We have just disembarked in Sydney from our 16 night cruise around New Zealand over the 2015 Christmas and new year period. The cruise experience was enjoyable but, having cruised with Holland America in 2010, it just felt that the company is cutting corners and is turning every cent. The staff were visibly tired and overworked. The entertainment (yes I know it's not the cruise line with a reputation for great entertainment) was dull and amateurish. That having been said, they sport the BB Kings Band who were simply fabulous but after 16 nights we yearned for something different.
Whereas the prices commanded for alcohol were exorbitant, the wines sold on board ranged from average to cheap. Coming from South Africa, we recognized that the South African wines sold at a mark up was at least 75 percent. The cost of the onboard activities (such as gym classes and at the spa) were prohibitive to say the least. And this says nothing about the shore excursions - do the research and you can do the identical tours with far fewer people at a fraction of the price if you organize them locally.
The ports were interesting and we enjoyed seeing them from the sea as they are mostly on the shore line save for Christchurch and Rotarua which are inland. Wellington, Picton, Auckland and Sydney are all fabulous destinations whereas Napier, Dunedin, and the bay of islands were also enjoyable stops. The country is very focused on tourism and with the minimum of effort one can plan your activities well in advance. The car rental services mostly met us in the port and most of the ports lay on a free shuttle service In and out of the towns. The entire cruise only had two tender ports - both of them were long but reasonably organized. At every port the New Zealand travel information services -I-site- were fully represented and local tours could be booked independently of the cruise line. Although one can book cheaper tours by going on line, the local tour organizers that met the passengers on shore were able to offer identical tours at a fraction of the price of the shore excursions offered on board.
My teenage daughter had a fabulous time - she met lots of new friends and the activities offered were good and the staff fabulous. Unfortunate there were a number of unruly small children on board but that is probably due to the timing of the cruise.
The dining was good albeit that the choices were much more limited than on previous cruises. For someone who seldom eats fast food, I can say that the 'dive in' hutch made fabulous burgers.
The Christmas and New Years activities centered around large outdoor barbecues which focused on quantity and not quality.
I would definitely recommend that anyone who does this cruise researches the activities ahead of time or at the local I-site centers.
Good. A little dated. The tv certainly needed to be replaced.