New Zealand Trip Report. March, 2011. Note: All prices are listed in NZ dollars.
Day 1 Auckland – Our flight from SEA to SFO was uneventful. We arrived in SFO and had 3 hours to wait for our connecting flight to Auckland on Air New Zealand. We had selected our seats in the back of the plane, hoping that if it wasn’t full that perhaps we would end up with 3 seats to ourselves. Alas, it was not to be. The plane left at 7:45 pm, at 10:45 pm dinner service was over and people began to turn off their lights and monitors and go to sleep. Marc and I each took an ambien and hoped for sleep. We managed to sleep on-and-off for a good 6 hours. About an hour after we woke up, breakfast was served, and a couple of hours later the plane landed. The 13 hour flight was not as horrible as I’d thought it would be, especially considering that a couple with a baby was seated directly across from us. The couple were seated directly behind a dividing wall that had a bassinet set-up, and the baby ended up sleeping the entire time. Air NZ must save these seats for people traveling with infants, and we were certainly glad they did.
Despite arriving 1/2 hour early, it took almost 2 hours to get through immigration and customs. Also, for some reason we never learned, the airport had to be evacuated. As we departed, there were tons of people waiting outside to get into the airport. This created some confusion as we looked for the Airbus Shuttle. We finally found a driver who lead us to the next van leaving the airport. We noticed an elderly couple we had chatted with on the flight waiting amongst the throng of people, and we asked them if they were waiting for a shuttle. They were waiting with the people who had evacuated, although they did want a shuttle, so they thanked us and joined ours.
Three hours after landing, we finally made it to our hotel at 8:00 am. We had booked the night before so that we could check-in early. Our hotel was Chifley Suites, on Albert Street in CBD ($144/night). We were upgraded to an Executive Suite and were pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and layout of the rooms. At 8:00 am, we debated going out vs. going to bed, and going to bed won, despite the sunny weather. We took a 3-hour nap, woke up at 11:00, showered and then headed out to find some lunch.
My guidebook recommended an international food court also located on Albert Street, close to the harbor. We found it easily and decided to try the new Japanese restaurant on the 2nd level. For NZ $18, we got 15 pieces of sushi, salad, miso soup and a diet coke. The sushi was entirely mediocre.
We wandered down to the harbor and decided to take a harbor cruise. The big name boats were charging $35 per person; we went with a company charging $20 pp. The cruise was 1.5 hours and was fine; if anything, it was a half hour too long. The weather was clear and warm; it was a perfect day to be out on the water.
After the cruise we headed back to the hotel, stopping to get a cappuccino at a shop next door to the hotel called Hollywood Espresso. I was beginning to feel the effects of jet lag. I took another shower and got dolled up for our “nice dinner out” to celebrate Marc’s birthday at Sky Tower. The last time I’d worn a dress was on our trip to France, so Marc appreciated my efforts to look girly.
Sky Tower was only a couple blocks away and we got there 45 min early and spent it on the Observation Deck. For dinner, Marc ordered the 3-course menu ($65), and chose a duck confit as his appetizer, the lamb for his main and the pavlova for dessert. I had the salmon (from Akaroa) with a risotto cake and wilted greens ($35). I thought the food was quite good. The lamb, duck and salmon were all perfectly cooked. We each had a glass of wine and I had a cocktail. The meal came to $150, but it included our admission to the observation deck, which saved us $60. We thought it was an extremely memorable experience and a real value for the money. I noticed that service was not included on the bill, and when I asked the waitress she said it was not included. Since I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to tip, we ended up tipping 10%. Later when I checked the guide book, it said tipping wasn’t necessary because it’s already included. Oh well!