For 13 nights, my husband Marcus and I sailed from Melbourne to New Zealand and back with his parents to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. It was an exciting voyage that involved hugging alpacas, gawking at majestic fiords, exploring Hobbiton, and numerous other highlights!
In this post and in the next few posts I’ll share some of our favorite outings and activities. This post will focus mostly on the fiords, plus a brief look at the ship and our first port day in Dunedin.
On Board the Golden Princess
One of our favorite places was the back of the ship (pictured above and below) which offered an expansive, unobstructed view of the Tasman Sea on the journey to New Zealand and back. There’s something quite calming and humbling about being surrounded by so much water without any land in sight.
Since cruise ships are typically busy and crowded it was always an unexpected delight to find a quiet place to ourselves now and then. It was quite cold and windy when we sailed the Tasman to New Zealand, so the deck chairs out back were often stacked and packed away, which was one reason it was so quiet back there. In contrast, the indoor pool was almost always crowded, loud and pungent with chlorine. Marcus and I prefer to seek out the quiet, crowdless spaces so we contentedly avoided the busy areas in favor of relative peace and solitude.
We loved watching the tumultuous churning of the water out the rear of the ship, which created a mesmerizingly bubbly froth (below).
The Promenade (below) was one of our favorite parts of the ship, as it was a great way to get movement and fresh air.
Fiordland National Park
After 2 days crossing the Tasman Sea, we reached New Zealand where the ship cruised slowly through Fiordland National Park, where beautiful green mountains rise steeply from the serene waters.
Marcus and I are total night owls; early rising doesn’t happen naturally for us. However the day we arrived at Fiordland National Park it didn’t take any convincing for us to jump out of bed at a decent hour and eagerly make our way up to breakfast, first stopping outside to soak in the captivating scenery.
The view was instantly breathtaking. I love mountains and this was my first time in a fiord. It reminded me of Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland where steep mountains tower over the valley, only this time the valley was filled with water. Above was our view at breakfast, which we enjoyed while sitting outside and soaking up the view and the vibes.
Although I grew up in Florida, where the steepest hill is a mere 345 feet (105 m) above sea level, I’m a mountain girl at heart. I’m captivated by mountains and forests - their size and greenery and all the life they contain.
Above is an iPhone panorama of our view after breakfast, when we roamed the ship to examine the landscape from every angle. The air was cool and crisp and the passengers were abuzz with a calm excitement as everyone gazed out at the scenery.
As you can see it was an overcast day with low clouds drifting amongst the mountains, which is typical in the fiords. The weather held out as we cruised through Milford Sound, which is the most popular fiord to visit in New Zealand due to its natural beauty, rainforests and waterfalls.
The weather certainly had character and created a dramatic sense of atmosphere.
In the pic above I love the juxtaposition of the crass consumerism as embodied by the cruise ship, contrasted against the gorgeous serenity of the fiords.
So many beautiful vistas came into view as the ship slowly cruised through the fiords.
As we said goodbye to Milford Sound and made our way towards Doubtful and Thomas Sounds, the clouds began rolling in more heavily, portending the weather we’d face in the fiords ahead.
A couple hours later the ship sailed into Thompson Sound and then into and out of Doubtful Sound, New Zealand’s second most popular fiord. Doubtful Sound is longer and larger than Milford Sound, but the peaks are not as dramatic (though they were still impressive to us).
On our way out of Doubtful Sound we crossed paths with another Princess ship, the one that runs from Sydney to New Zealand and back to Sydney. That ship took the opposite route around New Zealand than we did, so they were on their last day in NZ while we were just starting our NZ adventure.
We found out later that we were lucky that our ship was even able to enter the fiords, because ships aren’t allowed to enter during inclement weather, which worsened throughout the day. After Thompson and Doubtful Sounds, the ship sailed through Dusky Sound but by then it was raining and overcast so we couldn’t see anything and contentedly stayed indoors, happy that we got to experience what we did.
Dunedin, New Zealand
Our first port day in New Zealand was Dunedin, a city of 130,000+ making it the second largest city in NZ’s South Island. At the port we were picked up by Marcus’s cousin Kate, who with her husband and 3-year old son gave us all a grand tour of Dunedin.
After coffee and a snack we went to Larnarch Castle, billed as New Zealand’s only castle (and it’s a “mock” castle, at that). We didn’t enter the building but paid to enter the grounds which had lovely gardens with beautiful views of Otago Harbour.
Thanks for reading! Coming soon: alpacas, Hobbiton and Te Papa!