My cruising backgound since 2012. Celebrity 6, HAL 4, RCI 3, Carnival 1, Princess 1, MSC 1.
I titled this review "A New Winner" because HAL is my new favourite cruise line, previously Celebrity. It was a close call and HAL was preciously my 2nd favourite. So why the new winner? I have found, in the past, the two lines to be comparable, the defining point was the food on this cruise - I could not fault it. Anyway, here's how my 5th NZ cruise went.
Why 5 NZ cruises? This one was because my travelling companion had not previously cruised NZ. She had preciously visited the south island but not the north. We organised a 7 day, pre-cruise tour, of the north island by rental car and staying at pre-booked motels.
Quite roomy once the double bed was split into two singles which gave us useful cabin space. Also there was a double fold-out sofa which would have made it very cramped for 4 in a cabin but, as there were only two of us, no problem. Room was clean and in excellent order. Bathroom was a little small but had a shower over bathtub. It was a very high step to get in the shower. No problem for me at 6'1" but my companion at a tad under 5'2' got a bruise on her leg trying to step over one time - not happy. Counter space was adequate but not a lot of above counter top storage. It was enough for us. There was a magnetic devise to hold the door open in rougher seas which was handy when visiting the bathroom at night. Only real complaint was the size and positioning of the TV. The screen was a bit small for reading subtitle text but worse was using the remote from the bed. The shelf on which the TV is mounted is too wide and blocks the signal from the remote to the TV sensor. I had to do the channel changing as I had the longer arms to hold the remote up high to clear the sensor blocking shelf. A big plus is the DVD player and free movie DVDs (which we didn't have time to use). Only a single power outlet but that was no problem as I brought my Aldi power unit which has interchangeable international plugs giving two Oz power outlets and four USB charging slots.
Pre booked a Maori Cultural Experience in Rotorua with Viator. We, four of us, were picked up at the dock along with two others. The tour was available to other guests to book on arrival but no one did. On route to Rotorua we visited a Kiwi Fruit orchard. Tasted Kiwi fruit products and had Kiwi fruit ice cream (included). I bought some Kiwi fruit dark chocolate. Yum.
Had a scenic stop at a waterfall and site of early geothermal power station.
The Maori Cultural Experience took place at Te Puia geothermal park where there are hot, bubbling, mud pools geysers etc. Our guide is able to predict when then main geyser was about to blow and he is rarely wrong as he had learned to interpret the signs.
The Cultural Experience involved going to the Maori Marae, meeting place, where one of our group was selected to represent the visitors at an invitation ceremony involving a Haka and gift offering ceremony by the chief. The gift was accepted by our 'leader' and, having been accepted as coming in peace, we were invited into the marae to watch a performance of Maori singing. Males from the audience were invited on stage to learn how to do a Haka war chant. Great fun and a privilege. Our guide/driver was a born and bred Kiwi pakeha and a great raconteur.
We did a walking tour here. Went to the local museum to watch a film about the earthquake that mostly destroyed Napier in 1931. The town was rebuilt in Art Deco style of the period and mostly preserved ever since.
Took the historic cable car up to the Botanic Gardens then walked back to the CBD. Found an excellent pub/restaurant on the waterfront where we had an excellent lunch. Strolled along the waterfront which was a hive of activity as it was New Zealand's annual national Day holiday.
Booked a dockside scenic bus tour of Akaroa and its environs. Stopped at a pub for coffee and a good spot to take in the views.Also stopped at a cheese making establishment. I bought some delicious cheese. On return to Akaroa we were, at our request, dropped off at the Giant's House. There was and admission charge and it looked like it would be a great visit for kids, but not for us, so we walked back to town and had a fish and chip lunch, of course. Also visited the small interesting lighthouse.
Only rainy day of the cruise but only late in the day. We booked a Larnach Castle tour dockside at the reception centre where there was lots of tours on offer. The castle is very interesting with a sad history. Afterwards we went to historic Olveston Home. This was most interesting, a step back in time. This home is unrestored and pretty much the way it was when built, with an interesting family history. Put this on your must see list for Dunedin.
Here we bought ferry tickets to MONA, Museum of Old and New Art. This could be a fascinating visit for some but was a bit lost on me as I'm not into art all that much. My friends liked it a lot. The ferry, a fast catamaran, to the museum takes about 25 minutes. There is a bar and barista on board.
An quaint(?), typically Australian, country town by the sea. Here is the location of Eden Killer Whale Museum. This is a must see if visiting Eden. Here you can spend a couple of hours and learn about the history of whaling in the district and, especially, the story about Old Tom a killer whale (Orca) who led a pod of killer whales that herded other whales for the local whalers to kill in return for the prize of getting to eat the tongues and lips of their catch. There were markets open and I bought a few old 45s, for my collection, from an antique shop.
My companion and two friends did an escorted, two and a half hour, Segway tour of Devonport on the morning of departure. This was pre-booked with Magic Broomstick Tours, Devonport. This was my third Segway tour here but a first for my friends all aged 70+. They loved it. Pre tour tuition was provided. Devonport is a 10 minute ferry ride across from the ferry dock alongside Maasdam.