My DH and I took the 21 Princess Ultimate Australia tour - first-rate and absolutely fabulous! We started in Sydney and came a couple of days early to acclimate. Did the Bridge (not the climb, just walking across), Zoo, Opera House on our own; the start of the land tour was an introductory session of 29 people with Mel (Melissa), born in NZ and now married to an Aussie. Mel was great! Funny, informative, kept excellent track of us and all our luggage! Points of the land tour (with excellect hotel accomodations):
1. Sydney - just a city tour with a free afternoon/evening - that's why you need to show up early to see everything - I do wish we had shown up a couple of days earlier than we did. 5th most expensive city in the world - bring money!! Hotel - Amora Jamison
2. Ayers Rock (Uluru) - Flew to Yulara to see Ayers Rock (note: this land tour requires several flights since AUS is the size of CONUS w/out TX - Quantas was the airline we flew and they were wonderful.) We saw Ayers Rock and Mt Olga - both sacred to the Aborigines - and watched the sun go down - amazing places in the middle of the Outback. Hotel - Sails in the Desert
3. Darwin/Kakadu National Park - Another flight to this location - Darwin is a small, but expensive city which is growing due to the nearby mining and oil industries. Kakadu is a very large park where we saw more Aboriginal sites, rock drawings, and a museum - very interesting. Also took a river cruise to see the crocs and birds with more sightings than most days. Hotels - Gagudju Crocodile/Crowne Plaza Darwin
4. Cairns/Port Douglas - Another flight - Did the Kuranda Skyrail thru the rainforest - beautiful area. Then on to Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef. Went out with Quicksilver who has a platform at Agincourt Reef for snorkeling (we both did this), diving, sub rides, and optional helicopter rides- beautiful day, but water was a little rough - if you tend to get seasick, take medicine; it's a 90 minute ride out and then back again. They also have suits you can rent to keep any jellyfish from stinging you and keep you from sunburning. Hotel - Sheraton Mirage Resort
5. Now fly back to Sydey and board the Diamond Princess (you will not have any free time once back in Sydney). Boarding was easy (partly because it was after 5 pm) and the send-off was beautiful in the early evening with the skyline.
Ship - overall in good shape and nicely decorated for Xmas (not overdecorated); sometimes seemed the stabilizers weren't working as well as they should; Captain and crew very nice and efficient. Captain explained what was coming up and kept us informed, and, in one small instance, the checking of a fire alarm in the crew smoking room (just a fan not working).
Cabin - Suite at fore of ship - very nice with lots of storage, living room and separate bedroom with tv in each. PLUS: Bedroom was very quiet since it was separated from the hallway. WARNING: Bath included a high tub/shower - about 5" off the floor so if you have accessability issues, this is not for you. WARNING: They lock the balcony door during sailing and you must request it being opened when in port; so if you are a balcony person during sailing, do not get this cabin. They also request curtains be drawn at 6 pm so the bridge can clearly see over the bow since this cabin is forward of the bridge.
Dining - We ate meals exclusively at the Horizon Court buffet. It's not gourmet, but we both thought it was very good to excellent with a nice variety of food and good selection of salads and veggies; they always had an Indian veggie dish which I enjoyed, as well as rotating through other cuisines. On sea days they had a special buffet just outside Horizon Court to include sushi, Mexican, Italian, and Asian Soup (my favorite). And yes, sometimes you had to share a table, but I met some of the nicest people that way. BTW, when I said the crew was efficient, they were very good and quick to pick up dirty dishes off tables. The pizza and ice cream were good, as was the afternoon tea, but they serve the scones in the buffet during snack time as well as at the tea.
Shows - IMHO the Princess Singers/Dancers were the best ship entertainment group we had seen in a long time (except for RCL's Allure of the Seas shows). We enjoyed the Princess shows the most - the other "headliners" ranged from bad to ok. Liked the 30-35 min per show format with 3 shows per night. The lounge shows were enjoyable.
Gym - Medium size, with a wait for a treadmill depending on when you went. All the equipment was working and there is a separate room for stretching and doing other exercises. (Only inside pool was used much and mainly by noisy kids.)
Library - Disappointingly small. I dislike having to go during certain times only - we are adults and other lines keep their libraries open 24/7.
Galley Show/Tour - Fun to watch the chef and maitre'd joke and cook. Tour was short, but interesting. Cookbooks went for $28.
Laundry - $2 each for everything - the smallest roll of US quarters Princess will have is a $5 roll.
Shore Excursions - we took one in Hobart, Port Chalmers (Dunedin), and Tauranga - all were excellent and talked about in Port reviews.
Cruising Days - Slightly rough through Tasmanian Sea. Beautiful scenery on our days of cruising Fiordland National Park and Marlborough Sound in NZ. Get up early and keep your camera with you for some great pics. Note: Dress warmly - NZ is cooler than AUS w/more wind and rain.
Overall - Pack for warm/hot weather for the land tour with some rain gear just in case (You carrying a smaller separate bag for this part). Pack for cool, somewhat rainy weather for NZ. At this time of our cruise the exchange rate was about $1.05US to $1AUS and $1.20NZ to $1US - things can be expensive in both countries. Popular souvenirs - AUS: Aboriginal art, boomerangs - NZ: Possum/Merino wool clothing(very soft,expensive), jade jewelry, abalone shell jewelry, honey. Both AUS and NZ are beautiful countries with nice, clean cities/towns and very nice people. This is a FABULOUS land/cruise tour and enjoy yourselves! NOTE: NZ is very strict - no food/drink to be brought ashore at ports!! They check and sniff (only bottled water). Must clean shoes if you went to Aussie park/farm!! They inspect before arriving at first port. Not a big deal, but necessary from their regulations.