This review is for an Atlantis Events cruise from Auckland to Sydney with six stops on a Holland America ship, Noordam (built circa 2006). This was my first cruise. We chose this cruise because many of our friends have done them and speak highly of their experiences.
We spent two days in Auckland before departing to Gisborne, Wellington, Akaroa (Christchurch), Hobart (Tasmania), Melbourne and Sydney. Boarding problems delayed our departure, but before long we were on our way. Being my first cruise, I wasn't really aware of and didn't pay attention to the fact that we were circling an island for several hours after we left Auckland and I am still unsure why we changed course.
Atlantis Events and/or Holland America diverted the ship from making the planned stop in Akaroa (Christchurch) due to weather. Hard for me to believe that since Akaroa is a protected harbor. If you look on a map, the cruise was to go from Wellington to Akaroa and then south around the south island of New Zealand. Instead, we were stuck for three days at sea while we lumbered along at a leisurely pace to keep on schedule (i.e., not get to Hobart before we were scheduled). This significant change in schedule was, in my estimation, unnecessary, and definitely infuriating. The change in course lead to Holland America and/or Atlantis Events saving tens of thousands of dollars in fuel. We didn't get so much as a credit toward a future cruise.
Keep in mind that many of the staff on the ship were lovely. Very attentive, happy to help and genuinely appeared to enjoy their jobs. Most were from Indonesia and the Philippines, and they were outstanding. Unfortunately, there were 20-25% of the employees that absolutely hated their job (or hated us). You could tell because they didn't smile, make eye contact or go beyond the minimum of what they were required.
I have heard for years about how great the food is on cruises. Not being someone who enjoys eating large amounts of food (read, all-you-can-eat buffets), I wanted quality over quantity. I also don't eat a lot of meat, but there were plenty of hunks of unknown meats under heat lamps that didn't look particularly appetizing. The salad bar (not self-serve) on our cruise was ALWAYS busy and very understaffed. It was frustrating. You could go to a sit-down restaurant with table service (rather than the buffet-style food served on the lido deck), but this food was only marginally better. There was, of course, the extra-special option of going to a restaurant and actually paying for a high-end meal. Since I wasn't impressed with the food on the lido deck or the sit-down restaurant, I didn't bother.
The number of deafeningly loud announcements through over-driven speakers by the crew at all hours was very disrupting and usually sounded like the adults on Peanuts. I felt like an announcement that loud should have been left for "abandon ship!" instead of "we're having a sale on (overpriced) watches on the lido deck" or whatever equally silly announcement they were making. It was ridiculous.
The 'drinking' water on this ship tasted like it had been stored in a plastic container in the sun for a day or two, making it taste horrible. The upside was that we could drink the four $5 bottles of water (12 oz) left in our room every day when attendants came in to make our bed. If you're a coffee drinker, you'll need to lower your expectations considerably since the swill they served for coffee made instant coffee taste like Italian espresso, but you can go to their 'espresso bar' and pay $4.50 for a latte, so you aren't totally screwed.
If you ask me, it takes a lot of chutzpah to provide undrinkable water and coffee, and then essentially force you to pay their outrageously over-priced bottled water and coffee.
In the end, we paid an outrageous $1,354--almost all in drinks and one $100 bottle of wine for my birthday dinner. Holland America also enjoys using only US Dollars as its onboard currency and does not recognize the currency of those countries whose ports they frequent, so you won't enjoy any 'deals' on exchange rates.
Buyer/cruiser beware! Take note of the year your ship was built. Read recent reviews of it so you know what you're getting yourself into. Ultimately, I don't think I would ever do another Atlantis Events cruise, and I would NEVER do another Holland America given this experience.
Our 'Deluxe' Ocean-View Veranda room was extremely dated, featured appalling burnt-orange colors, a small sofa with tattered edges, stains and two throw pillows I wouldn't let a dog sleep on, and carpet matted down by years of traffic and little or no cleaning. The corners and edges under the desk and bed were absolutely disgusting with a visible amount of dust and small debris. Pieces of the edge of the furniture were broken and hanging. We had our bed made twice with sheets featuring large stains that looked like urine. Our friends all received the popular towel art in the form of small animals, but we never received them. Maybe we needed to spend more than the $5,000 we paid.
What's not to love about Auckland? It's a beautiful, clean cosmopolitan city and the people are so kind. The food was outstanding as was the coffee. I cannot wait to go back!
We liked Gisborne but I was our least favorite port. It was a very small town and we were only there a few hours.
We walked all over Wellington and shopped in the city center. Had lunch and some drinks. Would love to spend more time, but again, we were rushed and had just a few hours to spend there.
We had the absolute best breakfast near the port in Hobart. We then walked over to a farmer's market and then decided to rent a car and drive to the Bonorong animal sanctuary (there were six of us) near Brighton. Afterward, we drove to Richmond and had another amazing meal. Lots of fun little shops and things to see.
We loved Melbourne the most. It is a beautiful city on the water, large port, great mass transit to get into the city center for far less than an Uber/taxi ride. Incredible food, beautiful architecture, clean streets, great variety of shopping. We absolutely loved it and plan to return.