Auckland, New Zealand

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©Jean Janssen “The City of Sails” Auckland, New Zealand

We are disembarking the ship today in Auckland, the country’s largest city with a population of a half million.  Housing is scarce in this growing city with an unemployment rate of 0%.  We are fortunate to have a direct flight back to Houston this evening, so we are taking a ship’s excursion before going to the airport.

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©Jean Janssen  Sea plane in the Auckland harbor

Auckland is the size (land wise) of Los Angeles or London.  The largest money earner for the city is tourism.  1 in 5 members of the population is Asian, many of whom are Chinese students.  Auckland is a “supercity” which means it as some autonomy.  It operates as a “state” rather than a city.

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©Jean Janssen King penguins at Sea Life in Auckland, New Zealand

The massive growth has created some problems with infrastructure.  One in three residents has a car.  The ratio of boats to people is 1 to 5.  Immigration is strictly regulated.  Success depends on the type of work you do.  Those that fit the needs are let in.  Napier even guarantees a job and housing for certain tradesmen.

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©Jean Janssen At the Winter Garden, Auckland, New Zealand

We are to meet at the pier with our luggage at 8:30 am. So after showers and an early breakfast we went down at 8:10 to leave the ship.  Unfortuantely, they hadn’t yet cleared the ship and we were told an announcement would be made when they were ready.  Later an announcement was made that there was a delay getting luggage off the ship but nothing was said about disembarking.  The announcement wasn’t made in the lounge we were in, but we could hear it from a distance.  We went ahead and gave it a shot and were able to leave the ship.

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©Jean Janssen At Sea Life, Auckland, New Zealand

We went through passport control and customs and retrieved our luggage.  We were pretty close to the departure time for our excursion.  About half the people for the excursion were on the bus.  Then we waited, and waited, and waited.  There was a steady stream to get on the bus for a while and then we appeared to be waiting for 6 people and the Land Discoveries representative said they were trying to find them.

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©Jean Janssen Replica Maori craft being ready for sail in the Auckland, Harbor

Two passengers got on the bus shortly after that.  When  numbers 3 &4 arrived they were very rude to the other guests who had now been waiting over a hour for the tour to begin.  I understand that they were frustrated, but if almost everyone else made it off the ship, they could have too.  If things are running that late you would think you would have asked someone.  Finally the last couple was found; they were very apologetic.  Like us they were told that there would be an announcement, which there never was.

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©Jean Janssen   Poster encouraging immigration to New Zealand at the maritime museum in Auckland

Our tour left a hour and 20 minutes late.  Our drive through the city was maybe 5 minutes.  We went straight to the Maritime Musuem where we should have had over an hour; we had 15 minutes.  I really wished we would have had the time to visit it fully.  As we walked along the pier, we saw one of the replica Maori craft being readied for sail.  We next went inside the far end of the museum and saw its wonderful displays regarding the European immigration into New Zealand.  This was followed by a spectacular room with boats from the last 100 years with full sails out.  Included was an America’s cup winner.  Racing speed boats lined the exterior corridor.

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©Jean Janssen Polynesian craft that brought early settlers to New Zealand. Note that one side of the hull is long that the other.

In the front exhibition halls were traditional vessels like the ones used by the Polynesian settlers who came to New Zealand 700-800 years ago from various islands in the South Pacific.  I could have spent several hours in the museum although it actually wasn’t a stop on the tour that I had been very excited about when I read our tour description.  The Maritime Museum is definitely worth dropping in on if your are in the city.

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©Jean Janssen    The sail boat similar to ours carrying the other half of our bus passengers along with the Azamara Quest, our cruise ship, in the Auckland Harbor.

We were hustled across to the marina where a racing boat was waiting to take us out to the bay for a sail.  The passengers from the other bus (which left closer to the scheduled time) were getting off the sailboats.  They will get the full museum tour.  They split our bus group into two boats.  The ride out was interesting.  Before passing under the marina gate, we passed the one remaining house of an America’s Cup crew which is being renovated to another purpose.  Our crew seemed disappointed that they would no longer we housed in the same area.

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©Jean Janssen A view of Auckland from our sailboat in the bay.

We enjoyed a lovely sail out in the harbor.  The day was very hot, but it was a comfortable ride in the cool breeze on the bay.  There was a wonderful view of the city during our sail.    Eventually we saw the same Maori craft we saw being readied out at sail in the bay.  Everyone had been so frustrated by the wait and rush through the museum, that the timing of the sail was perfect.  This was the point where people started to relax and enjoy themselves.  It was over too soon.

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©Jean Janssen The same Maori craft we saw being readied joined us for a sail in the bay. Auckland, New Zealand

Next we were back on the buses to go around the bay to Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium.  Opened in 1985 as Kelly Tarlton’s Undersea World, this marine park is housed in old sewage storage tanks along the Auckland waterfront.  The original concept, by diver and marine archeologist Kelly Tarlton, was to give children the opportunity to see marine life the way a diver would see it.  (Natasha, as a scuba diver, loves this concept.)

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©Jean Janssen Ray above me and against the tank wall at Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium in Auckland, New Zealand

Tarlton pioneered the curved acrylic sheets of the aquarium that allow visitors to pass under the fish tanks; you might look up to see a shark or a stingray above you.  The concept has been adapted by many aquariums around the world.

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Gentoo penguins at Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium in Auckland, New Zealand

With it being a holiday weekend, this attraction was packed.  Sea Life offers various exhibits; the park has been renovated and expanded over the years.  You walk first through an exhibition showing the living conditions of expeditions to Antarctica before arriving at the Penguin Exhibit where I could have stayed all day.  There were two spieces on display, the Gentoo and the King penguins.  8 of the King penguins were sitting on eggs.

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©Jean Janssen King penguins at Kelly Talton’s in Auckland. Some are sitting on their eggs.

The Stingray Bay exhibit is an open-topped tank and you pass lots of interactive exhibits for children before coming to the original acrylic tank.  This is followed by several smaller aquariums and sea horse world before you reach the gift shop and the exit.  The park was rebranded Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium after being purchased in 2012 by Merlin Entertainments who utilizes the SEA LIFE Centres branding.  The park is very family friendly; I enjoyed my visit.

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©Jean Janssen Sea Life has a parking lot along the roadway and is also a stop on the Hop On/Hop Off bus, but who wouldn’t want to ride in this free shuttle from Downtown Auckland.

Next we drove through Parnell on our way to the Winter Gardens, our last stop before the airport.  Parnell is Auckland’s oldest suburb and went through a revitalization in the 1970s with the introduction of sidewalk cafe and boutique shopping.

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©Jean Janssen At the Winter Garden, Auckland Domain, New Zealand

The Winter Garden is in the Auckland Domain, a wonderful park with expansive grassy areas.  Lots of locals were picnicking on this holiday weekend.  We also saw a game of soccer being played where all the participants were inside bubble balls.  The Auckland Domain is the city’s oldest park and it actually located in the suburb of Grafton.  The high point is the War Memorial Museum and the park’s dock pond is the site of the city’s first piped water supply (1866).  The “park has been developed around the cone of an extinct volcano.”

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©Jean Janssen The courtyard and sunken pool at the Winter Garden in the Auckland Domain, New Zealand

Our stop in the park was at the brick step entrance to the Winter Garden.  You could go across the road for tea, but I decided to wait on the airport for food and used our short time there to take photographs.  Up the stairs you come to a covered brick loggia; going through, you find yourself in the courtyard with a sunken pool with fountains.

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©Jean Janssen One of the glass-domed Victorian houses at the Winter Garden, Grafton, New Zealand

The Winter Garden was opened in 1913 and features two barrel-vaulted Victorian style glass houses with rotating exhibits.  The statuary was added in the 1920s and 30s.  I had a wonderful time taking pictures both in and outside the houses.   If we had had more time, it would have been a wonderful place to just sit and relax.

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©Jean Janssen At the Winter Garden in the Auckland Domain, New Zealand

Next we were back on the bus for our trip to the airport.  It was hands on once were got there with most of the check-in counters being self-service.  Since we had several hours to kill and we hadn’t eaten in about 8 hours, we grabbed some fast food and filled out our departure forms before clearing security which again is self-service if you are a citizen of the several countries which are associated with their electronic visa program.  You are photographed going through so they can confirm your identity.

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©Jean Janssen Sand shark at Kellly Talton’s Sea Life Aquarium in Auckland, New Zealand

Once we cleared security we did some shopping to use up our New Zealand dollars and then headed to the very nice lounge where all the drinks were free and you could eat a full meal.  They offer free wifi and all types of seating, including long lounges that could serve as a bed.  Some of our fellow excursion participants took advantage of the showers before their long plane ride home.

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©Jean Janssen Maori craft in the Auckland marina, New Zealand

I downloaded pictures and checked emails in the lounge before departure.  When Boris found some more local currency among his things, I kindly volunteered to spend it on the way to our gate.  Our flight back is direct and just over 13 hours.  Awesome really, when you consider how far away we are from our home in Houston, Texas.  Plus, we get a day back; we’ll cross the date line and actually “get home before we leave”.

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©Jean Janssen Sunken pool at the Winter Garden, Auckland Domain, New Zealand

I enjoyed my day in Auckland, although rushed and starting with a frustrating delay.  There are actually luggage storage facilities within an easy walking distance to the disembarkation terminal.  If I had to do it again, I would probably have stored the bags and done the hop on/hop off bus around town, had lunch in the marina, and enjoyed the wonderful duty free shopping mall downtown before going to the airport.

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©Jean Janssen Puffer fish at Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium, Auckland, New Zealand

The ship excursion did make it easy since our luggage traveled with us.  Given that it was a holiday in town, the excursion also eliminated any concern about grabbing a taxi downtown and making it to the airport on time.  We also by-passed the lines at the places we visited.

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©Jean Janssen “Cruz” at You Yangs State Park, near Melbourne, Australia

Loved our trip.  We probably saw a lot more of New Zealand than Australia.  If Australia was about the animals, then New Zealand was about the scenery, at least the way we saw the two countries.  I think I’ll be back.–Natasha

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©jean Janssen Milford Sound, New Zealand

About travelbynatasha

I am a retired attorney who loves to travel. Several years ago I began working on a Century Club membership achieved by traveling to 100 "foreign" countries. Today, at 49 years of age the count is at 82. Many were visited on land based trips. Some were cruise ports. Some were dive sites. Most have been fascinating.
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