We chose this cruise because it's a family friendly ship and we wanted to try cruising on a really big modern ship.
We booked very early as a mass family booking and secured a great cabin with an oversize balcony and this was a great choice. I have no complaints about our cabin or the service. Our cabin steward was great - very professional and discreet and our room always looked great. I liked the cabin itself - comfortable bed, though perhaps a little harder than I am used to. I remember not liking the entertainment much though - I think you had to pay for a lot of the movies or it wasn't a great selection or something. It wasn't as good as on other ships anyway. We had a drinks package and an internet package and the internet was good. The drinks package was good too - a bit annoying that both cabin occupants had to buy them though. I drank way more than usual as a result but I had some fantastic cocktails from some of the really great bar staff.
The food was okay. I did get a three specialty restaurant package and did the captains table. I liked the Wonderland restaurant, one of the deserts was superb. I liked the sushi restaurant. We also did a steak restaurant which was good. The captain's table was not as good as formerly, my companions told me, but it was okay. I probably wouldn't bother to do it again though. The main dining room was good but they had a surcharge for lobster etc. It was a bit poor really. Cruise lines in general seem to be going downhill in this cutting corner way. They're booming but they act like they can't afford things that used to be standard at a time when they had nothing like as many customers. Disappointing, and not just confined to RCL. Service was good in all restaurants.
Great cabin - really enjoyed having a large balcony. I did find being on the balcony a little noisier than usual but maybe only because those around us spent a bit of time out there. It's a little less private because of the angle but not a big deal. Great bathroom. Bed was maybe a little hard but still comfortable. It was quite roomy for two. The service for the cabin was great. The only thing I didn't find great was not being able to see forward from this cabin, but you could watch things go away so that's still good.
Sydney is always a great port if you go from the international terminal at the Rocks. So many things nearby and a stroll to the Opera House or a ferry ride is always a great option.
Travelling through the Sounds was great but Milford Sound was the real highlight. I've been through the Norwegian fjords too ... Mildford Sound is every bit as beautiful. Dusky Sound and Doubtful Sound were also beautiful but Milford has a bit of an edge. We were lucky as we got to see all the scheduled sounds. It was wonderful.
We liked Dunedin. We wanted to take the train excursion but it was truly disgustingly expensive. Like, disgustingly. I've been on way better train rides than that for a lot less. Even the train at Flam was less expensive, with more spectacular views than this rail journey offered. I would still go on this train but only from the station, not on an overpriced ship tour. And the ships timing seemed calculated to ensure people could not simply go into town and catch the train from there. There were some bus/train excursions people could take. We decided to take a shuttle into the city and walk around, have coffee and visit the station building. It was a very nice city, some interesting buildings. The train station was lovely. We didn't do a lot in the city but we enjoyed doing a bit of shopping and sightseeing. Nice city.
We booked our own Weta workshop tour and it was very interesting. In hindsight I'd probably do something else, but it was an interesting tour. We had some nice food at a cafe nearby during the hour of free time. It was a nice drive out to the Weta workshop and we also went to see the bucket fountain and had some nice coffee. Wellington reminded me a bit of Hobart.
Napier is a really lovely town. I enjoyed every minute here. We walked around town and enjoyed the wonderful art deco buildings and had some coffee. I had a lot to photograph. Walking around was so interesting. The shuttles were great, you could get on them and go down to the aquarium. The aquarium wasn't that great - some interesting tanks but many of them a bit small for the inhabitants. I was happy to see some newts. The biggest tank didn't seem very impressive - not much to see. We walked back along the foreshore from the aquarium - lovely walk on sunny day. Got a little sunburned. Just a very pleasant city to spend some time in.
We hired a car and drove to Wai o tapu to see the champagne lake. It was a great trip and I'm glad we did this. It was a difficult destination because there was a lot to do and many choices. Hiring a car was a good choice. We wanted to see Hobbiton too but just didn't want to hurry too much. It was a really hot day so we ended up not going to any of the hot water spas at Rotorua. Too hot! We did go and park at the beach at Mt Manganui after visiting the wonderful Wai o Tapu (well worth a visit - great walk, many wonderful sights) and that beach was quite impressive. We really liked the area - it was like the Gold Coast before it got overpopulated. Lovely.
We didn't do a lot in Auckland. We visited the Wynyard area and ate at a tourist trap called The Crab Shack. Was okay but wouldn't go there again. We also took a ferry to Devonport and took a seaside stroll and drank some hot chocolate. All quite leisurely and everything easy to access. It was a nice day.