24 Auckland Romantic Cruise Reviews

Clean ship, great staff, great tours (included and extra) never disappointed with anything! Food was outstanding, entertainment top notch! Well organized activities. Although a non stop 15+ hour flight I would do it again. Viking phone ... Read More
Clean ship, great staff, great tours (included and extra) never disappointed with anything! Food was outstanding, entertainment top notch! Well organized activities. Although a non stop 15+ hour flight I would do it again. Viking phone support staff very helpful leading up to the trip. JUST WOW!! Viking Orion was fun we always felt welcome and were treated with utmost respect, from the Captain to the people who cleaned our rooms. They are very happy people who love their jobs and they show it with warm smiles and conversations. The Cruise Director, Brian R. was multi talented and it was a joy to hear him and his wonderful team of entertainers sing. Back to cleanliness, ever minute I was on the ship everywhere we went the staff was cleaning and I must say I felt very safe onboard. All ports were great and we did the included and also an additional tour each port. This cruise was so good we booked another Viking cruise next year!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
I have never been on a cruise before and, I have to admit that I will never forget this experience. The embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly. Our mini-suite room was great: comfortable bed, air-conditioned, safe box, ... Read More
I have never been on a cruise before and, I have to admit that I will never forget this experience. The embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly. Our mini-suite room was great: comfortable bed, air-conditioned, safe box, minibar, movies on demand and the ensuite bathroom that was small but pleasant. Anytime dining was just amazing. Lots of quality food options were available - Mexican, Italian, French, vegetarian. My favorite place was BAKERY :) The room service is so quick and there were no separate charges. It was a 12-nights on the cruise and has no boring moments because the cruise has a wide range of entertainment programmes throughout the day. Also, it was so big that you will find a new place every day when you explore it. The staff is very friendly and helpful. The events organized by cruise were fabulous :) Fully recommended this ship to all age group of people. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
We wanted to visit New Zealand and Australia. Tasmania was a terrific surprise. We selected a mid-size cabin due to the length of the trip and that there would be days at sea. Everything was exceptionally well done from the housekeeping ... Read More
We wanted to visit New Zealand and Australia. Tasmania was a terrific surprise. We selected a mid-size cabin due to the length of the trip and that there would be days at sea. Everything was exceptionally well done from the housekeeping staff to the entertainment staff. The food was amazing and the surprise birthday cake was a special treat. We would go on this trip again if we didn't have such a long air flight at each end-we are traveling with the same company to a different location(Baltic) A special treat for us was the educational courses and being able to interact with the educators for further information. We were given information about the area, history, & astronomy so we understand what we would see and be part of the for the next day. The food was terrific in all locations and had no problems with reservations for the smaller restaurants. Often we ate in the main "cafeteria" location and were able to make many new friends at nearby tables. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
If you want a ship with a casino, climbing wall, giant water slide, etc., ignore this review and Viking Oceans. If you seek a family cruise with you and your (non-adult) children, look elsewhere. If you like cruising with thinking people ... Read More
If you want a ship with a casino, climbing wall, giant water slide, etc., ignore this review and Viking Oceans. If you seek a family cruise with you and your (non-adult) children, look elsewhere. If you like cruising with thinking people and a remarkably intelligent, attentive crew visiting an itinerary of a lifetime on an impeccable, smallish ship, read on. We are just back from Viking’s Grand Pacific Explorer cruise that traced all around the Pacific, roughly following the Ring of Fire from New Zealand through Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Russia (Siberia), across the Bering Sea, and down through Alaska to Vancouver. Portions of this 93-day itinerary were also available in smaller chunks of 15 to 23 days. As we came to realize, the guests on shorter legs were taking a cruise on the ship. We lived there. And it was fantastic. There were roughly two dozen of us who traveled the entire way and another fifteen or so who embarked in Sydney for 79 of the 93 days. All tolled, we traveled 19,919 nautical miles on the ship. Convert to statue miles and add on the air travel, and our adventure went far beyond the distance around the globe. What we learned: You can be happy on a Viking Oceans ship for a long time and still be happily married. Although our Penthouse Veranda was not the smallest stateroom, several of the Grand Voyagers were in the standard size (all veranda) staterooms, and there was at least one couple who survived and celebrated their 50th anniversary just afterward. The secret is the many varied public spaces on the ship. The Explorer’s Lounge is great 24/7, and you don’t have to order any booze to just sit and enjoy the view and read. Or converse in comfortable seating clusters. Add the quiet reading area in the deck 1 library, the exterior wings outside the Winter Garden, and various nooks and crannies. There is always somewhere to go. Crossing the equator and the International Dateline can be fun. Viking made sure we celebrated on both occasions. May 14 happened TWICE (thus 93 days, not 92)! The seas are never what you expect. Yes, the Tasman Sea can be “lively,” as can the Bass Strait above Tasmania, but even the Bering Sea is not necessarily going to be bad. If you count on good or bad seas, you won’t get them. It’ s pure luck. Siberia did kick up a ruckus for us for one day, but the Bering Sea was crazy calm! You will get to know the crew very, very well. They will bring you just about anything, anytime. Room service delivers ANYTHING on their menu for free anytime. Ask for the things you don’t see but crave. This applies to those on the ship for two short weeks or for three months. “Another latte, madame?” “A scone from tea in the Wintergarden?… sure I will get that for you.” The only cost is if you elect to drink alcohol from the bar. Those with the Silver Spirits package pay nothing. Others like us paid very reasonable prices with no added gratuities if we chose to drink. Of course, the minibar in our PV cabin had standard level booze and mixers of our choice, so we could always carry our own drinks to the lounge. If we had brought a bottle of our own on board-- no problem. They’ll even provide the glass and ice. No nickels. No dimes. There is a bar waiter, Ardel, who introduced me to an excellent formula for a top shelf margarita, now dubbed the “Ardel Margarita” by several of us who enjoyed it! The senior officers are incredible. Kudos to the general manager for most of our cruise, Joaquim Scherz, and to the restaurant manager Gerome Venon, for making our group of voyagers feel especially welcome and for preventing monotony from EVER setting in – as if that could happen with such a rich itinerary! Even the entertainment team added some new performances so we could enjoy the talents of two different Viking Bands who were onboard during our tenure and especially the excellent ensemble of four young Viking Vocalists Aoibhin, Jorgen, Dan, and Beth, whom we got to know quite well. (These four, by the way, were the first to be awarded a new contract by Viking to stay together on their next cruise in the Caribbean.) Kudos to cruise director Spencer who rose to the role on this, his first cruise in the position. When Viking says they are a family, they are serious. That includes the passengers. They know you. They figure you out within a few days, and they are all eager to make the cruise p-e-r-f-e-c-t. Your cabin steward knows when you are likely to be out and about or when you have an excursion scheduled. The ice is there every day on time. The things you store in you bathroom are arranged exactly as you like them. After a few days, people know your names. (The general manager told us he actually looks over each guest list in advance and learns names and scans for those he has met before.) We learned much about the way Viking hires, trains, and rotates its crew and senior officers. We boarded Viking Orion and saw crewmembers we had met four years ago on Viking Star, now promoted to higher positions and happy in “the family.” The family extends to all the ships. When the Viking Sky encountered rough seas off the coast of Norway (while we were in Australia), every crewmember on Viking Orion was paying attention, praying, and even helping to send a video to the crew of Viking Sky in support and thanks for all their efforts. Family goes both ways. We Voyagers truly got attached to Joaquim and gave him a Viking umbrella salute send-off as he departed for a well-earned vacation. There were tears. Viking is truly fortunate to have such amazing people, and Joaquim is one who has been with VO since its launch. If he has any say about it, the quality will not diminish as the company expands. We sincerely hope his influence will keep things as good as they are! Speaking of family, our group of “Voyagers” definitely became one. People who take Viking cruises are fascinating folks with endless interests and stories. When you meet new people at home, you may see them once a week or a couple of times a month. When you make new friends on a ship, you see each other as often as three meals a day plus an excursion. Yes, we could avoid seeing them, but we enjoyed getting to know each other—really well! We avoided talking politics -- which was a refreshing change for over 90 days! We compared notes about our days (what excursion did you take?), drank a LOT of free wine (opened and closed the World Café many times), and watched out for each other when someone was “solo” on an excursion. These friendships will last for sure. We learned about the tons and tons of food they bring on board and when. We noticed that the chef went into town to pick up a few things while we were out on excursions – but only if he can find provisions that met Viking’s strict quality and safety standards. Within a couple of days, the cook at the breakfast fruit and yogurt bar handed me a bowl as I walked in each day and several times kept a few strawberries aside when the stock was dwindling before the next provisioning. He found the plain Greek yogurt that I like if it is not out on display. He was genuinely apologetic when the strawberries ran out in Siberia! If it wasn’t perfect, all we had to do was ask. Just when I was muttering to myself that there weren’t any chocolate options on the desert bar in the World Café, one of the supervisors offered to go down and get a chocolate mousse from the sit-down Restaurant downstairs…. “And where are you sitting, madame?” Or if the buffet choices were not exactly what we wanted, the chef custom-prepared a strip steak (“Medium? Four minutes, please.”) and delivered it to our table, with a potato and sour cream if that was what we wanted. All this in the “buffet” style World Café, our favorite venue for every day. Manfredi’s, the Italian specialty restaurant, is a gem. People seem to figure this out quickly, so be sure to book reservations as soon as you can. Book before you embark, as we did or stop by the laptop at the entrance to the world café to add more or make changes. We also learned that they will make every effort to change your numbers as you meet people and want a larger table. (Thank you, Ian!) Yes, we also ate in the Chef’s Table, but after trying each of the (mostly delicious) menus, we found we preferred the less formal and more flexible options elsewhere. We aren’t “The Restaurant” type people, though many of our friends were and enjoyed it just as much as we enjoyed the free-ranging exploration of the world Café – the same food, but you can graze and get up from your table at will. (Just hide your fork…. They clear TOO quickly!) The only nights I personally did not enjoy as much were the Indian Buffet theme nights, but my husband loved them. I just ordered a strip steak and tasted a few other things. I made the suggestion that perhaps not EVERYTHING had to be Indian… like the weird gelato flavors. We learned SO MUCH. The itinerary was loaded with places we had always wanted to see, and Viking offered many ways to learn about each one. The guest lecturers were great, and word gets out about which ones are REALLY good. The naturalist in the north Pacific and Alaska, the historian in Southest Asia, the archaeologist in New Zealand, the reef pilot on the Great Barrier Reef, and many others were terrific. If they can keep you awake in a darkened theater on a gently rocking sea, they must be good! The video replays on demand in the cabins were a MUST to keep up with the many things to learn. What we saw: It is a challenge to summarize forty-seven ports, but there were recurring themes: wildlife, history, religions, World Heritage sites, gardens, wine/beer/whiskey. We chose to take many optional excursions, mostly because we don’t like touring on buses much. A bus to GET somewhere is fine. We tend to like walking tours better. When we compared notes with our fellow travelers, we learned that by skipping some of the included excursions, we missed some good stuff. Some of the descriptions did not make it clear just how much time would be spent on or OFF the bus. As my husband says, the descriptions are a bit like real estate ads. Example: “Enjoy a panoramic tour.” Translate: bus ride. As Viking continues in these ports, we are sure the excursions will be refined and the descriptions edited for a better match to what is actually there. In the first season of a new itinerary, this is tough. We took this cruise knowing that would happen. Our priorities for tours may not be yours. My husband is a photo buff—both wildlife and street scenes, and I tend to enjoy culture, art, crafts, and people. Sometimes we split up to see what we liked best. We did not need to stay together every day of a 93 day cruise! Don’t miss the onboard cultural visitors. There were local groups who came on board in several countries to perform music and dance. ALL were amazing. Sometimes we did not find out about them until the day before or the day of. READ the Viking Daily! Port/excursion highlights: (Unless otherwise stated, all excursions/tours were VIKING offerings) Everything in New Zealand. Lots of wildlife and Maori culture options. We especially enjoyed visiting a sheep farm outside Napier, a foodie tour I did in Wellington, a seal watch my husband did outside Wellington, and wildlife cruises outside Christchurch and Dunedin. Others went to interior locations such as the Hobbiton tour. This may not be the best way to see interior New Zealand. I wish I’d had more time at Rotorua at the native (Maori) center there. Australia: Hobart, Tasmania. This port is right in town and we wish we had stayed MUCH longer. Just walk off the ship, and you were in a pedestrian area filled with shops and history. (Think Viking River Cruises.) We took a tour outside of town and visited a winery and the charming town of Richmond. Wish we could have done BOTH. We’d like to go back to Tasmania. The koala and kangaroo sanctuary outside Melbourne. Unlike many “sanctuaries” where the animals are caged or restricted, this one has animals on their own in the wild and shows visitors how to find and follow them respectfully. No koala cuddling, but fantastic naturalists who teach and let you participate in finding the animals. Sydney: Did a pub crawl in The Rocks on a HOT day. Saw lots of local color: weddings, crazy young professionals out having fun, and of course the Opera House right at Circular Quay. Since Viking Orion is small enough to pass under the Harbor Bridge, we were docked a short shuttle FERRY ride from Circular Quay. This could have been a pain, but it’s much more fun than a shuttle bus! We had a day on our own while others disembarked and embarked. Viking did offer an excursion for the in-transit passengers, but we elected to spend time with some new friends from Sydney whom we “met” here on CC. (They joined our cruise later in Hong Kong.) Great city. Almost anything you can do would be fun. Whitsunday Islands and Cairns: both are portals to the Great Barrier Reef. We went on a smaller catamaran out to snorkel in the Whitsundays and a very large one (but well managed) in Cairns. We are not experienced snorkelers and have never seen the reef before, so we enjoyed these. Experienced GBR visitors might like more private or selective tours, but these are hard to find and schedule within port time limits. Viking did managed the tendering in Cid Harbor (Whitsundays) very well. Thursday Island--- skipped because of an incoming cyclone! Darwin: wildlife options again. We saw Jumping Crocs, which we thought would be really touristy. It actually was fun. The Territory Wildlife Park was also good, though VERY warm. Take lots of water with you! Be sure to visit the aviary. Weaker Australia ports: Newcastle, Townsville. These are perhaps good ports for their access to other places inland, but we did not find the actual towns as interesting. Maybe with time? Indonesia: In general, Indonesia has bad traffic, hot weather, and lots of temples. The blend of religions is fascinating and varies from island to island. Get a taste by seeing some of everything. Komodo: The national park is going to be closed for 2020. We were lucky to see the dragons. Very hot, and the most aggressive vendors we saw on the entire cruise were in the tent as we left the park. Be prepared to be tough and to haggle. Otherwise just duck and keep on walking! TAKE WATER. Viking did an outstanding job of managing the tendering and keeping guests hydrated and safe. They were on the dock with COLD towels and drinks as we finished the tour. The really wanted everyone to drink and stay safe. Bali: another disembarkation/embarkation port. On the day on our own, we traveled by cab into Denpasar to visit the fabric street—a MUST for any quilter or sewing enthusiast. We did an evening dinner and performance that evening which was fun, though touristy. We enjoyed seeing Batiks being made and wood carvers in action on a Viking excursion the next day. Surabaya: We visited a temple that is actually within an amusement park. Though it looked like we were entering Wally World, the temple, right next to the water, was interesting. The seafood lunch served on the way was excellent though a bit crowded. Our highlight was a stop at a T-shirt place that had graphically bold shirts at very low (fixed) prices. Thanks to a good tour guide. We’ve gotten compliments on those shirts everywhere. Semarang: Entre to a daylong trip to Borobudur, a must-see. Don’t do the included tour. Not much there. The Rainbow Village is not as enthralling as they say. Those who went to Borobudur said the long ride was definitely worth it, especially with the police escort that accompanied the bus caravan, stopping the challenging traffic. Think presidential motorcade. Viking managed an unfortunate bus accident between two buses that were following too closely pretty well. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. Jakarta: Interesting but not worth two days? Went on a tour that included an inside visit to a large mosque and Catholic cathedral and a walk through Chinatown Had some time on the second day to go into town on the Viking shuttle to a shopping mall that offered great shopping for authentic batik shirts and much more. I think half the ship bought batik shirts. Weaker ports in Indonesia: Lombok? We actually did not go into this tender port. Those who did said we did not miss much. We really should not judge. Singapore One day, and not enough. Unfortunately, immigration stole over 90 minutes of our day—through no fault of Viking. If there were way for the ship to stay two days and not have to do this each day, it would be worth it. We did a walking “Odyssey” tour and saw little India, Chinatown, and an area called Arab Street. I’d do that tour again. We had time to explore on our own, which we always like. I’d like to have seen the gardens at Singapore Marina Bay, but we did not have time. I’d REALLY like to swim in the world’s largest infinity pool on the rooftop there, but you have to stay in the hotel to do that… unless Viking has connections? Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) Our one day was a quick stop. My husband and I did separate tours. He enjoyed the Batu Caves and Pewter factory tour, managing to avoid having his hat stolen by the monkeys. I did the Blue Mosque tour, which was a misnomer. We saw a view of the mosque at a GREAT distance. We did enjoy a tour of several sites in the city and a FANTASTIC lunch at the Renaissance Hotel. Of course, the last thing we needed was more good food! We honestly cannot say whether Kuala Lumpur is worth more time. Thailand Bangkok: The port is VERY, very far from the city, at least two hours drive if traffic is not bad. We had three days in Bangkok, the middle one a disembarkation/embarkation day for other passengers. We did Viking’s Bangkok After Dark tour, which was twelve hours long! The heat was oppressive, and the guide kept a pace that was a bit too enthusiastic for the heat. It did take us to great things and included a much appreciated foot massage after a lot of walking. We had a local dinner of SPICY pad thai and time shopping in the iconic night market. The tour is good, but plan on being totally soaked with sweat. Pace yourself and carry water. We took a private tour on the ship’s changeover day, and that was smart. We had a small van with great A/C and endless water. We could get back into the cool van often. We split the tour cost with three other friends, so it was quite reasonable. We visited locations our first tour did not include. Day 3 took my husband on the Viking tour out to the Summer Palace and Ayutthaya. He declared that tour to be excellent, including the golf carts! (I rested and did much-needed laundry out of the heat.) Cambodia Sihanoukville: This is the toughest port to talk about. It is not pretty, and the people lack hope. This port sparked great debate among our friends onboard. In my opinion, Viking needs to be honest about what you will see (poverty, loads of trash, hopelessness). The contrasts of the hotel where Jackie Kennedy stayed (a claim to fame in this miserable town) and the life in a local fishing village are painful. The Cambodian Cuisine tour we took involved riding in tuktuks through dusty, dirty streets. I did not initially appreciate the mask they gave me to wear, as I have never had respiratory issues. In the end, I actually needed it. The market offered a realistic view of what people buy and eat. The beachfront barbecue food attracted too many flies for us to taste it. Then we went to the Jackie hotel and had delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks while feeling hollowly fortunate. The second day we took the included tour, but we were warned by our friends to expect very sad scenes and sickening smells. They were right. The little children who should have been in school -- but had never even been REGISTERED to attend -- bore witness to the lack of hope of the Cambodian people. Yes, Viking should let us all see the realities, but the descriptions also need to be accurate. This port is a place to learn and think, not to enjoy. If the corrupt government is benefitting from Viking’s visits, perhaps this is not a good idea? Sadly, the countryside beyond the city has exceptional natural beauty, and the guides were very honest about their plight. Vietnam What a contrast to Cambodia. There is hope, and education is highly valued in this rapidly-growing economy. VERY. VERY. HOT. Ho Chi Minh City (known to the locals as Saigon): Three days. A fair distance from the port -- about an hour. Fantastic city to visit! We did the Saigon Cooking Class, which was excellent in both organization and fun. We shopped in the market, cooked, learned a lot, and enjoyed our own cooking. The next day we enjoyed a special visit to the Hotel Reverie with our fellow Voyagers (NOT an excursion) for high tea. This was arranged by the general manager and restaurant manager just for our group. WOW. If you have a chance to do this high tea on your own, DO IT. We’ve never, ever seen anything like it! Try the iced Vietnamese coffee. It’s addictive. The third day we did Viking’s “Iconic Ben Thanh Market” tour which was disappointing. We spent more time being served food than exploring the market (allowing NO time for this). I expect Viking will be clarifying expectations with the tour operator on this, as several of us spoke to the ship about it. Chan May (near Danang): Excursion to Ancient Hoi An. This city was swamped with tourists, and the tour was too commercialized for us. We had hoped for an interesting walking tour. We were herded into places to buy things, stopped ever so briefly amid the crowds to take pictures of landmarks with said crowds. Little to no time on our own as was advertised. Other guides were apparently more flexible, and our friends enjoyed their tours. Ha Long Bay (overnight): Wow. This place is drop dead gorgeous. Even the included tour is amazing. We did a longer, slightly different boat tour of the bay, including a stop at a floating village. Great tour! We also went outside the city to the mountains and Yen Tu Monastery. What a wonderful change of pace. We meditated and talked with the leader of the monastery, a man with remarkable charisma. The tour also included a delicious dinner at a resort hotel in the mountains. A winner! Hong Kong (3 days) Another changeover port. The included tour was good- Victoria Peak (in clouds), sampan ride in Aberdeen, and Stanley Market with free time. Spent our “off day” on our own with a friend who lives nearby then did more exploring on the third day with some fellow travelers. We then did the Hong Kong by Night tour which was OK but went back to some places we had already seen on our own. It would be great for people just starting out in HK. Taipei (Keelung port)- one day We did the tour to Yehliu Geopark with its amazing rock formations. Great photo op if you can go early enough for smaller crowds. Then went to mountain village of Jiufen. Cute, though filled with tourists. There were some nice places to have tea with a great view. The Taiwan landscape is very pretty! JAPAN! Japan was perhaps the biggest “surprise” of our trip. We had heard that it was beautiful, but it was MORE beautiful than we thought. We had also heard about the crowds during Golden Week—extended this year due to the installation of a new emperor. It was more crowded in some places than we could ever imagine. AVOID Golden Week. This was Viking’s first visit to the Japanese ports, so ALL of them did something special at the port: bands, dancers, etc.! Lots of fun. Japanese weather was a welcome relief from the heat in previous ports. Kagoshima: Great tour to Kamikaze museum and Chimai samurai historic district with classic Japanese gardens. Terrific intro to just some of the subtleties of Japanese culture. Nagasaki: (separate excursions). Imari and Arita pottery tour was outstanding. Learned a LOT about the aesthetic, the history, and the processes. Beautiful scenery en route. Husband did Historic Nagasaki tour for the atomic bomb story and more. Korea (a one day stop in Busan in the midst of Japan ports): Beomosa Temple and Fish Market tour was good. Lots of walking up hill. Fish Market is a true cultural experience, especially on the weekend! More Japan Hiroshima (2 days): Sobering as you would expect. The included tour to the Peace Park is good at hitting highlights on foot, though it was pouring rain. The museum would have been interesting, but the line stretched around a half mile! Optional tour to Itsukushima Shrine was great. Crowded because of Golden week. Go as early in the day as you can. We were on the 7 am ferry. Great photo ops of the floating torii gate you always see on brochures. Be sure to try some maple leaf shaped cakes. Osaka (Kyoto): We took the tour that traveled to Ancient Kyoto. Worst crowds we have ever seen. Heel to toe and shoulder to shoulder in a mob. Easy to lose the guide. (Others shared pictures taken by friends on “regular” weekdays showing NO crowds.) DO NOT GO during Golden Week. Very long path of thousands of torii gates, but too packed to enter. Scary crowded! The Golden Palace late in the day was less crowded and saved the day for us. Shimizu: (day and a half): Nice city with very friendly people. They had quite a welcome for us at the port since this was Viking’s first visit there. Amazing views of Fuji that cleared off for us. I went to Hiroshige Utagawa Museum. Speechless how good it was. Included tour also good… good photo ops. Tokyo ( 3 days): Port is immediately next to the Olympic Village they are building for 2020! This was our last disembarkation/embarkation port getting hundreds of new passengers onboard. Kamakuri tour to three shrine and temples very good but again crowded. 43 foot Buddha! Took Viking’s shuttle to downtown on the middle day, a Sunday, and discovered that NO ONE was in town during Golden Week. Walked to Iperial Palace Grdens (beautiful) and around the area near Nihonbaski Mitsubishi. The department store is worthy of a visit on its own, very old school and filled with amazing things, including a full basement are of food. See where people custom order their $50K silk kimonos! Third day took Edo-Tokyo Museum and City Tower tour. City tower not that great. The sky tower is better, I think, if you like that sort of thing. Museum and smaller local garden were nice. Tokyo is a gorgeous city, and SOOO clean! Be sure to try every Japanese bathroom. After Indonesia and others, they are a delight! Sapporo/Otaru: Beautiful location on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. We took the optional tour to Nikko whiskey. Lots of fun. It SMELLED of whiskey when you walked onto the grounds. Friend told us the included tour was also very good. Much cooler here. The cherry blossoms were out, as this part of Japan is weeks behind the more southern areas. Russia (Siberia) Koraskov: Did the included tour. Damp, cold, and cloudy/drizzly. Not much here, and quite sad after Japan. The people are clearly longing for the good old days of the USSR. The performance was fun, and the vendors selling crafts there were very genuine. Most are happy to take USD, though they may cheat a bit on exchange rates! Petrapavlosk-Kamchatsky: This city benefits from the large Navy base (out of sight from the port). Volcanoes abound. We did the military history tour. Too much talking at you. Choose a different one, perhaps just the included. Orthodox cathedral is less than ten years old! Someone showed us video from the helicopter tour over the volcano, and it was amazing. (But I don’t think I’d go with a Russian pilot in a Russian-maintained helicopter! Very pricey, too.) USA Dutch Harbor, AK: No tours offered, but there was a shuttle (school) bus into town. The locals are VERY friendly and talk on the buses. Go to the Alaska Ship Supply for fun, and perhaps to Safeway just to see how the locals live. Bald eagles everywhere—like pigeons! Take a hike or a walk. If you’re an American who’s been away for a long time, stop in a local bar for American bar food… nachos or a cheeseburger? If you watch Deadliest Catch, you’ll recognize many locations. Kodiak, AK: Nature photo cruise was a real highlight. Small boat with only 6 guests and a very knowledgeable couple guiding it. WELL worth it! Small town with simple self-guided (walking) tour and a shuttle bus. Very genuine. Seward, AK: Kenai Fiords cruise was incredible. Whales, dolphins, eagles, and a glacier thrown in. Entire pods of orcas! This was a MUST MUST MUST DO, even on a drizzly day. Stay in town for a visit to the Sea Life Center or some shopping, A regular shuttle goes back to the ship. Icy Strait Point (Hoonah), AK: This small town with its native tribe of 760 people owns the port through a small corporation that benefits the tribe. They market it well, with many activities and tours. The whale watch cruise we took was actually done by a separate company that cooperates with the corporation. It was excellent. Great photos of humpbacks, including mama and baby. Sea lions, and more. Another keeper! Warning: the bridge you walk across into the port area is COLD because of the wind, but the temps are much nicer around the corner and out of the wind. Wear layers. Friend did the zipline and loved it. Sitka, AK: Busier port with another ship in port at same time. Cute, smallish town. Walking tour went 5+ miles to see historic sites, totem area, and Raptor Center. All are worth seeing. Wish we’d had longer in totems and Raptor Center. People who took included tour said it was good, too. Note: if you are looking for the post office, you have to go outside of town, They closed the location right next to the port! Ketchikan: VERY, very touristy. We saw a total of FIVE other ships in one day, one of whom was waiting for us to pull out. Downtown is all shops, some owned by other cruise companies. We went out of town to a Fishing lodge for a crab feast. It was fun, including the boat ride out to the island. Good wildlife and newspapers-in-the-picnic-table crab boil. Dress for the weather because you are on an outdoor deck. You also get a walk in a temperate rainforest at the lodge. If you want nothing but shopping, stay in town and walk off the ship. Some ships dock a bit outside of town. Vancouver, Canada: Kudos to Viking for handling the challenge of disembarking over 900 passengers by tender! It went quite well. We were off the ship and on our way to the airport ahead of schedule. We hope everyone’s bags went to the right place. Ours did. Viking, you made a difficult good-bye palatable by keeping it smooth and easy. Suggestions for Viking: Consider changing the itinerary for Jakarta and Singapore. Maybe steal a day from Jakarta and add it to Singapore? You could play with some of Indonesia, perhaps. What about Lombok? Semarang is not great, though you need it for Borobodur. Think about solving that? Think about how you want to “sell” your port call in Cambodia Continue to refine the excursions. We know you do this because of wise changes that were made after Viking Ocean’s first summer in the Baltic. Suggestions for future Grand Voyagers: Plan for HOT weather and extreme high humidity on this itinerary of traveling Feb-May as we did. We live in the southeast US and know humidity, but this is FAR worse. Plan to change your clothes from the skin out 2-3 times a day in many of these ports. Take enough clothing so you can do that. If you are on a long cruise with people getting on and off for various shorter :legs, “ ask the management to gather the “voyagers’ for cocktails and /or dinner and get everyone’s first names and cabin number while they are at that first gathering, That way you will know where to find each other! Emails help, too, if you want to be able to contact everyone. The ship management cannot give you this info. Thanks to TL from our group who spearheaded this! A long cruise is a marathon, not a sprint. If one excursions or day is lousy, just look to the next one. Share your feedback in a constructive manner. It goes much further, and the crew will always want to help you. Vary your excursions. Don’t book too many temples, street market visits, or anything else. You’ll get tired of it! READ the Viking Daily—before you go to bed! Get accustomed to giving laundry advice in Viking’s free launderettes. You know how they work, and you don’t want the newbies to break the machines! Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
We enjoyed New Zealand as well as Australia. It was a lovely time to travel and the scenery was fantastic! I was worried that the Ocean cruise would seem so large and unfriendly but the restaurants and the location of them made it seem ... Read More
We enjoyed New Zealand as well as Australia. It was a lovely time to travel and the scenery was fantastic! I was worried that the Ocean cruise would seem so large and unfriendly but the restaurants and the location of them made it seem like a very small and intimate ship in the end. The food was excellent with so many items being made right on the ship. The specialty restaurants especially the Italian restaurant was a favorite of ours. We also enjoyed going to the small Norwegian breakfast restaurant on the top deck. We actually felt like we were in an intimate dining room for breakfast. Like Grandma's house. The only difficult part was embarking and disembarking could take a little time and I feel they may be about to do that in a better manner in the future. The entertainment was professional and very enjoyable. We would recommend it! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
just wanted to provide some feed back from my perspective. The first cruise we did was on P&O and we were thrilled to be going on our first ever totally child free holiday. After having 7 children now all grown up it was so nice ... Read More
just wanted to provide some feed back from my perspective. The first cruise we did was on P&O and we were thrilled to be going on our first ever totally child free holiday. After having 7 children now all grown up it was so nice to be away just the two of us. The ship was ok but the air con in the room did not work and was not fixed. It was so bad the pillow chocolates melted. It was only a 4 night cruise and we were never moved. (I felt sorry for the honeymoon couple next door who also had no air con) We were also in a cabin with no balcony. The entertainment was a bit thin and the food was ok, the ship seemed to feel every wave though and even though I was not sick I was looking for a sun lounge at the back of the ship to combat the feeling. The staff were really nice. Next cruise was so different, We went on Royal's Ovation of the seas . It was a four night cruise to Hobart and back. We had a balcony. a beautiful room, we loved exploring the ship. The shows were great , food amazing, always something to do and not over crowded at all. It was so big and clean and and friendly. Smooth sailing just a few bumps on the bass but did not affect us at all. Staff were so helpful and so nice, I dont know how they remember you no matter where on that huge whip you are. Everything is charged in US dollars on the ship and that was probs the only thing that was a bit of a pain but you get use to it. We bought the drinks package so there were no surprises and it all went smoothly. Honestly had no complaints at all. Next cruise and everyone since has been on celebrity solstice , Why we keep going back (though we are itching to try Edge:)) Still all in USD The ship is big but not too big, It has plenty of places to drink. to chill, to listen to music, to take part in Trivia and other activities, The shows are really good and the food is amazing even in the grand dining room. The demographics are a bit different too certainly not a BOOZE cruise. You have a real good mix of ages and there is a really nice team there to look after the Camp at Sea kids (the kids club is never overcrowded and they really look after them) I do prefer the solarium on Ovation but the solarium on Solstice is still really nice and has the pool and whirl pools and lots of lounges. It also has an amazing Aqua Cafe there for a healthy snack. I love catching a movie on the real grass be it day or under the stars of a night. Mast Grill is a must for burgers and hotdogs. The tenders works well and the destinations are fab We have stayed in Suite at the Aft and enjoyed that so much, Butler, dedicated Suite only lounge where all the drinks are free, dedicated suite only dining where the food and staff are amazing. Reserved seating for the shows, no tender queues . We have stayed on concierge at the Aft again brilliant and the Aft for me is the best place to be. We have stayed in a royal suite AMAZING no extras at all fully stocked fridge with what ever you want in it. Free internet washing drinks, everything. Even a bath on the balcony not to mention the two bathrooms and walk in wardrobe and afternoon tea severed for you and any guests by your butler. We have stayed in a balcony and done the main hall dining and again amazing. A really good vibe in there and staff will do everything they can to help. People complain about staff trying to up sell the other dining (in Royal suite its all included BTW) .. I dont have an issue with that I just say no thank you . The buffet is great and you can go grab something from there and enjoy the food out on the deck if you want. The ship tour is also amazing. The guests are friendly and like I said mixed age. You can dance with the younger ones or sit by the pool taking to the older ones. The lifts even become a social trip where you can say hi to new people. If you smoke there are areas dedicated for that an people meet up there for a drink and a chat. The full moon party is always great and the silent disco is something you have to try even just watching that is fun. They gym on board is good (not that we did anything other than walk through it) and the pamper spa is great. We could always find an area to just chill where sometime there would be no one else around. There is a games area/lounge where you can play cards or board games and a lounge with a library feel where you can just sit and relax or read. There is always trivia going on but we get so busy we miss it most the time :) But its fun to do and again you meet other people. There are ship activities to join in. There is always something to do or you can do nothing . thing is on Celebrity your on a beautiful ship that caters for everyone. Your holiday is what you want it to be ...relaxing..or full on it's up to you. The destinations are great and the tours offered are varied. If you have never been on a cruise and are looking to do one. I would say go with Celebrity it's our favorite. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We did this cruise to escape the winter in New Zealand. We are a middle aged couple. We have no children. This was our second cruise. The first was last year on Queen Victoria and going along the adriatic coast. This one was cruising ... Read More
We did this cruise to escape the winter in New Zealand. We are a middle aged couple. We have no children. This was our second cruise. The first was last year on Queen Victoria and going along the adriatic coast. This one was cruising around Fiji and Tonga. We enjoyed the ship itself. We ate more often in the Waterfront restaurant as we preferred being waited on. The service was good and so were the meals. The shows were fantastic. The seven sins was memorable. I bought the $199 entertainment package. Which included salt and grill meal. a bottle of champagne. Photo, Canapes every night. This deal was worth it. Salt and grill is fantastic. We couldn't eat it all. I had bought the wine and cheese package and the wine and fruit package. The shock was in finding that they were delivered all at once. Not spaced out over 10 days. I had bought water bottles to 6 for $20 and water is important. We didn't book any excursions. My experience last year in Europe was that they are expensive and not always what you want to do in an area. Our call at Suva..was entertaining to get on the bus there when you did not have too. You could walk off there and be in a shopping district. I got bored as although the market was interesting you can't take food on board. So I was about to go back to the ship when a taxi driver approached and offered to take me around the island for 2 hours for $40 NZ. Deal done. It was a good trip too. We did a similar thing in capital of Tonga. There the taxi drivers expect to be paid $200 US dollars so we bypassed them. We found to our couples and shared the expense of a taxi around Tonga and that was worth it. We saw all the sights. Captain Cook landing and Abel Tasman and more. My husband got sick on the way back from Tonga. He started having breathing problems. He was in the hospital on the ship. They gave him the best of care there. He had water of the lungs and heart failure. Now recovering back in NZ. It was $12,000 for 36 hours care. It has to be paid before you leave the ship. Waiting to hear from insurance. This was caused by a couple of infections. Still my experience is still positive with the ship. I will be back on this ship for the food and wine and the comedy one coming up. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
We did 9 nights on the Pacific jewel to the south pacific. We had a great time! It was a great affordable holiday! The service was fantastic, the ship was very nice and well looked after. The live entertainment every night was excellent. ... Read More
We did 9 nights on the Pacific jewel to the south pacific. We had a great time! It was a great affordable holiday! The service was fantastic, the ship was very nice and well looked after. The live entertainment every night was excellent. The included in fare food was a bit hit and miss but good the majority of the time. The onboard restaurants we paid extra for were delicious! Well worth the money. We also got the premium drinks package and I think that is definitely a must do! As you don't have to worry about paying for drinks, you just swipe your cruise card. I think the experience you have on board is alot to do with your attitude, we went on with a positive attitude, not really knowing what to expect from our first cruise and we were pleasantly surprised with our trip. We will definitely be sailing with P&O again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
South Pacific Cruise on the Crystal Symphony March 3-April 6, 2018 This is a review of two segments of the Crystal Symphony World Cruise, from Auckland, New Zealand to Papeete, Tahiti and Papeete to Valparaiso, Chile. Ports of call ... Read More
South Pacific Cruise on the Crystal Symphony March 3-April 6, 2018 This is a review of two segments of the Crystal Symphony World Cruise, from Auckland, New Zealand to Papeete, Tahiti and Papeete to Valparaiso, Chile. Ports of call included two stops in Fiji, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Niue, Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahiti, the Marquesas Islands, Easter Island and Robinson Crusoe Island. Overall Crystal lived up to its reputation among the best of the upper tier of cruise lines. It is essentially all inclusive other than shore excursions, and naturally the price reflects that. Other than some minor areas for improvement, I have little reason not to rate the experience highly. As with any cruise the experience starts long before boarding as you register online and if so desired, reserve excursions and make speciality dining reservations. Unfortunately Crystal was in the middle of transitioning from their legacy web site to a new site and they made the classic rookie mistake of going live with the new site before it was fully checked out and functional. This certainly detracted from the initial impression of Crystal as this was our first cruise with them. Through several attempts over a period of weeks and exchanges of phone calls and emails with Crystal eventually everything was set. Interestingly, Crystal is one of the remaining lines that still sends paper brochures and boarding documents. For a line that prides itself on being “Green” sending duplicates of everything to a couple sharing a cabin is quite wasteful. My one other minor complaint is that none of the theme nights were mentioned in the advance information and thus we had not packed for these. These minor annoyances were all forgotten once embarkation began. Crystal has a unique process where the health forms, clearing security, registering your card and getting your cabin key are split between the terminal and onboard in stages. This spreads out the activity and minimizes congestion. It proved to be efficient and fast (helped by a passenger load less than 700) and we were quickly in our cabin, which was ready as soon as we boarded. Our luggage also arrived promptly. We had a verandah cabin on deck 9. We found it roomy enough and were impressed with the closet space, more hangars than we have seen on almost any of our previous cruises and ample drawer and shelf space so that our clothes and accessories for 35 days onboard could all be stored with room to spare. The refrigerator was larger than the standard minibar size one usually found on ships and the safe was large enough to fit two iPads and the rest of our valuables. The Symphony had only recently emerged from drydock and the cabins now feature large flat screen TVs. Regrettably our cabin still had only one 110v and one 220v outlet, a serious shortcoming in today’s wired world. The bathroom was adequate and the only minor issue was that the lighting could have been a bit better. As always my pet peeve is the light switch is on the outside, making for the usual acrobatics at night to try and turn on the light and quickly close the door without waking your partner. The balcony was large enough for the two of us to enjoy it comfortably with a nice table in between. With so many sea days on this cruise we took full advantage of the balcony. Returning to the TV, the interactive system was superb for accessing information on entertainment, dining, etc. I particularly loved the fact that any enrichment lectures you miss are available on demand or can be viewed live in your stateroom if you don’t make it to the venue. The number of TV stations is dependent on satellite coverage and so varied greatly during our voyage. Internet access is totally free and for most of the trip was surprisingly fast. Once we got into the more remote parts of the South Pacific it did slow down considerably as satellite coverage there is spotty. The pool on the Symphony is large enough to swim short laps. Obviously not Olympic size, but reasonable for a ship of this size. The one downside is that it apparently uses ocean water because it was very salty to the point that I stopped using it as my eyes were getting irritated. There is an oversized hot tub that was very relaxing after a long day of touring and I frequently had it to myself. There are three main shops onboard. All were focused on higher end merchandise (clothing, jewelry, watches) with only a token amount of souvenir cruise wear like polo shirts and tees. There was a small section of sundries. Dining is probably the most subjective and personal topic to comment on. The Symphony has switched to an all open dining format for the main dining room, called Waterside. We never had to wait for a table whether we wanted to dine alone or with a group. We found the food quite good and there were always at least 6 choices of entrees, often more. There are also several speciality restaurants including Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Brazilian steakhouse. Passengers get at least two complimentary meals in the Italian and Japanese restaurants per segment and unlimited dining in the others by reservation. In addition up until 6 pm the Trident grill serves sandwiches and other light food and the Bistro has some snacks and deserts throughout the day and evening. One nice feature is you can order off the Waterside menu for room service during their regular dining hours, plus a more limited room service 24/7. With all these options you should never go without! Our one “complaint” is that we are used to having access at night to a buffet for casual dinner if we did not feel like a sit down meal and this option is no longer available on Symphony. Without question Symphony’s entertainment offerings are world class. The resident singers and dancers are multi talented and professional and their production shows were as good as any we have experienced. The guest performers included opera singers, a famous pianist, an array of well known vocalists and more. There was no decrease in quality in the lounges either, with a magnificent violinist, pianist, a Quartet in one lounge and a dance duo in another. If none of these were to your liking, the ship also has a dedicated movie theater showing first run films. During our cruise we could see the Shape of Water, Darkest Hour, Three Billboards and many more feature films. The enrichment lectures were generally first rate. The mix included marine biologists, military generals, a CNN reporter, a cultural anthropologist, and a Hollywood talent agent/former performer. If you wanted to skip all that and curl up with a good book, the Library had an extensive and varied collection. We generally opt for doing independent shore excursions wherever possible in lieu of the ship’s offering. Due to the extremely limited infrastructure on many of the islands we visited this was not always possible, so we ended up with a mix of independent and ship’s tours. For the most part the ship’s tours did the islands justice with a good mix of culture, nature and history. One tour was a bit subpar but I feel it was more due to the limitations of what the island had to offer than the tour operator. In Tahiti we took a ship’s tour one day and a private tour the second day and I can honestly say the ship’s tour was better than the private one we arranged. As far as our port stops the one area for improvement is the research done by the shore excursion staff. For the main islands the information was adequate and with the Internet there was lots we could study on our own ahead of time. However for some of the smaller islands, particularly two atolls, there were no excursions available either through the ship or privately due to their small population and size. The information on what to do in port from the shore excursion desk was meager to nonexistent. Thankfully the local population had set up information tables at the tender pier to provide the information on nearby beaches and points of interest. It would seem that the shore excursion folks could have contacted the island tourist information center or local government for advanced information. The island of Rangiroa stands out as an opportunity missed. The beach on the Pacific side was quite rocky and had a notable undertow so it was not suitable for anything but wading. The lagoon side had clear waters and looked inviting but the only beach within walking distance was at the island’s one resort. Crystal could have explored making arrangements for day use of their beach for a fee, as many other cruise lines do. Beyond the all inclusive nature of the cruise, the real standout was service. Even if the ship was full the passenger to crew ratio is less than 2:1. On the second leg of our cruise because of the lower passenger count there were actually more crew than passengers! Every single crew member we encountered from the Captain to dining service to housekeeping was happy to go out of their way to help and provide an above and beyond experience. Disembarkation in Chile was quick and as easy as possible given the logistics of the port. The cruise terminal is away from the place where the ship docks so one has to board a shuttle to get to the terminal where one clears customs and security and retrieves one’s luggage. This went smoothly with one glitch. When the people from Pitcairn Island came onboard one of their sales items was pure honey. Because of the island’s remote locations the honey is certified as disease free and we were assured by both the folks from Pitcairn Island and the Symphony folks who oversaw the operation that we would have no trouble getting the honey home if we showed the certificate of purity. Not so. The Chilean Customs folks amassed a large collection of jars of honey. All in all it was a cruise to remember and I would not hesitate to recommend Crystal to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
To begin let me say we are primarily loyal to Celebrity. Have been on a few others but keep returning to Celenrity and our 4th time on our favorite class of ships all 4 Solstice class. We booked this cruise almost 2 years in advance ... Read More
To begin let me say we are primarily loyal to Celebrity. Have been on a few others but keep returning to Celenrity and our 4th time on our favorite class of ships all 4 Solstice class. We booked this cruise almost 2 years in advance because we knew it was a very popular cruise. The worst part was the 15 hour flight from L.A. to Sydney. If you go amd you are tall like I am pay the little extra for an extra leg room seat and get support socks. We stayed several days In Sydney and loved exploring Sydney harbor and all it has to offer. Boarding was a breeze and before we knew it we were sitting near the pool with drink in hand. The ship was spotless throughout and we were surprised to be able to enter our room around 1PM. We prefer Aqua class balcony rooms primarily because of BLU restaurant and the availability of their Persian Gardens rooms included. We were very fortunate to be able to visit all destinations and the various Sounds, unlike the previous cruise that experienced very rough weather. Our entire time the weather was near perfect as was the Tasmanian Sea that can be quite choppy. Clearly our favorite was New Zealand and biggest surprise Hobart Tasmania. Both just fabulous and so were the people living there. So very gracious and friendly. I thought the menu and food in BLU had gone down a notch. Example we had pheasant offered once a week amd some more common ones like pork chops were never offered. The waiters however were superb Shore excursions - we had more fun traveling on our own and the ship’s were expensive. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
This cruise was a good way to see New Zealand and Australia and Indonesia in a short time. We visited interesting places and particularly enjoyed the Ventures excursions in zodiacs and kayaks and hiking. The ship is spectacular with ... Read More
This cruise was a good way to see New Zealand and Australia and Indonesia in a short time. We visited interesting places and particularly enjoyed the Ventures excursions in zodiacs and kayaks and hiking. The ship is spectacular with excellent speakers and restaurants.The food is varied and really good although it tended to be very salty and more information about fat content and better descriptions on the menu would have been appreciated. Some favourites were the soufflés and the Japanese restaurant. The Thomas Keller was rather disappointing as there was the same menu every time and the portions were enormous.Much too big. The entertainment was superb and all the singers and dancers excellent. Very enjoyable. The only one we were not enthusiastic about was the Piano player at the Thomas Keller. The new Seabourn ship is about to launch and consequently many staff have left for it so there were a lot of staff who did not know what they were doing. The beverage service was really slow and we had often finished breakfast and lunch at the patio before getting a drink.the staff were super friendly but rather disorganized. The cabin attendant was not as efficient as she could have been too and the carpet had stains on it when we boarded. Surely it could have been cleaned? The enrichment lectures we’re mostly interesting and sometimes excellent and it was great to be able to treat children them on the cabin TV. Some of the shore excursions were not very well described and not worth the money but others were really worthwhile.We loved the ventures trips. It was disappointing that we did not have a marina day as we had enjoyed those before but swimming in the ocean was limited due to jellyfish stingers and the weather. Altogether the fitness facilities were severely lacking. A huge amount of space had been devoted to a retreat to bring in more money. This could have been used for yoga or Pilates or running track. We definitely will sail again with Seabourn . Best cruise line we’ve been on. Complaints are just nit picking really. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
We chose this cruise for the itinerary (to see as much of NZ and Oz) the ship, and Seabourn service and it definitely exceeded our expectations. The itinerary was great although it was disappointing that we had two changes due to the ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary (to see as much of NZ and Oz) the ship, and Seabourn service and it definitely exceeded our expectations. The itinerary was great although it was disappointing that we had two changes due to the weather. Indonesia was a very pleasant surprise. We loved our stops there although again there was a couple of itinerary changes that were not great. It was our first time on a long cruise but we didn’t want to leave... The staff were wonderful although there was a high turnover as many were leaving to join the new Seabourn ship and there was a distinct lack of training and competence after a change. Entertainment fantastic and varied. Very high quality The ship was beautiful and well designed. The food variety was tremendous although very salty and lacking in nutritional information which was important to me. One feature we loved was the Ventures program and would highly recommend and the lectures were superb especially in Indonesia. The housekeeping was not as good as anticipated and I was surprised to see stains on the cabin carpet when we embarked and during our stay were not treated. The cabin itself was lovely.very spacious for a long stay. The Thomas Keller restaurant was rather disappointing too. The food was not as good as the main restaurant and unimaginative. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
My wife and I loved the November 11th sailing on the Celebrity Solstice. There was a norovirus out break on the prior sailing and the crew handled is exceptionally well in our opinion. The ports were all unique and amazing. I have ... Read More
My wife and I loved the November 11th sailing on the Celebrity Solstice. There was a norovirus out break on the prior sailing and the crew handled is exceptionally well in our opinion. The ports were all unique and amazing. I have linked a video that capture our highlights. Video summary: https://youtu.be/N-S8Nl6BbjI High points: - Rotorua Rafting!!!! Unforgettable time - Akora Black Cat Cruise - swim with dolphins - Eating calamari everywhere - Aqua class/Blu/Banana Pancake room service - Milford sound....charge your camera batteries! Low Points: - Melbourne pier - just take an uber (walk off the pier and call for a car!) - On board entertainment - just wasn't for us. Too much of the same thing (singers three night in a row) - Wine selection - with most having a drink package, the service (especially people with wine knowledge) seemed to be lacking - we somehow survived :) Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
This was our first cruise to Australia and the South Pacific. We rented an AirBnB in Sydney (near KingsCross) a week before the cruise to explore the many sights. As always with Holland America, the embarkation went smoothly and ... Read More
This was our first cruise to Australia and the South Pacific. We rented an AirBnB in Sydney (near KingsCross) a week before the cruise to explore the many sights. As always with Holland America, the embarkation went smoothly and quickly. Our luggage arrived to our cabin before we did and we were able to get unpacked and ready for our adventure. We set sail in the evening while taking in the beautiful night lights of Sydney harbour. We found the ports extremely interesting and we tried to learn as much as we could in the time alloted on shore. In Hilo and Honolulu we rented a car and travelled to the many sights which were noted on the ships shore excursions. There was no need to book an excursion in Dravuni as the passengers are tendered to the Island. Don't stay on the ship as you will miss this perfect Island! We hope to return one day to spend more time with the locals. Our ship couldn't go to two ports in New Caledonia because of typhoon season so we sailed to Vanuatu instead and went on a wonderful shore excursion to a small village. This was absolutely our favourite as we learned so much about the culture. When not in port, our days were filled with cultural activities and the speakers (Alan Wright, Paul Raffaele, George Sranko) were well informed as they shared a plethora of information to their captivated audiences. Certainly our favourite! The staff were professional as always and the food divine. If you are looking for a high energy cruise this one is not for you. If you appreciate a slower, more relaxed pace make sure you book this cruise. There is a large amount of sea days which allow you to do just that. Read, play board games and cards, sunbath, learn about different cultures and join in the simple daily activities offered. We loved this cruise and can't wait to do another!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
Going to New Zealand and Australia was a big "bucket list" thing. The Princess cruise/land tour was awesome. We booked an inside cabin since we had mostly port days and spent the day at the Sanctuary during the Fiordland ... Read More
Going to New Zealand and Australia was a big "bucket list" thing. The Princess cruise/land tour was awesome. We booked an inside cabin since we had mostly port days and spent the day at the Sanctuary during the Fiordland cruising. It more than met our expectations. We used Princess excursions because we have found that they have already screened their vendors for the most reliable and knowledgable guides. We once used a van off the pier on a stop on a Panama cruise and the tour guide did not provide any admittance to venues and after fact checking some of the information I found he made things up as he went along. My time is to precious for me to waste so I won't short change myself again and waste my precious time to save a few dollars. The excursions from the ship are now memories I cherish. The land tour in Australia, The Ultimate Outback, had us being cared for as VIPs. We came home knowing we had the best experience possible for the time we had there. The representative/tour guide managed everything for us at every stop. Our rooms were high quality and the meals that were included were wonderful. I came home knowing so much about the Ausie and Aborigine cultures. It was also fun staying at The Four Seasons in Sydney, because I never book five stars. We were able to get extra time through Princess at their rate. Since it is a lot of effort to get from the USA to that part of the world this cruise is a way to make the most of your time and experience the unique part of the world down under. If you have time for the land tour it will be icing on the cake. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
We chose this ship because we wanted a modern ship which was large enough to not be too rocky in heavy seas as my husband is prone to motion sickness. We had a delightful 12 night cruise where we would often wake up to a new vista each ... Read More
We chose this ship because we wanted a modern ship which was large enough to not be too rocky in heavy seas as my husband is prone to motion sickness. We had a delightful 12 night cruise where we would often wake up to a new vista each morning when we docked at a new port. Everything about this ship is first rate where you always feel your satisfaction and enjoyment onboard is the priority of the staff across the entire ship. The meals at the specialty restaurants were amazing. The meals though in the main dining room was a bit hit and miss. So was the nightly entertainment in the Solstice Theatre. Some of the acts were amazing. Some not so good. Overall, we had a wonderful time. The highlight for us was travelling through the wondrous New Zealand Sounds. Up close and personal, it was truly a humbling experience. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Background - My wife and I have cruised 12 times throughout the world. We live in Texas. We pick our cruises based upon the destination and ports. We do not like “days at sea” and we use cruises to see new places, in a short amount of ... Read More
Background - My wife and I have cruised 12 times throughout the world. We live in Texas. We pick our cruises based upon the destination and ports. We do not like “days at sea” and we use cruises to see new places, in a short amount of time. I was looking for a cruise that sailed around New Zealand but I did not want a cruise that crossed the Tasman Sea from Australia. Ponant was the only luxury cruise line that had such an itinerary. The cruise started in Auckland and ended in Milford Sound (and then to Queenstown). Prior to booking this cruise I had never heard of Ponant and the reviews on various sites were not great. Here is my attempt to give more information. Pre and post cruise hotels – We did not buy the Pre or Post cruise hotel options from Ponant. However, we stayed in the same hotels as these packages and arranged our own transportation to/from the ship, at a fraction of the cost. We stayed pre-cruise at the Sofitel Viaduct Harbor in Auckland. This Sofitel is a very nice hotel located right near the harbor area. We were able to take walking tours of the city, the wharf and the museums. Our cab ride to the ship took about 5 minutes. Embarkation – Once we arrived at the ship, within the check-in window of 4 to 5 pm, we were escorted directly to the gangway. We had our photo taken at the entrance to the ship and were handed our cabin card. They did not even ask for a credit card imprint. We were escorted directly to our cabin and our bags arrived almost immediately. This was the easiest embarkation we have ever had. Ship – The L’Austral can hold as many as 250 passengers. On this trip there were approximately 200 passengers and 140 crewmembers. The ship is small but seemed to have very good stabilizers, when we hit rough waters. The ship had a small pool with padded lounge chairs, a fitness center with very nice views, and several viewing decks. In addition, the Captain maintained an “open bridge” policy. If the sign was green on the door to the bridge, you were welcome to come in and watch. The ship is French. The Captain and his direct reports were almost all from France. When the ship would make announcements, the first announcement was in French and the second was in English. About ½ of the passengers were Americans. About ¼ were French. The remaining crewmembers were from all over the world, consistent with every other cruise line. Internet is available throughout the ship at a price per minute. The internet service was very slow and did not work very well, if at all. You would be better off going to cafes on shore and get free internet. Activities and children’s club – The ship had a small library and card room plus a couple of bars fore and aft. We spent most of our daylight hours on shore so we did not participate in any of the activities. The ship had a small children’s area. On our cruise there were zero children on board. Service – Our cabin steward was excellent. Our cabin was very clean and he was very timely. We never came back from a meal or excursion and found him working on the room. Our servers in the dining room were also excellent. They were very friendly and would know us by name. Dining – The ship has two dining areas. The main dining room is on deck #2 and can accommodate all passengers. The dining room on deck #6 always had a buffet set-up for the meals. This dining room could not hold all the passengers so reservations were required. We ate 100% of our dinners in the main dining room. In the main dining room, it was “open” seating. You could sit anywhere you liked. Sometimes we ate with others and sometimes just the 2 of us. Dinner service started at 7:00 each night but often we wouldn’t arrive until 7:30 or 8:00. Not a problem. Breakfast was served buffet-style in both dining rooms although you could also order eggs and omelets, as preferred. The dinners were French cuisine. At each meal you had a choice of 3-4 entrees. You could also order a generic steak, chicken or fish dish also. The only time selection was limited to one entrée was on the Captain Welcome dinner and the Captain’s Gala dinner. For these two dinners, they suggested coats and ties. The entrée was lamb one night and beef filet the 2nd night. There was always a vegetarian option. If you like French food and cuisine, this ship will thrill you. My wife loved the food. Personally, I would have preferred simple meat, potatoes and vegetables. The chocolate desserts were wonderful. Each night 8 lucky guests were able to eat at the Captain’s table. We assumed these “lucky” guests were the high-rollers in the Owners Suites. Much to our surprise, on the 6th night of the cruise, we returned to our 4th level cabin and were invited to eat at the Captain’s Table – What a wonderful man and a very special evening. Cabin – Most of the cabins are balcony cabins. The majority of the cabins are approximately 200 sq. ft., not including the small balcony. As others have mentioned, the toilet is in a small room, by itself. In the next small room is the shower and sink. In the main part of the cabin is the bed and a chair. The balcony has 2 small chairs and a small table. On most ships, we try to book cabins approx. 300 sq. ft. On this ship, that was not an option. You went from the 200’ cabin to the large suites. The cost of the cabins increases slightly as you go higher on the ship but the cabins are the same size whether on 4, 5 or 6. Try to get a cabin in the middle or towards the front for the best ride. On this itinerary, we traveled in a clock-wise direction so you really needed an “odd #” cabin (starboard side). Get “even” (port side) if taking in reverse. Entertainment – I never book a cruise for the entertainment value. This ship had 4 dancers and 2-3 singers. We did not go to any of the main evening performances. The theatre is small but could accommodate all passengers. Ports and excursions – We had $500 of shipboard credit and we used our credit on 2 shore excursions. The cruise line offered 2-3 excursions per port. The excursions were well selected but very pricey. If we did not have the shipboard credit, we probably would have arranged all of our tours ourselves. I have reviewed the ports in more detail in the Port Review section. Here are the highlights: Tauranga – Took a tour to Rotorua arranged via Zealander. We ended-up as the only guests so we got a very personal tour. Saw geysers, Rotorua Lake area, Redwoods, waterfalls, Kiwi farm and Maori show. Napier – Took a Whirlwind Tour arranged with Hawkes Bay Scenic Tours. Once again, we were the only guests so our tour was private. We saw all the sites of Napier and had a wine tasting at Mission winery. Wellington – We rode the Red Cable Car and then did our own walking tour of the city. Picton – This was the first shore excursion booked from the ship. Their vendor was Cougar Tours. We had a boat ride across the harbor and were dropped-off for a guide-led hike along a portion of the Queen Charlotte track. Very nice! Akaroa – We booked the “Swim with Dolphins” from Black Cats. The bay has Hector dolphins. We did see the dolphins but the water was too rough to swim with them. They refunded a portion of our cost. Dunedin – This was the 2nd excursion arranged from the ship. The tour took us, by bus, to the Ortago Peninsula. On this peninsula, we saw nesting Albatrosses, nesting penguins and many very young, baby seals. A great wildlife area! Disembarkation and Queenstown – The cruise ended at Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a beautiful area in the fiords of the South Island. We met the bus at 7:30 which was earlier than we expected from the printed material (which said 9:00). Disembarkation was no problem. The cruise fare included bus service to Queenstown. In Queenstown, we stayed at the St. Moritz hotel. This boutique hotel is located within walking distance to the CBD. Queenstown is a very vibrant area with many adventurous activities. We took the gondola to the top of the mountain and hiked some trails at the top. Summary ---- Overall, we enjoyed this cruise very much. The itinerary was great and I would cruise with Ponant again. In particular, we enjoyed the small size of the ship. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We had the most amazing time. After reading the reviews in trip advisor we did not know what to expect. The whole trip, food the room everything was fabulous. Our main thanks to the staff especially jun jun, Donna, john, rauul and ... Read More
We had the most amazing time. After reading the reviews in trip advisor we did not know what to expect. The whole trip, food the room everything was fabulous. Our main thanks to the staff especially jun jun, Donna, john, rauul and dadaji they made our trip really comfortable and so enjoyable. We are now hooked to cruises. We had the best time and we found it real value for money the food was really good the restaurants was amazing would go back in a blink. We found the ports really good, but would have liked if they were not in a row that was a little bit too much with the kids but otherwise all was really good. We found the food to be really good, the waterfront restaurant was amazing and buffet was pretty good as well, and buying the softdrinks package was really good. We found the staff really wonderful, nothing was too difficult everyone always had a cheerful smile and were very friendly. The cabin was cleaned twice a day a big thank you to john and rauul for making my daughter's day for her 12th birthday And a big thankyou to dadaji for the dinner and making her dinner so wonderful and bring the cake she was so stoked. For the waterfront restaurant a big thankyou to jun jun and Donna you made our dinner really enjoyable and jun jun the kids really enjoyed all his magic tricks that he showed them. We would do this cruise in a heartbeat again. Looking forward to the next cruise we are totally hooked. thank you p and o for giving us such an enjoyable experience. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
As first time cruisers and after reading mountains of negative Pearl Cruise Review's I was most reluctant to go and nervous as heck! My goodness all hesitations, expectations and nerves went right out the window. For first time ... Read More
As first time cruisers and after reading mountains of negative Pearl Cruise Review's I was most reluctant to go and nervous as heck! My goodness all hesitations, expectations and nerves went right out the window. For first time cruisers considering a 'real holiday break' let me share our experience; Initial first day check in/boarding - you will experience queues with a small wait time but the lines move fairly quickly. I have to say its much better than airport queues! Once you get to the check in counter you must produce your passport, tickets and visa/credit card/debit to register in their system. You will be have a your photo taken and be given a cruise swipecard which you will use for the entire cruise. The card gives you entry into your cabin and ability to make purchases onboard. Your luggage is taken away before the check in process and taken to your cabin. These are usually waiting outside your cabin waiting your arrival. Once onboard - we had a 12.30pm check in process so by the time we were onboard it was lunchtime. We made our way to our cabin Deck 6 arriving to our bags having been delivered safely. After a brief cabin tour and bags dumped we ventured to Plantation Restaurant for a buffet lunch. Port Hole Cabin - spacious, comfortable, clean, good water pressure in shower and tonnes of hot water, plenty of wardrobe space and drawers for clothes, coat hangers galore, safe to lock away valuables, small bar like fridge, flat screen TV, huge queen bed, lotsa pillows if you want them and a bigger than port hole window. Room stewards - we had 2 who looked after our cabin attire twice daily. Andrew & Ganjor introduced themselves soonest we arrived with a meet & greet and explained the daily housekeep routine. Cabin was cleaned every morning, clean towels provided and bed made. Early evening they would return and turn back then, leave chocolates on the bedside, a newsletter with the following days programme and at times quirky little animal characters made out of towels. These made us smile and it was lovely to return to a tidy room. Awesomely friendly, and hardworking. Andrew & Ganjor were the best! Dining options - Plantation (Buffet) and Waterfront (Al la Carte)'Restaurants are included in your fare. Breakfast. lunch & dinner. Less children dining in Waterfront and a perfect option here if you want to meet different people. Plantation has queues whereas Waterfront you require to make reservations. Al la Carte was our choice as you met new people at every meal and you were served upon. One thing that impressed me was every waiter and waitress we were served by always remembered our drink or food choices. On most occassions no sooner you arrived to your table your options were there. You were always greeted as Sir or Ma'am and all most attentive. Meals were always quick. Menu's changed each day except for a small few and choices were plenty. We ate like kings n queens! Onboard activities/entertainment - everyday is loads to do. You can do as little or as much as you like. Most activities are free and some do charge a fee. Your daily room newsletter tells you what's on each day and whether there is a cost or not. There are shows, dress up theme nights which is fun and live bands and performers. You can even sing a little karaoke or enter Pacific Pop Stars (NZ Idol equivalent). We didn't do the dress up theme nights but did join in anyway. After 5.30 is more formal dress and during cocktail evenings it is the even more formal i.e shirt/dress pants and dress/heels for the ladies. One small thing we would have liked to have had, is a bar without the loud music in the evening to sit and enjoy a quiet drink or at least hear conversations amongst company. Pool side - 2 spa pools in an adults only area alongside a bar and a pool each for both kids and adults. The spa pools were often full and I felt the swimming pools were small for a ship this size. But great facilities all the same! Lotsa seating space around pool areas, food options and waiters/waitresses on hand for those cocktail orders. Shopping onboard - the last couple of days there are specials or discounts on watches, jewellery, perfume, clothing, alcohol and so on. If you can refrain from buying till then, then buying is cheaper. All prices are AU $. Chocolates, ice cream, food from the Grill can be exorbade prices. Aqua Spa - dont be enticed to have too many beauty treatments here. Their prices are HUGE. Nice to do but you are paying big. They use very pushy tactics to suck you in which put me off entirely. Shore tours - booking tours onboard will cost you more in most cases. We took the risk of waiting until we arrived onshore and browsed the local tour operators. This saved us quite a bit. Some local operators will even personalize a tour to your liking. Laundrys - there is one on each level (I think). These take Aussie coins only. Machines are 2 x $1 coins and dryers 3 x $1 coins. Coins can be got at reception. We took our own laundry liquid inside an old shampoo bottle otherwise you pay for it onboard. When going onshore you can venture back n forth to the ship as often as you like. Tender boats are used in some ports which means a queue time. But worth sometimes going back onboard for lunch especially when this part doesn't cost anymore! Currency used - all our Port stops were in Australian dollars or if you had Franc this was used as well. Onboard again, AU $ and cruise swipecard is used for purchases onboard only. ATM machines are available onboard as well for cash to use when at port stops. Sea sickness - Paihia Bomb works. This can only be bought from Paihia Pharmacy. I purchased over the phone. We had the last 2-3 days of rough seas but at no time did I feel unsafe or sick. Think I had me sea legs on by then.... Crew members - every one of them were attentive, friendly, outgoing, welcoming and some became friends. Would we cruise again? ABSOLUTELY yes! We are already planning our 2nd cruise. I think we have the cruise bug a term used by many onboard the Pearl. We loved it and hope you do too it's a lot of fun and of course a 'real holiday break' Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
My partner and I thouroughly enjoyed our 10 nights of sailing............. Highlights, it is really hard to pick one thing out…………….. 1. The staff were amazing, from the housekeeping staff to the bar staff in ... Read More
My partner and I thouroughly enjoyed our 10 nights of sailing............. Highlights, it is really hard to pick one thing out…………….. 1. The staff were amazing, from the housekeeping staff to the bar staff in Connextions . 2. The Entertainment was awesome (and entertainment staff) always something to do! 3. Food was brilliant – Plantation and Waterfront restaurant staff were fantastic 4. Room was clean and comfy, I like the idea of having bed made and turned down at night. 5. Dayspa was very relaxing and staff were brilliant (I love being pampered) 6. Ports were great, loved Denerau (I have decided to win lotto and live the dream on a yacht LOL), Suva was good to see although it was raining and hot, Tonga was beautiful. The ship had a fair few plumbing issues (burst water pipes, leaks….etc) but all the staff were so professional, they never got flustered just got on with the job at hand, nothing was a problem. It was our first cruise and we met and partied with some amazing people! Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We have just returned from a 10 night pacific discovery cruise and thoroughly enjoyed our trip. This was our second south pacific cruise, having previously sailed on the carnival spirit which was a fantastic ship. The embarkation ... Read More
We have just returned from a 10 night pacific discovery cruise and thoroughly enjoyed our trip. This was our second south pacific cruise, having previously sailed on the carnival spirit which was a fantastic ship. The embarkation process was easy and we were on-board within 30 minutes of our 12pm check in time. entering the ship we were pleasantly surprised at how nice the ship was, yes.. the ship is an older boat which is showing signs of wear and tear but it has a great décor in the public areas and was always kept spotlessly clean. Most of the staff we interacted with were pleasant and friendly, especially the barman at the deck 12 splash bar and our cabin steward Ashadi. Drink prices range from $5.75 AUD for a can of VB, $7.75 for a pour of spirit and between $10 - $15 for cocktails. The food was good quality throughout the cruise and we ate in the waterfront restaurant for nearly every meal, the reason being that the buffet on the ship always had very long queues and limited seating. The burger bar on deck 12 was also great for grabbing a quick bite, but charges do apply after 5pm. my one gripe regarding the food is that quite often there would be nothing available as the buffet nor the burger bar was always open, and you would just have to wait a few hours until the restaurant or the buffet opened. We found the entertainment on board great, minus a few of the singers. there are 3 seating's for the marquee show every evening, which is good in case you miss the earlier sitting. there will also be events in the atrium such as circus shows and the champagne waterfall which we found entertaining. Overall we enjoyed the trip and would recommend the pacific pearl as a great way to see the islands from Auckland, but if you are willing to fly to Australia you will be able to cruise on much nicer ships which offer extras that P&O seem to have removed, like night turndown service and 24hour food available. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
Intro: My wife and I have been on maybe 10 cruises but never Celebrity. We are active and in our mid-40’s. We live in northern California and are serious wine and wildlife lovers. I always book DIY tours and the only pre-booked tour I ... Read More
Intro: My wife and I have been on maybe 10 cruises but never Celebrity. We are active and in our mid-40’s. We live in northern California and are serious wine and wildlife lovers. I always book DIY tours and the only pre-booked tour I reserved was ‘The Squeeze’ in Rotorau. Auckland: We spent first two days in the Hilton Princes Wharf. The location was ideal. The boat docks so close to the hotel that they warm you to shut your curtains at night when the ship is coming into Aukland for privacy. On day 1, we took the hop on/off bus for $45 each. We hopped off at Kelly Tarlton Sea Life Aquarium. We were blown away by the penguin exhibit. There was a lot to see in a compact area. Next we hopped off at the Zoo. It was also compact and a good value. We saw everything in 2-3 hours. We then stopped off at Parnell to shop. On day 2, we took the 9 AM ferry to Waiheke Island for $45 with an all day bus pass. We had a great breakfast at OBC in the village and then took a cab to Jurrasic Ridge winery. If you are into wine, this isn’t to be missed in my opinion. The wines were incredible and the tasting experience was second to none. This is wine made by one man, his way. It got busy as we were wrapping up so I’d recommend getting there at 11AM when he opens the cellar door. We then walked to Cable Bay and enjoyed a tasting and lunch. The chardonnay was great and we purchased two bottle for the cruise; food was also excellent. We then walked (all down hill) back to the bus stop and went to Te Matu. It was ok but not nearly the experience we had at Jurrasic. Even if you are not a wine lover, I’d recommend a ferry to Waiheke for a lunch. Embarkation: We checked out at noon. Embarkation was very orderly and efficient but we were not ready for the heat and humidity. To my surprise, we were able to bring on as much bottled water and soda as we wanted. We had put the two bottles of wine in our checked luggage. That luggage was delayed but showed up after dinner with a message that it had to go through secondary inspection. I had a magnum bottle in my carry-on that they didn’t mention. We were in our room by 2 PM. We were in a concierge class room (Rm 1036) and found a 50% Embarkation sale for the Tuscan Grill in our welcome letter. We booked a 6:30PM and were treated to a table up against the window on the far back. We were able to eat and watch the boat sail away from Aukland at 8 PM...that was a special treat and the food and service were fantastic. It was the perfect start to our cruise. Bay of Islands: The weather was perfect in the morning. We had our balcony door open all night and enjoyed the ocean sounds and breeze. We had ordered room service breakfast for 7AM and ate on the balcony. We got a tender at 8AM and rented kayaks for four hours and paddled to the Haruru Falls and through the mangroves. We then walked to Paihia and booked ABC tour to the Kawiti Glow Worm Caves. The tour was $40 plus $20 of entrance to the cave per person. It was unique and kids would love it; for me, it was ok. Tauranga I booked RiverJet’s ‘Cruising Overland’ tour with “the Squeeze” option (http://www.riverjet.co.nz/jet-boating/the-squeeze). This tour was in Rotorua and was the highlight of the trip. It was a once in a life time experience. I made a short video. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyUNVGddonU Wellington This day was a wash...literally. It was pouring rain and we needed to do laundry. I pack up everything and headed out in search of a coin operated laundry. I found a laundry about ten blocks up Cuba Street (next to bus drop 1) called The Soap Opera. Loads were $4 each and detergent was found at the Superette across the street. I’d suggest bring enough one dollr coins as the nearby businesses get asked for coins daily. There are some very cool coffee shops on Cuba Street to pass the time. On the way home I stopped at Fork and Brewer and had an amazing Coffee and Fig Stout at the beer-tenders suggestion. If you enjoy craft beers, this was the best place I found on the trip. Akaroa: We were blessed with amazing weather. The boat docks in a very old volcanic cauldron which was the best harbor I’ve ever seen. We were surrounded by high mountains with no wind or clouds. After a bit of a tender wait, we got to the wharf and booked a bay cruise from Coast Up Close. We left the dock at 10AM and saw amazing dolphins, penguins, and fur seals. The owner Tony was great as he shared his knowledge and passion for the area. He has a great website that is worth checking out: http://www.coastupclose.co.nz/ Afterwards, we ate a snack at the Harbour Bar which was a little past the initial grouping of cafes. The fish bites were AMAZING and the beers were solid. I eat a lot of sea food and these blue cod fish bites were really amazing. We were talking about them for days. Dunedin: We took a bus to town and found the Museum, the Cadberry plant, and Speights Brewery. We didn’t take any tours. The museum was the highlight. It not only had early NZ history but a great time capsule displays from early TV, radio, and cooking up to 1980. We spend about two hours there. I didn’t care for the beers at the brewery at all but the food was good. Dusky Sound: WOW. AMAZING. We popped our champagne and had mimosas while watching some of the most spectacular scenery we have every seen. It was similar to Alaska but without the snow (and cold to go with it). We had t-shirt weather and camped out on the balcony and took about 100 pictures! The on-board Naturalist Dirk Younkermann narrated for several hours. He really added to the exceptional experience. Hobart: We booked a private van off the pier with Trevor Glover (0419-556060) to take us around the city. It was a four hour tour and Trevor was exceptional. We saw Mount Wellington, the wildlife reserve, and the city of Richmond. The wildlife reserve was the highlight but I was surprised at Mount Wellington; the weather was ideal. We saw tazy devils, koalas, colorful birds, and fed kangaroos. After the tour we grabbed some oysters at Mullins near the pier which I didn’t care for at all but still loved Tasmania. Sydney: We walked off the ship after breakfast and carried our luggage so we were flexible. We were disembarked within 20 minutes without and issues. We stayed at the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel. The room was great but beware - there was no lift so getting the luggage to the room was a workout. I really enjoyed the charm of the hotel and the location was good. We did all the top tourist sites in the three days we had. Wining and Dining: 1) Getting a table for two at rear windows of the Tuscan Grill during was a perfect start to us in Auckland! We heard the french restaurant was very good but didn’t experience it ourselves. 2) We had select seating and never had a wait; we are early diners. Great service all around and the food was mostly good. If the food wasn’t suitable, the service made up for it. We typically stopped into the Master Cellar with a picture of the menu for suggestions from the Sommelier on wine parings. The lecturing Sommelier Csaba was truly exceptional. 3) We booked the ‘Wine Connoisseur Dinner’ for $92 each. There was zero wine education and the seating wasn’t optimized. In addition, the menu was the same as our initial visit. While we enjoyed ourselves, I wish we hadn’t selected this event. The events under the lecturing Sommelier control were far better. 4) We did just about all the on-board wine events. The Privee Wine & Cheese Tasting was a replication for the 1973 Paris tasting that put California wines on the map. This was great. There was a lot of old world/new world wine education provided, I also really enjoyed the NZ and Australia wine pairing. The other events were good but those two stood out to me. Things we loved: 1) Celebrity provided an umbrella and binoculars in our room; great touch. 2) The evening canapés; We were always hungry right when they showed up! 3) Our room steward Marlon was great and made sure we had everything we needed for a great day. 4) The itinerary was amazing; every stop offered something new and unique. We are used to cruising in the Caribbean and Mexico so we were surprised that we didn’t get hounded by trinket sellers and aggressive tour operators. That’s about it....we LOVED this cruise! It exceeded our expectations in many ways.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
It was our honeymoon cruise, also my husband's first cruise. I have been on Star cruise before, stayed in their inside stateroom, so I know how small and noisy inside rooms could be. So for our honeymoon, I picked the mini-suite to ... Read More
It was our honeymoon cruise, also my husband's first cruise. I have been on Star cruise before, stayed in their inside stateroom, so I know how small and noisy inside rooms could be. So for our honeymoon, I picked the mini-suite to pamper ourselves. Room was big with balcony, deck chairs & table, bath tub, big soft bed with lots of pillows, sofas and lots wardrobe space. Occasionally we also get plates of treats delivered to our room - canape & chocolate & sweet bites etc. we also get welcome champagne on our first day. Our ticket did say we have priority checkin at 12:30. When we arrived at 12:30, there was already a lot of people checking in. So apparently no one sticks to the check in time printed on their ticket. After checking out our cabin, we went to plantation to have buffet lunch. The following day we went back to plantation for breakfast, lunch & dinner. As its buffet style, we tend to eat too much. By the third day we were so sick of the buffet, feel bad for stuffing ourselves, we started going to Waterfront for lunch & dinner. And we were hooked since then. You get great service, order what you want, come in small portion, so can have 3 - 4 course meal and not feel stuffed. If you make a booking, you can have same table same time every night. Food was generally great, but not the Asian food. My husband find their food quite blend. Noumea: we went to Amedee Island, which has fantastic snorkelling, glass bottom boat, great view from top of lighthouse. But the lunch provided was not too great. Their roast beef was like brick. Overall a very beautiful island to spend a relaxing day. Lifou: we did the Forest & secret grotto tour, because I like exploring caves. But I was disappointed! Their cave was so small, we basically went down a few steps to sit in the cave, sang a song coz there's echo, and came out after 5 mins. The rest of the tour we were walking through a forest, with the guide explaining a few traditional medicine the locals get from plants, show us how they hunt coconut crabs, pigs, birds. I wouldn't recommend this tour. Not far from the jetty some locals were offering $10 to take you to another cave. We should have gone with that. In e afternoon we went to Jinek bay to snorkel. They just started charging people for entering Jinek bay. $15 half a day pass. It was a nice spot for snorkelling, however there were way too many people in the water at the same time! I find its not worth it (especially the best snorkel is at mystery island) Port vila: we went scuba diving in the morning, which was a great experience, a bit scary for me but I loved it. Fnished at 1130, went back to ship for lunch, walked along the pier where the locals are selling souvenirs, dress, shirts etc. went on 1:30 tour to Cascade waterfall. It was beautiful! Absolutely recommended. We were standing under the waterfall, water was refreshing. Beautiful spot for photos. Originally we booked abseil down the waterfall, but with only half hour between the 2 tours, we changed our mind last minute. Which worked out better as we had time for lunch & the best shopping in the whole trip. Mystery island: the best snorkelling place so far, is on the other side of this island. Water so clear, corals big and colourful. More variety of fish. Gorgeous blue starfish! But taking tender boat back to ship was pain in the ass. Long queue, waited for half hr finally our turn and some rude Asian cut queue. There was no clear queue area, so beware if long q starts to form. Money: reception told me I must have local franc for first 2 islands as they don't take Aussie $, but I found out on the islands they do take Aussie $! Well i guess the Ship make money from exchange rates, coz when I change back from franc to Aussie I feel so ripped off. Shopping at vila was easy, Aussie $ all the stalls, and they don't really bargain. Set price means set price. It's not cheaper a few stalls down the road. Entertainment: love the comedy & magic show. Circus was good, but after a few nights i find them repetitive. Not a big fan of musical show so we only attended first 2, and didn't bother going to last 2. Photos: they were taking photos of us everyday & everywhere. Highly recommend their portrait photos. They take photos on deck 7 on formal nights & dress up nights. And if you don't like the photos you don't have to buy them. But doing the photo shoot itself is fun, and free. We ended up buying 4 really nice portrait photos, and got 1 free. Casino & shops are small compared to other cruises I've been on. But that's no biggie. Just don't expect to buy much from the ship. We hire snorkel gear from aqua hut. $50 for a set of snorkel for the whole cruise, which I find ok as we get new snorkel & get to keep it. Just have to return the fin & goggle. If u hire from the island, who knows if they have been cleaned and it was $15 per hire. Remember to put toothpaste on your goggle the night before, and clean with seawater just b4 you put them on. This stops fogging up and works well. They were showing some quite new movies on tv & the big screen, like life of pi, ice age, twilight breaking dawn pt 2, 007 skyfall etc. I had the best reflexology at the spa, quite costly but it's worth it. I spent $129 and get 1 hr treatment includes body scrub, leg & ankle massage, foot reflexology. Overall we had a great time, will definitely go with p&o again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Background Information My husband and I have cruised about 10 times, different ships, different parts of the world. Took this cruise to celebrate our 40th Bdays. This cruise we had Stateroom D. Oceanview Stateroom, center ship. Too ... Read More
Background Information My husband and I have cruised about 10 times, different ships, different parts of the world. Took this cruise to celebrate our 40th Bdays. This cruise we had Stateroom D. Oceanview Stateroom, center ship. Too cold for balcony use. And center ship below teak deck you can run up one flight of stairs and be outside in a minute if you wanted to get a quick pix. Never heard walkers on teak deck. And no smells in room or in halls like I read about. But the smells were reported near end of ship. Guess lots of fresh air comes off elevators midship. We had great weather entire cruise. Hotel Info Airport shuttle to Hilton Auckland is $26 for 2 people. Heard it has lots of stops, so we took a cab $65. Use reputable Corporate, Rengency or Co-op cab companies. 30-50 mins depending on traffic. Hilton Auckland is the bomb if taking a cruise. It's not pricey, it's an awesome place with killer service and you walk right out the door onto ship. If you pay for a balcony ocean view room, be aware there will be ships parked right outside your balcony at some point! In Sydney, we took 30 min cab ride to Sir Stamford at Circular Quay. Read it's a fave on Trip Advisor. If you book through hotel you will get room early in day. If you book through a discount site, like we did, you will not be allowed to check in before the advertised check in time of 3pm. So we toured the Opera House and the giant gardens across street from hotel. With this and lunch our time was full. Hotel is luxe. Get pix with costumed bellman. Staff are really nice there. Restaurant is killer pricey. We had the unique chocolate dessert. It was the MOST unique dessert, but not the tastiest. You crack open a chocolate egg and hot chocolate goo comes out onto coffee icecream I think it was. The best thing we ate here was the cheese plate, which had quince paste. We'd never had it and have since found it at Whole Foods and eat it regularly. It's a type of fruit that is used like solid honey. On apples with cheese and some wine, good goodness! For food, go in the bar. It's a good menu and everything we ate there late night after the Opera show was delicious. And they will deliver it to your room. $45 taxi to airport from hotel. On way back to U.S. we stayed at The Langham hotel in Auckland. It seems realy nice when you walk in, but our room was super cramped, dated, tiny bathroom. Liked the water carafe/glass on nightstand. Nice touch. No chocolate croissants that stay as raved about by Trip Advisor writers. Ship Info Decide when booking if you want land view inbetween sounds. Port side faces ocean. Starboard has more land views. Ship is pretty and clean. Rooms comfy, just dated. Loved walking the covered teak deck and top open air deck. Food was great. Service great. Activities/Excursions Auckland: SkyTower is 15 minute walk from hotel. Once inside, take escalators down. Whole Sky Walk takes about 75 minutes. You are suited up leaving cameras, hair bands, sunglasses, hats, jewelry.... in a locker. It's windy up there, so expect your eyes to tear a lot if it's cold. We all felt tour/walk was too long. Worth the money, just too long. My group was bored and tired of the views at the end. If walk was shorter in duration, people would leave on a way higher vibe or whatever. There's 6 people in a group and we all bought a pix at the end. They also throw in a funny certificate. There's a video to buy, but we all looked ridiculous up there and nobody bought it. If you have the $, the Rebo Cafe & Bar on bldg's ground floor was delicious. Minus 5 ice restaurant: $25 a person. Worth it in day time as it's empty. Get the peachacolada. Yum. You can choose your own music and have pix guy get some fun/crazy shots. We bought several pix. They don't let you take Anything in. Purses, cameras... all held at desk for you. You can trust them. You are suited up and it's funny trying to hold your ice glass when drinking with those big mitts. You get to smash your glass when done. Loud and fun! On ship, walk teak deck at night. It's Empty. Never did find the vibrating chairs someone wrote about. Tauranga/Rotorua Waitmo Caves w/Crosshills Gardens Lunch and kiwi house. Ship tour is FANTASTIC. Noboday had a better day than us considering all the tours choices and dinner talk later. The caves and glow worms, you see just enough to leave on such a high. The gardens lunch was beyond charming and delicious, the property and people there, I can't tell you how at home they make you feel and you just revel in all the beauty of nature. The Kiwi House was super cool/cute big birds. Napier If you can ride a bike for a few hours, you Can't Beat this excursion we took. It's not offered by the ship, but we researched a LOT for this cruise, and this was the best offered. Bike D'Vine Winery & Sightseeing Tour. Do easy Rout 1. $40 a person. The owners pick you up at visitor center and it's a 15 min ride to first stop where they get you set up on your bike with a map,safety gear, bike locks. We started at a cool wooden place called The Filter Room. $12 got us a beer/cider sampler. You can pick from lots of choices/tastes. Along the bike route are various winers, a chocolate factory, a lavender farm. We did lav farm for souvenirs (put the oil on our pillows each night of cruise, wonderful!), and went by lots of amazing scenery of wine fields and sheep fields, and a pretty tile decorated bldg, downtown shops and on to just one winery, Mission Estate. The classiest. We sat out back and had 5* service of their cheese/fruits/nuts/breads/dipping oils/wines..... It was Heaven! For a fee we just had the van driver pick us up there as I was too tipsy to bike ride back! Wellington Ship's Lord of the Rings Tour: it was a FANTASTIC day. And I went grudgingly w/my husband as I'm not a movie buff. The tour fixes that Real quick. You watch an infomational movie at the Weta Cave museum that left everyone in awe and speechless. Next you stop at the coolest cafe you'll ever snack at. It's ON the water, super contemporary. Everything's home made. Then it's off to see killer scenery and learn about movie. The guide was IN movies so has lots of inside info and great stories. He was cool to take pix for everyone whenever. Lunch will be at the most scenic garden you can imagine. Breathtaking. Food was great and served family style. Bread was cutely served in clay flower pots. Then it's off to more scenery. I am positive that the ship's tour beats any and all LOTR tours you're going to research. Picton We stayed on ship for a spa day. Place was empty so we had place all to ourselves. HIGHLY recommend this. Heated tile chairs, hot tub surrounded by windows to a great view outside, steam and sauna rooms with lovely smells... Also got a mani/pedi. Girl is great. I just don't like that they make guests face the wall while workers get ocean view. That seems messed up!!! Husband and I got the double massage. He loved his, mine was weak. You gotta speak up a Lot throughout to get what you want! Whole spa area is great with fresh juices and fruit and super clean locker rooms. Christchurch Took a taxi to the Botanic Gardens. After two hours we hadn't seen a quarter of the place, huge! Wear correct shoes for this!!! Sneakers required. All kinds of terrain on paths. Beauty beauty and more gorgeous nature everywhere we went. LOVED it! Then we met our driver downtown to take us to Adrenaline Forest. This again is NOT a ship excursion. But my husband said this place was the highlight of the Entire Cruise! For $35pp plus $10pp each way van shuttle you are taken 15 minutes north of Christchurch to an obstacle course in the trees. Various levels take you higher and higher. It is the coolest guy thing we'd ever seen, although women were doing it too. Not me though due to neck injury. You are responsible for your own safety, in that you hook yourself onto line cables as you go along. Sooo many different obstables and you'll spend hours there. We went for the last two hours and it was perfect/not crowded. A crowd would really hold you up. Do bring your own food and water. Nothing right there, but you can walk across street to bathrooms/food place. It's not close though. Do 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th course in that order. My husband is fit and couldn't do 6th. He was soo sore next day, but would go every week if he could. Dunedin/Port Chalmers Took free shuttle to Otago Museum, also free. VERY cool museum and had the best sandwich in my life at cafe. It's the smoked chix, brie, salad in pita w/raspberry sauce. Served warm. And the caramel bar is super delicious also. Super cool gift store there too if you have kids. Dine w/the Chef night: Sign up! Great fun/great food with just a few other guests. Lots of drinking involved with this event! Cruising sounds for 3 days Be outside on ship's front deck for Milford Sound. You're enveloped in stunning beauty. Crossing Caspian Sea Outside of ship will be closed. It's rough seas. Got some awesome big wave pix! We booked a year in advance to get center ship. We barely felt motion here. Hobart We did the ship's Tahune Airwalk tour. This was ok. It's a long drive to get there. The Airwalk is relativley short. Then there's a cafe for lunch you have to pay for everything. It rained and 3/4 of the tour group sat in the cafe the whole time miserable. SO, bring warm jacket in case it's windy. Bring a sturdy umbrella. Bring a rain poncho. If you're prepared, as only my husband and I were!!! you will enjoy this place. Even in the rain. We thought it romantic. The tour guide ended up being our personal photographer! Eden Cool whaling info story about famous whale that helped whalers. Capt. told story over intercom system. We didn't get off ship. Thought it a sad stop. We tried Pinnacle Grill that night. It was fine. But main dining room food was great every night, so it wasn't necessary. If you go, the lobster mac and cheese was my fave. Sydney Reserve ahead for first tour tix at Opera House, or go straight there and get in line to get them. As performers show up for practice, the rooms are closed off to the public, or you can peek in, but no pix. The first tour all the rooms were empty and we got to take pix of Eveything. We had breakfast right there in front of theatre, sidewalk cafe. Great bridge view. After tour we went to the gardens up the street. They are Huge and pretty and lots of screaming flying squirrels which we thought were vampire bats. We had lunch at Cafe Sydney, at top of bldg facing bridge/ship. It's a mod place with great sceenery and great food. But it is costly. Expect every seat taken during lunch rush. Book ahead! Don't forget to get off elevator on floor with architect business listed on pannel. There's a lucite model of the opera house we found on accident. Cool! And lobby of bldg restauant has a glass floor with a model of Sydney in the floor!!!!! Have your video camera ready as you walk around feeling like you're flying over the city. We saw Pirates of Panzance. Great show! Brisbane Not part of cruise. We stayed at Hilton Brisbane, it's SUPER. Dinner at Rhubarb Rhubarb. It's a small bar with fancy food. Need reservations. Good time. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary $30pp, $16 for photos, $1 for roo food. Wear stuff you don't mind getting dirty if you want to really enjoy animal interaction, and there's plenty of it. Go opening to close, there's that much fun to be had! It was the highlight of trip/cruise for me! Service It was great all over ship. Only complaint was laundry service. Several times clothing items were lost, but most were found/returned at end of cruise. This was distressing as we packed one suitcase to last three weeks. We were Very limited in what we had and needing EACH and every item packed. Also, several items were ruined. Things came back stained or marked or with holes in them that weren't there when we sent them off. At end of cruise we filed to get money for 5 shirts and pants, but didn't get our money's worth. I was devasted they ruined one of my formal wear outfits. Brand new, never even worn, but I sent it for pressing along with everything else once we boarded. It came back with an iron imprint. I cried. As there was a limit to how much money you could file for for damages, this item didn't even make the cut. It alone was over $300. I've Never had such awful laundry service on a ship. And RCL has the Chinese Laundry. We've actually taken stuff with stains our local cleaner couldn't get out, and they get it looking good as new! Summary Spent over $15k on trip. All the old people kept saying they were on their retirement dream vacation, but due to age they were having a hard time fitting it all in. They kept telling us we did it right, did it when young. Travel To Port of Embarkation We flew Qantas. Superb coach experience going over. Opted to pay extra for exit door seat on way home. Bathroom light and door slamming and people traffic kept us up all the way home. Not worth money/won't ever sit there again. Dining We did the Any Time Dining/ Open Seating and LOVED LOVED it. We requested a table of 6-8 and met amazing people each night at dinner. Just be sure to book your dinner reservation like the second you wake up to get the time you want. Otherwise you will WAIT to be seated. Reservations a Must for timely seating. There's 4 formal, 10 Smart/Casual. Few tuxes on formal. Lots of dark suits though. Children's Clubs The guests on the cruise were older. Being 40, we were told there were only 2 other couples close to our age. They had a couple kids and so they took over places like the teen club and lounge and .... Seemed silly to have soo much for 4 kids. Oh well. Heard they were having a great time. Entertainment First time we never went to a ship dance show!!! We booked lots of early excursions, so just weren't up to the Broadway shows. We also shut the main dining room down several times with ongoing chatting with dinner mates. The comedian was good. The ventrilaquist awful. The cellist ok. Disembarkation As easy as getting on. If there's a problem, do NOT hesitate to ask for help. Like, if you have a flight and the lines are holding up for too long, they have a separate line elsewhere on ship which can get you off quick. I'd read about that line, and we used it! My husband was a nervous wreck about how long the self service line was, seemed like the entire ship wanted to be the first off. The elevator to exit to customs was taking forever as soo many people had wheelchairs and walkers and huge luggage that took up soo much elevator space. I surprised my husband by lingering at breakfast and then getting us to the "speed lane". Read Less
Sail Date October 2010

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