Being a New Zealander we were unsure on how we would feel about doing a cruise around New Zealand and cruising in November the weather could also be a bit changeable. We are very familiar with the North Island cities and towns that we visited and had been to all of the South Island destinations many years ago. We have done 6 cruises and would have to say this would be the best in terms of the scenic beauty of the country, the Celebrity Solstice ship and the itinerary.
The weather couldn't have been better, starting in Auckland and disembarking in Sydney we were blessed with beautiful blue skies, glistening seas and fairly warm temperatures. Crossing the Tasman sea was a little rough with a fog or mist appearing in the morning and lasting until the afternoon.
On cruise ships its easy to get lost or it can be difficult sometimes to find your way around between the various decks but not so on the Solstice. It was very easy to navigate and I don't think there was one occasion where we got lost. The ship inside is incredibly clean and all the decks were spotless. Very rarely did we see maintenance crew in public. Our balcony stateroom mid ship was perfect, with an excellent roomy ensuite and serviced twice a day by our attentive steward. We dined in the Espernay on 4 occasions and were happy to eat in the buffet for most other meals. We were pleased with the range, quality of food and service in all the dining places including the Crepe Restaurant. We visited Café Baccio for coffee on several occasions and often had a pre dinner drink overlooking the atrium and listing to good music played by one of the two resident bands.
We met many people on our 12 night voyage, mostly over breakfast, lunch or dinner - mostly Americans and English although there was a very good mix of Europeans, Australians and a few kiwis. We were quite surprised that there were so many that had travelled a very long way to do this cruise and they weren't disappointed. We were so very proud to be kiwis - cruising into the Bay of Islands, Tauranga, Wellington, Akaroa, and Dunedin were fantastic. The scenery was amazing and Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sounds were unforgettable. Milos, the on-board Naturalist in his Milford Sound commentary said "well folks, it doesn't get much better than this". He was right, the weather was perfect and clear, snow on the mountain tops - it was amazing. All those who were enjoying the experience of cruising through Milford Sounds were just spell bound by its beauty and tranquillity. We chose to do our own shore excursions in New Zealand but did the Hobart Port Arthur Express tour booking on line before departing. Unfortunately it wasn't long enough at Port Arthur as there's to so much to see. Its hard to believe that this most beautiful setting in Tasmania was such a horrid place for those that were prisoned there in the mid 1850's.
This was a fantastic cruise, from the no hassle embarkation at Auckland to leaving at Sydney - everything ran smoothly and the professional, well mannered crew did everything they could to make the cruise enjoyable. The scenic beauty of New Zealand is probably taken for granted by most Kiwis, cruising into the various harbours and ports around New Zealand make you realise just how lucky we kiwis are. We highly recommend this cruise to all around the World and especially New Zealanders.