We used Cruise Critic reviews before our sail date to chose excursions and make the most of our trip. The information from the reviews was most helpful.
We started our trip in Syndey with a few extra days booked through HAL. We had a false sense of extra time due to the slow transfer time from the airport to the hotel on the first day. And then the actual embarkation day was taken up completely with HAL procedures at the hotel , the bus ride and the embarkation cattle call.
Once on the ship we were delighted with our port side stateroom which was perfect for enjoying New Zealand from our veranda. The ship was a bit worn but was going to be refurbished a short time after our cruise. The crew and staff were extremely friendly and pleasant. The food was remarkable for the number of passengers & meals served.
We booked three excursions through HAL and a few on our own, also leaving a few ports for walking around on our own. Again, the Cruise Critic reviews helped immensely with these choices. The HAL excursions in Napier ( the Sheep Farm and Tuki Tuki Valley ) and the Auckland (Antarctic Encounter & Sky Tower) were worth the time and money. The Melbourne trip to the Blue Dandeongs was not. In Burnie, Tasmania we booked on-line with "Play-a-round-in-Tassie" with Robyn McCarthy and had a fabulous day customized for us and at a very reasonable cost. In Dunedin we booked the Taleri Gorge Railway trip ourselves on-line at a fraction of the cost of the HAL excursion.In Picton we booked on-line with Waterways Boating Safaris, a great excursion with great people. In Christchurch we just walked this beautiful city. We were there 24 hrs. before the Earthquake that devastated this special place. We also just walked Wellington and Tauranga, they both are fantastic.
One thing that was never mentioned in any review before our trip is that most of the ports on this cruise are working ports. Therefor they require passengers to take a shuttle out of the port and usually into the near city. Most of the shuttles have a fee and some are costly. In addition, the last shuttle back to the cruise ship is usually 2 hrs before sail time, so on any given day you lose more than an hour of time visiting the port. This was one of our biggest disappointments.