New Zealand

After cancelling several trips to New Zealand over the past few years, Linda finally got her chance to visit on a cruise aboard the Regent Seven Seas Explorer. I had been to New Zealand on a Tauck tour about ten years before with Dani, and I was hoping the cruise would be an easy way to visit some of the highlights. As it turned out, as with Hawaii, it wasn’t a good way to experience the land. But the ship was beautiful.

We connected through LA to New Zealand. The new Delta One suites make 16 hour flights no problem.

We spent a couple of days in Auckland to get on schedule. I had a chance to meet for lunch at Le Garde-Manger with Steve Graham, and author writing a book about Linn Electronics, where I was COO in the 1980s. And we had a lovely dinner at The Grove.

The Regent Seven Seas Explorer bills itself as the most beautiful cruise ship ever built, and it’s hard to argue with that. All of the materials are phenomenal, the interior design is stunning, and the accommodations are great, even in the normal suites like we had. Service was also perfect. Everything is included, from dinks to shore excursions; our favorite benefit was the free daily laundry service!

Surprisingly, we didn’t think the food was as good as on its somewhat less fancy sister line, Oceania, which is still our favorite. Oceania has several ships the same size as the Explorer—about 750 passengers—but they also have some 1000 passenger ships, and we find the slightly larger size provides, ironically, an assortment of more intimate spaces.

Whereas the Tauck Tour had taken us on some very interesting excursions, the shore excursions on this trip were pretty much a bust. In particular, the “Journey into Middle Earth” was a pointless 8-hour slog on a bus to literally nowhere—a site where they built a set for a movie twenty years ago and then dismantled it ten weeks later.

Cruising Milford Sounds was very beautiful, though.

We had better luck with the shore excursion in Tasmania, with a visit to a very nice cave (165 feet deep—than goodness for handrails!) and an animal park.

Obligatory Kangaroo and Tasmanian Devil photos.

Overall impression was that the ship was great, but the itinerary not so much.

In Sydney we checked into our lovely room at the Four Seasons Hotel and had lunch at one of our favorite sushi spots, Sake.

Linda had been bothered by a cold for much of the cruise, which wasn’t surprising since it seemed like at least 15% of the passengers were sick from the start. That night I started feeling like I was getting it, and by the next day I was pretty sure it wasn’t a cold. Sure enough, she picked up some Covid tests, and we were both positive.

We had planned to spend the week dining around Sydney and visiting our dear friend Pamela, but that turned into a week of isolation in the room. We had also planned on visiting friends in Los Angeles for a week on our way back, but we canceled those plans and flew straight through to Orlando. So kind of an anticlimactic end to our trip. Glad we’ve both had six Covid shots, so it was just unpleasant but nothing worse.

And the view flying out of LA was very pretty: