Holland America’s Volendam

written by | Posted on July 1st, 2009

One of the passengers exclaimed, “It was a trip with an unusual insight into nature’s majestic beauty, interlaced with a sense of history, a touch of adventure, excitement and charm.” And they got it right on…as each shore visit led us to architectural explorations, jaw-dropping natural wonders and towns made for strolling.

Besides Auckland, the Volendam called on six other ports in New Zealand—giving guests an opportunity to take one of the many available shore excursions, or just visit the destination on a walking tour on their own with complimentary transportation to a central area.

There were more than 75 shore excursion opportunities during the 14 days. Although a bit pricey, most of the tours are worth the investment. Some are not, but according to a cruise line representative, “shore excursions are always being reviewed.”

The first port visited was Tauranga (Rotorua). Rotorua is built atop an active geothermal site and also produces much of the Chinese gooseberry crop (kiwi fruit). Here, there’s an opportunity to visit a Maori marae (meeting place) and mingle with some of the indigenous descendants of the original Maori who first came to New Zealand over a thousand years ago.

If you have clients who enjoy Art Deco architecture, then Napier, the second stop of the cruise, is the place. Of course, there are other architectural designs in the area from Victorian and Edwardian wooden villas to California-style bungalows. Indeed, downtown Napier is certainly worth a walking tour.

For adventurous souls, there’s a seal coast safari available when the ship docks in Wellington, which is at the southern tip of the North Island. Searching for seals along the craggy coast is quite an adventure for those who can take driving in a 4×4 over unpaved roads and mountains.

The ship’s first South Island stop is Picton in the Marlborough region. A visit to a working farm where your clients can have lunch with the farm owners and then witness the smart sheep dogs as they skillfully herd a flock of sheep, is a “must.” There’s also a sheep shearing demonstration, but the added plus are the beautiful gardens with the multitude of fruit trees that flourish in the fertile New Zealand soil.

While there are a number of excursions offered when the ship visits Christchurch, a walking visit of the town center is a rewarding experience. There are beautiful public parks and private gardens amidst gothic-style buildings. Cathedral Square and its ancient church is a great place to start a stroll in Christchurch. It’s also an opportunity to chat with New Zealanders who are among the most hospitable people in the world. And there is excellent public transportation if your client wants to explore on their own.

The last port the ship visits in New Zealand is Dunedin, located near the Otago Peninsula. If your client is looking for a real nature adventure, this is the place they’ll find it. There’s an excursion that starts with a 2-hour cruise viewing of Taiaroa Head and the opportunity to see many of the area’s birds, including the great albatross—one of the world’s largest—and admire the seals nesting amidst the cliffs.

Back on land, the excursion visits the New Zealand Marine Study Center—a short introduction to the wildlife and sealife that make their home in the Otago Peninsula. But the highlight here is visiting Nature’s Wonder and roaring down the mountainside in an 8×8-wheel Argo vehicle to view a fur seal colony and a yellow eyed penguin nesting area. (This is not for the fainthearted and is not wheelchair accessible.)

scenic cruising Certainly one of the great features of the New Zealand shipboard experience is “scenic cruising”—without a doubt a wonderful adventure without leaving the comfort of the ship. The Volendam cruises along New Zealand’s southeastern coast, past spectacular Fiordland National Park. As the ship sails past some of the most magnificent scenery, cruisers can take pictures or just sit on a deck chair and admire the passing beauty. The crowning finale is entering Milford Sound, one of the few fjords in the world that can be accessed by a cruise ship. The Volendam actually sails up Milford Sound for a number of miles before exiting—it is astoundingly beautiful and breathtaking. Indeed, Milford Sound was once described by Rudyard Kipling as the “8th wonder of the world.”