Napier, New Zealand
Some excitement last night! We were 3 hours outside of Tauranga (9pm) and a volcano was erupting about 2 miles from the ship, portside, or directly beyond our stateroom. The area itself (New Zealand) is scattered with dozens of volcanos – most are dormant, but we were fortunate enough to pass one that was discharging steam & lava. This wasn’t a major eruption by any means – the steam was easily visible because of the half-moon illumination, and one could see a slight orange glow at its base. We watched the activity for several minutes, but then returned inside to escape the chilly winds. As pleasant as daytime temperatures are in New Zealand, we’re under the influence of Antarctic airflow. Evenings can be (and are) quite chilly, with norms in the mid-50’s and no humidity – reminds us very much of Phoenix.
Napier, New Zealand…it just keeps getting better!! Napier is a very popular tourist city and they say it’s the most photographed sightseer destinations in the country – & easy to understand why. I’ve included a few photos here, but they don’t begin to capture the beauty – what a cityscape! We caught a shuttle bus from the pier to what is known as Marine Parade, which lines the public beach areas. The promenade is aimed at folks like us – you can play miniature golf, go roller-skating, or take a dip in the public baths. The entire area is filled with public gardens with neatly manicured plants, thoughtfully planned, and peacefully arranged. Just adjacent to the beach is Marineland where trainers run seals, penguins, and otters through hoops. Just beyond the small city, there are more than 20 vineyards. We started on the beach – beautiful, multicolored ocean, bitterly cold water, and black pebble beach. The ocean here has a treacherous undertow, so we saw no one in the water. We walked along the surf at least 3 miles collecting huge seashells deposited earlier by the receding tides. I plan to take these home and sand them down to their natural finish – we have at least a dozen, along with small pieces of driftwood resembling fossilized, calcified fish. By the time we finished our beach walk, thousands of residents filled the Marine Parade and there was a national bagpipe contest taking place. Interesting music, but if I can’t whistle or hum it, I have a hard time maintaining interest. We then walked the downtown streets for a couple hours exploring the many shops & gardens – stopped at a local deli for a quick lunch.
New Zealand wines are considered some of the best in the world, and Holland America encourages purchasing. Unlike typical cruises where bringing alcohol onboard is prohibited, the World Voyage is completely different – you can buy and carry-on as much wine & liquor as you want – no penalties – no corkage fees. The wall unit adjacent to the desk in our room contains several bottles of Bacardi Rum, Grey Goose, champagne, and wine – JUST IN CASE!! Our last stop before heading back to the ship was of course, the wine store. If Ric Spargo is reading this, the name of the store is New Zealand Wine Centre – website: www.nzwinecentre.co.nz. We spent about 20 minutes with the cellarmaster (Karl) discussing the various cabernet vintages produced here – I told him I wanted the best he could recommend. The store itself occupies what was formerly a bank, so he motioned for me to follow him. He then opened a locked vault and inside were perhaps 200 bottles of limited, special reserve cabernet, leftover from the last good harvest in 2008. He picked out 4 bottles for us – I have nothing to go on at this point but his word. We have two bottles of Hatton Estate – Gimblett Road, and two bottles of Clearview Estate – Enigma. We’ll open our first bottle on Valentine’s Day and hope for the best! The chief wine steward on the ship (Matt) says we made excellent purchases, and that he may join us when we pop the cork! I MAY let him smell it!
In summary here, Napier itself was named after Sir Charles Napier, a British war hero. One of Napier’s most significant events occurred on February 3, 1931 when the city was leveled by an earthquake, killing 258 people. The town was totally destroyed. They say 40 square miles of today’s Napier was undersea before the earthquake raised it. This is yet another truly amazing city in New Zealand – what a country!
We sail this evening at 6:00pm – next stop, Wellington, New Zealand. I can’t imagine another city surpassing or even equaling what we’ve seen here since arriving earlier in the week.
Before signing off on Napier, two thoughts. I mentioned the lack of police presence in our other New Zealand stops – same situation here – no police visible anywhere. Another observation – there were dozens of children running around without adult supervision – kids on the beach, kids in the parks, just KIDS BEING KIDS without the fear of strangers and other crimes. How very refreshing! This reminds me so much of how it was when I was growing up! I asked a couple of local residents about the children running without supervision – the response was somewhat surprising…”You have problems with molesters, mate??”