be sure to rollover ‘notes’ to see photo captions!

We ordered breakfast in-room to save some time, since we had to be at our meeting point very early in the morning. Our first port was Tauranga, and our first shore excursion was to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, a park where we explored some of the features of the volcanic area.

First we drove through Te Puke, the world center of kiwifruit. We made a comfort stop and I called Maria to wish her a happy birthday. At Wai-O-Tapu we saw the Lady Knox geyser erupt, then spent awhile walking around the park, looking at vast boiling crates of mud and steaming, sulfurous, color-encrusted pools.

We had lunch at the top of Mt. Ngongotaha, and enjoyed a Maori cultural show. We drove through the government botanic gardens and saw the old baths and bathhouse. We also saw a spring that was 1000° that feeds water to the Polynesian spa, which gets up to 40°C.

We drove on to Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park. Trout are bred here, and there were endless ponds bursting with huge trout. We saw a lot of big fish up close, pretty birds, and redwoods that were over 80 years old. Apparently, for some reason redwoods grow twice as fast in NZ. We also saw a longfinned eel (called ‘tuna’ in Maori) that liked to hang out inside a pipe, upside down!

Back at ship, we left port and I read and had a mojito out on deck. We hit the buffet for dinner, then saw a musical stage show.