We live in Melbourne, Australia and took advantage of a 13 night cruise around New Zealand departing from Melbourne. A 45 minute drive to the pier was convenient. We boarded the Dawn Princess (Princess Cruises) and it sailed away on time.
We booked a balcony cabin for the first time and found it smaller than we anticipated. We paid $2,400 extra to have a balcony which we thought was expensive. It didn't help to have a cold, windy cruise and not be able to sit outside.
Cabins were clean and spacious. Plenty of wardrobe space for everything to be stored and suitcases fitted under the bed. Beds were turned down every evening with chocolates on the bed.
The food on the Dawn Princess was amazing and headed by a French Chef (he was also head chef on the QE2 a few years ago). The Pastry Chef was Italian with 35 years experience on cruise ships. We tried the Florentine and Venetian Dining Rooms once for breakfast & dinner but found it bit inconvenient to eat at a precise time - early or late sitting and having to eat with the same people each evening. Not for us. We ate mostly in the Horizon Court which was 5 Star with a themed buffet each day and cakes/sweets buffet - all presented beautifully with ice/fruit sculptures. The best food from other cruises we have done.
There was only one specialty restaurant - Sterling Steak House at $20 per person. Everything else was free. Great food was available 24 hours. La Scala Pizzeria restaurant was free and no bookings needed. Entertainment was 24 hrs a day. A large movie screen on the pool deck was great. Although the weather was cold and windy to sit out there, people were rugged up in blankets provided by the staff and watched on the sun lounges. A real treat. A movie was shown during the afternoon and night. During other times we watched the Australian Tennis Open and other sporting events.
Entertainment included nightly show productions in the Theatre. Recent movies were shown in the Theatre, Vista lounge and outdoor screen. Casino, bingo, 50s/60s music, carpet bowls, ceramics, trivia by the staff, learning to dance and much more.
The library was beautiful and able to borrow books or read there. A computer room for internet access and emailing. They also provided Computers@sea with various courses on the internet and enhancing photos. Staff (mostly from the Philippines) were terrific. Nothing was too much trouble. There were two formal nights during the 13 night cruise. The ship was definitely aimed at the older age group - 65 plus. A few honeymooners and families with kids.
They had 2 great evenings: An Island Party on the deck with lai's, streamers, music, cocktails and a huge fruits buffet all covered in chocolate. A New Years Eve party (when the clocks changed back) in the 4 story Atrium. Balloons dropping, streamers & dancing in the Atrium. Organised tours through the ship were outrageously expensive like all other cruises. We researched on Cruise Critics and organised everything ourselves. Fiordland National Park was beautiful. We sailed through Milford Sound and 2 others during the day. It rained the day before and we saw beautiful waterfalls down the fiords. We had a full commentary from the Park Ranger all day while sailing through which was a bonus.
Wellington is just a beautiful city to live in. We went up the cable car, through the botanic gardens (Tours $49 each), a free 1 hour tour around parliament house, a stroll through the civic centre and shopping. Just exhausted from walking around all day. It cost us $7 each for the cable car. $7 by organised coach to get to Wellington from the ship. Dunedin was lovely and we rode on the tourist gorge train. Beautiful natural scenery and well worth seeing. Tour was $149 each, we paid $75 each. Napier with all its Art Deco style was a surprise to see in NZ. An earthquake destroyed Napier in the 1930s and was rebuilt in the Art Deco style of the time. We had to go out by Tender from the ship. We didn't see Christchurch but stayed along the coastal port. Organised ship tours were about $199 each to go there. It's 1 1/4 hour bus trip to Christchurch. Rotarua was a highlight of the trip. An amazing town right in the middle of natural thermal springs. The park in the centre of town featured hot, smelly gasses in the air. So many other live volcanic areas around Rotarua. Don't miss out on Hell's Gate!
Auckland is a lovely place and known as the City of Sails. A beautiful harbour with yachts. We hired a car and went to the Kauri Museum and national park to see the Kauri Pine forest.
A very organised disembarkation off the ship.
Overall a very organised cruise. Well done to all the staff!