Fond memories of New Zealand

By Kathy Wheale
This item appears on page 15 of the June 2020 issue.

I often read something in an issue of ITN, then cut it out and save it in a folder pertaining to that location. My New Zealand folder had collected several articles, and it came in handy when, on the spur of the moment in December 2019, I booked a 15-night cruise around New Zealand with Azamara Cruises (Miami, FL; 888/532-5828, for Feb. 23-March 9, 2020.

Including a 150% single supplement, I paid $6,148 for a partially obstructed cabin. Airfare, booked through Azamara, was $1,228, and port charges, taxes and fees added $463 for a total of $7,840.

The Azamara Journey holds just under 700 passengers, and this was my fourth cruise on this all-inclusive ship. I never had to pull out my shipboard card to pay for a drink, a specialty coffee or a snack at teatime!

With the information from ITN about the New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority pass, or NZeTA (Jan. ’20, pgs. 55-57), I easily applied online and was accepted within 24 hours.

The cruise departed from Sydney, so I applied for my Australian visa online, too. I printed out both the NZeTA and the visa, just in case. I didn’t want to risk somehow missing a connection. I never needed the printed copies, however. When I arrived in Sydney, I was able to load my passport into a machine, answer a few questions, print a confirmation, then bypass the Immigration desk. Wow!

I booked my excursions through Shore Trips & Tours ( after creating an account. They have all of the cruise ships’ schedules, and for each ship, they show only the excursions that fit the times it is in each port. I had several questions, all of which were answered within 24 hours.

After returning from my trip, I saw the Travel Brief “New Zealand kayaking” (March ’20, pg. 57). I had booked that 3-hour excursion with Kaikoura Kayaks (; the email address I used was, and the price was NZD110 (at the time, near $71). I highly recommend that family-owned business!

After the Azamara’s tender dropped us off at the dock in Kaikoura Bay, I took the ship’s shuttle to town and walked the pleasant four blocks to Kaikoura Kayaks, where they gave us excellent instructions.

Let me warn you, however. Paddling in a sea kayak is not easy! I’ve enjoyed whitewater canoeing on Class III rivers in North Carolina and still paddle my kayak several times each week on my flat lake in Tennessee, so I thought my 71-year-old arms were strong. Wrong!

We carried the heavy boats from the drop-off point to the shore, then crawled in and each attached our spray skirt to the lip of the kayak’s opening. Once in open water, we found fur seals frolicking on the rocks, then blue penguins bobbing on the water’s surface and a male orca with two females. It was amazing! The skies were blue, and the ocean was relatively calm, but after two hours of hard paddling, my arms were exhausted!

When I returned to the US on March 10, I discovered the world had changed. Although our ship had no cases of the COVID-19 virus, my neighbors made me feel like a pariah, so I self-quarantined for 14 days (and am glad I did!).

Now, as I sit inside and amuse myself while the whole state is in self-quarantine, my fond memories of New Zealand keep a smile on my face.

Once this pandemic passes, I urge readers to book their dream trips and support local businesses at the destinations where they travel, as I did with kayaking in Kaikoura, a Segway tour in Dunedin and small shops for locally made souvenirs — businesses that are now closed with no sources of income.

Fairfield Glade, TN