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Exploring New Zealand with Mary

by Celece Krieger


Mary Curtis, a travel consultant in my office, recently returned from an incredible trip to New Zealand. She was in New Zealand inspecting hotels and attractions for a tour she is escorting in April 2018. I could not wait to interview her for this column and share her experience.  

IMG_6439Where did you go and when?

I just returned from New Zealand during the first week of May. The weather was wonderful, a little chillier than home because it is their fall, but this also meant their busy tourist season was over. The roads were not busy, and we did not have to deal with too many crowds.

Have you been to the area before?

I have never been there before, and it was—and still is—on my bucket list. I already had plans to go with some of our clients on an escorted trip next spring, and then this opportunity arose for a fast and furious trip to acquaint travel agents with New Zealand. I came back with a different opinion on where I want to take our clients. I originally considered just the South Island, but there are things in Rotorua on the North Island that should not be missed. I cannot wait to go back for more!

What type of trip was it?  

This was an example of what escorted tours are like. Unlike a cruise experience where you travel with thousands of others, you are traveling with thirty to forty passengers. The transportation is part of the cost of the trip, and some of it is on very comfortable motorcoaches. Flight segments are also included.

What were your favorite activities or destinations?

I enjoyed being exposed to the Maori cultural experiences provided on the North Island. The Maoris were wonderful and so proud of their heritage. We were treated to an authentic haka type ritual of one tribe welcoming another tribe. It did not look very welcoming!

I also was able to attend a hangi dinner celebration that was incredibly prepared in their traditional way, but served on tables inside.

What is a fun fact you learned about the area?

I had always heard about New Zealand being a country of adventure, and it certainly is. The Shotover Jet Boat was amazing, and I am so glad I did that. The bungee jumping bridge was closed for the season, so we did not get to see anyone take the plunge. Before the Europeans arrived on the shores of these two islands, there were many species of birds, including the moa which is now extinct. Even the kiwis are having a difficult time surviving while non-native predators are thriving.  

How was the food?  Did you try anything unique?

They have fabulous meat pies that are sold everywhere. I split one with one of my companions on the last day of our trip, and it was amazing. I wished I had triedIMG_6446 it sooner at one of our lunch stops. Several breeds of sheep are raised all over New Zealand. Some are incredible for their wool and others for their meat. I have never been a fan of lamb, but I had it on three occasions, and I have to say it was wonderful. I do not know if it was just the season, but they served a lot of pumpkin-flavored dishes which were great. The soup was exceptional. Pavlova is their traditional dessert and was served with every meal. It was very tasty, and I am sure I gained a few pounds just from that!

Who should take this type of trip?

The trip I am hosting next year is the perfect trip for someone who has always wanted to go to Australia and New Zealand—it is a trip of a lifetime. It visits the Great Barrier Reef and the City of Sydney, Australia before going to New Zealand, with multiple nights at each of four cities on both islands. If you are only going to do it once, consider this trip.

Any advice for someone considering this trip?

I would highly recommend traveling with a group, whether it is a group of friends or strangers, it makes it much more fun. Of course, it is more comfortable traveling with a tour guide and a group on a motorcoach than trying to drive on your own on the other side of the road.  

For more information on Mary’s escorted tour in 2018, call (435) 628-3636 or email


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