We chose this particular cruise based on our schedule and desire to see Sydney, Tasmania and New Zealand after a week on Australia's Gold Coast. The Noordam cruise was perfect for us (our 10th cruise, and first on Holland America).
Embarkation at the White Bay Cruise Terminal was fairly quick. Our boarding pass showed 12:30 pm boarding for a 6:30pm embarkation. However, we arrived at 11am by taxi (AU$20 from the CBD). We were in boarding group 2, and went through security at 11:30. Remember that you can take 2 bottles of wine or champagne in your carry on luggage when boarding. We were on board at 11:50, in time for lunch. Our room was ready, and our luggage was there when we returned after lunch. Very nice. Only downside to White Bay is that there is no wi-fi in the building; odd in a city that tends to have wi-fi everywhere. They need to get with it.
We selected an aft balcony cabin on deck 7, so that we were not under the Lido noisy deck or over the theater or dining rooms; made that mistake on our first cruise and never again. Our room was quiet and peaceful; in 12 days, we saw our neighbors 3 times and only heard the people in the cabins next to us and above us only once. Our room stewards Dodit and Eko were fantastic, greeted us always by name, and maintained the room in perfect condition. The room was a bit on the small side, and only one of us at a time could walk between the bed and the wall. The bathroom had a tub with shower; very nice. Lots of storage in the bathroom and throughout the room. Plenty of closet space and shelves. The room was clean and the bed was very comfortable. The climate control system was easy to use and responsive.
We really enjoyed the food on the ship. I'm a vegetarian, my wife is not, and there were plenty of choices for me for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We went to the Lido Market (buffet restaurant on deck 9) for breakfast and lunch, and to the Vista Dining Room for dinner each night. We chose the flexible dining option, and only waited more than 2 minutes on the first night. We chose to sit with others at tables of 6 or 8, which allowed us to meet a wide range of cruisers from all over the world. However, we did note that the dining room Maitre' D never sat us (we're from the USA) with any of the Asians, or had them sit at our tables when we were first seated. It was explained to me by friends later that Asians don't care to socialize with "whiny, pushy Americans". I don't blame them; I actually told the Maitre D' one night not to seat us with other Americans; they tended to complain about the littlest things, forgetting that we were on an amazing cruise ship and seeing a beautiful part of the world.
We enjoyed the theater productions, as well as the entertainers that were brought in. Especially Patrick McMahon, the highest energy entertainer I've ever seen. He was a blast. The BB King Blues Band was excellent; their male and female singers were great.
Best of all was the piano-violin duo called Adagio. These two female musicians were incredible, and played what the cruise line called "sophisticated music". Classical, some pops, always amazing. People would stop in the hallways to listen. We really enjoyed listening to them.
Cruise Director Jeremy was great, informative, and entertaining. He answered a lot of questions for us prior to each port.
There were 5 Maoris on board until we got to New Zealand. They had several days to provide us with lessons in basic Maori language, and how to do the Haka war dance. A very fun group that added a lot to the cultural part of the cruise and prepared us with knowledge of their culture prior to our first port in New Zealand.
I used the fitness center at least an hour a day, and attended morning "stretches" and evening "stretches" or "circuit training". Personal trainers Namik and Heather were very good leaders and kept us motivated and moving.
We always book our excursions through independent tour operators via the internet before the cruise, never through the ship. We go through the reviews here and on Trip Advisor for each port. We pay about half of what the ship's costs are, and get smaller and more personalized tours. The ship always cautions you that "if you're late on our tour, we wait for you, but not if you're on a non-ship tour". It's never been an issue. All of the independent tours get you back on time; if they didn't, their reviews would show it and they would instantly lose business. We had great tours in nice comfortable smaller buses, with small groups and very knowledgeable local guides.
Not being gamblers, we did not visit the casino.
One very nice thing that both Australia and New Zealand have are the "iSite" visitor information centers at each port. Almost all of them had wi-fi, which was very nice for making calls and checking emails. You can also book tours at these centers.
Port Arthur, Tasmania and Akaroa, New Zealand require going in by tender boat (the ship uses its large lifeboats, which hold 50-60 at a time comfortably. Both tender trips were only 12-15 minutes. There were plenty of them, but you do have to get in line early in the morning to get a tender ticket if you want to be on a tender after people that booked the ship's tours.
Shuttle buses are used in:1) Port Chalmers to get into Dunedin (there is a cost, but if you book any of the tours, they pick you up at the visitor information right by the ship, so there's no additional cost to get into Dunedin, about 5 minutes away), 2) in Wellington (free bus, 15 minutes to a stop downtown), and 3) in Napier (free bus, 5 minutes to a stop at the iSite visitor center and then 2 minutes more to the aquarium).
This was an aft balcony cabin on Deck 7 starboard. Super quiet, with no Lido deck above us or theater or dining rooms below us. Only heard neighbors twice during a 12-day cruise. Far from elevators and busy hallways, but close enough to get to the Lido Market restaurant (deck 9) for breakfast or lunch in 2 minutes. Or down the hallway to the elevators to get to the Vista Dining Room on decks 2 and 3.
Wonderful to see the opera house and harbor bridge from the ship as we sailed out of the harbor.
We booked this tour while we were Hobart during a cruise ship port stop. The bus was very nice and clean, and very comfortable. The bus driver provided nice commentary on history and current events. The tour to the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary was the highlight of the tour. We also went through Richmond on the way back, with a stop there for about an hour. Not much interesting there to see but tourist shops; I recommend doing a tour that does not include Richmond.View All 31 Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary Reviews
This is a tender port and you take a 10-15 minute ride in from your cruise ship. This is the first prison that the British set up in Australia, and has a very interesting history. No pre-booked tour is needed, just go at your own pace. When we arrived at the dock, one of the Port Arthur staff provided a free 30-minute intro tour that was very well done and interesting. During March 2017, the visitor center was still under re-construction. Free wi-fi is available in the coffee shop next to the "Separate Prison". Using the brochure and map that they handed out, we wandered around the prison, hospital, chapel, and gardens for about 2-1/2 hours before returning to the ship. The signage and information iin the buildings is very well done and makes for an interesting tour.
We booked this tour to do during our cruise ship stop in Port Chalmers/Dunedin. The Good Company bus picked us up at the Port Chalmers cruise terminal iSite visitor information center (which has good wi-fi) and drove us into town. Richard the driver was very informative and provided a lot of history of the city. We stopped first at the railway station and then had a few hours of free time to see the downtown area. The railway station is a must see; be sure to go to the 2nd floor to see the stained glass windows. We also went through the Otago Museum, which provides more detailed history about the local Maoris and European Settlers. Also had time to go to the Cadbury factory, which is closing in late 2017. Don't spend your money on the expensive factory tour, just buy chocolate! The tour took us through the city, by the beaches and through hilly neighborhoods. Very relaxing and informative. We made a stop at Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world, and got off to take photos. There were other sights we would like to have photographed, but it's hard for a full bus to stop and offload/load up again.View All 45 City Tour Reviews
Best nature boat cruise ever! This is a very well-run family business that I highly recommend. The father and son run the boat, the daughter runs the office, and the mother takes the tickets when you board. We had not pre-booked a tour during our cruise ship stop in Akaroa because we didn't know if the weather would be good or bad. We were hoping to do a harbor tour, and had made a point to see if Akaroa Dolphins was available. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day and we saw their boat just as we got off the cruise ship tender boat. We did the 10:30 tour, and were hoping to see the Hector's dolphins. We were amazed at how many we saw, as they came right up to the boat and cruised along with us. One pod after another throughout the tour, and it's very easy to photograph and video them just a few feet away. The family's dog Jet, who wears a life vest, barks when he sees dolphins and was fun to have on board. The father, Bainzy, steered us out of the harbor where we saw lots of seals, as well as local penguins. The son served us beer and wine, and near the end of the tour, Bainzy came around with a basket of home-made cookies that his wife had baked. You just can't beat that. This was absolutely the best nature boat tour we have every been on. There were other tour boat companies that did a similar tour, but the boats were much smaller, so they really couldn't go out of the harbor where the seals were.View All undefined undefined Reviews
OK city tour, but too long and detailed. We have had very good experience with "free" walking tours in other cities, but there isn't one in Wellington. This tour is booked out of the iSite visitor information center, at NZ$20 each. The tour guide was informative, but he got way too detailed about "this building used to be this, and now is that" and "that building used to be that, and now is this", as well as getting into details of how the buildings were damaged in earthquakes and are being rebuilt with new engineering structures or waiting to be demolished. The tour was more about downtown buildings than the history and stories like you get on other walking tours. I think that he could have done the entire tour in an hour. We had limited time and had to break off to see the things we wanted to during our cruise ship stop. If you have the time, and want intricate details, do this tour. We also went on the Wellington cable car....$4 one-way for a 10-minute ride up or $7.50 round trip. Good views at the top, but not worth the price. We rode up and then walked down through the botanical gardens. Beautiful gardens, but know that when you get to the bottom, you still have a 20-minute walk back into town.View All 33 City Tour Reviews
We had pre-booked this tour for the day our cruise ship was in port. We had read reviews on all of the tour companies and selected Vines and Views since it is a smaller and more personalized tour, and is unique in offering the wine and cheese at their own pavilion at the top of the mountain outside Napier. Our driver/tour leader picked us up at the shuttle bus stop at the aquarium and we drove through the city first to see the art deco architecture. It would have been nice to have stopped to take some photos, but we had a lot to do on the tour. We came back after the tour to see more of the downtown area. He drove up to an overlook where we could see our cruise ship and the harbor area and surroundings. Then we visited the beautiful Mission Winery in the wine-growing valley, and then a stop at Silky Oak Chocolates. We stopped at a cute, small chapel along the roadside, and up on the mountain to their pavilion. We had a great view of the Napier area, and the wine, cheese, fruits and nuts platter provided a nice relaxing addition to a great tour.View All 9 City Tour Reviews
We had pre-booked this tour for the day our cruise ship was in port. We had read reviews of all of the tour companies and their itineraries and picked Hinterland due to their smaller and more personalized tour, and a more comprehensive tour itinerary. Andy picked us up at the port, just 50 yards from the visitor information center right off the ship. We left on time, and in a very new and nice Mercedes Benz passenger van. Much better than the cruise ship tour buses. We drove through Mt. Maunganui and Tauranga, then our first stop was at the Comvita honey bee facility, where we saw how honey and honey products were made (yes, the bees do most of the work). We got to taste a wide range of honey and honey products. Our next stop was Kiwifruit Country, where we saw and learned about kiwi fruit, how it is grown, and its history in New Zealand. Sampled lots of kiwi products. Then about a 30-minute drive to the Rotorua area, first stopping to see where Mt. Tarawera erupted in 1886, burying some of the local Maori villages. We stopped for lunch at the Lakeside Cafe, where we had time to sit along the lake and watch the black swans. Then to the highlight of the tour, at the Maori Whakawerawera Thermal Village. A great personal tour to see how the Maoris live in this unique volcanic area with geysers, hot springs, boiling mud pools, and steam vents (they cook their meals using the steam vents and hot springs). The Maoris provide an interesting tour of the area and a very entertaining 30-minute program. This was the cultural highlight of the tour to this area of New Zealand. Then we headed back to the cruise ship. A great 7-hour tour that was well-run, comfortable, informative, and entertaining.View All 63 Rotorua Reviews