Overnight Milford Sound cruise

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Monday, October 10, 2005

After boarding at 4.30pm, we dropped our bags off into our small but comfortable cabin, and made our way upstairs for the safety briefing. We counted just 17 people on board, which was ideal considering the boat was a 61 berth. It meant that it was more peaceful and less crowded, which could only add to the whole experience.

The crew seemed really friendly, introducing themselves at the briefing and outlining what they had planned for us. Charlotte and me were surprised to discover that a 3 course evening meal and breakfast was included in the price - we expected to pay extra! The cook promptly dished up pumpkin soup as a tasty starter, before we headed outside for the start of the cruise.

It was quite windy outside, but the captain assured us that it would drop as we entered further into the Sound. I didn't mind the blowy conditions as the sky was blue, and I could see the spectacular fiords in their entirety. The sheer cliff faces made for a more dramatic setting than at Doubtful Sound, and as we passed the spectacular Bowen Falls, the real magnitude of the place became clear. I'd seen so many pictures of the great Milford Sound, so it was a little unreal to be cruising through it in perfect conditions - it definitely lived up to expectations.

At 7pm, we hopped onto a tender craft, and the guide took us on a one hour nature cruise, getting a lot closer to shore in the hope of seeing penguins. Almost immediately, a seal swam past the boat, spinning round playfully before disappearing underwater. Shortly afterwards, we saw some Fiordland crested penguins, the extremely rare breed that I'd never seen before. As they bobbed up and down in the water, you could see their striking yellow eyes, but they spotted us trying to get closer and consequently dived under water.

An hour later, we were back on board enjoying a main course that included roast beef, pumpkin and broccoli. As we ate, the boat cruised into the Tasman Sea so that we could get a glimpse of what promised to be an amazing sunset. It didn't disappoint, and everyone made their way outside to get a clearer view. Even the staff, who spend every day on Milford Sound, were taking photographs - a sure sign that it was something special.

Everybody gradually went back inside for their desserts, but there was no way that I was doing that - I wanted to see the entire sunset as the sky was turning a brilliant red. Charlotte felt the same, so the two of us stayed outside until it was virtually dark, and it was a memorable experience. Renee, a very friendly member of the crew, surprised us both by bringing our desserts outside! So we watched a glorious sunset on Milford Sound whilst eating walnut shortbread with fried apple and cream - luxury!

When the sun eventually went down, we went inside and played a couple of competitive games of scrabble, and we were the last ones to go to bed at about 11pm. I needed to get a few hours sleep as I wanted to get up early the next morning...

I woke up at 6.15am and went outside again, although I couldn't see the sunrise as we were in a bay surrounded by towering fiords. Still, it was nice being all alone in such scenery, although I darted inside at 7am when it was announced that breakfast was ready. I was the only one there to begin with, so I had the whole table of food to myself! The cereals, toast, peaches and yogurt were all very nice, and a great big fry up followed - I was set up for the day!

The last hour of our trip involved a steady cruise back to the harbour, passing the waterfalls and fiords that had been a feature of the previous evening. One of the crew gave a commentary along the way, giving information on the various bays and features, and informing us about the Sound's history.

Another sighting of the magnificent Mitre Peak meant that our journey was drawing to a close, but I wasn't disheartened as we'd been incredibly lucky with the weather, and it is definitely a challenger for my favourite experience in New Zealand. It was made all the more enjoyable by having Charlotte there too, and as we made our way back along the Milford Road, I knew that I'd have a travel partner for a few more days yet...
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