The cable car is deservedly one of Wellington's prime attractions.
For a start, it is historic. When I was a student at Victoria University, a million years ago, it was the best way to get from Lambton Quay at the bottom of the hill to the university, which was just one stop from the top of the hill. In those days (and you can try out an old car at the Cable Car Museum at the top) it was possible to perch on the outside. It was even possible to chalk one's name on the side of the tunnel during one of the two tunnel stops -- if your name was very short! Not particularly safe or even legal, but students were students, even back then. Nowadays, the cars are completely enclosed, and can accommodate prams, wheelchairs, walking frames, and mobility scooters. On non-cruise ship days they even take bikes.
Secondly, it offers amazing views. And thirdly, it is fun. And the tunnels, now lit with fairy lights, are so pretty.
It also offers quick access to sites other than the university -- the aforesaid Cable Car Museum (free entry), the Botanic Gardens (free), Space Place, and Zealandia (free shuttle). Tips for all of these will be given in later posts.
The cars hold rather a lot of people -- more than sixty, with some standing -- and run every ten minutes. Normally -- and I repeat, NORMALLY -- that is, not on cruise ship days, there is just a short queue at the ticket office, and the wait for the car is equally short. On cruise ship days, it is different. The queue for the Ticket Office trails down Cable Car lane, and it can take 20 or even 30 minutes to get there. And then you can pay only in New Zealand, Australian, or United States cash, though Visa, Mastercard, and China Union are accepted.
This tends to add to the wait time.
However, the queue can be jumped rather easily. One way is to buy your tickets online. Or you can buy a Snapper card, which gives you prepaid travel on buses as well as the Cable Car -- but you must make sure that the card is loaded with enough money.
Another is to take a tour. There are at least three that offer the chance to ride the Cable Car as well as take in other sights.
Hammond's Wellington City Sights & Coastline Tour will take you to the top of the Cable Car, and pick you up at the bottom.
Xplor tours will drop you at the bottom, and pick you up at the top.
And the Rover Group's Hop on Hop off tour lets you make up your own mind.
All of these tours can be booked over the internet, making your Wellington cruise ship day a breeze.
Much more about these wonderful tour groups later.