What to Know Before You Go…Chapter 2

Chapter 2  The Internet, Web Resources, and the Travel Agency

As you start your trip planning and you are trying to determine where you want to go, use the Internet. There are a number of travel sites, but the best way, in my opinion, is to use Google and put in such things as “vacationing in Australia, or Europe, or France, or the Caribbean, etc”. Many site will come up and you can take your time and look at all of the many places that you can see and things that you can do. On our recent trip to Australia, we knew we were going to Cairns as our first step on our journey, so my wife Googled Cairns. From Cairns, which is north on Sydney, we were able to go out to the Great Barrier Reef, rode the train up to and through the Rain Forest, then rode the Skytrain back down over the Rain Forest to sea level, and back to the city of Cairns, which in itself is well worth seeing. We found all of this on the internet….then went to our agent, who had also suggested these attractions, and made the ticket arrangements.

And, you can use a site like Expedia to get an idea of flights into almost any destination in the world. They will give you prices and times, although the prices are often on bad connecting flights , or bad times, but it gives you a very good idea of when and where you can go. Trip Advisor is another good one, as this give first hand experiences from travelers.

These sites, and many others, are great for travel information, but not always good for ticketing. As I have said, and will say many more times, the local travel agent can get the same, if not better, price….they can give you the experiences of other travelers, and they can do the “hard work” for  you, such as the reservations and ticketing. That is their job. But, you can do the pre-planning by using the Internet to get your general idea of where, when, why, and what you want to do.

A word about the Travel Agency. Only the good ones have survived the Internet. And they have survived because they can offer a service that the Internet cannot. As with almost any professional services these days, you can get almost any service on the web. But, you get what you pay for. I have planned and taken trips using nothing but the internet, with sites like www.hotels.com, and  www.expedia.com, and they were good trips. But, for the most part, I was “flying by the seat of my pants”. And, when all said and done, did not save a penny. Now we use an Agency exclusively. And, a couple of other factors as to why to use an agency….(1) some are specialists, like with Cruise Lines…(2) many of the agencies are really experienced. :Been there done that”  is true for many and this experience is passed on to you…..(3) Your individual travel agent in an agency will become “your good friend”, and they will have your interest foremost in their mind as they plan for you. This is that valuable factor…and can make the difference in your travels.

Next section is entitled….”Make a List”….and this is one of my favorites, for many do not do this until they get someplace and say, “I should have made a list of these things to bring”. Stay tuned.

Holland America, New Zealand, Evaluation, and Speaking

So far Holland America has been very impressive. Here are some of the highlights

  1. The food is very good quality and a lot of variety is offered from the Lido dining both inside and out including eating by the pool area or on the back deck  number 9.The sit down dinner’s in Vista dining on decks two and three is excellent and the service is out of this world good.
  2. The room is spacious with a lot of storage and a large veranda and very comfortable and quiet.
  1. The entertainment offerings are very good and a lot of choice from the rock and roll band to the piano to the Lincoln center stage a very nice variety.
  2. Scheduling of the events and the excursions is fine …..again with a lot of choice and variety
  3. Holland America does not use the speaker program and the descriptions of the upcoming ports probably is the weakest part of their ship so far. There seems to be a bit of a breakdown on the organization of the excursions and the tenders and this need work. They do not give port updates the day before you arrive such as what Viking does and this leaves passengers a bit up in the air and confused…. at least this is the impression from those that I talked with.
  4. On these longer trips which I much prefer there seems to be an older group almost all retired and it has to do with the length of the trip which is about 3 weeks from beginning to end for most. But your audience is very receptive and wants to be entertained so it is a good audience for speakers and entertainers and does not seem to be expecting much more than what Holland America offers.

In comparing cruise lines I think it goes back to what the passengers are looking for in that Viking includes the excursions and does a very good job.  Holland America does not include excursions, but offers good excursions. And the age of your passengers will be a factor especially for families. 2 weeks is a long time to be on the ship but I think will work best for me as it’s a more relaxed schedule or so it seems. As far as the facilities are concerned…. a good fitness area; a very nice library area…a smaller casino but seems to be very nice…. and large lounge  areas.  The Crows Nest area and then the open observation areas are well done.

We have had 3 days in New Zealand and it has been very impressive. The Fjords were magnificent especially as the weather cleared and we were able to appreciate the beauty of the second and third Fjords..Port Chalmers and Dunedin were equally as impressive with Dunedin showing its Presbyterian and Scottish background and traditions. Not only are the communities of Port Chalmers and Dunedin impressive but the port of Port Chalmers is a very active and attractive small town. Dunedin is a very beautiful area downtown with the railroad station and the Cathedral being the two focal points. But there is a lot of shopping and a lot of tourist attractions so well worth 3 or 4 hours.

The day in Christchurch so far has been a major attraction in that you see first hand evidence of what a massive earthquake can do and how a city can recover. But the other part of the Christchurch excursion is the drive over and back where you get to see the real beauty of the South island. Just magnificent.

The Ship tender from the ship into Akaroa is about 15 minutes. You then go directly to the bus and there were about 10 buses waiting at that time. You drive about 10 minutes through the little town of a Akaroa then start the trip to Christchurch ..initially you go through some hills but then follow the bay around and great photo shots and then up the mountain. Really impressive.

For many years I have heard that Christchurch and the South Island was the most beautiful area of New Zealand, Certainly  this trip over to Christchurch verified that. It is a slow trip over the mountain but then when you start down you start seeing the beautiful fields filled with sheep and cows and trees

Christchurch was the epicenter of a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in 2011 followed by some major aftershocks. The earthquake lasted 45 seconds and has cost billions of dollars to rebuild the downtown area. The area that was most damaged was in the center of town where the Cathedral was located. Immediately after the earthquake rebuilding and rehabilitation and reconstruction of the downtown area began. Except for the Cathedral which got caught up in a political battle between the church and the city and probably the state of Canterbury. The result is that it remains fenced and in the same condition as when it was damaged. The part of the Cathedral that collapsed was the main bell tower or alter tower as some of the building, maybe one half of it, is still standing. There are various memorials for the 180 that were killed around the downtown area and those killed were primarily in one building, as it happened midday so many workers were downtown.

The two shuttle buses drop off passengers right at either the art museum which is very very modern, or the Christchurch Museum which is in one of the buildings of the original Canterbury University that moved to another location in 1974.The old University buildings were damaged and evidence of the repair and renovation work is very obvious.When the university moved to another location various other organizations took over the building mainly for government use. Some of these buildings are behind the fence and others are being used  as the Information Center. The city tram is adjacent to the bus stop and is a good 20 minute round trip but you can get on and off as at the stops.

When speaking about Christchurch, prepare travelers for the 90 minute bus ride to and from. Prepare them for the new construction and the new modern building. Prepare them to see how they have repaired the old Canterbury University prepare them for the fences and the board fences that’s around the mini damage buildings.There are many cafes and bars especially along Victoria Street which is a tram stop and there are small cafes near the bus stohoff but also the red double decker bus.

Akaroa is the port city from which we boarded the buses for Christchurch. We tendered in and it took about 15 minutes and then got on the buses for the 90 minute ride over the mountains into Christchurch. Akaroa is a small French village- town very picturesque and a quaint little town. There is virtually no time in town before you board the buses but there is some time when you get back to look at the shops and do some souvenir shopping.

The day  to Christchurch started off with a tender into the small port town of Akaroa where we caught the bus for the one in a half hour drive to Christchurch. Before the 2011 earthquake the cruise ship would come into a port about 20 minutes from the city center of Christchurch. Since the earthquake all of the cruise ships come into the port and are then bussed the 75 kilometers into Christchurch.  The road goes along the water and then immediately heads up over the mountains on a very dramatic trip with magnificent views coming over the mountains and down into valleys and the flat plains that are extremely rich with Agriculture sheep cattle and orchards. As we started to approach Christchurch the driver started giving us more detail has to the earthquake and what transpired immediately after and then in the 7 years since.. initially the town look very normal and as we approach the downtown area we found that the epicenter of the quake was nearby and follow this straight line into the downtown Cathedral area. Then as we got downtown from started to see the buildings that have been ruined and it was very evident that the quick get some of the major buildings in the downtown area. What was done immediately was $0.02 off the entire downtown area that had been affected by the quake.  They then started a process of the evaluating the damage putting all building that were in the destroyed area into three categories yellow amber and red. Today there is a great deal of construction reconstruction repair and rehabilitation going on all over the downtown area. Much has been done in these 7 years almost to an amazing degree especially with Canterbury University buildings. The Cathedral itself is there is still about 1/ 3 totally destroyed but they have not been able to repair the balance due to issues with the church and the city. We took the tram around the downtown area and it is a hop on hop off arrangement for about $20 a person and well worth it as it gives you a ride around the town. We had both coffee and lunch and buildings that have been hit and then repaired and are fine now. After the tram ride we walked around the key Cathedral grounds and then back down to the museum and the museum was exceptional and definitely a must see. The Botanic Garden is adjacent and very beautiful and well maintained and in full-bloom today. The photos show that destruction and the work this thing done to repair but also shows the construction on the new library as well as other downtown going areas that were hit by the earthquake. We met back at the bus at 3 for the 90 minutes ride back over the mountain into the port and into the tenders.

Christchurch should be a must see on any New Zealand trip and the drive is well worth it over the mountains as you get to see the real New Zealand farms, sheep,and cattle as well as the magnificent fields and varied agricultural programs going on in this part of the country.

This part of the world is unknown to many but in reflecting back this is one of the most beautiful areas we have ever seen.  The people are very friendly and they have a great outlook on life are hard working and they’re very very proud to be a New Zealander. I think my talk on this part of New Zealand should be very practical on what you  should you do and see in the time that you have using a lot of photos.

Dunedin is a remarkable little city in that it is about 100000 people and then there are about $25,000 in the university. We went in in the morning for a walk around and got to see the railroad station and the beautiful church octagon square and it was  worthwhile and our morning included going to Cadbury.  The railroad station is one of the most famous photo spots definitely a requirement when you’re in Dunedin. We came back to the ship for lunch then. On our tour bus took is to the Olveston house which is an old 1850 home built by a Jewish businessman that came here and it is a remarkable house and gardens and of course the Fiat 1921antique auto,  so well worth it to go through the house. It is one of a number of excursions that are offered but this is one of the  oldest houses and tour is great. We then came back by the Dunedin Botanic Garden and if it were in bloom would be spectacular but according to one of the workers the heat that they have recently had almost killed a lot of the flowers and they’re just now coming back for their second blooming … and should last through early April.  We concluded the tour buy another drive thru Dunedin to see the downtown area and back to the ship. The Scottish history of Dunedin is significant ….and the railroad trip from the station for about 90 minutes is well with it to see the surrounding areas.

 

Napier, New Zealand

We had a great half day in Napier as we were there for the art deco weekend. This is an annual classic car and 1930’s weekend.  They expect 40,000 over the weekend.  Car folks come from all over to show the cars.

Napier is a remarkable place with an exciting port and an unusual beautiful downtown area with almost all rebuilt since the massive earthquake in 1933. There are many places to visit including the completely rebuilt downtown areas but also the walk along the water is beautiful and with the trees and flowers right on the water it’s a very impressive area. The art deco Museum  is well worth it and has a short 20 minute presentation on what happened before and after the earthquake and what turned it into the place it is today.  And across the street from the art deco museum is their history museum that has a downstairs exhibit featuring the earthquake with a 20 minute revolving film about stories from survivors. Both museums are well worth it and you can do both in about an hour.

The Ship shuttle takes you right to the Information Center and from there a lot of information about the four or five main streets with lots of shops and restaurants and bars.The aquarium is very well done and has some excellent exhibits but is about a 20 minute walk from the Information Center but again well worth it if you like aquariums

If you have limited time in the port city then it’s best to leave early as the shops will open about 9…As you leave the information Center you can walk up to Clive Square which is at the edge of the art deco area and then come back by the Cathedral which was completely destroyed and totally rebuilt…… very impressive with the wood and stucco and a nice of the earthquake and the organ is spectacular.

In summary Napier is very much well worth the time …    very impressive and rather amazing world wide to think that the city was totally destroyed and it’s been completely rebuilt. The earthquake museum really illustrate what the city went through and how they recovered in such a short time very well done.

 

Napier Marine Parade, New Zealand

This is the beautiful walk right along the bay in Napier. Walk from the Information Center in both directions one takes you to the museum and the other take you down through the gardens to The Little Mermaid of Napier. This is certainly worth a leisurely walk…..and is a gorgeous walk.

New Zealand….So far…

We have had 3 days and New Zealand and it has been very impressive

The Fjords were magnificent especially as the date cleared and we were able to appreciate the beauty of the second and third Fjords..Port Chalmers and Dunedin as equally as impressive with Dunedin showing its Presbyterian and Scottish background and traditions.

Not only are the communities of Port Chalmers and Dunedin impressive but Port Chalmers is very active and attractive town. Dunedin is a very beautiful area downtown with the railroad station and the cathedral being the two focal point. But there is a lot of shopping and a lot of tourist attractions so well worth 3 or 4 hours

The day in Christchurch so far has been a major attraction in that you see first hand evidence of what an earthquake can do and how a city can recover.

But the other part of the Christchurcharea is the drive over and back where you get to see the real beauty of the South island

 

Picton, speaking notes, preparation, etc

Picton was a very sleepy pretty pretty little port town. A huge lumber port which we saw from the ship as it was adjacent to the dock. We decided on a quiet day so rode the shuttle the 10 minutes to downtown then walked around for a couple of hours. Cute shops with lots of souvenirs. A beautiful harbor this is a very beautiful and desirable area.

A number of excursions are available but we chose for a slower day. Got back at 2 then were to pick up Laura at 4 pm. Carrie and boys went to air display in Blenheim.

I also see right along port Mainstream transport and then Mainfreight Freight  and then Toll  so I need to check and see what these represent as they look like three main transportation centers. I may want to also talk about train travel as in Wellington I am looking at trains coming and going..It could be that train travel is more common on the North Island than this and due to the train with the big mountain range on the south Island.Should also get some details on imports and exports as the boards are very very busy and again in Wellington I see a large lumber court area right down along the water ..I need to get some details on rugby and the stadiums and the number of greens and the attendance for example and Wellington there is Westpac stadium how many does it seat how many games a year and those kind of details for the rugby fans.   May also do it for cricket

Speaking Prep…….

Good morning this morning we will be talking about Wellington and is healing which is the capital of the country of New Zealand it is located at the southern end of the North Island and as we have mentioned New Zealand is made up of two large islands one called the North Island and one called the South Island; Wellington is the largest city in the southern part of the North Island. As shown on the photo for the past 4 days we have been visiting cities in the South Island the largest being Christchurch which was the victim of the 2011 earthquake and now we will concentrate for the next 4 days on the North Island which has the capital city of Wellington and of course the largest city in the country Auckland or “Oakland” depending on who you are talking to.. Wellington is a large city of a Million people and is the seat of the government and is a huge economic center with three large Port areas….  one of which we are. In and as you approach Wellington this is what you will see in the dark area and please noticed that the homes on the hill side facing to the eastern see are very dramatic very large and very expensive as you can imagine having the seaside and the Bay view. Wellington has a rich cultural background founded in1830…..This format might work very well.

Now let’s talk a bit about the history of Wellington it was founded in 1830 primarily by the British with saw this has an excellent Trading Post for timber cattle shape and related products.It grew rapidly over the years due to the critical location of the huge Bay and port facilities to a city that now has a million people in the immediate area.Upon arrival at the port you will be able to take a shuttle who to the center of Wellington which is about a 10 minute ride.Or can put them there will be a shuttle that will take you from the shipped directly into the small town village port city of Picton which will be opposite the old steam train that offers a 1 hour trip into the countryside to Blenheim or you can take the shuttle into the village where there are many shops.

As a point of interest when I am talking about a small town like Picton I  may want to talk about the district such as Marlboro so that they can get the audience can get a better feeling for the local economy why people live here what they do what makes the community vibrant etc..I think I should emphasize that I use a lot of photos with the points over concept so that not only will they see the photo and hear me speak the points but will also see the points over the slide or the photo. And make the point that the slides are fast moving to give a impressions that there is a lot to see and do in the port

In talking with Jan last night he mentioned some things that I could do in  contacting HAL.They will be asking what I do how I do it and why I do it he made the point they will approve the content no politics no religion etc.I think I should write a 50 word summary that concentrate on maybe the top 5 things to do in the community. Or something to the fact that I talked briefly about the history the culture the social or economic factor and then conclude with what to do or what you can do while in Wellington.Maybe make it into for parts of 10 minutes each such as introduction to Wellington and cover the history Then go into and the culture in society that we know today such as the lumber industry in Pitman and the impact that it has on the community and the local economy.Then go into what you can see and do in Christchurch and the time factors. For example In Picton the steam train ride to Blenheim leaves from the railway station which is opposite the information drop off point and please had 12 noon and returns by 5 p.m. For those that do not want to do an excursion the little town of Picton has many shops and cafes and you can take a leisurely stroll around town as well as a walk around the pretty Bay..I need to make the point that I have been in every city that is on the Mediterranean the northern Europe And  the Australian cruise ship cities and countries over the past 5 years..I might want to approach the lecture this this is where you will be arriving or tomorrow we will be arriving in Wellington in the early morning and this is the port that we will be talking in and show pictures photos.I need to make the point that these are informative lectures and that there will be a red notebook available with more detail on Wellington and consider also a notepad or  Note sheets that can be used during the lecture for their own note taking.I should make the point that these are informational lectures to supplement material that they can get from the excursions desk or on excursion tours offered by the ship that this is supplement take information to help them understand more about the ports that they are visiting. For the HAL application they will need to see what I will speak on and experience. No politics prejudice etc.    How I do it timing etc photos etc.