My wife and I are in our 60's. We live in outside of Reno Nevada. We flew to Sydney Australia to catch the Volendam Discovery Cruise which is a 14 day cruise departing from Sydney, sailing around New Zealand then back to Sydney. The stops in New Zealand were Fordland National Park, Stewart Island, Dunedin, Christ Church, Napier, Tauranga, Auckland and Bay of Islands. This cruise occurred in early February 201l.
We flew from Los Angeles to Sydney on Qantas. The flight was long but Qantas has an excellent entertainment system, good meals and snacks and beverages. They also provided pillows and blankets. These were the things offered coach. I can only dream of the services which were available in First Class and Business Class. The Qantas people are truly professional and very efficient and friendly. At the airports in Los Angeles we were treated fairly and professionally by all the TSA personal. I had to opt for the pat down as I have a pacemaker and steel knee. The agent was as polite and professional as he possibly could be. Sure in a perfect world I would prefer to avoid this but considering the times in which we live I think it is best to smile and try to understand the pressures the TSA agents are under. I saw no acts of rudeness from anyone. Upon Arrival we took a cab. (Rate $60 Aust,) from the airport to the Radisson Inn and Suites on Liverpool Street The hotel was near downtown shopping and a lot of sidewalk cafe's. One thing we found very useful was a full service grocery store a block and a half from the hotel. It was also near the Chinese Garden of Friendship and Darling Harbor. The hotel was approximately $200 a night. Our room included a king size bed, a large bathroom with a wonderful glassed in shower tub, a small kitchen and an outside balcony with a couple of chairs and a table. The room had a large LED T.V. The hotel also had free internet and nice gym and inside pool. The staff was as nice and very willing to help with any of our needs. It was a wonderful place to stay. I would give it four and a half stars. Besides the Chinese Garden and Darling Harbor we went on a harbor tour with Captain Cook Cruises and toured the Royal Botanical Gardens. And saw the Sydney Oprah House. All of the above were worthwhile. We found the Australian people so very nice and friendly. They are a joy to be around.
On Sunday we arrived as the ship around 11:00 and were on the ship by 11:30. We enjoyed the Mariners Luncheon served at noon in the dining room. The food was great. The life boat drill was a little different than at previous cruises, they no longer require you to put on your life vest but instruction is still given and further explained on your TV. Our cabin was an inside on main deck; the cabin was always kept clean by the room steward. We found him to be always friendly and helpful. The bed was great and the air conditioning worked well. Through out the cruise we found small things on the ship which need to be addressed on the next refurbishing but nothing major. Overall the ship was kept very clean and a joy to be on. The food on this cruise ranged from very good to great. Some of the best meals I have ever had on a cruise were served in the main dining room. We chose fixed dining at 5:30 at a table for eight. We had a wonderful time and really prefer fixed seating. A blessing on this cruise was morning devotions on sea days. The devotions were well attended and the service added to the cruise. One other thing that I did on this cruise was to take advantage of the photo classes taught through a joint venture sponsored by Holland America and Microsoft. I learned a lot about my digital camera and how to use in with a personal computer. The classes were free and well attended. After two sea days we arrived in Milford Sound. Although the weather was rain that morning the sights were amazing. It was a pure joy to be able to see this fiord. We spend about an hour cruising there then move on to doubtful sound. On the way to doubtful sound the weather cleared and the other fiords all were wonderful and made the cruise worthwhile if I saw no more. The cruising of the Fiordland National Park took the rest of the day. On day two in New Zealand we went to Stewart Island. We spent our time on a nature walk on Ulva Island. This was a natural garden paradise. The trees and birds were just wonderful and the guide so kind and she really knew of what she spoke. It was a wonderful experience. The next day was spent in Dunedin. We chose to go on a boat to see the see the wildlife south of Dunedin after the boat portion of the tour we had a nice luncheon at a cafe prior to seeing the seals. We enjoyed this outing but if I had it to do over I think I would have chosen the Taieri Gorge Railway train instead, Choosing neither I think one could spend an enjoyable day touring Dunedin. It is a beautiful city. After Dunedin we moved on to Christchurch. Judy and I took the Tranzalpine train touring first New Zealand farmland then the mountains. On the train one viewed wonderful and beautiful sites. After the tour we were had a stop at the Christchurch Botanical Gardens. They were wonderful. If I am even blessed again by returning to New Zealand I would like to spend at least a full day never leaving the Christchurch city limits, there is plenty to see there. Moving on to Wellington, We planned nothing there as it seemed there was plenty to see and do in the city. What we didn't plan on was the Te Papa Museum. We budgeted to be there several hours but spent almost our whole day there. It was free and it was huge. I judge this museum to be one of the world's finest museums. It is truly a wonderful museum do not miss it. Wellington is a wonderful city and one day I hope we can return there.
The next day we spent in Napier. This City was rebuilt after an earthquake in the 30's in Art Deco. We took a tour in the countryside. The bus stopped for nice refreshment and tea at a farm than at a winery. By then it was near noon and the air conditioning on the bus stopped working and when people are hot nobody is happy. We were .glad to get back to the ship. To do over next time this stop will be a rest stop aboard ship.
Our next stop was Tauranga, On this stop we spent the greater part of the day going to see the Glow Worms. I would recommend this if you have never viewed them before but once is enough for me. In addition there was a stop at the Kiwi site which additionally had a lot of other birds and vegetation to view. The tour included a very nice meal at a country house which was very good..
The next stop was Auckland, The ship docks right downtown and shopping is very near in abundance. Although I did take a bus trip the western side of the island to see the sites. There is plenty to do very near the ship. Auckland was a wonderful stop. As far as a stop in a big city I really preferred Auckland to Honolulu.
Our last stop was at the Bay of Islands, here we took a cruising tour of the islands. I thought this tour would be on the order of a catamarand sailing but it was not. It was more of a tour boat. The boat held approx. 140 passengers. The boat was clean and well maintained but no free snacks or drinks. The whole experience was a disappointment.
In summary we had a wonderful time and we really enjoyed sailing on the Volendam. We found her to be a wonderful ship with a wonderful crew. We felt truly blessed to do this cruise and hope one day to do a similar cruise and if so it will be with Holland America.