Overall, HAL did an excellent job. The itinerary was excellent, and the number of sea days was not excessive. I would always like more overnights, but we were satisfied,for the most part, with the amount of time in port. This cruise is a real tease - New Zealand and Tasmanis are gorgeous and fascinating, and the cruise really whetted our appetites for more of these countries.
5 out of 5
We began embarkation in the middle of the allotted time and had almost no wait. Everything was very efficient. We were able to go to our stateroom immediately, and our bags were delivered soon thereafter. The experience couldn’t have been better.
Food and Dining
3 out of 5
The main dining room experience was good, although I’d have to say the quality of the food seemed to drop off slightly the second week. Staff were friendly and accommodating, and soon learned who to sell to and who wasn’t interested in upselling. The staff always accommodated us when we wanted to eat alone, and there was never any wait.
Niether Canaletto nor the Pinnacle Grill were worth the extra money. The food was good (except for the baked potato the Pinnacle Grill should have been ashamed to serve), but not substantially better than the main dining room. Service was good but not outstanding.
The Lido Market does have a lot of choices, but the fight for a table made it not worth the effort. I found it an unappealing experience because it was so crowded, lines were long, and it was difficult to snag a table.
The burgers and fries at the Dive-In were good, and it was easier to snag a table there. But do you want to eat hamburgers all the time?
Room service was excellent for breakfast and much faster than the dining room or Lido.
It was always very prompt and hot.
My main complaint was the limited hours meals were served. You couldn’t sleep late or you would have to wait till 11:00 or 11:30 to get something to eat.
2 out of 5
A lot of the activities were actually attempts to sell - acupuncture, orthotics, etc. The fitness center was well-equipped and there were always machines available.
4 out of 5
The best entertainment was the Lincoln Center Quintet - fabulous! The piano duo at Billboard Onboard were also very entertaining. The dance troop’s 1000 Steps was rough, but I heard from trusted sources that other performances were better. We heard that both the singer and comedian were “weird” (a comment from multiple sources), but enjoyable. Good selection of onboard movies.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
Guest services did an excellent job of answering our questions, and our room stewards Deny and Budi were outstanding. Dining room staff were friendly add efficient. Overall,service was excellent.
4 out of 5
The ship had recently been refurbished. There were a few things that needed attention (sliding toilet seat in one of the public restrooms, for example), but overall the ship was very clean,attractive, and in good condition.
Cabin / Stateroom
4 out of 5
Loved the location - near the elevator nearest the dining room, quiet. The balcony was an adequate size, as was the room and bathroom. Loved the bathtub! However, the desk did have a piece of wood facing that was coming off and needed repair.
Definitely consider alternative excursions. Most reputable tour companies guarantee they’ll get you back to the ship on time, and we found they had better itineraries and were cheaper. We only took one HAL excursion, and it was by far our least favorite.
We took the hop-on hop-off bus, and it was well worth the money. We got an excellent tour of the area and were able to see a number of sites, as well as several interesting residential areas. You also get a ferry ticket to Devon
which is well worth a morning - a nice harbour ride plus excellent restaurants and shops and a hike up the hill for a terrific view. Consider coming a couple of days early to enjoy this lively, interesting city.
We took a private tour of the Otago peninsula. First we went to Dunedin and saw the steepest street in the world (you could climb it if you wished), then we went to the University and walked around, then went on to the famous train station before heading out of town.
The stops we made along the peninsula were breathtakingly beautiful. We were fortunate to have clear weather most of the day. We went to the yellow-eyed penguin reserve, and then we went to the beach to see sea lions, and then to the albatross center. Our guide was a very knowledgeable botanist, and we learned a lot about the wildlife of the peninsula, as well as got some good exercise on our walks and some fantastic photos.
There is a shuttle to Dunedin (for a fee), and the town did look interesting, but I would recommend getting out in the countryside to see the gorgeous scenery and the wildlife, either with a private tour (less expensive and, in my opinion, better) or a HAL excursion.
No need to do an excursion; this is easily done on your own.You tender to the site, and the site is really all there is. But you can easily spend a day walking through all the buildings and reading the information signs. There are also lovely gardens to walk through.
I’ve read reviews saying this port is boring, and all I can say is, yes, it doesn’t have shops (other than a small but nice gift shop),and there’s no “entertainment,” but if this doesn’t interest you, why do you travel? And why did you come to Australia? Here you can learn a lot about the founding of the country. The site is very well-presented and quite fascinating. There is also a cafe where you can get lunch, or you can tender back to the ship for lunch and tender back out after lunch.
Great city! There’s so much to do in Sydney, and it’s quite easy to walk or ferry to the main sites. The aquarium is quite large but not as modern as others. Still, it’s worth seeing. The Maritime Museum is excellent, and you can spend half a day there. Buy a ferry pass to go to Taronga Zoo (rated one of the best in the world), and to Manly for shopping, eating and people-watching. The hop-on hop-off bus is a good way to orient yourself, learns about the city, and visit some of the sites. A tour of the Opera House and a performance there is a MUST. There are numerous museums, art galleries, sops and restaurants to explore. Unfortunately, as of January 2020 Blue Mountain National Park is closed due to bushfires. Be sure to allot several days to see Sydney before returning home - 6 days was goid for us.
We didn’t go to Eden because the port was closed due to the bushfires. HAL did an excellent job of re-routing us to Burnie, instead, and I’m grateful to HAL for making the effort to give us another opportunity to experience Australia .
However, Burnie doesn’t offer a lot except some nice scenery, a Maker’s Workshop, and very enthusiastic volunteers and townspeople.
There were very few excursions available due to the short notice, so we explored on our own. The complimentary shuttle takes you to the Maker’s Workshop where artists’ works are exhibited. It was quite enjoyable, but perhaps not as extensive as the websites make you think. There is also a small museum which takes less than an hour to see. The mayor and his wife greet the ship, and there are many volunteers to steer you to the sites:; there’s just not that much there. Burnie is obviously working to build it’s tourist trade, and it is a lovely town with a nice beach. With a few more interesting sites developed, it could be an engaging port, but it’s not there yet.
Great town! It’s an easy walk from the ship to town, and there are a lot of shops, galleries, and restaurants to explore. We took a private tour which first took us to Mt. Field National Park where we did a couple of hikes with our very knowledgeable guide. We picked up a picnic lunch in a small town on the way and ate after our hikes. Then we went to the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary where we saw kangaroo, wallabies, koala, and so many more native species. Some of the animals you could feed and interact with. There was plenty of time to enjoy the animals. The ride to and from the sites is rather ling, but if the weather is good, there is great scenery.
We were fortunate enough to be here on New Year’s Eve, so we got tickets through HAL for Taste of Tasmania - 5 stages with Tassie bands playing different types of music and food from all over the world. We ate dinner on the ship ( we’d already paid for it, right?) and then went out to enjoy the music and people-watching. It was the best NYE we’ve ever had, and we’ve had some great ones! I only wish we hadn’t eaten, as the food looked and smelled fantastic! There were fireworks at 9:00 for the kids and at midnight.
This was our favorite port.
The ship goes through some beautiful areas of the park, but if you want to hear the helpful narration, you won’t get it on that balcony you paid extra for; you ‘ll have to go to one of the designated public areas of the ship. If that’s the Crow’s Nest, get there hours early to get a decent seat. And don’t order a drink - it’s the worst bar on the ship, probably because it’s too crowded.
There’s definitely some great scenery and great picture-taking opportunities, so go out on one of the decks where the narration can be heard.
We took the HAL excursion to the Antarctic Center, and I regret doing that. The Center is interesting and has some good exhibits, but we spent most of our time first riding the Haggelund vehicle and then waiting to go into the “cold room”. The ride in the vehicle was supposed to simulate how current-day Arctic researchers travel in the Arctic, but it is done on an obstacle course which may simulate the rough ride but isn’t, of course, done in an Arctic environment. So it’s a little hokey. Fine for children, but silly for adults.
The cold room is just a cold room where you can take a selfie dressed up in Arctic clothing next to a fake South Pole sign amidst fake snow. Again, ok for kids but ridiculous for adults. Also, the center was disorganized, and we wasted a lot of time getting dressed to go in the cold room, waiting to go in, and then the flow of people was chaotic which wasted more time. The disorganization may have been due to it’s being Boxing Day and being short-handed, but it appeared to me to be an endemic problem.
The exhibits are interesting, and the staff is knowledgeable and enthusiastic, so, if you go, skip the ride and the cold room and spend your time looking at the informative exhibits.
Our excursion did not provide lunch, so we spent the rest of our time in Christchurch getting lunch. There is an excellent art gallery , but we only had 20 minutes to visit.Christchurch is a long drive from port. If the weather is good, it’s a lovely drive. HAL has a bus that will take you there and back for a hefty fee, and the town is definitely worth exploring, so I would do that or try to arrange transportation on my own to see the town.
The port is actually the little village of Akaroa which is lovely , but I’m not sure there’s enough to see and do to merit a whole day unless you just enjoy sitting at a sidewalk cafe and watching the day go by. If you want to get off the ship but don’t want to spend a lot of time or money, exploring Akaroa on your own would be lovely.
We did Wellington on our own because none of the excursions spent enough time at Te Papa which was our number one interest. We took a shuttle (complimentary) into town and were dropped off just a few blocks from the museum. This was one of the highlights of our trip. It is one of the best museums in the world. We spent our entire day here and could have spent longer. For history buffs, the Gallipoli exhibit is not to be missed. The Maori art exhibits are excellent. We took an hour tour (there is a charge), then explored on our own.
Wellington also has beautiful botanical gardens which we only had time to briefly see. Get off the ship and see this lovely and interesting town, but you don’t need to buy an excursion as Te Papa is free, and the town is easy to explore on your own,
We did Napier on our own. It was easy to get to the town via the complimentary shuttles. We started at the Art Deco Trust where we hired a volunteer guide to take us on a tour in his vintage car. Tony was a wealth of information on Art Deco, and the ride was a lot of fun.
We got to tour the theatre and saw a lot of the Art Deco buildings in town. We saw the film at the Trust and then walked across the street to visit the museum which is nice but not a must-see. We walked around town, visiting some of the shops.
We were concerned that this was a half-day port and were afraid there wouldn’t be enough time to see everything, but a half day is adequate. It is an interesting and lovely city, and the people were friendly and enthusiastic. Don’t miss Napier.
We took a private tour and were glad we did, as we were going to Rotorua, and you need a guide because it is a long ride there. We stopped at a honey shop for a pit stop/refreshment break. The stop was just enough time for a bathroom break, buying refreshments or souvenirs and to learn a little about bees. Then we headed to Whakarewarewa where we had a very simple hangi lunch (a piece of chicken, potato, sweet potato, veggies and roll), then watched a performance by the Maori family that owns the place. It is a commercial enterprise, but we enjoyed it nevertheless. Then we had a Maori guide tour us around the thermal areas (do not expect Yellowstone), and tell us about life in the village.
Next we made a short stop at the lake and Government Gardens (very pretty and interesting), and then a short stop at the Redwood Forest. These stops were quite short and only long enough to make you want to spend some more time at each. We ended our tour at a kiwi farm where we tasted kiwis and bought delicious kiwi ice cream.
There’s a lot to see in Rotorua, and the tour was a good introduction to the area, the Maori, and well worth the visit.
5 out of 5
We chose self-assist and had time for breakfast before a hassle-free stroll off the ship. Holland America does this well.
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