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.


Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur is a most historical town just to the north of Hobart, the

capital of Tasmania. As we approached the bay of Port Arthur it became very

obvious that this area was incredibly heavy wooded….which started to

verify that 90% of Tasmania is wooded…..

  1. The Bay is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and was

discovered in the early 1800’s for its timber…and in 1930 became a timber

outpost for Australia , 2. Needing workers, the Australian government in

cooperation with the local business people in the lumber business, decided

to bring convicts to the area as laborers…and in 1833 created a

Penitentiary for convicts that then became the labor force. It grew from

there for the next 40 years….thus the current ruins and remains of the

original town as well as the small current town, Carnarveron,Tasmania, Australia.

  1. The Ship docked in the bay and we got on the Ship Tenders to go ashore…and

this entire procedure was orderly and well done…with about a 12-15 minute

ride in to the dock. From the dock it is easy to go to the Visitors Center

and from there take a leisurely 2 or 3 hour walk around all of the buildings

which have been renovated and modernized as much as possible, still making

it a kind of museum…

  1. The detailed history of Port Arthur is well documented, and info on the

prison, the prisoners, and their work and activity is well presented. Very

well done.

  1. Included in the Ship package was the 25 minute boat tours around the

Bay…where you can see where the Boys prison was, as well as the Island of

the Dead, which was their cemetery.

  1. This is a great one day stop…..just enough time to see this beautiful


  1. In summary, so far Tasmania has been a must see spot if you enjoy natural

beauty  with mountains, beaches, wooded areas, and little towns right down

to the waters edge….one of those best kept secrets.

  1. Another factor about Tasmania is that it is one of the southern most

points before you get to Antarctica. I am told the part of Antarctica that is

easiest to reach is from South America….but if you look at the world map

you can see that Tasmania is almost as far south. One of the slogans in

Burney was “welcome to the edge of the World”…..and seems to be true. But,

also one of the most beautiful that we have seen in that you have the

feeling of the tropical areas along with the mountains and the trees…

We are in Hobart now….which is about a 2 hour ship journey south from Port

Arthur. Gorgeous wooded mountains coming right down to the city of Hobart,

which has 200,000 people….and as I write I am looking out on acres of

labeled logs ready to go on ships for export. Probably 500 containers here

either filled or empty but extremely well organized and all seem to be in

order. We will spend 2 days here…should be interesting.

All for now,

Viking Cruises…#1 for both Ocean and River

Viking CRUISES….Ocean and River….e-mail now for 

CALL Ron at Ron Largent Travel  AT 530-941-0444

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• Viking ocean cruises visit six of the world’s seven continents
• Viking offers one complimentary shore excursion in every port
• Viking ocean ships have verandas in every stateroom
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• Viking offers the best value at sea with features and services worth over $200 per person,
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Discover More when on Viking

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Viking Cruises….Ocean and River

Effective January 1st…I am the Redding agent for Viking Cruises, and am very pleased with this opportunity. We just completed our 3rd Viking Cruise…and I am now “a believer” in Viking. They are great. No wonder they are consistently rated #1 among the Cruise lines.

Viking Cruises, both in their Ocean and River Cruises, offers cruises where you truly explore your destination-through its food, culture, countryside, and customs. You learn about the lands through which you travel via informative talks that bring history to life through cultural adventures, in-depth pre-trip materials, and on-demand programing-all designed to help you experience the most from your travels.

So, just send me an e-mail at    ron@ronlargenttravel.com   and I will get you brochures, information, details on the Cruises, both Ocean and River…and we will go from there. Viking is a winner.

Wednesday in London…Royal Albert Hall

Wednesday was a quiet morning…then leaving for the Royal Albert Hall at 1 PM….taking the bus through the heavy traffic arriving at about 1:45…..went to the café to wait for Dawn and Carrie and William…Dawn was there and Carrie came about 2:15…we went up to our seats and the program began.

There are few musical experiences (in my opinion) in the world that can equal the concerts at Royal Albert Hall (RAH)…if you are looking for the total orchestra, band, choir, and soloist all in one performance…but here it is. These RAH Christmas programs run right up to Christmas and start late November….some days with 2 concerts a day.

This concert, which is the first of three for us, featured the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Chorus, and the Coldstream Guards Band, plus a Tenor from the London Opera. The program was entitled Christmas Carols and was a 3 hour concert that included the audience singing Christmas Carols along with the orchestra and chorus, and the huge and unbelievable organ…that is clearly the biggest sound of any organ that we have ever heard. RAH seats about 10,000 and is the main entertainment venue for London, and to a degree, England. It is a wonderful place to listen to concerts…and even though we are in the high up “cheap seats”… I think they are the best in the Hall…for you can get the full impact of the huge musical production. For the program, the variety of music is from classical to modern arrangements of both familiar and not so familiar Christmas songs. I could go on and on…but suffice it to say…this was a wonderful musical moment….a once in a lifetime experience for a music and concert lover like me…performed by some of the best musicians in the world….as good as it can get.

Back to the hotel as we were too late for the Charles Dickens program, so will try and reschedule. Today is the Churchill War Rooms….then a full afternoon of tourist things…with another RAH concert this evening at 7:30 PM…

Should be a fun day…….





Nuremberg is much larger than what I expected, and a center of commerce and industry for this area of Bavaria. It is right on the Danube Canal, which is a major transportation resource…..and then the city itself historically has been a major rail city.

We took the included tour of the City….as well as the walking…but suffice it to say that the city has put the Nazi movement in perspective, clearly indicating the size and power of Hitler and the party. The huge Nazi HQ building is still in place, as is the Congress Hall area, which is only 2/3rds completed…then we saw the area where Hitler would hold the rallies, which were attended by upwards of 300,000 party faithful.

The Old Town, for the most part, survived the bombings in WW II…and the Castle is a Medieval marvel. We had a great tour of the area, with a very knowledgeable tour guide that did college work in Oregon. It was an afternoon tour, so our final couple of hours was at the Christmas Market, which is the largest in Germany, and may be in Europe. There are a total of 4 large Christmas markets, but we were at the largest at the Old Town town hall,,,right in the square in front of the Catholic Cathedral, which was not very impressive, and near to the Lutheran Church, which was very impressive. The market itself was jammed with probably 10,000 folks doing their shopping, and this was a big day, as the last Saturday before Christmas.

The day ended with the Captains Dinner…..a full and fun day…Nuremberg is a must to see to fully understand the nature of the Nazi Party, and Hitler, and how Germany was learned and rebuilt from the War.

More to come…