Experienced travelers have long recognized New Zealand, also known as Aotearoa in the Maori language, as one of the most beautiful countries in the world. On a 13-night cruise aboard Holland America’s Maasdam this past January, which included visits to eight different New Zealand destinations, my frequent traveling companion “Di” Varnell and I also found the people we encountered in this vacation paradise are some of the most friendly and welcoming folks imaginable.
With the added attractions of three Australian ports and a vessel ideal for the itinerary, this sailing proved to be one of the most memorable I’ve experienced recently and highly recommendable to groups that have already cruised closer to home in the Americas, Europe and Hawaii.
Since Maasdam was scheduled to sail from Auckland, New Zealand, we arrived a couple of days early so we could explore this fascinating city in depth. As is the case in many great cities worldwide, a two-day hop-on/hop-off bus tour proved to an ideal introduction to the area’s numerous attractions. Among the sights we particularly enjoyed were the waterfront area; the impressive (Anglican) Holy Trinity Cathedral; the excellent Auckland Memorial War Museum; Parnell Village; the Museum of Transport and Technology; the charming community of Devonport, reached by harbor ferry; and an evening visit to the Auckland Sky Tower.
One of the most interesting aspects of visiting New Zealand is witnessing the tremendous respect paid to the Maori, the indigenous people who landed here from Polynesia in prehistoric times. Initial conflicts resulting from the arrival of white explorers and settlers beginning in the late 1700s ultimately resulted in the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and the Maori chiefs. Armed conflict broke out during the early 1860s, after which most Maori land was lost to European colonization.
Today, however, the nation’s story cannot be told without recounting the countless contributions of the Maori and their unique culture, values and traditions to the development of modern New Zealand. Visitors will find countless bilingual signs here, in both English and the Maori language.