Tell me again why we decided to go on a cruise with a 2 year old? Well it was the best solution we could think of to see most of New Zealand in a relatively short time frame. So Embarkation was literally just down the hill from our Hotel-Holiday Inn Old Sydney which I highly recommend. As expected it was sort of chaotic but we got there around 11:30 am which was the time that the ship opened for allowing Customers to get on. (keep in mind that the ship just arrived earlier that morning to let off another cruise…..no rest for the ship company!). There were lines for general boarding and priority boarding but since we got there so early it didn’t matter. We had many pieces of luggage and with our 2 year old didn’t know how to get our luggage from the curb to checkin but my wife found an attendant who took our luggage and checked it in which was a relief! We went inside and this is where it was really chaotic with lots of people filling out forms for customs and going through security. It was how I had expected it. One recommendation to make to RC is to have you fill out the custom cards with our sail and pass cards online so that way when we arrive it is a simple check in through security. I think this would ease the craziness of trying to finish this or at least give us the forms ahead of time so that we can at least fill out and when we arrive go right to customs. After we got through security it took us about 45 minutes from start to finish, not bad at all. Once we got inside the ship our rooms were not ready until 13:00 and we had about an hour so we headed up to the Windjammer (more review on this place later). We had lunch and than checked into our room. Room on check in was ok. It was sort of clean but noticed dirt underneath furniture as we moved things around for our daughter. They had the Pack n’ Play set up which was nice. The Suite was nice though for the room. Could not beat the size of the bathroom from our earlier cruises. Our luggage came in separate loads but we did receive them in about 4 hours which again was nice.
I wish we would have brought a lanyard and febreeze. There are no laundry units on the floors like Princess Cruise Lines so all laundry has to be done through them with a child can add up quick. Advice on laundry is to bring washable underwear and socks and reuse clothes. You will have a liner in the bathroom to do this.
Food was good but after awhile had same selections…. with a wide selection of different entrees but my biggest negative was that the ship had so many people that seating was an issue at times, especially lunch time hence the name "People Jammer". At times we were dodging different people in order to get our food which was annoying and difficulty with a 2 yo. Also it seemed they had limited high chairs and we kept getting the same high chair that was broken. Be ready to pay for any extras like expresso or sodas. Water, tea and coffee is free. Meal times were 7-10 breakfast and lunch 11:30-4:30 and dinner was 6:30 which was hard for a family. I wish they offered us a earlier time like 5:30 or so for us with little kids? Another recommendation for RC.
Day 2 Seaday:
Seas were really rough this day. In fact my wife was sick. Guest Relations did offer Meclizine which was nice. This day not too much to do but to try to get a schedule/routine down for our daughter. Again, lots of people on this ship so a challenge for seating at Lunch time. They did have various kid activities where they would have a “Dream Works” dress up character such as Shrek etc for pictures.
Day 3 Seaday:
Same as Day 2.
Had nautilus equipmemnt, plenty of treadmills, and exercise bikes, and elliptical machines and rowers. They also had a exercise room with spin cycles. There hours were from 6am to 22:00. I wish they had earlier opening like 5 am so that I could work out before our daughter woke up. Gym was overlooking the water and was good.
Play room for toddlers:
This was a made up room which they used one of the piano bars and placed a matt down along with some toys and that was the Toddler play room. We were hoping for a program where they would have some activities like reading times etc…..it was ok. Good place to meet other families.
We did see the kid program area which looked great but again only if your child is 3 year old and above, no exceptions per RC!
Enjoyed the Casual dining night. Waiters good.
Elevators always a wait and at times inconvient but no way to get around that given the amount of people on the ship.
Our daughter is having some tantrums and hard time adjusting. Windjammer crazy at lunch. Can’t stand that place with the crowds. Hard to get a seat. Will go see the Ice Show today. Ice show was well done.
DAY 5 NAPIER:
Small town with downtown promenade. Docked at their pier and took about 10 min free shuttle ride to town. Park, aquarium downtown for kids. We ate a a café. Reminded us of upscale N. California town. Could live there. Didn’t see too many of stores as Francesca needed nap. Spent about 3-4 hrs off ship. Shuttle had space for stroller. Weather was cooler than normal. Partly cloudy and about 65 deg. Very comfortable. I felt like the entire small town was taken over by the masses from the cruise ship. Napier would be a cool place to be during low times or when not so busy! Would be a great place to spend the night and the town would be yours! Ship was there between 0800-17:30
DAY 6 WELLINGTON
Big disappointment! More on this later but docked at the pier at 08:00 am and ship took off at 17:30. It was an absolutely beautiful day with bright sun and cool temps in the mid to upper 60’s. In the horizon before we docked I saw another massive cruise ship like ours. So imagine 6000 plus taking over the city! The crowds were crazy. We got off the ship with our 2 yo and took a shuttle, which cost 10 NZ dollars per adult to go to the main city. Had we not had our daughter you could probably walk it, maybe a 1 mile walk to the city center. The lines at the Cable Car were long and with a 2 yo who was not happy, lined seem forever. We waited for about 30 mins and decided to give up as when we got to the front to buy tickets found out the wait was to be another 30 mins with an upset toddler. We got some food instead. After we ate, we walked down the street to their Wharf and walked around. We found a playground where our daughter played for about 2 hours. At about 14:00 we decided to go back to the Cable Car line but was still long. Frustrated and upset we decided to call it the day. When we stopped at the souvenier shop we talked to a local who said that it is unusual to have 2 big cruise ships in port…..looks like we picked the wrong time. The off season for New Zealand is April-October which if I ever did come back I would never do this trip on a cruise and would come in the off season but chances are slim to do that given the cost and time for a trip. Maybe next Spring or in Spring 2015 before we leave. Wellington has the Cable Car along with Zealandia and the Lord of the Rings tour. Seemed like a very cool town. Again probably could spend several days here on the off season away from the crowds and the cruise ships. Whose idea was it to allow to cruise ships to port the same day……errrr….!
DAY 7: PICTON
Small town. Reminded me of a small town in Alaska. Short time there in town. They had a market downtown where we bought some gifts. Took some pictures at their Marina. Ate at the Quay in town had BBQ Meat pizza, which was ok. All in all a much better low key day than Wellington. They had a free shuttle to and from town (about 5 mins). We didn’t walk down main street as we were doing our own thing. A good stop. Shuttle was slow just to go a few miles. Very hot inside. We had dinner at the dining room where they had a show.
DAY 8: DUNDEDIN
Chaotic getting off ship at 10 am. Unorganized as people looking for itineraries and rides. Had to find where to purchase rides to town. Cost 22 per person round trip to Dundedin for a 20 min ride? Why couldn’t the cruise ship pay for this? We had no itineraries so we arrived in city center and walked about 40 mins to Botanical Garden. We enjoyed our day! Best port stop we had. Had food and souvenir shopping. Had an IPA at Albar. Would come back again. Many more sights to do.
DAY 9 FJIORDS
Absolutely stunning views and was magnificent seeing the fjiords. Munford was amazing! Picture the Rocky Mountains jetting straight up from a blue-green sea with waterfalls. Had another difficult day with Cheska. Not happy multiple tantrums. Had a rude encounter with a Windjammer waiter. Another waiter encounter at the so called “People Jammer”. We enjoyed our dining experience each night. Can’t wait for cruise to be over with. Concierge service snobby. Sitting service is sketchy. Only recommend 3 and under only if you have family and a way for a break otherwise not worth the stress!! Don’t know why RC decided to have a formal night when we were cruising the sounds? Rather watch the sounds etc…..better to have it on a sea day.
DAY 10 SEA DAY
We found things to do. Hired a sitter for 19$ an hour which consisted of 2 sitters (one female and one male , RC policy) for 2 hours while we got a massage. Very expensive like 150.00 per person!! But this is a cruise. We noticed that there was a RC employee who played with the kids on the playroom which was nice.
DAY 11 SEA DAY
DISEMBARK SYDNEY!! Was very smooth. We left the ship at 08:30 so had no lines and our luggage was waiting for us, although we were priority since gold card members.
DAILY COMPASS: or information paper.
TIPS on Cruising:
Find out what side you will be on so if the cruise goes clockwise and you are on the left side you won’t see as much.
Have Wind jammer open up at 17:00 for families.
Have activities for toddlers like reading group or activities for kids which we thought was going to happen.
Bottom line would not cruise with a Toddler again under 3 yo due to no sitter and their age. Would only consider this with a 2 yo if we could cruise with our grandparents or had a designated sitter but highly recommend to wait until they are potty trained and if they can go to a day camp.