Embarkation port in Sydney is White Bay, not as convenient as Circular Quay, and not at all scenic, being a commercial port. The day before embarkation we received an email advising us not to arrive before one. It would have been much better for planning had the email arrived earlier. We arrived shortly after one and embarkation was fairly smooth; our cabin was also ready.
For the first three days, there were loooong lines everywhere. The Buffet was not exactly self-served. You are handed everything by a staff member, everything from food to drinks to eating utensils. You line up for a glass of water, an extra spoon, a slice of bread,… you name it. The servers were so busy they would move on to the next person if you hesitated for one split second. They also had no time to attend to any requests, such as dark meat vs. white meat, or smaller portion … etc. They would just pile up on your plate, whether you are able to finish it or not, causing a lot of unnecessary wastage.
Not only were there long line-ups everywhere, they were also many guests carrying multiple filled plates and/or glasses walking around. People were understandably trying to get everything they need all at once, rather than returning to the long lines again. Accidents waiting to happen.
Because of this added workload to the servers, I believe bussing people were also called to help, resulting in fewer workers clearing tables. In short, eating at the buffet took a lot of effort and time, and a lot less relaxing than when I was on other cruises.
This lasted for 3 days, and on day 4, all of a sudden things went back to normal. Buffet was self-served again.
There were long wait time for everything as well. I believe many were tired of the line up in the buffet and decided to have breakfast and lunch in the dining room, causing much longer wait time there as well.
Food in the dining room was generally good, but the menu choices were quite limited.
In the first three days, not only was the buffet not self-served, guests were not allowed to handle many other items as well. For example, you have to go to guest services to get a copy of the newspapers, or crossword puzzles. Library books were hidden in a drawer, and it’s a pain to see what’s available. Board games were all hidden, and there was often nobody around to ask. Guest services told me this is for sanitary reasons. I understand their concern over food items, but I think they were over-reacting when it came to paper products. How does one get contaminated by handling a newspaper? If they were absolutely adamant that nothing touched by one guest is touched by another without first getting it sanitized, then perhaps they need to be following everybody around and sanitizing every railing, wall and elevator button after they’ve been touched. I think they are just causing a lot of inconvenience for the guests as well as tons of unnecessary extra work for their frontline workers.
I particularly enjoyed the piano quintet’s performances at Lincoln Center Stage. I also attended most of the Main Stage performances and enjoyed those as well, especially the very professional dancers.
The ship arrived on time in Auckland. We chose to self-disembark and everything went smoothly. We would stay a few more days in Auckland before flying back home. All in all, this cruise has been an enjoyable one, with lots of beautiful scenery to look at, despite the few rainy days we had.
Because of the wild fire, Sydney was under a cloud of yellowish haze. It was rather unpleasant but the harbour was still very pretty. Air quality was much better in the early morning and later in the evening. Definitely worth spend a few days pre-cruise.
Public transportation was quite easy to use. We purchased an Opal card at the airport and used it to get to our hotel, for city travel as well as a longer ride to Bondi Beach one day.
At the port, we purchased a My Ki card, which is a reloadable travel card with enough money for the day’s travel. There was a shuttle that took us near the downtown area. We spent the day visiting the Botanic Gardens, the Shrine of Remembrance, and the downtown waterfront.
We saw the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens, the Cenotaph as well as the historical area near Salamanca. At the Botanic Gardens, the very helpful staff at the visitors centre told us they have an agreement with the Red Bus and we could take it back to the city for $3.00.
Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park:
Very picturesque and serene sounds. Unfortunately for us the weather wasn’t the greatest, cloudy and rainy most of the time. I am sure it would have been much more spectacular had we had a sunny day. But it was still beautiful and an enjoyable experience.
Port Chalmers (Dunedin):
I found the i-Site (tourist information) at every New Zealand port organized and well-staffed. On this day we purchased a half-day city and garden tour at the port. The tour programme was good, taking us to see the major sites in Dunedin, including the Botanic Gardens, the railway station, Baldwin Street, Signal Hill Lookout, etc. Unfortunately for us, the tour company we went with, Exploring New Zealand, was a bit disorganized, and we were sometimes left not knowing what was happening.
We bought a shuttle ticket from French Connection at the i-Site at the pier to Christchurch and did our own self-guided walking tour. The shuttle was right on time and the driver very efficient and professional. He provided commentary on the way to and from Christchurch. In fact, most of the New Zealanders associated with the tourism industry that we encountered during this trip were very professional. The downtown area is walkable and we had a great time exploring the Canterbury Museum and Botanic Gardens in Christchurch.
Picton has a number of hikes right from the port area. We hiked up Tirohanga Track, and from there, had a nice view of our ship and the downtown area.
If the weather had been better, we’d probably have done another short hike, but it started to rain, so we decided to just spend a little time in the downtown area.
It started out as a very rainy day. Pretty much everyone opted to go Te Papa Museum. I hadn’t planned on visiting this museum for very long, but it was so rainy we had no choice. That rain turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Te Papa is truly one of a kind. It’s like a few different museums under one roof. The art section is so creative and full of great ideas; the war section so thought-provoking… I thoroughly enjoyed every minute we spent inside. Don’t miss this if you’re going to Wellington.
My research on this town prior to the trip yielded very little, so I did not know what to expect. The ship was there for just a few hours. So I thought perhaps this is just a little town for a short cruise stop-over, and I did not have much expectation. It turned out this is one of the best ports we visited. It’s well-organized, clean, and oh so pretty. I enjoyed the Marine Parade with the beaches, Sunken Garden, and the MTG Hawkes Bay Museum. The Art Deco architecture is so beautiful. We had a great time in this picturesque town.
We booked an excursion with Shore Trips and Tours prior to our cruise to see Wai-O-tapu, Whakarewarewa Maori village and Rotorua. Everything went according to plan and we had a very professional guide and driver.
Disembarkation was smooth in Auckland. We stayed for another four nights before flying home, and had a great time visiting this lovely city and some of the surrounding areas.
Good size and location. It's fairly close the aft elevators but still quiet at night.