Today we want you to join us for the unique experience offered by Hauraki Blue Cruises, based out of Auckland: an overnight cruise that takes you through the islands just outside of Auckland Harbour.
Their cruise ship is a sizable catamaran named Ipipiri (in fact, she is the largest cruise ship permanently based in New Zealand), offering 30 overnight comfortable rooms with ocean views from every window (which you can see out from, but you can’t see in to). The king bed (also available as two singles if preferred) is comfortable and the room is bigger than you might expect, or the picture suggests. There’s a desk in there, too, a small amount of storage room (including hanging space), and a private ensuite bathroom that has more than enough room for the night.
To provide a bit of background to the ship, she had been operating in the Bay of Islands since 2009 and only relocated to Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour earlier this year. So this remains a new experience for the area.
You board the cruise at about 3pm, and with no more than 80 passengers accommodated for (we had about half that on our cruise), it’s a very quick process. All guests are given a quick safety briefing, a run down on the day from the friendly crew, and then they take off into the harbour as you enjoy cheese, biscuits and coffee in the dining area or relax in the comforts of your room.
There are four levels on the ship, and as you sail through the harbour, I’d recommend you make your way to the roof, where comfortable sun chairs await. Speakers positioned there and throughout the ship feature the skipper talking you through the landmarks around you, giving you an idea of the islands, volcanoes and other land masses that surround the harbour, as you make your way into the Hauraki Gulf, where the ship spends most of the day. I was told by the crew that every trip is a little different, with the captain basing the journey on the tides. Because of this we didn’t know which island we were visiting until we arrived, which in the end was Station Bay on Motutapu Island.
We jump onto a small jetty out the back of the boat to get to the island. We’re given the option to go kayaking or explore the island and we choose the latter – though unfortunately we don’t get all that much time on the island in the end. It’s a stunningly green, breathtaking spot, covered in sea shells and a tranquility that only these sorts of areas in New Zealand can offer. Hard to believe we’re only an hour or so away from the hussle and bussle of New Zealand’s major CBD.
Though the island is covered in walking tracks, we would have to return to the cruise ship before we had the chance to explore too much of the landscape – though we did have fun traversing the rock pools that littered Station Bay. We returned and the captain kept moving, taking us to a point in the Gulf that we’d anchor at and call home for dinner and the evening. This ensured a healthy sleep through the night, without the ship’s usual movements.
Dinner was a three course menu, with three options available for each. I started off with the scallops, pictured above – with cauliflower puree and a balsamic reduction. Perfectly cooked, the initial dish proved that we were in for delicious meal. I chose the Angus Scotch Fillet for my main, accompanied with potato, beetroot, roast shallots and horopito. Perfectly cooked, the steak melted in my mouth and the meal to now gave me an appropriate surf and turf meal.
Then came dessert, and it was impossible to go pass the chocolate plate – though I’m told the sticky toffee pudding was phenomenal. With chocolate mouse, soil, hazelnut praline, a berry compote and chocolate ice cream, our final dish was a delicious – albeit glutenous – way to end a spectacular meal. You enjoy the meal amongst shared tables, and we enjoyed some great conversation alongside the evening – which saw us grab a bottle of New Zealand wine from the bar. No complaints there either.
After a very comfortable night sleep, we were awoken around 7.30am by the boat – now moving once again. After a quick shower to wake us up, we headed back upstairs to the dining room to enjoy a breakfast buffet (standard trimmings included – cereals, eggs, bacon…) not long before we arrived back in the harbour, ready to disembark at 9am. My only complaint would be that it would have been nice to have fit in an extra hour sleep – this was our holiday after all! – but such allowed us to experience more that Auckland had to offer on arrival.
This truly is a wonderful experience, with single night cruises a rare opportunity for a time strapped tourist, or even just a local looking for a different experience on a weekend (and there were quite a few of them on board). But more than anything, you just can’t beat that view… here’s how the world looked to us when we woke up in the morning:
Hauraki Blue Cruises (owned and operated by GreatSights New Zealand) also offer a Harbour Lunch Cruise. The overnight experience is available from $299 per person (Twin/Double) $449 per person (single) and $225 (per child). Bar charges are not included in the price. For more details head to: http://haurakibluecruises.co.nz/
Article written with thanks to Hauraki Blue Cruises and NZ Tourism for helping make this experience possible. All photos captured by the author during the trip. All prices were correct at the time of this article was originally published, in December 2014. Visit their website for the latest details.