The approach to Picton looks very similar to cruising the inside passage on an Alaska Cruise. Plenty of green on low hills, with sharp well defined ridgelines. The sky was fairly bright as the sun had risen, but was still hiding behind the hills and would not appear until an hour after the official sunrise.
We tied up to the pier bow first, with our cabin facing the town and the interisland ferry terminal. The ports line handlers were right below our veranda and we were able watch as Holland America crewmembers hurled the “monkey fist” onto the pier with the small leader line attached. The line handlers haul in this small leader line, followed by a larger line and finally the heavy line used to secure the ship to the pier.
We were able to pick up the WIFI from the interisland terminal from our cabin and enjoyed about 30 minutes of fast internet until it was time to leave the ship for our adventure ashore.
The gangway was on deck 2 forward this morning with the gangway attached to a set of stairs to get you down to the pier. We left the ship around 9:45 and again we didn’t see any of the agriculture inspectors or beagle dogs. It seems a little odd that they only inspect the first wave of people leaving the ship, but whatever.
Since we bought the complete photo package we get every picture taken by the ship for the entire cruise so we always seek out the photographer for pictures. Steven, the photo manager, as come to know us well and he is ready to take our picture as he sees us coming down the pier.
There was some stern warnings issued prior to our arrival that you were prohibited from walking into town and had to take the shuttle bus. Well, that was mostly right and for most guests you would want to take the shuttle bus and avoid the walk anyway. Since we were renting a car from Avis at the Interisland Cruise terminal, we would have to walk to the terminal which was quite close to the ship. Right by the shuttle bus stop there is a blue line painted on the ground that leads to the interisland terminal and then into town. You have to cross a busy, industrial road, that is used to load cars and cargo onto the ferries, but once you speak with the crossing guard and demonstrate normal situational awareness and mobility you are quickly allowed to cross and follow the blue line to the terminal and then into town. We saw another guest who didn’t quite understand what was going on and could barely stand upright without assistance – they were directed to the shuttle bus and not allowed to follow the blue line to the interisland terminal. Common senses prevails and if you ask nicely, you will most likely be permitted to follow the blue line if you wish.
The car rental agencies are about a 5 minute walk from the ship. Our AVIS Toyota Corolla ended up costing us $134 NZD (plus $27 NZD for gasoline) for the day. This included a GPS, but you could use the MAPS.ME app on your phone and you would do just fine. Now the car is right hand steer since you drive on the left side of the road but since we have lived in Japan for 2 ½ years, we were quite comfortable with this arrangement. Quite frankly, it is not as difficult to manage as you may think and any reasonably competent driver could manage just fine. My recommendation is to rent an automatic and the smallest car available. Your perspective when sitting on the right side of the car is different and you have a tendency to stay further to the left side of the lane than is necessary and a smaller car will help with your comfort level. Much to Judy’s amusement, the one rookie mistake I kept making today was turning on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signals since their positon is reversed on a right hand steer car. You will also get in on the passenger side once or twice and wonder who stole the steering wheel.
Our plan was to go about 35 miles to the Yealands Family Vineyard in the town of Seddon, then to the a place called “The Honey Company” followed by the Omaka Aviation Museum and finally yarn shops in Renwick and Picton. Renting the car was no different than in the USA and we were quickly on our way. New Zealand, like most countries other than the USA, uses roundabouts extensively so getting comfortable with how they work and remembering to swing left around the circle is essential.
As soon as we left the parking lot, Henk and Christel (Hotel Director and Guest Relations Manager) came thru the roundabout in front of us on their tandem. We waved and took a photo as we passed them in a few minutes.
As soon as we were outside the city limits we encountered a young couple hitchhiking with backpacks. We would ultimately see 4 people hitchhiking throughout the day – all with backpacks.
The two lane road to our first stop at the Winery in Seddon was wide and well maintained, a little winding but easy to drive and soak in the beautiful views around many curves. If someone told me we were in Napa valley or Santa Barbara, I wouldn’t have argued. The landscape looked very similar to California wine country.
We picked up some local radio stations along the way which were going on and on about the Super Bowl game and when it would be broadcast in New Zealand. Superbowl hype is global.
The speed limit was 100 KPH and we arrived at the Vineyard in about 45 minutes. I rarely go to wine tastings and know next to nothing about vineyards so I am a poor judge of whether or not this particular vineyard is good or bad. There was a small HAL tour leaving as we arrived so we soon had the place to ourselves. I went through the motions of tasting some wine and picked out 4 bottles mainly based on their names. Maybe I will attend some of the wine tasting classes on the ship, but I still enjoy the wine nevertheless.
Judy bought some honey and a T shirt and we were on our way to drive around the vineyard. If Disneyland ever produced a vineyard, it would probably look like this. Everything was extraordinary neat, clean and well-marked. Miniature ‘Babydoll’ sheep roamed the vineyard. Too short to reach the grapes, the sheep were described as ‘organic weeders’ providing year round mowing and pest control. Music was played thru the grape vines to ‘increase the vines vigor and resistance from disease’. The vistas were spectacular – the weather perfect and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.
Next stop was “The Honey Company” about 15KM back toward the ship following a single lane gravel road. The map we had from internet was pretty general and when the GPS said we arrived, there was nothing around. We drove up and down the small road for a bit and them decided to press on without the honey and head to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum which was well marked and easy to find.
Admission to the Omaka Museum was higher than I would have guessed for such a small museum – $30 NZD, but the exhibits were extremely well maintained and thoughtfully displayed. The aircraft were all from the WW I era. We moved quickly and saw everything in 30 minutes. You would be hard pressed to spend more than 90 minutes here. It was now 3 PM and we were 15 miles from the ship with 2 yarn shops to go. All aboard was 4:30.
The first yard shop was called Renwick Nic Nacs and Info Center. If Fred Sanford decided to open a yarn shop instead of a junk yard, this shop is how you would imagine it may appear. Yarn was everywhere, stored everywhere without any rhyme or reason.
You could barely move down the aisle because it was so jam packed with yard and other stuff. The owner seemed to know where everything was and Judy bought 9 Skeins of a New Zealand yarn called Waikiwi, a Merino Wool, Nylon, Alpaca and Possum blend.
After about 15 minutes we were on our way back to Picton and our final yarn shop – FEEBE’S. FEEBE’S was more of a gift and souvenir shop with a small corner displaying some local wool yarn. Judy was on the hunt for Possum yarn and didn’t find anything that caught her eye and we only bought a few post cards and stamps.
We wanted to sample the local fish and chips, but discovered they all closed between 2:30 and 4:30 so we would have to try again another day.
The Interisland terminal with the car rental agencies was only a few minutes away and we dropped off the car and were back on the ship exactly at 4:30 – no wasted time!
Sail-away was gorgeous with perfect weather and many people were by the Seaview pool enjoying the fabulous scenery as we left Picton.
As we left Picton and maneuvered toward Melbourne, the Captain announced that we would be calibrating the ships compass on our way out. We paused for about 15 minutes and the ship rotated 360 degrees while an expert from New Zealand updated the ships compass calibration card.
For dinner we were joined by entertainers Ashley Carruthers, the piano player who performed last night and International Violinist Yoomia who will perform this evening. Ashley and Yoomia provided interesting insight to an entertainers life aboard cruise ships.
Lee Bayless, a comedian from Oklahoma, provided the entertainment tonight as was excellent receiving a standing ovation. He is billed as the “clean, family comedian” who delivers observational comedy with a unique twist. He will also give a lecture on Sudoko and a talk on “What Makes Jokes Funny” in the next few days
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