My wife and I have done around 25 cruises. This cruise departed Sydney, circumnavigated New Zealand, returned to Sydney and then circumnavigated Australia. It lasted 48 days and was on the Holland America Volendam.
We found the best airfare to Sydney was V Australia out of LAX. We didn’t use any hotels in Sydney. We found internet access off the ship to be easy and a lot cheaper than on the ship. In NZ it is free at all public libraries. Otherwise there are a lot of cafes and at most it is 5$ for an hour. The ship and the room were generally good. The only complaint was that a number of the elevators did not work. Dining was good and despite the length of the cruise the menu was good. The entertainment aboard was a little disappointing but the enrichment speakers and the travel guide were excellent. Embarkation was late due to a tsunami warning and disembarkation was very easy.
We did visit a large number of ports and did most on our own with private tours. We did a couple of ship tours. While onboard we were told that everyone onboard would have to get an Indonesian visa for Komodo Island. The ship tendered and you had to have one even if you did not get off the ship. It cost around 25$ pp. A couple of people had arranged with the Komodo park service directly, everyone else had to use the ships tour or you could not get off of the ship. The ship tour was fine and it was worth it to see the dragons.
The other ship tour was snorkeling the barrier reef. At Cairns and Hamilton island they offer snorkeling. We tried to book private trips but none of the private operators could get us back in time. The ship tour from Cairns was more expensive but you had more time on the reef. Both trips were very similar and if you are interested in snorkeling it is a must do trip.
In Tauranga we recommend Mount Classics at mctours.co.nz and driver Ian Holroyd. In Wellington we took a coast tour with Crown Chauffeur with Colin Miller. It is a lot of tour for the money. The best tour we had was Milestone tours in Auckland. It was a little expensive but we went places and saw things that no one else got to see.
Finally since our departing flight from Sydney left at 8:30pm we had a whole day in Sydney. We had our luggage but wanted to see something. PJ tours was the only company that I could find who would pick us up near the ship and drop us off at the airport at the end. We went to Blue Mountain and spent a wonderful day there. Peter is a great guide and happy to work with us.
We visited many ports, from big cities to cites of 800 people. Eden was a very small city but very interesting while Exmouth is also small but there is not a lot there. Overall it was a great trip.