Sunday, January 13, 2013

Day 8 - Akaroa and the Tranzalpine Tour

Seven Seas Voyager in Akaroa Bay
Today was a very long day. We ordered room service breakfast because we had to meet our tour group at 8AM.  The tour for today was called Tranzalpine Experience and was billed as 9 hours long. 

The ship was originally supposed to dock in Christchurch, but the city has still not recovered from the earthquake in 2011.  We anchored in Akaroa Bay instead. This port doesn't have a dock big enough to handle a cruise ship, so we anchored in the bay and took tenders into the dock. 

The first part of our tour involved a 3 hour bus ride up a switch-back road and through some incredible scenery.  The mountains in this area are gorgeous and the planes in between were filled with sheep, cattle, dairy, and deer farms.  Our first stop was at a farm/museum.  The farm is still operating but many of the buildings on the main site contain farm equipment from the past 100+ years of operation, as well as a room full of rugby memorabilia.  We were served coffee, tea, finger sandwiches, and cakes while we explored the museum.
Lower Southern Alpine Mountains above Akaroa

After another hour and a half in the bus, we arrived at the train station at Arthur's Pass.  This was high up in the mountains and it was pouring rain when we arrived. We quickly transferred from the bus to the Tranzalpine train for the trip back down the mountain.  Although we signed up for this tour because of the train ride, we both agreed that the scenery was more interesting during the bus ride.  The train went through a number of tunnels, blocking any view.  Whenever we went over a bridge, there was a metal fence that they said  was a wind-breaker, but it was also a view-obstructor. In the areas where a nice view was possible, photos were not possible because the train windows were too reflective.  We did get some nice photos from the bus and from a few stops we made.

Akaroa Bay
The train dropped us off at Rolleston station and the bus brought us back the last 2 hr ride to the pier. We had some beautiful views of the bay on the way back.  Our bus was the first of the 4 on this tour to get back to the dock, so we were back on the ship by 6pm. 

We went upstairs to the Italian restaurant for dinner.  Service has been very inconsistent.  Tonight it was very slow.  We think they may be understaffed in the restaurants.  One of the officers was even helping out in the restaurant tonight!  We keep switching back and forth between the main restaurant and the Italian one, but they both seem slow.  Also, the food in both restaurants has been prepared in a more complex fashion than Ray likes.  There don't seem to be any simple options.  The vegetables and seasoning have even been a bit much for me.  We will survive it, but we both definitely like the chefs on Celebrity cruises better.

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