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I have delayed writing this next installment, as we were all disappointed (but understanding) to hear that we are now going to miss our second port – Fiji. A cyclone (a/k/a hurricane) is heading straight for Fiji and safety has to be the number one priority. So while I said earlier that I love sea days (and I do), the only two ports I have not been to are the two we are going to miss. The Captain did announce that they have added a stop at Bay of Islands at the very top of North Island New Zealand and we will have an extra day in Auckland. That is very nice, but I have recently been to both ports; so for me this is a great disappointment.
Crystal has added some extra excursions in the Bay of Islands and Auckland, but I am considering contacting the proprietors of the Bed and Breakfast I stayed at during my last visit to the Bay of Islands. Steve and Emma, owners of The White House in Russell are two of the nicest people I have ever met and they helped me so much when I was there just over two years ago. (You can read my review on Trip Advisor.) The Bay of Islands is very nice, but it is a very small fishing village with not that much to do. It will be a nice change of pace and I really loved my time there. As for Auckland, it a big city; so we will now have plenty of time to explore. We have booked two outside tours with a company I used during my last visit – Potiki Adventures. They are expensive, but they give you the option of private tours and with Ellie’s disability, that is the best choice for us. I was very pleased with them during my last visit and I will have an updated evaluation after we complete the tours.
Back to the ship and our sea days:
Nighttime entertainment has been outstanding. Pianist Bernard Walz was incredible, the Liars Club as always is hysterical, and the Crystal ensemble of singers and dancers puts out the best production numbers of any ship I have been on. There is more, but I think you get the point.
Overall, the food has been excellent, with a few exceptions. Crystal’s food is rated one of the best and I would agree, but we have been disappointed at times. We did have breakfast on our balcony today and that was truly a wonderful experience. Our food was delivered exactly on time and my banana pancakes were among the best I have ever had. I guess my one last comment would be if your expectations are too high, I think you might be in for a disappointment or two.
Activities are where Crystal truly shines. The wide variety of choices; including top notch speakers, duplicate bridge tables and lessons, computer classes, health clinics, religious services, bingo, language lessons, paddle tennis, Ping-Pong, golf, dance lessons, yoga, etc. etc. etc. are unmatched on any other ship I have been on, The biggest challenge is that you can’t do everything.
So that is it for now. I will be back after our visit to the Bay of Islands.
Hello from Art & Ellie
Last edited by artbcpa; December 15th, 2012 at 03:29 PM.
We are now in Auckland for a three day visit – one more than originally scheduled. It is so nice to be able to walk directly from the ship into downtown Auckland without having to take a tender.
The stop at Bay of Islands was a nice break from the six sea days in a row. Even though I have been there before I enjoyed returning to Russell, which is where I stayed on my last visit. Russell is more residential and for me, much more charming than the other easily accessible city of Pahia. Pahia has more shops, but most of them are tourist oriented, which is just not my cup of tea.
For those who are well traveled and know the ins and out about using your telephone outside the US, you can skip this next discussion. Let me start just by saying PLAN AHEAD. Ellie had recently changed her plan from AT&T to Verizon. Even though I do know that AT&T (and T-Mobile) use the GSM system, while Verizon (and Sprint) do not, I did not even think about the problem that would create on this trip. Normally I travel with a world phone, but since Ellie was bringing her phone I decided to leave my phone at home. What a mistake! In order to have her Blackberry work we needed to purchase a sim card. Little did we know that it would be impossible to purchase a sim card in both of our previous stops - Tahiti and Bora Bora - on the weekends. The stop at Bay of Islands gave us our first opportunity to purchase a sim card for Ellie’s phone. It was only $10, but we also had to purchase prepaid minutes, which was another $20. Then the bigger problems began. We had to get Verizon to unlock the phone. WARNING! – Verizon will make it as difficult as possible. Try finding a telephone number on their website. You might think that a telephone company would have their telephone number prominently displayed. Not Verizon. In fact if you look at many companies, you might have to go five or six layers into their website before you can find it. Eventually I was able to find an overseas number by doing a search on Google. Of course, calling them on the ship’s phone was kind of expensive – LOL - especially when they do the transfer dance from one agent to another. It didn’t matter to them that we were paying $2.50 a minute. They were doing their best to discourage us from being able to unlock the phone. But the story gets even better. While we could now use the telephone for calls, no one told us that Blackberry is incompatible with the systems in New Zealand. Not the gentlemen who sold us the sim card; not Verizon, not 2 degrees when we activated the card. So Ellie could still not get her e-mails. A total waste of time and money.
Getting back to our trip and Auckland, we are actually happy to have an extra day here. It does seem a little strange having your ship as a base for three days in a port. On our first day, we wandered into downtown to explore the shopping. Auckland is a big city and the shopping centers and stores are like being in any big city, but it is always interesting to me to see what different kinds of things are sold wherever we travel. Auckland is no exception. There is a wonderful silk shop in the shopping center with colors I have never seen in the US. At a sports store – Champions – I found a HAKA t-shirt. For those who might not be familiar with Haka, that is the dance the native Maori do when they stick out their tongue. We returned to the ship for lunch and decided to stay on board the rest of the day as we have two full day tours planned for the following days.
Ellie has been taking beginning bridge lessons and we found two wonderful people who were willing to play with a beginner. It was lots of fun for Ellie and I and I hope for the other two players. It looks like I may have found a partner for when we get home. Ellie has wonderful card sense and loves playing games. The rest of the day was the typical ship day as we returned to Prego for dinner, went to the show, and actually went to bed early so we would be ready for our days on tour.
My next installment will be after we return home. Bye for now.
Enjoy Aukland. It is one of our favorite places. We stayed over 3 days after a cruise on Symphony years ago. Our tour guide was a Maori Prince and he was really good. I can still pronounce the names of some of the towns he took us to, but I can't spell them. We enjoyed the tours, the food, the wildlife and the jewelry stores :-)) My beautiful jade ring came from Aukland as did the little koala bears that clip onto the Christmas tree. Have a great time. Enjoying your posts. joyous
Final installment from Auckland. What a beautiful city with lots to do! Having the ship as a base was a wonderfully unique experience. We just loved being able to walk on and off the ship and to be downtown in just a few minutes. The 360 degree view from the Skytower is magnificent and I got some fabulous photos of the city both in the day and at night - see separate thread.
We took private individual tours and got to see a lot of the surrounding area. The Auckland Museum is well worth visiting. We even discovered the Auckland special place for pizza - Hell's Pizza.
Overall we loved our Crystal cruise and the minor blips were not enough to taint the great food and service. But for us what sets Crystal apart from the other luxury lines is the entertainment and enrichment programs. We love the evening shows, the lectures, and the variety of activities. Our biggest problem is deciding which of the many offerings we will attend (and which ones we will miss).
For anyone who says that they don't want to cruise because they feel they will be bored, they just have never experienced Crystal.
I hope my blog has been helpful and please feel free to ask any questions.
Enjoyed your posts and also liked your summary of what sets Crystal apart from other luxury lines.
Question: I've been to Aukland a few times and enjoy the city. Where is Hell's Pizza located and is it different then other types of pizza?
Hell's Pizza is their most popular chain pizza company. They have a wide variety of toppings and offer various crusts including one that is gluten free. Each location is decorated differently, but emphasizes the same fun theme with ghouls and skeletons, etc. We had the chicken with BBQ sauce and onions. Excellent food with fun decor.