Majestic Princess Day 5, Tauranga

The small town we walked around in Bay of Islands felt like a little NSW south coast town, but Tauranga (To-wrong-ah… I think! Pronunciation seems to vary from person to person) was much bigger and this was the first place we stopped where the ship was at a quay. It is far quicker and more pleasant to just walk off the ship, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most people with mobility issues or very small children didn’t alight in Bay of Islands at all. It felt like almost everyone went off to do things in Tauranga but, being a city of 100k people, it absorbed the horde much more easily.

Mum and Dad told us to go do our own thing, so Luke and I met up with Michael and Izaac and had breakfast while waiting for the crowd to abate somewhat, leaving the ship at 10am.

There were only two things I wanted to do at this stop: go to a supermarket and go to the hot springs. Luke found a supermarket a 30 minute walk away so we set off and got coffee along the way. $5 for a small cappuccino was a bit steep and we worked out that the currency conversion fee pretty much wiped out any gain from our $AUD being slightly stronger against the $NZD.

We saw some interesting sights (well, interesting to me) such as:

Not one but two doggie daycare vans.

A lovely mural.

A second hand vinyl and book shop.

Michael and Izaac decided to use the McDonalds wifi to sort out phone reception issues so Luke and I continued to the New World supermarket. I love looking at everyday things in new countries and, although most items were pretty similar to home, we did load up on fancy Whittakers chocolate and we admired the artwork on the ‘Snackachangi’ range of chips. I’ve never seen anything like it and totally regretted not buying any once I got back to the ship.

New World supermarket
Best packaging I’ve ever seen.

We rendezvoused back onboard before heading to the Tauranga hot water pools. They were a short walk down the beachfront and around a corner, right at the base of Mount Manganui.

Luke used his technology superpower once again and got us in twice as quickly by using the self-serve ticket machine rather than waiting in line for a cashier. Inside the pools were quite small, maybe about half a proper Olympic-sized pool spread over several smaller pools. There was one lower temperature pool and several pools that were almost 40 degrees C, which is HOT! I couldn’t get into the really hot one until I’d adjusted a bit in the temperate pool.

Photo courtesy of the hot pool’s website.

All the pools were quite crowded but no one was being very silly and there were lots of lifeguards and signs about not staying in the hot pools for too long.

If you’re reading this and thinking of going to the pools, I couldn’t tell you when they would be quiet… maybe first thing in the morning? We all agreed that if we were locals we’d be there every day. There are a couple of small adult-only pools off to one side but we had Izaac (13) and the main pools were pretty settled anyhow.

We sat for a while in each and chatted, admiring the view of Mount Manganui that loomed up dramatically right over our heads, shrouded in mist.

After about 40 minutes we’d had enough and walked back to the ship along the shore. It’s such a pretty area, if I came back to New Zealand I’d definitely return and walk the circumference of Mount Manganui. We got an amazing view of it as the ship left that evening. Clouds poured around the summit and we could see people around the shoreline waving us off and probably glad that the blight was gone ;-).

We’ve seen quite a range of tug boats during the trip.

After watching the view slide by we had a plate of buffet food in the Wake Bar and then Luke and I watched a recording of the Auckland information talk from the comfort of bed. All in all a lovely day and I’d happily come back to Tauranga.

Majestic Princess Day 3 (at sea)

Izaac had been super keen to try Bingo so Luke and I met him with Michael in the morning. They bought paper tickets but there were also tablets on offer that automatically kept track of which numbers came up. These cost more but, in the end, not one round was won by the tablet players so make of that what you will. The Bingo was hosted by ‘Lady Fortuna’ who I initially thought was a drag queen but wasn’t. I guess getting very spangly and having big hair is part of hosting Bingo. She told terrible jokes but kept up a steady patter during the round. Neither Michael nor Izaac won any rounds but it was kind of fun, if a little pricey at $40 for the 6 x 6 game sheets.

After all that excitement Luke went to the talk on Tauranga and managed to stay awake through most of it. Then he also went to the ‘welcome to cruising’ talk, which was about the various jobs onboard and other aspects of cruises.

I spent a short time in the gym trying to get to 10k steps for the day (eventually achieved) and we finished off the day playing Poker in Hollywood Lounge with Michael, Izaac, Dad and Luke. Michael brought chips and a wealth of knowledge, which was lucky because the rest of us needed a lot of help. I hadn’t played it before so I feel like I learned a lot, although unfortunately I came second to Luke.

The Hollywood Lounge is a huge indoor area at the front of the ship on deck 17. I’m told it used to be an adults-only area and currently has a pool and two spas, plus heaps of curtained-off cabana areas that people seem to claim for the whole day.

There are basically two ways to get food and drinks onboard, outside of the restaurants. First, you can go up to the bar or to the buffet and get it yourself. The other way to go is to use the Medallion app, possibly the most unpopular, frustrating and confusing aspect of life aboard. Everyone hates it but it does allow you to order food and drink to wherever you are on the ship. Your photo is attached to your account so waiters can find you by looking around for you. During the poker game we discovered a new down-side to the app: the bar can cancel your order at any time and if you aren’t keeping an eye on the app you won’t realise for ages. Also they don’t say why the order is cancelled, so if you’ve ordered drinks for several people, they might cancel the whole order because one of the items isn’t available at the nearest bar and you have no idea which item it was. Fortunately we had a waiter who told us what was going on so we ended up just ordering drinks individually. The wait staff seem as frustrated by the whole system as anyone else but complaining about it brings us all closer together!

We’re all looking forward to our first stop tomorrow; Bay of Islands! Fingers crossed the weather improves as it’s become progressively more foggy as we’ve gotten closer to NZ.

Sunset from our first evening aboard. Little did we know it wouldn’t be beat until we reached Auckland!

Majestic Princess Day 2 (sea day)

Our first full day aboard. We filled in the room service card the night before and were impressed by the gigantic quantity of tea and coffee delivered. We also had some fruit, a danish and yogurt.

The ‘Princess Patter’ newsletter is delivered each evening for the next day, so we ticked off a list of things to do. The first two full days of the voyage were at sea so there was plenty of time to fill. We managed to fit in:

A fruit carving demonstration.

A very interesting and informative talk on the bay of islands.

A Poi demo. No photos as I was too busy joining in:-) . While I was doing that Luke got us coffee from the ‘best’ coffee place on the ship. It was not good, but it wasn’t filter coffee. If you love coffee and you’re going on this cruise maybe bring some chocolate coated coffee beans or something because the coffee onboard is 2/10. Just don’t bother – and I’m not even a proper Melbournian coffee snob.

For our 6pm meet up I grabbed a selection of cheeses from the buffet and we enjoyed them with our drinks at the Wake View.

In the evening there was a 50s night at the piazza so Luke and I hit the dance floor. Michael took a video but I don’t think I have time to load it today. Here’s a pic of the piazza though.

Westfield vibes… but it also reminds me of the inside of a geode. The ship is so plain on the outside but the inside is like a glittering crystal.

After getting quite hot from dancing, Luke and I headed to the top deck for a spa and found one that was unoccupied. The pool level is kid-central during the day, but in the evening it was very quiet. A lovely way to end our first full day onboard!