Crystal Cruises are always looking for unique experiences to stand out from the crowd and an upcoming New Zealand sailing is no exception. Bringing adventure from the big screen to cruise passengers, Crystal Cruises has a new dinner experience this December, on the “Hobbiton” set used for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and new prequel film.
opens worldwide, Crystal Symphony calls in Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand, home of the “Hobbiton” set used for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and new prequel film. On the December 20 sailing, Crystal Symphony guests can have a private, guided tour from Frodo and Bilbo Baggins’ Hobbit holes to the Brandywine Bridge, featuring local wine and beer and a traditional Kiwi barbeque served by wait staff in Lord of the Rings costume.
“We are always looking for unique, boutique ways for our guests to immerse themselves in a world different from their own,” said Crystal’s Vice-President, Land & Port Operations, John Stoll in a Popular Cruising report.A second “Lord of the Rings“-themed adventure is also offered on both cruises, visiting Edoras’ home, Mt. Potts Station and Lodge, and New Zealand’s Southern Alps from Christchurch.
The 16-day Christmas/New Year’s sailing voyage overnights in Auckland before sailing through Tauranga, Napier, Christchurch, Dunedin, Sydney (double overnight), Melbourne (overnight), and Dusky, Doubtful, and Milford Sounds.
“With ‘The Hobbit’ opening mid-December, this is an extraordinarily timely opportunity for Crystal guests to be transported to a place that many fantasy-fiction genre fans, movie buffs, as well as wine and foodies, and off-the-beaten-path travelers, from around the globe can only dream of visiting,” said Stoll. The Hobbiton dinner and village exploration fee is $265 per person.
Budding real estate moguls listen up, as I’ve got quite the deal for you. The New Zealand mountain village of Otira is up for sale, and is currently seeking new ownership. The asking price of NZ$1 million (roughly $690,000) gets you all kinds of amenities, including a hotel, town hall, fire station, and 18 houses, although the location may be ideal for everyone.
Otira is located at an altitude of 3445 feet in a remote corner of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. The mountains offer a beautifully scenic backdrop and a near by national park provides plenty of outdoor adventure. But in the winter months, heavy snow can hit the region, and the little town is regularly cut-off from the outside world, sometimes for days at a time, thanks to an untimely blizzard.
The village boasts a population of just 44 residents, most of whom rent the houses that are found there. Many of those work for the TranzAlpine railway which rolls through town twice a day, bringing tourists to the area. The local hotel, which is not much more than a bed and breakfast, is the only place to stay for miles around, and offers up a hot meal and a cold pint of beer to wash it down with. The fire station has been re-purposed as a workshop for the local mechanic, and the school hall has been abandoned for more than a decade.
The current owners, Bill and Christine Hennah, bought the town back in 1998, and have been running, and renovating, it ever since. They are now approaching retirement age, and although they have no plans to leave Otira, the do feel it is time to pass it along to a new owner. They have listed the town on the New Zealand auction site Trade Me, where you can place your bids for this prime piece of real estate.
Who knows, perhaps you’ll be retiring there one day too.
Queenstown is a seemingly quaint town that resides in the shadow of the Southern Alps on New Zealand’s South Island. Walking its streets, one could easily mistake it for Boulder, Colorado. But like the American town that it resembles, Queenstown’s quiet appearance belies an adventurous spirit that pervades the people and activities that make this hamlet a popular tourist destination all year round. I spent roughly 36 hours in Queenstown and was consistently amazed by its natural beauty and friendly population.
How does a town of 10,000 people become a mecca for tourists? The proximity to some of New Zealand’s best ski fields certainly helps. But Queenstown is also the self-proclaimed “jet boat capital of the world” and the birthplace of commercial bungee jumping operations. For adrenaline junkies, Queenstown is a playground for the imagination.
Queenstown experienced its initial boom after a gold rush in the area during the 1800s. When the region had been picked clean of the precious metal, the population dipped below one thousand. The residents, in need of income to survive, capitalized on the local geography and turned Queenstown into a tourist hot spot. Now, Queenstown relies almost solely on tourism to survive and does so quite well.
So, how can you enjoy the the great outdoors and scare yourself silly while in Queenstown? Simply get out of bed and you can’t help but stumble upon any number of activities.
Million Dollar Cruise – Queenstown borders Lake Wakatipu, which is a boater’s paradise. For an entertaining lesson on Queenstown’s history and stunning views of both the town and the mountains that dominate the horizon, Million Dollar Cruise offers 90-minute sightseeing tours that provide a wonderful introduction to Queenstown. Owned and operated by Wayne & Betty Perkins, the cruise feels more like a day spent with friends telling you about their hometown than a commercial tour. That, by the way, is a good thing. Bundle up, though. I was there in the Spring and it was blustery out on the deck where the best photo ops are found.
Shotover Jet – Queenstown’s winding rivers through steep canyons made it the perfect place to become the “jet boat capital of the world.” Jet boats have flat bottoms which allow them to spin 360 degrees and seemingly move laterally. Shotover Jet operates in the Shotover River and has an office right in town, making bookings quite convenient. At $109NZ for adults and $69NZ for children, it’s a tad overpriced. But they have to pay for the 40 liters of petrol they burn every 30 minutes somehow. If you need a good family friendly activity that will impress your kids, go for it. Otherwise, I wasn’t convinced that it’s worth the money.
A.J. Hackett Bungy – Queenstown’s most famous adventure activity is also the world’s first of its kind. A.J. Hackett opened the first commercial bungee jumping enterprise on Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown in 1988 and it still operates today. A.J. Hackett now has other jump locations and Kawarau Bridge is by no means the highest, but it’s the original and that’s a draw for tourists. While the boldest of visitors may opt to jump off A.J. Hackett’s gondola 439 feet above the Nevis River, first-time jumpers will want to start at Kawarau and it’s 141-foot jump. That’s what I did and their friendly staff helped me overcome my fears and take the plunge. Would I bungee again? I’m not sure. But I am glad that I did it at the birthplace of commercial bungee.
Skiiing – You can get from Queenstown to a ski field in under 20 minutes. Coronet Peak and the Remarkables are the two closest ski fields and require nothing more than a short drive. Cardrona is only 40 minutes out of town and Treble Cone is a mere 90 minute drive. All four ski fields offer an abundance of ski and snowboard trails that draw visitors in hordes from June through October.
Whether you want to walk Queenstown’s quiet streets and window shop or trick your brain into thinking that you’re plummeting to your death, Queenstown has something for everyone (assuming you like the outdoors). After a whirlwind tour of the town, I was a tad disoriented but no worse for wear. Queenstown may have traded its gold rush for head rushes, but it’s absolutely worth a visit. Just try to have better form than I did when you leap off Karawau Bridge.
Mike Barish traveled to New Zealand on a trip sponsored by Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand. No editorial content was guaranteed and Mike was free to report openly on his experiences. He never spit out the wine and managed not to cry during any of the death-defying activities that Kiwis love. At least not in public. Read more of Gadling’s In the Corner of the World series here.