Featured Post: Down Under

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Ever think about traveling Down Under? Lucky for you we have a fabulous feature post from Megan of Jet Set Brunette all about her trip to Australia!

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The Shaffer fam is down under! Talk about about a long flight…(woof). Below is what we did day-by-day.

Day 1: Sydney, Australia 

Day 2: At sea

Day 3: At sea

Day 4: Picton, New Zealand

Picton was one of my favorite cities in New Zealand. It was the only city on the south island that we visited. I wish we would have done a kayaking exclusion because Picton had the bluest water I’ve ever seen. Picton is most known for the wine…some of you may have had Malborough wine. So naturally we had do some tastings. We also checked out the local beaches and hiked to Bob’s Bay which was a really beautiful exclusive beach.
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that water though 

Day 5: Wellington, New Zealand 

Wellington was a lot of people’s favorite city…not mine, but it was still pretty unique. The city reminded me of San Francisco with many hills, cable cars, and Victorian homes. This day my family did the Lord of the Rings excursion. We went to Mount Victoria and saw where part of the movie was filmed then toured Weta Workshop. We saw how the costumes and props were made for movies they produced including The Hobbit, Avatar, District 9, and many more. My favorite part was all the behind the scenes facts from the Lord of the Rings movie.

Day 6: Napier, New Zealand

Napier was a bit more country side than I expected, but it was still really pretty. We took a taxi up to Mission Estates Winery & Silky Oak Chocolate factory (two of my fav things). Although, my dad made us chug our wine since our taxi meter was running. Mission Estates winery reminded me of a southern plantation. I was already getting ideas for one of my friends to get married there.

Day 7:  Tauranga, New Zealand

In Tauranga we did the Rotorua thermal outing and blue baths tea excursion. This was a long bus ride, but we got to see all the kiwi farms. We first had some tea and scones then ventured on to the largest natural geyser in the southern hemisphere at Maori village.

Day 8: Auckland, New Zealand 

Hands down. Favorite city. What was there not to love? The weather, the shopping, the millions of yachts, the clean air, oh, and the bungee jumping. I was on a mission to find the AJ Hackett Bungee place. I did some researching beforehand and after about a 5-mile hike I found it. I convinced my brother to jump with me from the Auckland bridge (Chris was not a happy camper and left the scene). Bungee jumping was on my bucket list so why not do it in the beautiful New Zealand?! My friend Leah bungee jumped in Queenstown on the south island so it really inspired me to do it. It whole process took about 1.5 hours. We got our gear then climbed to the top which by the way gives a beautiful view of the city and harbor. The heaviest guys went first so I watched my brother go before me so I knew I could do it. The loud music was encouraging too! Right before I went he asked if i wanted to get dunked. SO worth it.
All in all, New Zealand is one of the prettiest countries I’ve ever seen. Had I not gone bungee jumping I think Picton may have been my next favorite city. There is so much to explore though you can’t go wrong. I’ve heard renting a car a exploring New Zealand is the best way to see it. So maybe next time…
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Don’t mind my hair lol

Day 9: At sea

Day 10: At sea 

Day 11: At sea

Note: The Tasman Sea is pretty rough. We had up to 15-foot waves the first few nights so I recommend if you have the slightest bit of motion sickness to bring some Dramamine or other medicine. I didn’t get sick, but my mom did…

About the Cruise

Royal Caribbean – Explorer of the Seas. This cruise brought back some memories for me because we were on this same ship 13 years ago departing from Miami in the Caribbean when it was a new ship. There is a ton to do for all ages. The “at sea” days were mostly spent working on in the gym, ice skating, rock climbing (which is way easier to do now versus when I was 10) and laying out at the adult pool. There were movies and shows at night. Ninety-six percent of the ship was from Australia so we met a ton of really nice people. I would recommend taking a Royal Caribbean cruise because they are super organized and affordable. They leave an itinerary on your bed of everything going on the next day on the boat. Tips for the port the next day, weather and recommend attire. We had two formal nights (which you don’t have to attend if you don’t want to). In addition, You can pay extra to do the shore excursions or just explore the port on your own. I found that its almost better and cheaper to just explore the port on your own.
Things I loved: All you can eat, amount to do on the ship, the cute towels in the shapes of animals left by our awesome steward Antonio.
Things I hated: Children running around all the time, everywhere. The price for alcohol and Coke packages. I personally don’t drink that much pop, but for some people I know this is hard thing to give up on your vacation. It costs $22/day just for the Coca-Cola cup to get unlimited pop from the machines. That would be $242 just for our cruise. Worth it? In my opinion, no. Next, there are multiple alcohol packages. You can get the select package for $42/day, premium for $57/day, or ultimate for $67/day. If I were on spring break with my friends, I’m sure I would do the premium package. Since I was with family, I wasn’t trying to get white girl wasted. Of course, we had some wine at dinner, but not enough to get my money’s worth on the select alcohol package. That doesn’t include wine off the boat obviously. For me, I would rather try local restaurants and wineries off the boat so for this vacation, so I think it was smart we didn’t get a beverage package.
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Antonio left us cute little animals every night

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Day 12: Sydney, Australia 

Luckily, we had nicer weather on the way back. The first day it was raining, so we couldn’t explore much of Sydney. I would suggest coming here during Australia/New Zealand’s summer which is right now (January). It’s currently 75 degrees and sunny with a perfect breeze. Sydney harbor was filled with entertainers and shops. We went to The Bakers Oven Cafe which is located in “The Rocks.” I had the best calamari of my life. After that we got gelato on the harbor at Gelatissimo. I would recommend both. We walked around the Palace Garden and Sydney Opera house. If we had more time, I would have liked to go to Bondi Beach.
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Looks like an amazing trip! Sign us up!  Thanks so much to Megan for this great post!
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