We were in for a leisurely day today. The Golden Princess arrived at Picton, a coastal town at the tip of New Zealand’s South Island early in the morning at 7:30am. There were so many things to do at Picton, but we opted to experience a 3-hr Captain Cook cruise of Queen Charlotte Sound which would not depart until 11am. That left us with plenty of time to have a leisurely breakfast at one of the restaurants on-board while the rest of the passengers made their way to land.
Sailing into the Marlborough Region of New Zealand’s South Island where Queen Charlotte Sound was located can be very scenic and it was indeed a worthwhile investment to climb out of bed to witness it.
Disembarkation was a breeze as most passengers had left the ship much earlier than we did.
The pier in Picton was a working pier and no pedestrian traffic was allowed. Therefore, Princess Cruises had provided a complimentary shuttle service to take their passengers to downtown Picton. The shuttle service was provided continuously throughout the day and was a 10-min ride each way.
Tip: Princess Cruises runs a numbered shuttle ticket service (similar to the tender shuttle ticket service) to avoid lineups at the gangway. If you will like to make use of the complimentary shuttle service, you can collect a ticket at a location designated by Princess when your party is ready to depart. After the majority of passengers have gone on shore, you will no longer require a ticket and will be able to proceed ashore at your leisure.
The drop off point for passengers at downtown Picton is near the Picton i-site, where you may be able to obtain free maps, guides and advise on Picton and the greater Marlborough Region.
Finding our way around downtown Picton was incredibly easy. The town of Picton was small but busy due to the crowd brought about by the Golden Princess.
I found Picton to be one of the best places to shop for local crafts and souvenirs. They are very unique and you hardly will be able to find similar items at other ports of call.
And of course, my favorite brand of New Zealand skincare can be found in almost all shops at every port.
The ferry terminal was where we were headed for ultimately to embark on a small boat cruise of Queen Charlotte Sound, with a stop at the historic Ship Cove. Although we had booked our tickets earlier, it is still possible to purchase tickets as a walk-in customer, but you run the risk of not being able to get seats at your preferred timing.
Waving goodbye to the Golden Princess as we started on our 3-hr cruise of Queen Charlotte Sound. This ferry ride was necessary because unlike at Fiordland National Park where the passageways were wider, the Golden Princess was too bulky to bring us into the small inlets of Queen Charlotte Sound.
Our catamaran featured both open decks on the upper level and enclosed decks on the lower level for our viewing enjoyment. Most of us preferred to be on the open upper deck, but it could get very breezy and cold here, even though it’s almost summer here in New Zealand.
Picton is a major transport hub that connects the South and North Islands of New Zealand, so we inevitably will come across many other ships that are commercial in nature. In fact, the Interislander that ferrys passengers between the South and North Islands of New Zealand crosses this strait as well. See if you can spot it!
Somewhere along the cruise of Queen Charlotte Sound, you’ll be able to see the North Island of New Zealand in the distance. Keep your eyes peeled.
If by now you are thinking that the cruise of Queen Charlotte Sound is rather boring, I assure you it is not! The cruise is a very scenic and relaxing one, and one that you get to enjoy the fresh air outdoors. Besides, there’s plenty of wildlife to spot both on shore and in the waters – Queen Charlotte Sound, as with many other Sounds in New Zealand is actually laden with wildlife. Many of our fellow passengers on the Golden Princess actually went on bird-watching or hiking shore excursions this day, and shared their experiences with us at dinner.
At about mid-point of the cruise of Queen Charlotte Sound, we stopped over at Ship Cove. The famous Captain Cook had used the cove as an anchorage during his voyages, and today, it remains only as a scenic place for a picnic and stopover.
There’s very little that we can see at Ship Cove given the little amount of time allocated to us, but for those who are able to stay longer, there are hiking trails that will bring you elsewhere.
Anyway, we made use of what little time we had to stretch those legs and chase some wildlife around.
Having nothing to do is a luxury which I could use sometimes to muse over life, especially in conditions as idyllic as this.
3 hours passes by really quickly when you are enjoying yourself, and I recommend that if you have a day in Picton, to take the opportunity to also explore the wineries in the region. For us, it was back to the Golden Princess for a sumptuous dinner.
Our starters of Lobster Bisque (the best of the best during this cruise!), cold soup of Chilled Apple with Calvados, and Smoked Chicken Breast.
Main dish was Roasted Pork Belly – a Curtis Stone Special.
My usual dessert servings of fruits and sorbet.