtual Airplane. You sit in a cabin monk up with airline seats and then don virtual reality goggles. When the show starts you are immersed in a airplane cabin of the future. You can look all around and see the cabin from different views and it is amazing. If you ever have the chance to see something with these goggles, you will find any wait worthwhile.
About 1:30 pm we started our 2 mile walk back to the ship via Parnell road. We are always on the lookout for “fish and chips” and spotted one immediately as soon as we arrived on Parnell Road. It was takeout only so we decided to check out the next fish and chips place we would come across. As it turns out, that was the first and last “fish and chips” place along our two mile walk to the waterfront. We did pass by a dozen sushi restaurants and they appear to be quite popular in Auckland.
The walk down Parnell road was all downhill and the weather was perfect. We enjoyed the leisurely stroll, window shopping along the way and soaking in the local ambience.
Back in town, we found our first of two yarn shops, New Zealand Fabrics & Yarn, in the Queens Arcade Building. The shop had a nice selection of yarn and Judy found some lace weight Zealana AIR, a blend of 40% cashmere, 40% brushtail possum and 20% mulberry silk.
Next stop was the Downtown Shopping Centre where we found the Masco Yarn Shop and we recall we visited this same shop during our last visit to Auckland in 2006. Still looking for possum blend yarns, Judy bought some Zealana KIWI, a fingering weight blend of 40% fine merino, 30% possum and 30% organic cotton. She also bought a small kit to knit a lace scarf. The yarn is a 2 ply (lace weight) blend of fine kid mohair and merino dyed in New Zealand by Touch Yarns Ltd.
It was now 4:15 and we made it back to the ship with 7 minutes to spare.
At 5pm sharp, the ship started to back out of her berth and rotated counter clockwise to head out to sea. The weather was perfect and the views spectacular during this sail away. As usual waiters circulated with small shot glasses filled with a tasty morsel. This time is was mushrooms and beef skewered with a toothpick.
The Holland American Chefs do many things very well, but their version of Kentucky Fried Chicken will not make the highlight reel. While it was good, it was not the same as what you find at the local KFC, but it was very tasty nevertheless.
Showtime tonight was Martin Ralph who performed a variety of acts including lasso and rope tricks, a few magic acts and the highlight being his maneuvering a large top in an amazing fashion. He claimed this is the largest top of its kind in the world.
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