This is a very late review, I just didn't get around to it when we came back last year. Now we are set to go again next month and reading all I can on the CC board, which are so helpful, it made me feel guilty for not making the time to do it earlier.
Our first cruise was a Christmas cruise from Melbourne to New Zealand on Dawn Princess. From the absolutely impressive express check in (dropped at the boat 11.45pm on board by 12, unpacked and eating lunch by 1pm) we loved it. The beautiful Christmas decorations, friendliness of everyone, it was a wonderland to us. We had splurged to get a balcony as there had been a big special going when we booked where you got a balcony for an ocean view price. We were on Riviera deck and loved just walking out of our cabin along to pools and gym.
We loved everything, the food, we were on first sitting, then went to a show which were outstanding to us, then we would wander on up to the buffet to see if there was "anything to eat". It was quite a joke as we had already eaten such superb meals.
We enjoyed the shore days and didn't actually go on any "ship" excursions, but just took the shuttles into town and pottered round ourselves mostly. We plan to go back on the same cruise in the future as there was so much to do that we didn't get around too. Loved cruising up the Fjords. Spectacular. Another highlight was the townsfolk welcoming and sending us off, whether it was pipers in Dunedin, barbershop/jazz quartet in Napier or the Maori send off in rotorua.
Just being on the cruise was highlight enough! Not having to lift a finger for 13 days was a dream holiday!!!!
We had no hesitation in booking a future cruise deposit and are going to the islands from Brisbane January 2013. Really looking forward to that. Though we loved departing from Melbourne with no flights to worry about. But the only way to get to the islands is from Sydney or Brisbane. Would have loved to go from Sydney but timing didn't suit us, so Brisbane it is.
Really hoping to pick up some tips on the islands now. We have a balcony again!!! We weren't planning to as we decided we would rather go on more cruises and go interior, but got such a good deal we couldn't refuse. I think we will use it more than we did on the NZ cruise as it was quite chilly some days.