Sailed on Pacific Princess around NZ in 2007 but did not visit Tauranga, Napier or Wellington previously. Elite Captain's Circle members - with priority check-in, boarding, tender and disembarkation, free canapes on formal nights, complimentary bar fridge set-up, free laundry & dry cleaning, complimentary 4-hour internet, discount at onboard shops, etc.
NZ cruise - around 90% Aussies, sprinkling of Americans, British and Canadians. Around 70% over 60. 200+ kids and teenagers but never noticed them.
Embarkation: Well organised. Wharf 5 in Darling Harbour is a shameful temporary giant tent but serves its purpose for check-in. Would have preferred to leave from the main Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay. Arrived at 11.45am, many passengers already checked in and waiting. No queues. Checked-in at Platinum/Elite/Suite guests counter, processed through immigration and boarding commenced at noon. Priority boarding was effortless.
Public rooms: Plenty of space on Promenade deck. Princess Theatre at bow is beautifully decorated in art deco style. Great auditorium style seating with good view of large stage. Plenty of room especially for late shows. Atrium area is elegant and nicely decorated for Christmas. Wheelhouse bar is more masculine with leather wing back chairs, chesterfield lounges and dance floor (art auction held here). Two dining rooms on Decks 5 and 6. Both exactly the same. Casino is tucked out of the way on Deck 8. Ample shops on Deck 6.
Cabin: Smaller than Pacific Princess' balcony cabins. No lounge. Just a tub chair and small square wooden table. Nice sized shower. Narrow balcony but deck 10 and 11 have larger balcony openings than deck 9. Great mid-ship position, good protective overhang from Pool deck provides extra shade from sun and rain (in Fjords). A bit noisy from occasional re-arrangement of pool deck furniture or people running above at night. LCD TV. Ample storage, 2 drawers, 2 shelves, 30 hangers, top shelf, 1 beside cabinet, dresser with 6 side drawers, 2 shelves on TV cabinet and shelves in bathroom.
Fitness/Recreation: Sufficient. Small but well equipped gym. Not many free classes. Good aft location with views throughout. Basketball and half-tennis court near funnel. Pool areas are good. Sanctuary (adults only comfy and secluded deck area) is wasted in cooler weather around South island and expensive! $20 per 4 hours. Did not see anyone there at all. Aft adults only pool and spas are great.
Dining: No problems is requesting table for 2. Some tables for 6 are set for two lots of twos with a dividing screen. Maitre'd was from a previous Princess cruise, welcomed us back and set us up at table for 4 but set for two. Food was alright but not gourmet. Generous portions and varied choices. Loved the chilled soups and souffles. Service was prompt - second sitting at 8pm. Out of restaurant by before 9pm - did not drink or have to wait for table companions to finish. Horizons buffet was 24 hours. A bit crowded at lunch times on sea days but avoided peak periods. Good service and waiters bring water, juices, coffee or lemonades (lunch time).
Entertainment: Average line-up of guest entertainers - comedian, singers, magician. There were 5 production shows which were fantastic. Beautiful costumes. Two lead singers and 10 dancers. Better than Cunard where we only had 2 production shows in 3 weeks!
Service: Above average. Staff are happy and well motivated to please passengers. Filipino crew were very friendly. Thai crew were less so due to language difficulties. Other 50+ nationalities provided a great mix. Cruise director Gavin and the two assistant CDs (Simon and Romeo) were below average. No zest. Simon (ACD) was depressing to listen to on "wake show" - repeated what Gavin said, sat slumped back and said very little. Romeo was unbearable and limited in vocabulary too. Poor laundry service ruined a shirt - double cuff was chewed up and burnt! Suits were badly pressed. You are advised not to take the risk but bring them home for washing or professional cleaning. Don't be tempted by complimentary laundry for Elite/suite passengers. We only sent a few items but were not impressed.
Shore Excursions: Expensive! Make your own arrangements. New Zealand's i-Sites for tourists are great. Most ports have i-sites, private tour operators and hire cars waiting for ships. Free shuttles from ship to Tauranga and Napier.
Dunedin - Pre-arranged a classic car tour from Classic Jaguar Limousines(choice of Jags or a Daimler). Picked up from gangway by chauffeur in 1970 Jaguar 420G. Did 3 hour tour around city, Signal Hill, steepest road in Guinness book of records and to Albatross Centre. We did similar tour last time to Larnach Castle and Olverston House. Highly recommended and the driver (GM) gave a great commentary.
Napier - Art Deco fans would love this city. Booked another Vintage car tour via internet, in a glorious 1928 red Oldsmobile "Ophelia" - Owner Ian was dressed in period style! Sightseeing around the city/town to see the buildings, then to National Tobacco Company and to Mission Winery. Fun and interesting experience. Vintage car club brought 7 1930s cars to the ship in the evening before we sailed. Owners were also dressed up in hats, furs and two toned patent leather shoes!
Fjordland: We cruised through 3 main fjords throughout one day and the wet weather provided mystical scenery and spectacular waterfalls!
Wellington: Very windy - Force 9 winds. Did city tour but was uncomfortably blown by gusty winds everywhere. Ladies - pack a scarf!