The flight from SFO to Auckland was uneventful, Immigration was quick, our suitcase came off the conveyor just as we got to baggage claim, and our driver had already texted us to say he was at the airport.
There was just one small hitch…unlike our friends Wendy and David, we didn’t get “Express Lane” stickers for the biosecurity line, so while they headed directly to Arrivals, we were diverted to the line for the inspection area.
It was a long line. And after we got to the front of the line, a mere 50 minutes later, we were interviewed by two different biosecurity agents before putting our bags into the X-ray machine and finally being allowed all the way into the country.
Our driver was still waiting and took us directly to the JW Marriott in the Central Business District, arriving about 8am. We’d checked in online; our friends hadn’t. But they were quickly given the keys to a nice room on the 6th floor; the agent told us that we’d been upgraded to the top floor because I’m Titanium Elite and that our room would be ready “later”.
We dropped our luggage in Wendy and David’s room and all four of us set out to explore Auckland, starting with a walk to the harbour, which gave Diane and me a chance to make up for a lost opportunity on our Alaska cruise in 2010. We hadn’t ever taken a selfie with our ship, the Silver Shadow, but here it was just a few hundred meters away!
After that, we walked around the harbour area and enjoyed the buildings and the statuary (and we had gelato for second breakfast, since we’re so close to Hobbiton).
Our room still wasn’t ready when we returned from our wandering, so the four of us set out on the “Reasons to Love Auckland” scavenger hunt. We started the walk at Aotea Square, where Afrofest, part of this year’s Summer in the Square series, was just getting started.
The walk took us by the Sky Tower, the Civic Theatre, Town Hall, the Tepid Baths, Shakespeare Brewery and Hotel, and more. It’s untimed, so we stopped for lunch along the way, too.
The walk was fun and a good way to get a quick overview of the downtown area. And I got notified that our room was ready just as we finished, so we returned to the hotel and moved our luggage to our room. The view is nice, but I’m not sure it was worth the wait.
My Titanium status did provide one definite benefit, though – free drinks in the hotel bar during Happy Hour, which we enjoyed before going back to the food court at Commercial Bay for a light dinner.
There was a street acrobat performing in the square across from Commercial Bay; we stopped to enjoy his act, which mixed comedy and handstands.
I was happy to toss a few bucks into his hat after his show; it was a nice end to the evening.