Christchurch, New Zealand – the Garden City – was our 5th port of call for the Mercury Celebrity cruise ship, and our first stop on the South Island. Christchurch is NZ’s second largest city and has a very English feel to it. The streets are named after British towns/writers/poets; the architecture is Victorian; the food is fish & chips.

–More pics on Flickr! (and feel free to leave comments!)

We made our way to the heart of the city to hop on a van that would take us to the International Antarctic Centre. Christchurch is usually the last stop for those making their way to the Antarctic, and this facility gave you a little taste of what it’s like to go there. Seriously. We had to put on rubber boots and these huge jackets, then we went inside this room that simulated the weather on the Antarctic Circle. It was crazy! And fun! We also got to see the Little Blue Penguins there…so cute! Who doesn’t like penguins!? (**If you go, be sure to ask for “student” and “pensioners” discounts if you can. For young (or those young looking!) people travelling, I highly recommend getting an ISIC card as it does allow you to get the “student” deals at a lot of places!)

Then, we made our way back to the city, Cathedral Square to be exact, to grab a bite. Fish & chips for all – except CK, of course – and some local beer. (I forget the name of the place, but I remember we chose the place just b/c we liked the name!) After lunch, we just kind of roamed around town – the city is a very walkable one. There was a little market set up in Cathedral Square; people were playing chess with human-size pieces; the trolley made its way through. And, we dropped in an internet cafe to check our e-mail. (**If you are on this cruise, I highly suggest you don’t bother with email on the ship – it’s very slow and expensive regardless of whether you have your own laptop or use the ship’s computers. I think I wasted almost $10 trying to send an email titled, “Quick question.” If you can, just wait until you get to a port and find yourself a nice little internet cafe. If you can’t, well, then maybe you don’t understand what “vacation” means!)

All in all, Christchurch was two thumbs up! Ahhh, but the best is yet to come…