Up until now, we've travelled to the northern hemisphere to pick up cruises, as we really like flexible dining options, exotic locations and chatting to foreigners. Knowing that Australia is a 'retirement' destination for older boats, combined with limited anytime dining options and a deep seated fear we'd be over run by kids, we'd put off trying any local itineries.
This year, timing and friends with a 5 year old convinced us we should give the NZ cruise on Princess a go, so with some trepidation, we booked.
I will confess to being really pleasantly surprised. Whilst there is some evidence that Dawn Princess hails from the late 90s, the refurb ensures that carpets are fresh, the rooms good and there are no signs of wear and tear.
The service was consistently good - especially in the dining room; so much so that we really looked forward to our set dining time. The menu had good variety, the staff were charming and the experience was classy. We weren't excited about being stuck on big group tables but they were generally flexible when we asked to be moved and everyone sorted out who they wanted to sit with as the cruise progressed.
The Horizon buffet was a bit limited but we could always get a snack when we wanted it so I can't complain.
The kids club was also open long hours which was great for our friends and meant we could balance cocktails and their family time.
My only complaint was that it was a bit light on entertainment. The Princess Patter passed off in-room movies as activities and with 6 sea days on this itinerary, we found ourselves bored. Judging by how packed the cramped gym was, I'm picking our fellow travellers felt the same way.
Getting on and off was smooth and all the NZ ports greeted us with local expertise and transport. The kiwis were so friendly! It was certainly an easier travel experience than where we've been before - at the end of it there was a tram to Melbourne CBD right outside the cruise terminal.
Overall, we had a good time and are going to book another AU cruise next year.