Martine Rolls: Between-decks look at luxury

By Martine Rolls

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Taking a cruise has never been high on my wish list, even though friends who have taken trips on cruise liners cannot stop raving about it.

Don't get me wrong, I really do love travelling and I especially love the ocean and being on the water, but if I go to sea I'd prefer a different vessel.

I'll happily take to sea, but it won't be on a cruise liner.

I'd rather sail the waves on a nice yacht, a historical clipper, or even a fishing boat.

One of my friends who took a cruise around the Pacific Islands a few years ago told me that she loved it, and especially liked that absolutely everything is done for you on board.

"When I got back to my cabin at night, I found my nightie all nicely folded up on my bed and some chocolates on my pillow," she said gleefully.

Personally, having some crew member going through my nightwear is the last thing that would delight me.

It's not that I'm not impressed by the scale of the ships that visit the Port of Tauranga each summer, and the luxury on board, it's just not the preferred way to travel for me.

Having all activities plus entertainment and dining options simply handed out to me doesn't appeal.

Where's the sense of adventure in that?

A bit of luxury is fine and I love to relax when I'm not working, but I'm pretty sure that for the next 25 years or so I will choose a more intrepid way of travelling.

I did enjoy James Fuller's story on the Voyager of the Seas. James tells us that once inside the ship, it becomes obvious why people refer to it as a floating town.

There's an online photo gallery of the ship as well. Some of the photos are taken by our photographic team and others were provided by readers. You can send in your own, too.

The Voyager of the Seas, in the port last Thursday, was the biggest cruise ship ever to visit Tauranga and it dominated the skyline, rising high above the port terminal and surrounding buildings.

The ship houses 5020 people and has all the facilities you would expect to find in a small town. There is a medical centre, shopping arcade, basketball court, swimming pools, mini-golf course, and a gym that has steppers, bikes, rowing machines and running machines on which you can stare out to sea.

There is also an ice-skating rink, a 1200-seat theatre, 14 bars, clubs and lounges, a casino, an art gallery, a climbing wall, an inline skating track, and a three-storey restaurant which accommodates 1800 at one sitting and all that is quite impressive, though not for me.

The 2012-13 cruise ship season is well underway and about 220,000 people will visit the region because of it. That is fantastic.

The five-month season is also expected to bring a big-spending Americans and Canadians to the Bay, many of whom had been holidaying closer to home since the credit crunch started.

Most cruise-ship passengers into Tauranga are from Australia, and about 35 per cent are American or Canadian.

Before the kids and I visited the Santa Parade on Saturday morning, we popped into Lightwave Gallery on Totara St for a quick look at Ken Wright's waterfall exhibition and the other art works on show there.

Go check this gallery out if you haven't seen it yet because it's a real gem.

Cruise ship passengers are an important target market for this cool little gallery and the shops downtown the Mount because it's not true that all passengers are piled on to a bus destined for Rotorua as soon as the ship has docked.

According to Bay of Plenty Tourism general manager Rhys Arrowsmith, who we quoted in another story about the visiting cruise ships, about a third of all passengers visit Rotorua, while 10 per cent stayed on board and the rest are "free independent travellers".

He also said cruise passengers on average spent US$100 ($121) per port call, and crew US$90. Based on the nearly $30 million pumped into the local economy by cruise ship visits in 2011-12, this new season holds the promise of a $35.8 million cash injection.


That is very good news, as Tauranga and Mount retailers and artists can certainly do with a few extra dollars.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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