This was our first cruise with Princess and we loved it. We arrived a night before the cruise and stayed at Waldorf Celestion Apartments Hotel which was booked on Hotels.com for about $100 per night. From this hotel we walked to Sky City, The Auckland Museum and to the ship. The day of embarkation we arrived at the ship after 2PM, as they recommend and had no waiting. The Diamond Princess was lovely, larger than ships we have been on in the past. We had a cabin with a window. The room was plenty large enough for the 2 of us with adequate storage. My husband thought the food on this ship was better than other cruises we have been on. We did go to Sterling Steakhouse that cost an extra $20/person but did not think the food was any better than the regular dining room. We opted for 6PM traditional dining which I really liked. Our waiter, Jeff was with us every night and did a great job. It was also fun to sit with the same 6 people.
Ports of Call: We did private tours at each stop.
Tauranga: We went with Terry Tours to Kiwi 360, Lake Rotorua, Ti Puia, Government Gardens and around Tauranga. John was very knowledgeable and professional. It was nice riding in his van with just 2 other couples.
Akaroa: We were originally suppose to port in Christchurch but due to the damage they have recently had we stopped at Akaroa instead. Akaroa was beautiful. Here we did the Eastern Bay Scenic Mail Run. We spent the day with the Mailman as he delivered mail all around the area. It was a lovely day with great scenery as Robin drove up and down narrow gravel roads. He is a former Conservation Ranger and gave interesting commentary.
Dunedin: We did not do a tour here but we probably would have enjoyed this stop more if we had. It was very chilly so our first stop was to buy hat and gloves. We walked through Olveston, which is a 35 room mansion, the train station and the Cadbury factory. We were scheduled to do an overland excursion with the ship to Queenstown and catch the ship at Milford Sound but due to rough water the ship could not go through the fiordland so this excursion was cancelled.
Tasmania: Due to rough seas and the ship having to change coarse we arrived here several hours late. I had booked an excursion with Judy at Eye See Personalized Tours. She was wonderful. She waited all morning for our ship to arrive and had made alternate plans for us. Since we did not arrive until 2PM we did not have time to go to Port Arthur. Instead we went to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and Mt. Field Nat'l Park.
Melbourne: We did not book a tour here either and wished we had. We see so much more on a tour. We walked through the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Melbourne Goal and Queen Victoria Market.
The ships captain did a good job at keeping us informed about weather and safety.
When we arrived in Sydney we were picked up to begin our 7 day journey of Australia. Princess does these land tours right. All hotels and meals were wonderful and our guide Greg was fantastic!!! He kept us organized and laughing. I would highly recommend that if you are flying all the way to New Zealand and Australia you stay long enough to add on a land tour.