Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
June, 2019 - Mount Denali, Alaska

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Bay of Islands, New Zealand - November 12, 2023

Our final port in New Zealand was Bay of Islands. This was a tender port with a beautiful harbor full of many islands.

We had booked a tour through Princess to visit the Glow Worm caves. Our first stop was Manginangina, part of the Puketi forest. It is one of the best remaining examples of subtropical rainforests in northern New Zealand. This part of the forest survived early European logging and farming due to its steep terrain and poor soil. Around the beginning of the century, huge tracts of kauri forest were destroyed. Only 3% of the original forest now remains.

Kauri trees are among the world's mightiest trees, growing to over 165 feet tall, with trunk girths up to 50 feet, and living for over 2,000 years. Here are a few examples of the many we saw.

The silver tree fern is a national symbol for New Zealand. We saw several examples of these ferns. The underside of the fronds are silver.

Our next stop on the tour was the city of Kawakawa to see the famous Hundertwasser toilets. What, toilets??? Hundertwasser, the Austrian-born artist, famous for his charismatic colorful approach to design and architecture, made Kawakawa his home due to his deep desire to be as close to nature as possible. 

In the late 1990s he was asked to redesign the public toilets in Kawakawa. He participated in the design and build, and they remain his only building in the Southern Hemisphere. They opened in 1999, and were his last architectural work before his death in 2000.

The outside entrance to the toilets

Inside, the toilets are sure something to experience, with lots of glass, mosaics and tile all around. They are fully functioning and open for public use. You just have to be careful you don't end up in a tourist's photo!!

There are many examples of his style throughout the entire city with lots of colorful columns on businesses and public areas. There is a cultural center and library with information on the artist and his works on display. What a fun and quirky place to visit!

Our next stop were the Kawiti Glow Worm Caves. These caves are owned by the Kawiti family, and they have been guiding tours here since the 1950s. The glow worms in these caves are unique to New Zealand and thrive in damp,  humid, dark environments like caves. They catch small flying insects for food with their sticky webs called fishing lines. Their tails emit bright green/blue light. No photography was allowed inside the caves. Here is our group entering using a wooden boardwalk.

The next two pictures are from the website. We followed our guide on a narrow boardwalk as he explained all about the caves and the glow worms. Before entering, every sixth person in line was given an electric lantern which they kept lit while we were walking. In a couple of spots, they were instructed to turn off the lanterns, and we were treated to an amazing display of the thousands of luminous glow worms on the ceiling. Another truly remarkable and extraordinary experience!!

On our way back to the ship, we stopped at an overlook next to a golf course. What a great view!

The crew on the pool deck had some fun with the pool towels.

We had two days crossing the Tasman Sea on our way back to Sydney. This body of water is infamous for its rough seas. We did have rain one of the days, and it was pretty rough, but nothing severe. Here's our last view of New Zealand and the last sunset as we sailed back to Australia.

We were gone for 35 days on this adventure. The weather was just fantastic everywhere we went. I had heard from others that often the ships can't dock at some of the ports due to severe weather. We were able to dock at every port, and enjoyed excellent weather everywhere we went. Even places that are notorious for bad weather. How lucky was that!!!

This adventure was the trip of a lifetime with memories we will never forget. Both Australia and New Zealand were amazing places to visit. If I had to choose, I would pick New Zealand as my favorite as each place we went was different and wonderful. Everything we saw and did was spectacular. 

Our experience with Princess Cruises was very much less than spectacular! The ship itself and our time on board were okay. These were our ninth and tenth cruises, so we have enough experience to make some valid observations. 

We had two different cabins due to the fact that Princess cancelled our first cruise after we booked these back to back cruises, and by the time we were able to book another cruise, our first cabin was gone. They made it available after the other trip at a higher price a little later on, and I booked it. In  hindsight, I should have cancelled the whole thing at that time. This was the first of several times they screwed us over.

I had booked several of the most popular excursions well in advance as they can sell out before you even board the ship. A month before the trip, they cancelled two of those excursions without ever notifying us. I found out when I saw the credit on our credit card. To add insult to injury, the credit they gave us was less than we paid as the exchange rate had changed. Everything was paid in Australian dollars. This is theft in my opinion.

I was able to rebook those cancelled excursions after a lot of time online finding an alternative at higher costs. Once we were on the trip, they cancelled another excursion. I spoke with the Customer Relations Manager about the issues we had. He apologized and offered us a free dinner at the steakhouse. That never materialized. 

We booked transfer to the airport through the excursions desk. They took us to the wrong airport. On both of the cruises, we were given a credit because they had overcharged us for port fees. These credits were supposed to be reimbursed to us within 14 days of the last day of the cruise. We got the first check six weeks after the first cruise. I'm still waiting for the second check after three months and numerous emails to Princess. What a racket!! We will never sail with them again!! 

We didn't let these problems and frustrations ruin our trip, though. If you get the chance, I highly recommend you travel to this part of the world. Just go on a different cruise line!!!

We returned to Sydney early in the morning. A Facebook member posted this picture of our ship in port just after we arrived.

At the airport, we saw Australia's version of Burger King.

We flew back to Los Angeles on Qantas Airlines. It was a 13.5 hour flight leaving Brisbane at 10 pm. This airline did not disappoint. We were fed three tasty meals and two more beverage offerings. The seats in economy were quite spacious compared to most other flights we were on. As we slept part of the time, it really wasn't a bad flight at all.

This ends my travel blog of our Kauai, Australia and New Zealand adventure. I'm currently planning the next adventure. Stay tuned.

 Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

1 comment:

  1. I've never wanted to cruise but I do love a lot of the places they go. Your trip looked fantastic. Great job capturing it with photos.


We'd love to hear from you!