My sister has always wanted to celebrate her 50th birthday with a bang. My sister and husband have being on two previously cruises but the rest of us have never cruised before. We arrived in Sydney airport early Friday morning, and had organised our own transfer directly to the port. We arrived around 10.00 and found the baggage drop area, we dropped off our suitcases and had no trouble checking in.
By 12.000 they were boarding the ship, our number was called and we were sitting down by 12.45pm to a buffet lunch at the Horizon Bar. I was very surprised how smoothly everything ran. After lunch we went to our cabins and found our suitcases waiting for us. I found our ocean view cabin exactly how I thought it would be. Yes the shower and toilet are small, and the room is small, but how much time do you actually spend in your cabin? To me it was perfect. There was sufficient room in the wardrobe for all our clothes and the suitcases fitted perfectly under our bed.
We sailed out of Sydney Harbour, and I don't think there could be a more beautiful port to leave on your first cruise. I was always concerned about sea sickness as the crossing of the Tasman from Australia to New Zealand can be very rough. And yes we did have very rough weather due to the cyclone that struck Fiji when we were on the cruise. Yes there was a lot of movement on the ship especially at night, but luckily I did not suffer from any sea sickness.
We spent the first two days at sea. We always ate our dinner in Regency Dining room (late sitting). We had two wonderful waiters who after the first night knew our likes in wine and food. Thoung and Monica we found were wonderful. What can I say about the dinners, there was always three courses with three choices for each course, plus the same meals for the diners who did not like the theme for that night. Then there was approximately 5 different deserts to pick from. There was different theme every night. For us the food was always first class, and if you wanted seconds there was no problems to have seconds. There is also the Sterling Steak House which has a $20 surcharge that we did not try but some of our group did, and they advised that the steak was wonderful.
The Horizon Bar, is an all day buffet running from 5.30am to 11.30 at night. We always had breakfast there and found there was a lot to choose from but my favourite was the eggs Benedict and Florentine. The waffles must be tried they were freshly made and were amazing. Lunch was at the Horizon Bar and we found there was always various foods ranging from salads, cold meats and cheeses to hot food. There is also dinner available at The Horizon Bar but could not see the point of eating here when the food in the Regency Dining Room was so good. There is a pizza bar that is opened for lunch and then for dinner. This is a very authentic Italian pizzeria and we had lunch here on a number of occasions.
When we first embarked on the ship we purchased a coffee card (I think this was AUD$35) for 15 specialised coffees. I strongly recommend to purchase one of these coffee cards if you like espresso, macchiato, cappuccino etc. The coffee was much better than I was expected. The cost of drinks on the ship was also very reasonable. $5.50 per stubby for basic beers. All martinis and cocktails were $10.15. At dinner there was a range of prices for the wines, we always picked a bottle around the $27 and always came back to these wines as we found them good drinking wines. I was expecting to pay much more for my alcohol and I was pleasantly surprised.
The staff on the Sun Princess are magnificient. They work very hard, but always have a smile on their face and greet you whenever they see you. Nothing is too hard, and any queries or questions where always answered and completed with a smile.
Due to the bad weather, disembarkment to Bay of Island was very slow as they were only using 3 of the tendered boats. We had researched all the ports before we left, and we were hoping to complete a Helicopter ride when we were at the Bay of Islands. Unfortunately due to the inclement weather we only walked the little town, and then returned to the ship.
Our next stop was Auckland. Auckland is situated on a beautiful harbour, and we had prior to leaving organised a short tour of Auckland and a trip to the Villa Maria Winery. Our tour organiser was waiting at the port for us, and we spent a wonderful day in Auckland. I noticed prior to boarding the ship there was very good duty free items (liquor and perfume was much cheaper here than on the ship), I was going to purchase some items, but I thought I would wait till I got to Wellington. But unfortunately there was nowhere else to purchase duty free items, and I regret not purchasing my duty free items here. We left Auckland two hours later than scheduled due to the bad weather from the cyclone therefore would be arriving in Tauranga two hours later than scheduled the next day.
We had organised a trip to Rotorua prior to leaving but cancelled the trip after being advised by the captain, that the ship would be arriving in Tauranga later than expected. Though when we arrived in the port, there were still tours going to Rotorua. A few from our group still went to Rotorua and they said it was worthwhile even though it was very rushed. My husband and I walked Tauranga and it is a beautiful sleeping beach town, and we really enjoyed the day here. Our next scheduled stop was Napier, but unfortunately again due to the rough seas we did not stop here.
We then arrived in Wellington on Good Friday. Wellington is know as "Windy Wellington" but the day could not have been more perfect. As soon as we disembarked we hopped on the shuttle bus (NZ$10 return) directly to the CBD. We then found a helicopter tour for NZ$240 for a ride of 25 minutes. This was worth every cent, and would strongly recommend to anyone who can do this ride. We then walked the beautiful harbour of Wellington. It was stunning, and then took a very quick tour of museum. Again another fantastic day.
Our next stop was Akaroa. We were tendered and this ran much smoother than the Bay of Islands. Akaroa is a very french influenced, and it is another small beach side town. We had not organised anything for Akaroa prior to leaving, as we did not know if there was sufficient time to go to Christchurch. As Christchurch is about 70 minute bus ride from Akaroa. Arriving in Akaroa we found many tourist guides, and picked the one that included a small tour of Christchurch and the devastation that the earthquake had caused, and a jet boat ride. We went to Christchurch first. Christchurch prior to the earthquake must have been a very beautiful town full of old churches and buildings, unfortunately much of the CBD has been ruined due to the earthquake and it had a very eerie and very sad feeling to it. We then proceeded to go approximately 15 minutes from the centre of the CBD to a small creek to complete our jet boating. This was another fantastic way to spend a day. We then caught the coach back to Akaroa in time to catch one of the last tendered boat.
Our last stop was Napier. We took the shuttle bus to Napier (NZ$15 return) We had organised and paid for our trip by train via the gorges and a stop over in Middlemarch prior to leaving. This was a great trip, especially if you are train lover and the scenery was magnificent. Though my husband did not really enjoy it and just kept saying more rocks and more rocks.
The next day we went through the Fiordland. Unfortunately it was an overcast day, but we still saw the beauty of the Fjords, and the last Fiord was Millford Sound and it was stunning.
We then has two days at sea and arrived back in Sydney. The disembarkment ran so smoothly, and we were scheduled to disembark at 9.40am and which we did and we went through customers and immigration by 9.55am. As one of our group stated everything is definitely ran like a "tight ship".
My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and have no hesitation in taking another cruise on any of the Princess ships again. The only two negatives would be I would not do another 13 night cruise as I found it was a little a bit too long, and this cruise does cater more to the older generation. Our average age of our group was 50, and we did find sometimes there was not much to do on the ship on the sea days.
Would I recommend this cruise yes definitely.