Having been to New Zealand quite often for business and skiing, this holiday was more about the cruise than the destination. We did really enjoy the ports of call though.
Boarding in Sydney was well organised, though there was quite a wait at 11:30am when we got there. Should have dropped the bags and gone to the pub, but we where too keen to see the ship. Once on, and not having access to our bags, we set off immediatly to see what the ship had to offer. From the roof top lawns to the bars and the pool area it was all brilliant and so clean and well maintained. We had a light lunch from the Bistro out the back on the Oceanview Bar deck looking over The Rocks
It was fun having the overnight in Sydney's Circular Quay. We got back off the ship later in the afternoon and played tourists around The Rocks. They had set up a seperate entrance so as not to interfere with the people still boarding.
Our stateroom was fantastic. So much storage, a massive bathroom (relatively speaking), a bottle of champers and plate of fruit waing for us. We spent the late afternoon on our balcony overlooking the Opera House drinking champagne (or a near facsimile) and watching the ferry traffic on the Quay. The amenities provided where ample for our needs. During the course of the cruise, the fruit was regularly refreshed as well we had canapes every afternoon to enjoy with a drink in our room. The room mini bar prices are the same as the ships bars so it was a no brainer when we wanted to relax.
We lashed out on day one and joined the Persian Gardens thing to relax on the Hot Beds and Steam rooms. It was nice, but busy on sea days and probably a small extravagance we could have lived with out.
All the shows we went to where amazing, we only missed some due to conflicts with other things we wanted to do or see. There was so much happening on this ship, all the time, we where spoilt for choice. Jane Cho Elektra was amazing as where the Solsitce Dancers and the ships band. First class stuff. Ian the Cruise Director come commedian was brilliant at taking the micky out of Australians and New Zealanders trying to explain us to North Americans and Euopeans (I hope they got the humour). Milos the Naturalist was informative and entertaining in the sessions we attended.
Being on the Cruise Critic Roll Call and going to the on board welcome introduced us to the senior crew and management, who from my point of view, acknowledged us whenever we saw them on the rest of the trip. That was a nice touch and I appreciated the extra attention they paid to us.
The crew and staff where amazingly friendly from our room stewards to the wait and bar staff and even the ships crew we encountered doing maintenance (which they where doing all the time) everyone stopped to greet us and it felt quite natural. I also think our fellow guests for the most part where a very friendly lot. We struck up many friendships when we shared tables in the bistro and even on adjacent tables in the specialty restaurants.
We took the dining package before we left which meant we got to try all the specialty restaurants. Our favourite was Silk Harvest followed by the Tuscan Grill. Magnificent food great service and sitting at the back of Tuscan Grill was a joy, just above the ocean. Murano was so so which was disappointing. Maybe they where having a bad night when we where there. As we had pre booked 5 specialty restaurants we only shared our table in the Grand Epernay for half the nights, so our table buddies did not really get to know us, in fact one couple ditched us for another table and one night there was only the two of us on the table set for eight. Towards the later half of the cuise we worked out our communications so we all knew who was going to be at dinner and who wasn't and we invited some friends we met to our table and in the end all had a great time on the nights we dined togeher. Special praise for our Sommelier Eric. He was like a shadow and wether it was the Cafe, the dining room or other bars, he appeared from nowhere to make sure our wine needs where satisfied :-) At the wine tastings we did, we had a great time and met a bunch of other people who liked wines as much as we did to varying degrees. they where great value and fun.
The shore days where extremely well organised. The ship and local authorities had linied up shuttle buses where required, that where not expensive. Getting off and on the ship was easy. The only big wait was our one Tender port and that was to be expected. It was still organised and stress free (for us anyway).
Disembarking in Auckland we had our flights back to Sydney arranged with Celebrity, so they arranged day storage for our bags and transfers to the airport at the right time. Again just amazing organisation.
The lawn on the top deck was a pleasant distraction when it was not resting, which it did a lot of, it was nice to lay on it and watch the sky pass, smell the fresh grass and feel the wind.
There was so much we did that I have barely scratched the surface. This ship has so much to do on it that you could never be bored and it has a enough quiet spaces that you can relax as you wish.
We loved every bit of this cruise and any nit picking little quibbles would be only that, so not even worth worrying about. Our second cruise and even better than the amazing time we had on our first. I think Celebrity will be high on our list of must do again cruises.
Akaora was our Tender port. We chose to just spend a few hours exploring this little french heritage village. There where many tours available at the pier once off the tenders.
Free WiFi available at the pier and shuttle buses into Dunedin for a moderate charge. We had self booked a tour of Speights Brewery with lunch which was great and then we had a look around the town centre before jumping a shuttle bus back to the ship. And onto the free WiFi. and the port.
The local transport authority was at the Peir with day long travel passes and shuttle buses into the heart of the city. Melbourne really turned it on for us. We enjoyed lunch at Southbank, my wife loved shopping at DFO and the the return to the peir was easy via a local tram on the tickets we had.
A beautiful little town. We self booked a tour to Rotorua with Jim Archer from Archers tours. That was great value and interesting. But even going to the waterfront bars over in the main part of town would have been great. It would be a nice place to retire.
Windy Wellington lived up to its name. We walked into town rather than catch the shuttle bus. It was a nice walk but with rain showers probably not the wisest choice. It was Sunday so there where markets and the shops where open. The National Museum was brilliant.