Steeped in history and draped in colourful stories, a trip to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds was the only thing I had my heart set on seeing when we visited New Zealand. I was excited for our whole adventure, but Waitangi Treaty Grounds at the Bay of Islands was the one place I had wanted to visit for as long as I can remember wanting to visit New Zealand.
Moored off of the undulating, island speckled coast, Royal Caribbean tendered us ashore to a small dock at Te Ti Bay. Stepping onto dry land right between Waitangi and Pahia, we were welcomed ashore by smiling locals. Coaches waited to take people on tours and ferry excited holiday-makers into town. Adding to the holiday atmosphere, small market stalls were set up for friendly residents to purvey handmade goods, giving the whole moment an almost festive feel.
Making our way down the dock, we were handed a flyer for the Treaty Grounds with a 20% off voucher on it and given directions to get there. I would have paid fistfuls of our hard earned cash for this experience, but a discount was much welcomed. The girls, being under 18, received entry; and our voucher took the entry price down from $40 for each adult to $32.
A short, well signposted, five-minute ramble along the stunning coastline and we were standing at the entrance to the Waitiangi Treaty Grounds. If I’m honest, there is a part of me that couldn’t believe I was actually standing there. Years previously I had seen Billy Connolly explore this area on his World Tour of New Zealand and I had been so taken with it that I had dreamed of visiting ever since. What I hadn’t know at the time was that our relaxed, ‘whatever happens, happens’ attitude would serve me well in not planning this trip by booking a shore tour months in advance. If we had booked a shore tour through the cruise line,
The first time I was standing in the hallway, inoperable room key in hand, we were just hours into our trip. We had made it to our rooms, unpacked, booked our dinner reservations, met family for a spot of afternoon tea and watched the ship pull out of Sydney Harbour as the sunset shone brilliantly off the Opera House. Upon returning to our room I was met with a spot of bother. I swiped my card and tried the door.
I swiped it again, but slower.
No matter how many times I swiped, or how many different speeds I swiped at, my key card would not work.
Thankfully I had my Husband-In-Tow and he was able to open the door as I headed off in search of help to fix my key. The most obvious place to start was Guest Services on Deck Five.
Our First Trip on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas in a Promenade Stateroom
Helllloooo there Possums
I will admit that I was a little nervous before embarking on our last cruise. We had never had an interior room before and I was worried I would feel cooped up and claustrophobic in there. But with three rooms and six people to pay for, I was looking for savings any way I could. With the mindset that the room was only for sleeping in, we booked three Promenade Staterooms side by side.
I always book our cabins midship to be closest to the fulcrum of the boat. I get motion sick quite easily and would not even consider booking a room forward or aft down near the bottom of the ship. It may save money, but it would be a miserable and possibly technicoloured trip for me. Our Promenade Staterooms were no different. As close to the middle of the ship as possible to get the least rocking.
Looking at the deck plan and photos online, we could see that these rooms had a window that looked into the interior of the ship. We were hopeful that this would give us a feeling of space around us. The stateroom looked comfortable enough that we wouldn’t feel that we were living on top of each other for ten days. Mind you, we are consenting adults with our own stateroom; living on top of each other might not have been the worst outcome from the situation…
But I digress.
Arriving at our room, I was already cranky and sore. It had taken so long to get through customs and on to the ship that I had had a 40-minute long panic attack. I’d been badgered by well-meaning staff to have embarkation photos taken in front of green screens on the way in, all the while having my ribs punctured by a sharp pin that had worked its way through the fabric of my handbag. I was more than ready to snap at the next person that stopped me from getting to my room and dealing with the minor blood flow I was experiencing.
You would think that in my sore and sorry for myself mood, even minor things would have been blown out of proportion. That anything wrong with our room, be it too small and shoeboxy or the mattress too solid would be noticed and cause my brow to furrow. But upon opening the door to our room, I was pleasantly surprised.
My inherent cynicism has me permanently prepared for things not to be as perfect as they appear in photographs. But even the sceptic in me had to admit I was wrong. Everything was exactly as promised in the glossy photographs. The room was no smaller than staterooms I had stayed in with obstructed views on other cruise lines. It was comfortably appointed and the sofa built into the bay window looking down over the promenade was rather lovely. It almost had an inner city vibe about it. Our room looked out on the cobbled ‘street’ below, at people shopping, out for a stroll and having a drink out at the English style pub. Across the way were other windows exactly like ours, just like looking across at a hotel across the street.
Welcome to Tightarse Tuesday, on a Thursday (or whatever day you’re reading this on) my Lovelies,
Cruising is not only fun and relaxing, but a very affordable way to see the world. What makes it affordable is the plethora of free activities available to you at every turn.
No one wants to be constantly shelling out to stay entertained either out at sea or on shore days. With a little forethought and planning, you can enjoy your holiday at no extra cost after paying your cruise fare. At sea and on land, you will never be stuck for something to do that won’t have you swiping your card.
I love cruising, but that first time you travel with a cruise line can be a little confusing; especially if you are new to the hustle and bustle that is cruising and customs. Every company does things a little differently, not every line even leaves from the same port in a particular city. So, from my experience, here’s what to expect on embarkation day with Royal Caribbean when you are travelling from Sydney, NSW.
The Explorer of the Seas was so large that it could not fit under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and we got to leave from the International Terminal in Circular Quay. Although I was a little disappointed that my kids would not get to sail under the bridge for their first cruise, it was delightful to be moored where we had a lovely view of both the Bridge and the Opera House out on deck. It also made it easier for anyone staying in the city before embarkation or catching public transport to get to the ship. White Bay is a particular pain in the hole to leave from with its lack of public transport and nonexistent onsite long term parking. My parents, who are not familiar with Sydney or the cattle crush that is the city, stayed in the city before embarkation and had navigated the whole process alone to check in before we even made it to the port from the Coast.
Upon arrival at the terminal it appeared to be a little chaotic with so many people getting out of taxis, limos and walking up from the train station. Before jumping into the fray, this is the ideal time to take the obligatory pictures of the ship in port, once you’ve gotten into the fracas it will be too late.
Before you enter the terminal you will be directed by staff to drop your checked luggage with them and line up. Once inside the terminal you will be given coloured cards and your Outgoing Passenger Card to fill in. If you’re a first time overseas traveller and you have not seen one of these before, there is an example from the Department of Immigration and Border Control here.
Save money and experience the Bay of Plenty’s unspoiled beauty the way it was supposed to be seen. Step off your cruise ship and take a leisurely stroll down The Mall towards the once volatile Mount Maunganui. From there it is up to you. Is a vigorous hike to the top your idea of a great way to spend the day? Or is a massage at the saltwater hot pools more your speed? Perhaps you just want to sit at the foreshore and watch the clouds float by while the friendly locals treat you to their outstanding hospitality and hot coffee.
While catching a Hobbit is high on my list of things to do while docked in New Zealand, the handy infographic below will present you with 5 compelling reasons to forgo the shore tours inland. Tauranga, or more accurately, Mount Maunganui where Port Tauranga is located, is a unique blend of cosmopolitan tourism and laid back natural beauty. Everything in Maunganui is within walking distance and you can easily spend the day here for no more than the cost of a cup of coffee.
Don’t let yourself miss out on the wonders right outside your port hole.