Finally I get around to writing about my birthday trip to Milford Sound!
Real Journeys’ Milford Mariner gave me an absolute treat for my birthday. I’d been itching to get out of Queenstown on a trip ever since our jaunt to Dunedin to watch the rugby and my birthday was just as good an excuse as any.
Luckily, I’d been planning for a while an an overnight trip to Milford Sound on the Milford Mariner was the perfect idea of a short getaway from the pressures of Queenstown and work, for both Craig and myself.
It’s always in the planning for me, as we’d managed to bag local’s deals, which they promote in the months before the peak summer tourist season. Instead of NZ$380pp (for the off peak dates we wanted) we paid NZ$259pp which included:
- The glass-roofed bus trip to and from Milford, which included commentary from the driver on the way there, as well as various stop offs
- complimentary tea and coffee onboard the Milford Mariner
- an opportunity to either kayak off the ship or go exploring in a small tender boat with the crew
- 3 course buffet dinner
- overnight accommodation on the Milford Mariner, in either a twin or double en-suite cabin (depending on your travelling companion!)
- buffet breakfast
- Of course, a cruise around Milford Sound itself, including a sail right out into the Tasman Sea
Arriving in Milford, we were greeted with many boats for the various cruise companies at the docks, but it was easy to pick out the Milford Mariner, a beautifully classy sail boat (the sails are for posterity only however!).
On the ship itself, there were 4 levels to explore, including:
- the bridge, where you could walk freely in and out of for the whole trip and talk to the captain and nature guides
- the upper deck, where you could walk from bow to stern, as well as having the covered dining area on it
- two lower decks where the accommodation was situated and the kayaks for exploring
On embarking the ship, we were first treated to a safety briefing, before being allowed to explore our cabins and the rest of the ship.
The crew were really friendly and remained very professional, although of course there was a lot of banter between them all when introducing. They work a week on, week off roster, so you can tell that they have to get on quite well in such close quarters!
After the safety briefing and the invitation to attack the tea and coffee at our leisure, we started our cruise around Milford Sound, before anchoring in a cove and being offered the chance to jump into either a kayak or into the tender boat.
As I’d heard whisperings of possible penguin sightings, I jumped into the tender boat with my camera not trusting myself not to drop it in the water at such an important time), whilst Craig donned his “togs” and hopped into a kayak.
What happened next was a bit of a blur. We were sat with tarpaulin over our legs (it was raining – see my next Milford post for more about the weather!), and motored towards a small beach in the cove.
We saw penguins.
Fiordland Crested Penguins, one of the rarest penguin species in New Zealand.
And I cried, tears of joy.
Obviously, I’ve seen penguins many times, but never in the wild.
My first wild penguins, seen on my 26th birthday!
Craig meanwhile was paddling frantically to catch up and see what the commotion was about. He smiled when he saw the penguins, and my face as I was watching them.
Imagine what I’l be like when I eventually visit Antarctica? Will someone please sponsor me to go?!
Back to the Milford Mariner and it was time for dinner, which, by the way, was superb. I enjoed it so much that I didn’t even get a chance to take a photo, it went into my tummy so quickly! Craig was cheeky just before dinner. He asked one of the crew if they could do something for my birthday. They said they couldn’t give me cake, as there ws so much cake available for the buffet, however they gave us a choice of the wine list, with their compliments! Not so enjoyable was them announcing my birthday to the rest of the guests on board, proceeding to make my face bright red, thanks Craig….
After dinner, the crew gave us a Powerpoint presentation with some of the more dramatic pictures of storms that have passed through Milford Sound, as well as a few cheesy jokes, ended the night superbly too. We stole a brief moment out on deck as the clouds had disappeared and the stars we out. Bliss.
Breakfast was just as noteworthy as dinner (we had been pre-warned before the trip to not eat anything, as boy were we well fed!), although we had a shorter time to eat it in because it all had to be packed away before we reached the Tasman Sea, which can get a bit rough at times and they didn’t want everything landing on the floor.
In the excitement of the penguins, I’d forgotten that we were also watching out for seals and dolphins in Milford Sound. We didn’t spot the latter, despite our short foray out into the Tasman, alas not completing the Milford wildlife trio, however we did get to spot a few seals, lolling about on the rocks. It must be tough being a seal!
Back to the dock it was time to end our trip on the Milford Mariner. The overnight cruise was thoroughly enjoyable and I would have loved it even without the penguins, who I believe came out just to see me on my birthday, I wish!
Thanks to the Real Journeys staff that day who made it an awesome experience too!