GETTING TO NZ: We flew to Auckland a week early on Air New Zealand using Regent's upgrade to Business Class for $999. It was worth every penny. Being able to sleep for nearly 8 hours was terrific. I tried and tried but could not find a better deal on the net.The business class seats are a bit tight on shoulder room if you are a big guy.
We spent a week touring the wineries of the North Island (if you do this do not miss Lime Rock Wines in Central Hawke's Bay--best pinot noir of the trip) We spent the night before the cruise at the Hilton at the wharf. A bit pricey but the porters will take you luggage to the ship. We had dinner with 10 other Cruise Critic members the night before the cruise in White the upscale restaurant in the Hilton. Nice, very nice.
EMBARCATION: Lousy but not Regent's fault. Everyone showed up around noon (instead of the listed 3pm time) and the NZ customs folks were understaffed and had computers not working properly. Spent over an hour in a room overfilled with fellow guests. Once on board it went smoothly.
ON BOARD-lovely cabin (but smaller and not as well laid out as the Voyager.) Ronald, our cabin steward was the best we have ever had. Crew was very friendly and helpful. Food was always at least very good-often excellent. They would go out of their way to accommodate requests. Once I remarked to the head waiter that I loved Philippines food. He offered to have ponsit for me for lunch the next day--it was excellent. The entertainers were more than happy to sit and have a drink with you. I dined with the comedian and the violist. We got to know the Celebrity singers who were talented and friendly. If you were nice, the crew responded in kind.
My only complaint is about the pool. On the Voyage there is a staircase that leads into the water. On this ship there is only a vertical ladder with an extra large step at the top. For those of us with bad knees and/or ankles, it is quite difficult.
The wine lecturer, a prof. from Cornell, was superb!