As the sun rose over the horizon and the ship glided over the silken blanket of the ocean, a royal albatross greeted us. Welcome to New Zealand. While the ship was being cleared by New Zealand customs, Massimo Bassano inspired us with insightful stories about his long career at National Geographic. It was humbling to hear about his work after enjoying his company on this cruise.

Before going ashore, the kitchen prepared another scrumptious meal for us, and we were ready for our New Zealand adventure. Arriving at the Waitangi Treaty grounds, we learned about the history between the Maori and the British from our local guides. These grounds house several treasures, one of them a war canoe that fits 120 warriors and was made from a single tree trunk. Time was on our side, and we strolled through the museum and historical building before being introduced to the Maori assembly house, called a Marae. Here, we were officially welcomed in the form of a threatening challenge–a way to ascertain if visitors have come in peace or to cause trouble. Expedition leader Alex Searle ensured that we were welcomed, and we were treated to a cultural dance performance with explanations. Afterwards, there was time to visit the nearby town of Paihia, where we found a craft market. In the evening, we enjoyed a warm farewell with humorous anecdotes told by Captain Fredrick. Everyone was in their happy place as we retired for the night.