Was able to leave just before most schools had closed for Christmas so there were not too many children on board.
Everything seems to go 'right' from the beginning. Although had not booked a connection from the airport to the boat made contact with the princess ground staff at Sydney Domestic and arranged for a $15pp transfer. The good news... did not see (or lift) our bags again until they arrived at our cabin.
Embarkation was easy ..only 15 mins in a queue and straight on board (Unlike the Pacific Dawn, earlier in the year, where we waited over 90 mins!
Cabin was great.. right at the front on the starboard side... everything you would expect... and not quite as small as we thought it might be. Cabin steward welcomed us and explained everything we needed....
Then on deck for a snack and departure. Sailaway party was not as noisy and well attended as other ships but still it was great sailing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and out to sea through the 'heads'The crossing was like a mill pond!... hardly a ripple for two days. Each night we had to put the clocks forward but that is a less stressful way of gaining time than doing it all in one go, as you do for air flights.
Just a few words on the cruise in general and other reviewers comments. Yes, the Sun Princess is old(ish!) Yes! it is 15 yrs old.... so what! it is not falling to bits... and it is well maintained, clean & tidy. Yes! it does have some visible rust (painted over!)... it's a ship that sails on salt water... of course it has rust!.... but it is not 'a rust bucket" Yes there are a lot of 'old' people but there are also a lot of not so old as well. The oldies were the ones dancing.. and doing 'stuff'! Oh! the cruise excursions! Yes they can be expensive... but it is all done for you.. oh and if there is a delay the ship will wait for their own tours! You can get it cheaper but it all depends on your organisational skills. The three tours we did were great... well organised and very professional.
Alternative eating venues were great. The Pizza restaurant was great for lunch and in the evening had an extended menu with pasta and dessert. (No charge) The grill had great chips!... and one of the nicest Donner Kebabs I have had. Lots of people had pies and burgers and seemed to enjoy. (No Charge)
The Stirling Grill was a great venue for a special dinner. Great steaks, great service... great view of the sunning setting in the West. The charge of $20 pp was well worth it.
Ports: The section does not seem to be working so adding the port reviews here...
Bay of Islands: Our only 'tender' port. Was a little waiting to get off the ship but nothing a late breakfast and a cup of coffee did not fix! Shuttles into the town were quick and waiting, with a short talk about the place as we drove in. The town was crowded as a P&O ship was also in port. Took a short ferry ride to the lovely village of Russell.
Sort waiting to get the tender back to the Sun Princess.
The ship docks almost in the middle of the city! Lovely place, plenty to see and do but we had friends so was shown round by a local. Great town though and plenty for us ship-tourists to do. On thing this seems to be the only place, on this trip, to buy duty-free and it is supposed to be the cheapest. Buy as you leave the ship or at their duty free shop... which we did not find!Tauranga The port for Rotarura: Did a cruise excursion here ... was very good. Did the mud pools, geysers and had a great lunch with a cultural concert. After lunch visited the Rainbow springs and saw Kiwis!
Napier was fantastic. Did the walking tour and saw all the Art Deco buildings. Left the tour in the city to do some more shopping but getting the shuttle back was 'sweet as - Bro'
Wellington to was windy! The shuttle dropped us in the heart of the city only 100 mtres from the tram up to the park. Spent the rest of the day walking around and enjoying the Capital City.
In Christchurch the ship docks at Littleton. The city does not provide a free shuttle but charges $NZ15. Little trick... they only charge $Au10 if you have the right money return .. this works out a little cheaper! Nice compact city with a tram doing a neat little circle for $NZ17. Well worth the money.
Last port... Dunedin (The ship docks at Port Chalmers) Same deal with the shuttle as Christchurch. WE did a tour here... visiting the local Brewery. we got a tour and 6 tastes, 2 course lunch and a visit to 4 other pubs will one free drink in each... was a good tour.
Last part of the cruise was a day cruising the Fjords. Nothing I can saw can describe this experience. it was fantastic. Again the weather was great and we were able to do all three Fjords. The ship had an expert on board giving an account of what we were seeing and of the history.
The last two days back to Sydney were also flat calm except for an hour or so the last afternoon when we saw storms to our aft, with a little gentle rocking!
Disembarkation was as painless as the embarkation... in all a great holiday.
Oh one thing! The 'Patter' tells you there are only limited Taxis available at the dock....(I guess to get you to use their bus which, by the way, was $30 pp for the way back!) .. well there were plenty of cabs...lines of over fifty... and the Taxi companies had controllers all over the place!