My husband and I travel annually on Princess Cruises as part of a special interest (Classical Music) tour group that we lead, bringing our own professional musicians with us. We have always appreciated the assistance that Princess Cruises have given us regarding venues and technical assistance with our concerts (albeit with some extra cost). On the whole, I would recommend the Princess Cruise line most definitely. On this particular cruise, however, it was a smoking issue that affected us personally, that caused us grief and I take issue with Princess Cruises because of the distress that I, particularly, was caused. The smoking area on the Promenade deck was often populated with a significant number of passengers - along with staff in uniform (!) smoking. The flow-on effect that this created, was that cigarette smoke travelled very strongly into our cabin located 2 decks above this area. One would think that the air would dissipate the smoke -- not so! The stench coming into our cabin was SO strong - that the balcony doors had to remain closed. Fortunately, our group had a spare cabin due to a late cancellation, that we were able to move into. If this had not been the case, we would likely have had to endure the second-hand stench of cigarette smoke for the whole of our New Zealand cruise, as cabin changes are discouraged and rarely available. I have a respiratory condition that would have seen me very ill and I strongly object to the placement of this Promenade Deck smoking area below - which infiltrates cabins in the vicinity. My suggestion for future cruise travellers, is to look very carefully at the smoking areas on the ship (2 allocated areas) when booking staterooms and avoid balcony staterooms in those areas, if you object to breathing second-hand smoke. Those "Princess" staff responsible for setting smoking policy, need to understand how far cigarette smoke travels - particularly with wind variances on a ship. Princess ships used to allow smoking on balconies and I am very grateful that they no longer allow this. That was a great step in the right direction. Now they need to go further and act to protect those passengers paying for balconies from inhaling cigarette smoke from allocated smoking decks. It goes without saying that having an allocated smoking area on a Promenade deck, flies in the face of all of those folk walking around the deck for fresh air, who must run the gauntlet of the smoking area (and it's effects 20 metres beyond) on each turn around. This smoking area is just outside the doors and therefore, each time the doors open, the smoke pours into to the adjacent lift lobby, the Vista lounge and the photographic area. One cannot avoid breathing in the strong stench into these public areas. Taking a short-cut through the Internet Cafe in order to avoid the putrid air near the open doors, sometimes helped a little - but should not have been necessary. The placement of a much-used smoking area on the Promenade Deck is a curious and badly thought-out decision and one that Princess needs to definitely review. Princess ships are definitely ships of good quality regarding service. Cabin stewards, dining room waiters and other staff are well-trained and respectful of passengers needs. On the whole, staff were excellent. We would be happy to sail with Princess again, providing that this issue of second-hand cigarette smoke is addressed. I have certainly made a note of cabins that I would avoid next time. Regarding dining, the meals are generally good and a reasonable variety is included on the menu. Vegetarian meals are, however limited. One can request a look at the menu for the following night and discuss one's choice with the head waiter - so an attempt to meet dietary needs is offered. The buffet had plenty of choice - although the fresh fruit was mainly limited to melons. A more extensive range of fresh fruit would have been appreciated eg. berries. However, I can appreciate that storing such fruit may be problematic. As our special tour group brought our own musicians onboard, we were heavily involved with our own concerts and therefore cannot comment on the activities or entertainment personally.
Balcony cabin was clean and well maintained. We would have been happy to remain in this cabin, if the cabin had not been situated above the smoking area, allowing the cigarette smoke to pour in through the balcony doors
A very wet day, and the fact that we were in Wellington on a Sunday, meant that we stayed onboard. We have visited Wellington many times before and would recommend the Maritime museum.
Napier is an art deco town, rebuilt after a massive earthquake last century. We did not visit Napier this time, preferring to stay on the ship.
Tauranga is the town near where the ship docks at Mt. Manganui. Tauranga requires a bus trip, so we decided to walk around the town this time. Many designer shops there. many folk walk up to the top of the mountain.
Our tour group had pre-arranged a concert with singers from Opera New Zealand. This was a highlight of our day. We then organised ourselves onto a ferry and sailed across the harbour to Devonport. A lovely town with heritage homes. A late departure at 10pm gave us plenty of time in Auckland.
Dunedin is a lovely city. We have previously done Princess shore excursions and enjoyed them. This time we simply enjoyed perusing the city at our leisure.