We took this cruise as we had not sailed on "Diamond" before, and it started in our home town of Auckland; 20 minute drive over the bridge beats all day flying to Australia !
Embarkation ; at Princes Wharf was quick and easy, probably the best of any port we have struck, and our bags were in our room within an hour of boarding. We were surprised at the low number of NZ passengers
( around 300 ) but very pleased with the large number from USA, Asia, and Europe including even Russia, who had travelled specially to see New Zealand. And met some lovely people too
Accommodation; Our cabin , C303,was excellent ; our agent had found a wheelchair accessible cabin
was available ( at the same price ) and we took that, super extra space and especially the bathroom, flat and huge. Also the balcony was extra big ; Caribe deck has the best balconies, Dolphin ( mini suites ) are out in the open and can be fully seen from above; Caribe is half open but twice the size of Aloha and Baja. Our steward was a bit hit and miss, we found our room one night at 9 p.m. had still not been serviced, but after complaints to housekeeping it was rectified. He was very pleasant but needed a bit of "nudging". We were impressed that a cabin steward a bit further along greeted us on arrival like long lost friends, we had struck him on another ship but he not actually been our steward; sums up the attitude of the Princess staff, all very cheerful and well trained.
Dining; in some ways exemplary but at times lost the plot a bit ;the Horizon Court buffet was not up to previous ships standards, particularly at lunch when quite a bit of the food looked decidedly recycled from the night before. But plenty of seating in several areas. We selected Any Time dining for dinner,
( not available on Sun or Dawn) and found it worked very well for us, a simple reservation phone call before 4.30 p.m.. and you were seated immediately. We stuck to the "Pacific Moon" dining room as we found the waiters excellent, and by the second week the head waiter was letting us pick our own table to fit in with the best servers. Food was generally very good, with just the odd hiccup, but a lot of really nice meals. We ate at "Sabatini's " one night and that was excellent, we were celebrating our 53rd wedding anniversary and they pulled out all the stops, well worth the surcharge.
Entertainment ; again, being so used to the same old, same old entertainers and shows on "Sun "and
" Dawn" , the entertainment came as a pleasant improvement. The 5 production shows ( with one exception) were all new to us and very well staged; the bigger stage and facilities made a huge difference. We also had several other individual acts, especially Paul Adams, one of the best comedians we have struck on a ship. Other entertainment around included Sammy Goldstein nightly in the Crooners Bar, and all sorts of other activities, some of which we had to miss with so many port days. Overall, a good selection. Public rooms on this ship were all excellent and well suited to the various purposes they were used for , even though at times the choice of venue was a bit of a mystery ! Cruise director Brett Siborne was excellent with good back up staff.
Port calls; we did not take any of the ships excursions, we generally only do that in a port that is new to us, as they are so expensive.
Tauranga ; took the shuttle bus into town which was a bit dear at $15; and could probably have been just as well off walking around the Mount, but pleasant enough, a glorious day for weather.
Picton; took a "Bubbly Grape " wine tour and had a fabulous day out with a group of 8 from the ship, all privately organised and worth every penny. Highly recommended. We were also very impressed that the ladies of the town had made up fresh flower buttonholes for everyone getting off the ship, a lovely touch to promote their port.
Wellington; took the shuttle into town, which was not too bad at $10. A bit too far from Aotea Quay for us to walk. We wandered the beautifully updated and presented waterfront, and visited Te Papa museum which was not there when we lived in Wellington in the 1960s. Again highly recommended and we were impressed by the city as a whole.
Akaroa ; anchorage port but no problem getting ashore with the ships tenders ( it does help having the black card ! ) . We took an all day tour into Christchurch, Sumner and Lyttelton port, and had a good look at the earthquake damage plus other sights and found it a worthwhile day.
Dunedin; we had arranged a day out through Headfirst Travel, who picked us up from the port and took us into Dunedin Railway Station where we got on board the Taeri Gorge train; a really lovely and interesting 5 hour train ride in vintage carriages, and at less than 50% of the ships excursion. We came back into Dunedin and did the Cadbury World factory tour which was OK but rather annoyed us with its over the top health and safety regs., and 160 steps; and back to the ship in a private van as Headfirst had forgotten to pick us up after the Cadbury Tour, but sent a van for us after a phone call; back on board in time after an excellent day.
Fiordland Sounds; the only cloudy day of the whole cruise, but with it flat calm conditions and a really excellent day's viewing, starting at Dusky Sound , then into Doubtful and Thompson's , and finally Milford Sound. Very close up in lots of places, and again well worthwhile. A very good commentary from the Head Park Ranger who was on board, supplemented by Captain Dino Sagani, who did a great job ( and is going to the new "Royal Princess ' in July. )
Hobart ; we walked into town and took the hop on hop off double decker bus tour; we were impressed with the very large number of vintage cottage and buildings right through the city, and all so well presented. A very nice city, and again the most beautiful weather.
Melbourne ; from Station Pier took the shuttle bus into town, which terminates at the Art Centre on South Yarra, a bit out of the main CBD; but pleasant enough; we then took the free City Tram circle tour, a bit crowded with the ships people., and after a bit of retail therapy, back to the ship by the 109 tram, packed to the gunwales and standing room only and quite a long way ; but made it OK.
Then into Sydney where disembarkation was a breeze( we had been processed by Customs between NZ and Hobart in another well arranged manner) and simply walked off in our own time to get a taxi to our daughter's.
All in all a very satisfying experience , the beautiful weather through-out was a plus of course, but we loved the ship, as so many have said, never crowded, just a great cruise,which took us back to many new Zealand places we had not been to for a long time.. Would definitely use this ship again when she gets back into NZ waters.