This was our second time on the Radiance, third time around NZ, but first time cruising with friends (deliberately). Our very first cruise was on Radiance back in '08 in Alaska. That has got us hooked unto cruising so it was going to be interesting to come back after several cruises, with a few companies,and to compare. Also we planned this with a few friends of our age group.
OK, staring at the start, we were a bit worried about Melbourne as a departure point. Melbourne is not usually a customs clearance point, so we were worried a little about the whole check in process. We shouldn't have been, it may have been a fraction slower, but not really noticeable. We went through a faster lane, which was very quick, our friends though had to come through the standard lines, which did take close to an hour. I think this was because everyone came at the same time, and there were a lot more without C & A privileges, which meant the queues were longer than normal.
We got our rooms pretty much on 1pm, and we also sorted out our first night dining with our friends. We then went for a bit of an explore, and that first cocktail. The ship had changed slightly, but not a lot. Other reviews talked about it ageing, and showing signs of wear and tear. She is now 18 years old, and due for another refresh in a few months. If you looked hard, yes you could find things to comment on (and as an ex-mariner you could find fault everywhere if you wanted to), but the important thing was it was clean and tidy, the crew worked well to keep the presentation to a good standard, and nothing was falling apart.
This cabin is different to the normal balcony, and has its pro's and con's. The cabin is the same size as any other balcony cabin, but the balcony itself is four or five times deeper. It is fantastic and will be great for long ocean cruises. There is plenty of light and great views except towards the stern (the hump blocks part of that). A great place to host a family or some friends.
The downside is the noise from the Centrum. There is noise. This was basically from the entertainment in the Centrum at night. The lifts etc. were not noticeable at all. The Centrum is used for events at night, so when these were on you could hear low frequency noise through the door (bass etc). Not loud, but there. During the day it was not noticable, so afternoon naps were not a problem (aahh the cruising life), but the party noise was there til about 10:30pm. then it was all quiet again. We could deal with it for the extra balcony space!! But if you retire at 8:30pm, its probably going t be a bit annoying! You could closed the fire door, but because it is a major passage way it will be continually opened and closed, so not a good idea. Definitely worth it if you are happy about the noise.
The city centre has lots, and lots, of places to eat, coffee nooks, and alleys full of restaurants and shops. Victoria Markets are good for a bargain, and try the Museum. There are free trams in the CBD area. Great places to sit and chill out on the river.
We booked our own tour. You are bussed out of the port area and there were then several tour options available at the tourism centre. We did a get-on - get-off tour of the wineries. There were many wineries, too many for the time we had, and we probably didn't prepare well, but the tour people were great. Have a plan!
Checked out the Botanic Gardens and the Cable car - great, but allow some time and you could walk around all day if you are not careful. The Waterfront area has been changed significantly and is set up very well. But the must do item is the Te Papa museum!!
We hired a car here (prebook!!) and toured the Otago Peninsular before heading into town for a look at the train station. There are several lookouts and a cool, but small, Maritime Museum in Port Chalmers where the ship docks.