As we disembarked National Geographic Orion in Picton, New Zealand, the “Picton Flower Ladies” greeted us with welcome boutonnieres (a decades-old local tradition). We felt a sense of excitement as we made our way to the bus that took us to the renowned Marlborough wine region. As we approached the region, the lush green vineyards and rolling hills stretched out before us. While learning about the local wine region, another group of guests joined a local guide who led them through Picton forests rich with native plants and animals while sharing knowledge about local Māori traditions. The small town of Picton, with only two thousand residents nestled into the hills around the harbor, was an absolute delight to visit.
Following our tours in Picton, we set out towards the North Island and encountered strong winds up to 45 knots as we crossed the Cook Strait. The wind created a display of waves that washed against the sides of the ship as the sea spray created a misty atmosphere around us. Guests gathered in the lounge for afternoon tea with naturalists Alexander Hillary and Dr. Martin Cohen, who gave presentations on the Hillary family legacy of exploration and the rivalries between Aussies and Kiwis (New Zealanders). We concluded our night watching The World’s Fastest Indian, a film documenting the triumphs of a New Zealand speed bike racer’s journey on his Indian Scout motorcycle in the U.S.