The Traveling Steve's

Welcome to New Zealand! First Stop: Picton and the Marlborough Wine Region.

After 3 very rough days at sea on our crossing from Sydney thru the Tasman Sea, we arrived at our first port of call, Picton New Zealand. As our cabin was located in the very aft of our ship, the Majestic Princess, we felt the “motion of the ocean” much more than in the center of the ship, where many of the shipboard activity venues and restaurants were located.

While neither Steve (DOS) nor myself got seasick, the 3 sea days were quite a miserable experience, and it left us with a “blah, somewhat nauseous feeling”, and we didn’t really feel like doing anything other than going for meals, and some of the events in the evening. In fact the first of the theater production shows was postponed a couple nights due to the rough seas, although when it was eventually performed, it was a fantastic show.

I saw this article online from by Ajay Menon, that listed 10 interesting facts about the Tasman Sea we were crossing from Sydney to New Zealand, and thought fact number 6 summed our experience up pretty well. From the article Ajay Menon says “6. The Tasman Sea is one of the roughest waterbodies on Earth.” Steve (DOS) and I could not agree more; it was so rough as we crossed the Tasman Sea in April 2024!

It was hard to walk as the ship was so bouncy, and this was made worse by my mobility issues and balance. The waves were up to 38 feet at times, and with the exception of this video we took below, we didn’t use the balcony due to the wind and waves below.

When we finally arrived at Picton, New Zealand (NZ) for our first port of call, we were ready to kiss the ground! Fortunately, once in NZ waters, we no longer had the rough seas to deal with, as we were either docked, and/or had much smoother seas between the NZ ports of call.

At Picton, we did a shipboard excursion visiting three wineries. Picton is on the South Island of New Zealand, located near the famous Marlborough winery region, which is known for its distinctive “grapefruit” tasting Sauvignon Blanc.

We took the afternoon tour of the Marlborough wineries, and only had a dozen or so fellow passengers touring with us, as we cruised along in a comfortable tour bus. We had a nice drive to the vineyards, which were less than an hour or so away from the port, while our guide gave us a history of the area, and pointed out sites along the way.

We passed by farms, and our guide pointed out the many sheep we would see throughout the day. To put it in perspective, NZ has a population of around 5 million people, but over 25 million sheep, although the sheep population has been decreasing over the years. Historically wool has been a huge industry for NZ, although this has slowed down considerably due to demand, and lower prices for wool our guide said.

Logging is also an important industry as we noticed from the hundreds if not thousands of logs stacked up in piles at the port area.

Our first stop was at Hunter’s Wines; a family owned winery in the Marlborough region. As it was Autumn in New Zealand, and just past the harvest season, the vineyards were bright and colorful.

We had a nice tasting in a large room, tastefully decorated, with a cozy dining room feel to it. A seasoned lady winery guide provided information about the owner family of the winery, as well as information about each of the wines we tasted, while another lady assisted with pouring the wines at each table.

While we didn’t purchase any wine there (or any of the other vineyards we stopped at) due to our luggage and shipboard restrictions (Princess will hold your wine upon boarding except for the embarkation day, returning it to you the last day of the cruise), but we did purchase a souvenir cap to add to our collection.

As we headed onward to our next winery stop, our tour guide pointed out Cloudy Bay Winery, which was located just across the road from Hunter Winery. While we didn’t stop at Cloudy Bay, this is a large and fairly well known winery back in the U.S. and like many wines in the Marlborough region, is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc.

Our next stop was at Allan Scott Winery. Compared to the first winery we went to, it was much busier, and more rushed due to our tour schedule and the lack of serving our group as a whole. The winery guide was also not as informative, primarily due to the layout of their indoor tasting room, which was not designed for large groups, and it was divided among several tables on multi levels. Our group did not have reserved tables like the other two wineries we visited, and people took whatever table they could get, which intermingled some of our group with other guests visiting the winery on their own. This made it difficult for the wine guide to determine who was with our group vs others that were there on their own, and was quite confusing for all trying to enjoy a tasting in this hectic environment. The wines we did have were good (both whites and reds), however this winery would have been better to tour on our own, or at least have a dedicated tasting room for groups.

We had a quick tasting with a few others passengers on our tour, while the solo winery guide moved from table to table to serve and attempted to explain the wines we were tasting, which got all out of whack due to the tables being scattered throughout the rooms, and people being served different wines at different times.

Out tasting at Allan Scott Winery, with several other passengers from the ship.
Heading out of Allan Scott Winery. I’ll walk I told DOS, as it looks like a
bumpy path back to the bus!

Finally we headed to our third and last winery for the day, Fromm Winery. Along the way we passed the military Air Force Base, as well as some farming areas, and of course more sheep!

Of the three wineries we went to, FROMM Winery was our favorite. Like the first winery we went to (Hunter Winery), FROMM Winery was naturally decorated with the beautiful Fall Colors, but we especially liked the beautiful picnic area by the front entrance that was covered with fallen leaves, adding colors of reds, pinks, and yellows to the background.

Inside the winery, Fromm had a nice tasting room and friendly staff that served us and were happy to answer any questions we had. FROMM Winery is a fully organic winery, and our guide explained what this means, and how it differs from non-organic wineries.

Fromm’s tasting room overlooked the adjacent barrel aging room via large windows, displaying the various barrels on racks there.

After our nice tasting at Fromm Winery, we headed out, and back to the ship. As we were on a shipboard excursion we didn’t have to worry about making the boarding time if we were late (which we slightly were tour-wise time), but we still arrived shortly before the all aboard call for passengers at 5:30pm for a 6pm sail-away. As our tour was the last to arrive back to the ship, we were the last passengers to board.

We sailed shortly after we boarded the ship, and headed for our next port stop of Wellington, the Capital of New Zealand. Wellington is on the North Island of New Zealand, but only about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Picton, which is on the South Island of New Zealand.

Map showing our short onward journey from Picton NZ on the South Island to Wellington New Zealand on the North Island, only 99 kilometers away.
Map attribution: Downloaded from Google Maps, using Map Data 2024.

Our guide joked since it was such a short distance to Wellington, she wondered what the ship would do for another 14 hours as we were not scheduled to call there until 8am in the morning. There are several ferries that make the journey from the South to the North Island (and vice versa) multiple times a day in 3 1/2 hours. We saw a couple of these ferries as we approached the port area where our ship was docked.

Ferries sailing from the South to the North Island of New Zealand, and vice versa,
several times a day, taking around 3 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, as our ship left around 6pm, it was nice having a smooth and leisurely sailing thru the Cook Straight of New Zealand, unlike the rough seas we had getting there! And we could even use our balcony now since it was a smooth sailing!

Goodbye from Picton, New Zealand! Next stop, Wellington, the Capital of New Zealand.

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