Saturday, June 4, 2011

WC2011 New Zealand's Sounds

We were back aboard Crystal Serenity after our two day inland excursion. Wheat we needed was a sea day...and we had one full of beauty.

The day started early in the Palm Court. Of course, Jane and cousin Bill were up for the view...and coffee.

I couldn't say "bright and early" because it was very cloudy with intermittent showers all day.

(Cut me some slack...I was outdoors in drippy weather and no makeup...definitely not camera ready!!!)

At 9am, we entered Dusky Sound.

Mid-morning, I attended a very interesting lecture on the Tasman Sea, aka "the Ditch", then we headed back up to Palm Court for views of Doubtful Sound.

After lunch in the Dining Room (burger and a glass of gruner veltliner..and a pistachio and chocolate ganache tart--I just had to mention it!) it was time for a bit of a relaxing afternoon before we cruised through Milford Sound.

Suzanne and Bill enjoyed the scenery.

As did lots of other guests.

Lady Bowen Falls was spectacular.

As was Stirling Falls.

Crystal had advised guests that a helicopter had been hired to film Serenity as she made passage through Milford Sound, and asked everyone to be on deck or on their verandas to wave. Despite the rain, many guests (me included) braved the raindrops to pose. Everyone was in a merry mood, playing in the rain like children!

The Captain got Serenity as close to the falls as possible, and everyone seemed to enjoy the helicopter buzzing overhead.

This area of the world is as beautiful as anything I've ever seen....and rightfully deserves it's reputation as one of the most scenic spots on the planet!

Friday, June 3, 2011

WC2011 Queenstown to Dunedin

Waking up in Queenstown at the Sofitel, we realized we had finally pushed our luck with the weather. It was drizzily with very low cloud cover. This did not bode well for views from the top of Bob's Peak.

Our views from the hotel room were nice, though.

And the room had the most beautiful wall hanging...

I took several photos and want to recreate it one day!

We TRIED the gondola up Bob's Peak.

Fail. Epic fail.

So we hit the road.

I really didn't mind the weather- I think it adds character to photographs that the sun never does.

We stopped for a brief look around the charming hamlet of Arrowtown, a former gold-mining boomtown.

Whilst stretching our legs, our driver noticed a quail walking alongside the path. I moved as quickly as I could to get a photo, but this was the best I could do.

Then we passed Wooing Tree Vineyard

whose name is pretty self explanatory. Only tree in the field.

Our next stop was brief, but as there were no takers to actively participate at the Old Kawarau Bridge, the site of the world's first bungee jump, time didn't matter.

Even though it was drizzily, we were able to watch one brave Asian lass take the jump!

And the restroom signs are hilarious!

After the excitement of all that bungee-ing, it was time for lunch. Oh, what a lovely spot The Packing Shed is.

Scattered around the beautifully kept garden are wonderful sculptures.

A wee bit of rain only made the landscape lovelier.

Included was the most DELICIOUS sauce/chutney of cherries and onions.

YUM. Serious yum. I went back three times just to get the chutney, eating it by the spoonful. Oh, how I wish the chef would have parted with the recipe!

Wonderful food, beautiful sculpture, GREAT homemade goodies like an intense balsamic reduction.....all topped off by our delightful 4 year-old (I think) waiter, Jack. He was very serious in his duties of refilling our table water! He was absolutely PRECIOUS--but moved too fast for me to get a photo of him.

We could have stayed there happily slurping up that cherry/onion concoction, but we had to take off toward Dunedin and the ship. We quickly toured the "Scottish" area of New Zealand (which is charming in its own right) and managed to get mooned by some college guys moving in for the beginning of term. What a giggle!

We quickly stopped by the old train station for a look at some beautiful architectural details....

...and then it was a sprint down to Port Chalmers to find our lovely lady waiting for us.

We were barely up the gangway when it was time to set sail, full of two glorious days inland.

It sounds trite to say it was a trip of a lifetime, but it was.

It really was!

WC 2011 Mt. Cook to Queenstown

Staying at the historic Hermitage Hotel in Mt. Cook was exceptional. Dinner was lovely and the view incomparable.

The view from our room.

The hotel entrance.

After visiting the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Center, we headed toward Queenstown. The day started out a bit grey, but gave way to sunshine by day's end.

We stopped during our drive to sample the divine (and I mean DIVINE) local produce--especially the cherries.

We stopped for lunch at the Waitiri Creek Wines .

The tasting room is housed in an old Presbyterian chapel. This charming location suited us perfectly as did the lovely luncheon of salmon and lamb with some beautiful wines, especially the Pinot Gris.

More vineyards. I never got tired of seeing them.


We arrived in Queenstown, amid a bit of mist, around 4:30pm. I had about an hour to have a look around before my cousins and I took off for a jetboat ride. CruiseGran had gone the last time she visited, so she sent us off to be soaked.

You know, alot of times, I just go along with the crowd. This time, for some reason, I almost didn't go. I mean, a BOAT ride? We were already on a GIGANTIC boat ride for three weeks--we really need another one? But our brilliant travel advisor, Teri Crane, told us we absolutely should not miss this ride, so, like a lemming, I went along.

I am so glad I did.

Looks innocent enough...a bit shallow.

We had to pack away our cameras just after we picked up our life preservers.

Shotover Jet is one of those boatrides that you think should be available at places like DisneyWorld. That it occurs in a totally natural setting is almost surreal. We got in this boat that draws only four inches of water and head out at incredible speeds through sheer-rock canyons.

Suzanne and Bill sat in front next to the driver. You can see what happened to them.

Although we couldn't take photos (potential water damage, not to mention you hang on for dear life half the time) they took photos for us.


As we leave....

And after about 20 minutes....

Definitely worth it!!!!

To give you an idea of what we did, here's a video of the NEXT boat up and down the river.

We returned to the Sofitel Hotel, and, after a bath in the HUGE bathtub,

complete with wall mounted TV, we gathered together for a short walk through charming Queenstown to the Botswana Butchery for dinner.

Good beef. Excellent crème brulee. Very long day.

But worth every minute.