Embarkation - Barangaroo, Wharf 5, in Darling Harbour. It was a very positive experience beginning with a warm welcome from the happy baggage handlers outside the big white tent and finishing as we were greeted by the onboard Sea Princess staff who took our photographs for ID purposes. It was all handled very professionally and expeditiously.
Our inside stateroom on Plaza Deck was compact. It was what we paid for and suited our needs. There was plenty of drawers and cupboard space for all our clothing and possessions. Our cases fitted nicely under our bed making the room much more comfortable. Carlo, our cabin steward, was most helpful whenever we approached him for either ship information or service.
We chose traditional dining in the Traviata Dining Room and the wait staff, Joseph Levita & Victor Barerra, appointed to care for our needs provided exceptional service especially when my husband became unwell and was absent from the dining room. Shouldn't overlook the services of the Head Waiter and Maitre D who also offered alternative dining options for him. We couldn't fault the food in the Dining Room. It was delicious and hot. The presentation was what we would expect in a good restaurant in any capitol city. Horizon Court offered a more casual dining experience and there was a good range of dishes to select from and some other options included a Grill Bar and Pizzeria.
Entertainment -,Didn't miss any of the production shows. The entertainers and dancers did a superb job considering the sea was not always flat while they were entertaining us. The Piano players attracted huge crowds in the evenings. So many choices in the daily patter, you could never be bored. The Cruise Director, Peter Tregett and his staff took great pains to make the trip enjoyable and were always good for a laugh.
Ports of Call
Pahia in the Bay of Islands, a tiny tender port -, shuttle or 2-3 km walk into town for a little retail therapy in the local shops and small market set up in the local park.
Auckland, the ship pulled into a berth more or less on one of the main streets of this hilly city. Closeby was the free Link Bus that took you to the top of the town and back.
The Port of Tauranga also had an excellent local bus service that ran from the "I" site building just outside and to the right of the port entrance gates. The more active passengers turned left outside of the port entrance gates, strolled along the promenade and then either up or around Mt Manganui.
Wellington, another hilly city. Shuttled into town then caught the cable car up to the top where we wandered around Kelvin Grove, a very pretty suburb with its attractive weatherboard houses and narrow stairways that lead off the street to access these properties and the adjoining botanic gardens before going back into the town. A short walk from the shuttle is the seafront where there are a number of art galleries and museums. Don't miss the Maritime Museum.
Arkaroa, another tender port, that hosts a charming village that was settled by both the British and French. Take time to walk around the streets and enjoy looking at some of the small, older, historic homes. Caught a Cityline bus from the end of the pier into Christchurch via the Banks Pass.
Dunedin, another shuttle connection, this time the ship was berthed about 10-12 km out of town. From memory it was $A10 or $NZ 15 for the journey. The shuttle stopped in the centre of the city and being by myself I hopped on a city hopper bus ($NZ15)
Fiordland The highlight of the sailing was through 3 sounds ending in Milford, the shimmering silver of the mountains and sea in the early morning through to clearer skies where you could see large mountains jutting out of the sea, some with remains of the winter snows and waterfalls crashing over the rocky mountain faces. Superb scenery for any keen photographer.
Captain Martin Stenzel steered a steady course and made the journey as comfortable as possible given that at times the seas were running rather steadily. Unfortunately, we had to miss Napier due to high winds and changing sea conditions which would have made it impossible for the ship to dock safely. I was very impressed that within 2 hours Princess had revised the Sea Day Patter and provided a greater range of entertainment for passengers in lieu of our port visit.
I organized the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle for this sailing. The Carnival staff in Sydney provided pre-cruise advice and an introduction to James Easton, First Purser " Administration, who was my onboard contact person. It was held in the Razzmatazz Lounge and everything went as planned. Cruise Critic members were delighted to have the opportunity to meet Captain Stenzel and many of his senior staff who took time out of their busy schedules to come and talk to us.
Feedback from Cruise Critic members indicated that they all similarly enjoyed their cruising experience and only had good things to say about Princess.
We were both impressed by the professionalism showed by all staff members we encountered and congratulate the Princess Line for this. It was a great cruise.