Embarkation was a smooth process. There was a queue to drop off our bags but the line moved quickly. There were 27 check-in counters to efficiently process all the passengers.
Our inside room was compact and had plenty of drawers and hanging space/hangers for our clothes/possessions. The bathroom was also compact and functional. We were in the room mainly to sleep/catch an afternoon nap or change our clothes so we felt that having an inside room was fine.
We found the I-Site offices/vans useful sources of information for transport and local tours. These tours tended to be cheaper that the tours offered by the ship. Our port days were spent wandering around on our own as we wanted to learn about the ports we were visiting. Internet access was important to us and so libraries and free Wi-Fi zones were often sought out when we were in port.
Bay of Islands.....we docked at Paihia and we were taken ashore on tenders. The process was smooth and the trip in took about 10 minutes. There was a good sized local art and craft market across the road which had a wide range of reasonably priced and good quality items (this turned out to be the best local market we came across on our trip).
We took the ferry across to Russell which is a small but pretty area. There was a lovely beach promenade with cafes to eat lunch.
At the dock, there was an I-Site office and another information office which offered internet access at $1 for 15 minutes. We were told that the grounds of the Paihia library were a free WiFi zone.
Auckland.....we docked right there in the city which was so convenient! There were many money exchange shops on the main street. No commission charged by most of them and the rates were quite good too. The harbour area is lovely to walk around.
There was an I-Site office nearby on the dock area. At Auckland library you could get 20 minutes free internet. Library is also a free Wi-Fi zone.
Tauranga.... we docked at Mount Manganui and a local shop provided a free shuttle service in to the town. We returned to the ship for lunch. After lunch, we strolled to visit the Mount Manganui shopping area which seemed bigger than Tauranga itself. We were unable to walk around Mount Manganui itself as a recent landslide had resulted in the area being closed off for safety reasons.
There was an I-Site van at the dock. This was the only port where we saw rental cars available at the dock.
Napier...we were provided with a free shuttle service into the town area. This is a very pretty town with many restored art deco buildings. Lots of photo opportunities.
There is an I-Site office at the shuttle drop-off area in the town.
Wellington...the shuttle into the city cost $10/person return. It is a 15 minute walk in to the city centre from the dock. The walk to the Te Papa museum is another 10 minutes from the city centre.
The I-Site centre is near this museum. The whole of the waterfront are is a free WiFi zone. Cool!
Christchurch....we visited this beautiful city a week before the devastating earthquake struck!! The ship docked at charming Lyttelton which was close to the epicenter of the earthquake. We thought that Christchurch was the prettiest city we visited on the trip. We feel for the citizens of this beautiful city as they face an uphill climb to rebuild their city.
Dunedin...we docked at Port Chalmers and paid A$10 or NZ$15 per person for a return shuttle trip to the city. If you intend to make your own arrangements for the Taieri Gorge Train trip, the shuttle will drop you off at the railway station before going into the city centre. Do go to the station early if you have not pre-booked your train tickets - you can leave it until the day itself to get a ticket but you do take the chance you might not get a ticket. This picturesque railway station is well worth a visit even if you are not taking the train ride.
There is an I-Site van at the dock and also an I-Site office at the drop off area which is at the Octagon. The area near the Octagon is a free Wi-Fi zone.
Our past excuses for not going on a cruise (too slow to get to the destination, too boring on board, not worth the expense...) have now been blown away for good. There is so much to do on board that you are constantly entertained on your journey. We enjoyed the live shows, the musicals, the entertainment at the Atrium, the parties, the line dancing lessons, the food, the library (get there early for better book choices), the gym( much needed to offset the food consumed), the lovely people we met, the friendly staff, did I mention the food?
Yes, we're looking at another cruise....soon.