Oracle Park, Home of the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

Oracle Park, Home of the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, July 10, 2024.
Oracle Park, Home of the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Cruise Day 12 - Tauranga & Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand - Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Today's destinations: Tauranga (port) and Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand. 

The port city of Tauranga is set on the beautiful Bay of Plenty. Rotorua is a thermal area 1-1/2 hours away by car or bus.

Ship's arrival: 7:45 am.
All aboard: 6:45 pm.

Today's forecast: partly cloudy, 70° F.

Our tour bus took us through Tauranga on the way to "The Rotorua Experience." The NCL Spirit's tour description says, "Depart the pier and drive south from the early-1900s town of Tauranga to Te Puke, the world's largest kiwi-growing region. This small, furry fruit, once known as the Chinese gooseberry, has greatly boosted the area's prosperity. 

"Passing through Rotorua, you'll head to Te Puia, home to the internationally renowned spouting Pohutu Geyser. Te Puia also boasts silica terraces, pools of boiling mud, and dramatic steam vents. During your visit, you'll see young Maori apprentices being taught the ancient arts of carving and weaving before discovering moving on to the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, Rotorua's largest and best-known thermal area. Exploration of the site is on foot as you pass boiling mud pools and the soaring Pohutu Geyser. 

"Then enter the sacred Marae and enjoy a Maori performance, including the famous 'haka' war dance, before being guided into the Wharekai for your hangi-inspired lunch."

We boarded the tour bus this morning for an all-day tour to Rotorua, a center of thermal activity. In my mind, I pictured something akin to Yellowstone National Park. We will visit Te Puia, home to the Pohutu Geyser, learn about the Maori culture, and have a buffet lunch.

On the 1-1/2 hour drive to Rotorua, we traveled through an agricultural area on the North Island of New Zealand. Our driver/guide was a wealth of information. First, we passed through cornfields.   

Cornfields south of Tauranga.

Soon, we were traveling through Te Puke, the world's largest kiwi fruit-growing region. The original kiwi fruit were green when imported from China as the Chinese gooseberry (later renamed kiwi fruit in New Zealand). The old kiwi trees with green fruit have thick foliage and chaotic, heavy branches.

A new, genetically engineered, more delicate golden kiwi fruit was developed with thinner vines. Hail or a freeze can damage this delicate golden fruit. The new trees' thinner vines are trained to grow up strings similar to hops. When the season is over, the vines die making it easy to prune them. If you want to know everything about kiwifruit, as the Kiwis call them, read this in-depth article:

An orchard with the old green kiwi fruit.

This orchard is growing the new golden kiwi
fruit. You can see them growing up the strings.

These windbreaks protect kiwi fruit
from damaging winds.

When we arrived at Te Puia, I was confused by the signage. Our written tour information (see quote above), discussed Te Puia as having the Pohutu Geyser, but later it said Pohutu Geyser was at the Whakarawarawa Thermal Reserve. I had to look this up online later and find out the difference. I went straight to the horse's mouth: If you are interested in the history and the differences, you can read it all on the link. I'm glad I read it.

In the photo below, the buildings reflect a variety of tribal carving styles and intricately decorated, and impressive wooden panels.

Living Village at Whakarewarewa. This is
Rotowhio Marae, a tribe's gathering place.

Our tour guide taught us how to pronounce this
and then had us repeat it three times! Funny!

The trail to the Whakarewarewa Geyser Terrace passed by and through the Kiwi (bird) Conservation Centre. Numerous signs gave information on the elusive kiwi. The inside of the centre is kept dark as kiwi are active at night. They are very sensitive so we had to be very quiet. We could not take photos or use lights.

Pohutu Geyser is ending its eruption.

Pohutu Geyser goes back to steaming.

Whakarewarewa Geyser Terrace.

Silica formations.

Information about the natural steam vent
cooker below. 

Natural steam vent cooker.

The Blueys Pool in Te Whakarewarewa, 
Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand.

From the volcanic to the creative, our next stop was the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. Here, we watched locals create works of art using different mediums and techniques from ancient to modern.

Maori Arts and Crafts Institute.

Patterns inspired by nature.

Tattoo patterns.

New Zealand flax designs.

New Zealand flax creations.

Kiwi are nocturnal birds so it is hard
 to spot them. This exhibit lets us see one.

Below is a video of the "Haka" war dance at Te Whatarewarewa, New Zealand. I'm sorry about the jumpiness of the video. Oops!


We finished our tour of Te Whakarewarewa at their huge dining complex for a marvelous buffet lunch. In my opinion, this was the best part of our day. The food was fresh and the variety was bountiful. We did not want for anything. Oh, and the Pavlova for dessert, OMG! I have never had Pavlova before. They had to keep bringing out fresh platters of it (and not just because of me LOL!). I had THREE servings. Pavlova is a pillowy, pudding-y, whipped cream dessert covered in fresh berries. My taste buds were in heaven!

When our meal was finished, we boarded the tour bus for the 1-1/2 hour trip to the ship. We did a little sightseeing on our way back. Our tour driver drove us through neighborhoods and town. He talked about the volcanic activity in the area. People who own property here may have their yards, homes, or businesses swallowed up by mud pits or develop hot pools and steam vents in their yards.

The Rotorua Museum below is housed in the former Bath House building which was opened in 1908. The Bath House is a half-timbered building that has been called the most impressive Elizabethan Revival building in New Zealand. 

Rotorua Museum opened in the south wing of the Bath House in 1969; Rotorua Art Gallery opened in the north wing in 1977. In 1988 the museum and gallery combined to become The Rotorua Museum of Art and History.

Our tour bus driver told us the museum closed in 2016 because it did not meet New Zealand earthquake standards. He said it's a shame that this gorgeous, historic building is rotting. In August 2023, the Rotorua Lakes Council which owns the building, voted to restore and reopen the Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga
o Te Arawa In Government Gardens. No word on when that might happen.

The Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga
o Te Arawa In Government Gardens.

The Gate House in Government Gardens.

Hot Pool at Kuairau Park - we only saw it
from the tour bus window.

Here, the hot water of Lake Rotorua meets Puarenga
Stream at the head of the lake. The water
smells like sulfur and has a lot of minerals.

Lake Rotorua.

Beautiful forested hillsides with tree ferns.
This photo shows how tall tree ferns get!!

Looking through tree ferns to Lake Rotorua.

On our way back into Tauranga, we drove past the beautiful beaches on the Bay of Plenty.

Bay of Plenty, Tauranga, North Island, NZ.

Bay of Plenty, Tauranga, North Island, NZ.

Bay of Plenty, Tauranga, North Island, NZ.

Bay of Plenty, Tauranga, North Island, NZ.

Bay of Plenty, Tauranga, North Island, NZ.

A campervan park in Tauranga, New Zealand.

The Norwegian Spirit is in front.

Upon our return to town, our tour bus was stuck in traffic. It took us quite a while to return to the ship. Bob decided to go on walkabout in Tauranga. I went back to our room. Bob made it back to the ship before it sailed.

Dinner tonight was our last specialty dining experience on the NCL Spirit at Le Bistro French restaurant. It was an amazing culinary experience.

This evening, we packed our bags and put them in the hall for the porters. Thursday morning, we disembark in Auckland, New Zealand where we will spend three nights.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Cruise Day 11 - A 1931 Earthquake, Art Deco, and Murals Highlight Our Napier, North Island, New Zealand Bus Tour - Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Today's destination: Napier, North Island, New Zealand. 

Napier calls itself the Art Deco Capital of the World and it's also a leading wine travel destination. Leveled by an earthquake in 1931, Napier was rebuilt in the then-modern Art Deco architectural style. Along with Miami Beach, Napier is one of the best examples of this style, with many of its structures well preserved. As a result, Napier boasts the world's largest concentration of Art Deco buildings.

Ship's arrival: 8am.
Last shuttle from town: 2:30 pm.
All aboard: 3 pm

Today's forecast: mostly sunny, 73.5 F.

The tour we're on today is the Napier City Drive and the National Aquarium of New Zealand, an attraction exhibiting every imaginable species of marine life, including odd creatures that local fishermen have donated. There are displays of giant squid, living coral reefs, and tanks filled with seahorses, eels, and fish indigenous to New Zealand. The National Aquarium even houses a variety of land animals, including kiwis and lizards such as the world's oldest tuatara hatched in captivity. 

As we were on our way to the aquarium on Marine Parade (the coastal highway) our driver pointed out seven homes that were not damaged in the 1931 earthquake. Locally, those homes are known as "The Seven Sisters." I was able to capture five of them in a photo taken through the bus's window.

Five of "The Seven Sisters" on Marine Parade.

Three buses from our cruise ship converged on the aquarium as well as buses from two other ships. It was a zoo; wait, I mean an aquarium. 

Our tour bus driver gave us an hour to tour the aquarium and cautioned us to return to this bus. We had an hour to explore the museum. Hmm, our tour description said we'd have 1-1/2 hours. Oh, well. We raced through while trying to see through the crowds in front of the exhibits. We made it out with time to spare. That wasn't how we saw this visit going!

Here's what we were able to see...

Art in the entry stairwell.

African Cichlids.

Interesting fish behavior.

Pacu look similar to piranha.

Grass carp.

What's in the wetlands?

Koi carp.

Water dragon.


I have spent most of my time dodging people and trying to get a few good photos. I apologize for the quality of these photos. The lighting could be better. There's too much glare as well as low-light situations.

African Moony fish.

Clown fish.

Sailfin tang.

Korora (Little Penguin). We did not see
these in Picton, but here they are now.

Little penguins.

Little penguins.

Longfin eel.
Hawkesbill turtle. [Photo by Bob Alton.]

Big-bellied seahorse.

There's a glass tunnel so we can watch
fish swim all around us.

This helps with identifying shore life.

This helps with identifying shore life.

Upon exiting the museum, I wanted to explore outside. We had a half-hour. There are huge murals on the side and back walls of the museum. The coastline is pretty here and there is a nice sculpture. 

"Trawlermen," by Alan Strathern.

Bob appreciates the pretty fountain.

Murals on the outside of The National 
Aquarium of New Zealand.

Murals on the outside of The National 
Aquarium of New Zealand

This is the view behind the aquarium.

Murals on the outside of The National 
Aquarium of New Zealand

Murals on the outside of The National 
Aquarium of New Zealand

We boarded the bus for an hour-long driving tour to check out the Art Deco buildings in Napier. Here's the story of what happened in Napier when the 1931 earthquake hit. The cliff in town rose by six feet! Napier used to be horseshoe-shaped with Hawke's Bay in the center of the horseshoe. That all changed with the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that lasted 2-1/2 minutes! 

It was feared there would be a tsunami, but the sea flowed out and did not come back. The bottom of the bay rose up and became land. 

A map of the changes to the landmass
after the 7.9 magnitude earthquake.

In addition, fires broke out and destroyed most of the buildings in town. That is why Napier had to rebuild.

Historical photo located in an art alley.

Historical photo located in an art alley.

Historical photo located in an art alley.

Bob and I are happy we took the bus tour because we went farther than we would have walked on our own. Here are Art Deco buildings...

This is the "Button House." In the early 
1900s, it used to be a button factory. 
It is now a studio-style apartment.

The famous National Tobacco Company, Ltd.

Art Deco home.

Art Deco home.

Art Deco home.

My favorite Art Deco home.

After we finished our bus tour, Bob and I set out on foot, wandering back and forth on Napier's city streets to see what else we find.

The former Australian Mutual Provident
Society Building. It is now the Art Deco Trust.

The former Ministry of Works Building built
in 1938 in the Art Deco and Stripped 
Classical style.

Waiapu Anglican Cathedral of St. John the
Evangelist. This is the first cathedral in the
world to see the morning sun.

Hastings Street, Napier, New Zealand.

Art Deco Masonic Hotel, Napier, NZ.

The former State Theatre, Napier, NZ.

Historic Art Deco buildings in Napier, NZ.

Trinity Methodist Church in Napier, NZ.

As we strolled, we saw other points of interest. 

Art outside the visitor center.

These beautifully restored cars are for hire.
The owners give tours around town.

How would you like to tour in one of 
these babies?

Aren't they gorgeous?

South African Boer War Memorial.

Every year in February, Napier hosts an Art Deco Festival. People come from all over the world to celebrate in a time warp. According to the tour guide, the attendees dress to the hilt in costumes from the era and use their own vintage cars or hire one to be their guide. 

I would love to own this dress!

This lovely stained-glass art was on
display in a downtown window.

The next set of photos shows street art and Clive Square Park. The first mural below is titled, "Message in a Bottle," by an Australian duo named Meggs and Phibs. It was completed in 2016. The mural focuses on the impact that plastics are having on our oceans and the physical impact the pollution has on sea life that is inadvertently consuming small plastic particles.

"Message in a Bottle," street art by Australian
artists Meggs and Phibs.

"Hieroglyphics for Simon," street 
art in Napier, NZ, 2019.

The following street art is on Theatre Lane. It's quite fanciful.

A jacaranda tree in Clive Square.

Clive Square.

Carillon bells in Clive Square play
tunes at certain times throughout the day.
Unfortunately, we didn't hear them.

This 1904 fountain in Clive Square commemorates
the public services of the late William Robert Blythe.
We finished our very own walking tour through Napier's Central Business District and saw lots more Art Deco buildings. We also got up close and personal with some sculptures.

Pretty murals on a public washroom building.
Street art. [Photo by Bob Alton.]

One of the touring cars.

"Hi! Can you help me find my dog?"

The Daily Telegraph newspaper building.

The Art Deco Post Office.
[Photo by Bob Alton.]

Completed in 1935, the building below was originally the home of Temperance General Insurance, a company that emerged during the prohibition era of the 1900s.  The T&G Building was built as part of Napier's reconstruction after the devastating earthquake of 1931. The style is Art Deco and Spanish Mission. Due to its central location and striking architectural features, characterized by a distinctive copper-domed roof (or cupola), The Dome has become a Napier icon and one of the most photographed buildings in the country.

The Dome Building, Napier, NZ.

A lily pond in Clive Square.

We caught the shuttle back to the ship and were in for a grand surprise. The vintage car club had moved their rides next to our ship. We got a close-up look at them and could talk to their owners. In addition, they had a band who were playing ragtime songs. What a great end to our day in Napier.

Back on the ship, we had a few hours before the "Elements" show in the Stardust Theater tonight. I worked on editing my pictures from the day. Bob read and took a nap.

The "Elements" show included music, magic, aerial acrobatics, and avant-garde choreography. It symbolized the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. It was fun to watch and one part was pretty racy.

Immediately after the show, we had dinner reservations at Cagney's Steakhouse. Eating there is always a special treat!

To close the night, we went to the Spinnaker Lounge to dance to the Power of 5 band. They started playing at 10 pm. We arrived at 10:05, listened to a couple of songs, and then danced to one song. After three or four more songs, they ended the night at 10:45 pm. We were just getting started, so we were disappointed.

It's probably good that we finished early; our tour to Rotorua is at 9:10 am tomorrow. It will be a 6-1/2 hour tour.

Good night all!