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Posts posted by dszrew

  1. And then we boarded the Star Princess for a two-week cruise from Auckland to Sydney.


    There's the answer--do both!


    My wife and I have done a few more cruises lately than in years past. One thing I have noticed is that with cruises in many ports, not only are you restricted to the time you are docked to see things, but often the cities or places you want to see are an hour or even two from the cruise dock. And if you are tendering on a larger ship, the time it takes to get off the ship could significantly cut into your touring time. I'm starting to look at places we've stopped and compiling a list of those places I'd like to go back to and spend several days or a week in that area. (Many places we've been aren't worth going back to for an extended stay, but several are.)


    At the same time, cruises are a relaxing and simple way to unpack once, leave the driving to someone else, and not have to worry about where your next meal is coming from.


    BTW I did a land tour 8 days in the north island a few years ago, and now we're looking forward to our return by ship hitting several sites along the southern island.

  2. check to see if Hobbiton is doing the night banquet tour when you're there. in my opinion worth the extra cost as you get a very big meal in the Green Dragon and then a tour of Hobbiton for the second time at night.


    From Waitomo to Auckland, if you're into ice cream stop in Pokeno for a cone. You can literally get as many scoops in the cone as you want (up to 32 if you're brave or crazy). make sure at least one scoop is hokey pokey.

  3. The more I research and plan for this NZ cruise, the more I get the feeling that this cruise is just going to be a tease, and to really see the best of New Zealand, I'm going to have to come back and do a 2 week land tour. Wonder if you can rent a car in Auckland and then drive the whole length to the bottom of the south island, using a ferry inbetween. The drop off the car and fly out of Queenstown or something.


    It is possible to drive north to south, but I'm not sure you could do it justice in 2 weeks. We were there for 8 days and didn't even get past the middle of the north island. We had considered driving down to Wellington at least (a day there and a day back), but glad we chose not to. Some websites will say distances are deceiving in New Zealand and it takes longer than you think to drive (and I whole heartedly agree). Very few multi-lane highways, mostly just winding 2 lane roads. Great scenery though so pleasant driving, just don't expect to be going long distances in a few hours.

  4. next port - Dunedin


    The Taieri Gorge Railway offers unique and panoramic views over ever-changing scenery. It is totally awesome. While the ship offers the same trip, it cost significantly less to book directly with the railway.


    We are looking to do this next year. Can you give some more details on how the booking went directly? It sounds like there is a train at the dock, but when you book direct you have to make your way downtown to the rail station instead? Is there a shuttle? Our ship next year docks at 9am with the train leaving at 9:30am--any problems getting to the station on time?

  5. On Saturday the website was showing the "up to 20% off" banner on the shore excursions for my upcoming cruise, as well as a note about the price reflecting 25% off, but the price was exactly the same as before. Then on Sunday it looks like they figured out how misleading it was and that 20% off banner was removed from the excursions that really aren't on sale.

  6. anyone have any problems with full payment in advance --how far in advance is reasonable.




    I personally will not pay in advance, except for the ship tours or through a large site like Viator or otherwise that has a clear way to cancel.

    Giving a CC number to secure the reservation is OK, but I know full well what the cancellation policy is before I book, and normally will not book anything that can't be canceled at least a day or two in advance.

  7. We did Hobbiton not as part of a cruise, and did the evening dinner in the Green Dragon. Very good food and lots of time in the area. I noticed that one shore excursion option now lists a meal possibly included with some tours to Hobbiton, sounds like it is actually at Hobbiton but not necessarily in the Green Dragon? If it's put on by those who run Hobbiton and like the evening meal, it would be well worth the extra cost.

  8. Be advised that the heart of the operation tour is really just a thinly veiled attempt to get you to book specialty dining. You'll be given a brief talk about things onboard, a look at the galley before being led into a restaurant where staff are there waiting to sell you dinners....


    This is true, but having never been on even this tour before, it was informative enough for me and worth the 40 mins or so. It's amazing the amount of effort that goes into feeding everyone as well as the varied background of each of the chefs in charge. Once we got to the restaurant bit I just kept walking...

  9. If your reason for visiting Te Puia is mud pools, you might be more interested in Wai-O-Tapu. I have not been there, but is looks like a larger geothermal area than Te Puia. Te Puia has a geyser, I don't recall myself seeing mud pools, but it's a relatively small area. They also have some animals, a Maori lodge, and a woodcarving school. We went in the evening and had the Maori welcome and performance, followed by the Hangi dinner.

  10. Having done all of them, I'd choose Hobbiton and the glowworms. Te Puia is interesting, but I'd only start to consider it above Hobbiton if they also included the Maori cultural show and lunch (which they might not include as part of a shore excursion). Our guide at Hobbiton said many, many people who aren't movie fans still love the area. Even if it were a choice between Te Puia and just glowworms I'd likely choose glowworms.

  11. The TA that quoted the additional OBC says it's refundable, but I found only one reference on the boards that suggested it might be (and that was a few years old). Just trying to verify before I commit to anything. Internet and shore excursions are about all we'd use OBC for.

  12. Sailed with Silversea several years ago through a trip arranged from work, and have done several cruises with Celebrity and thinking about doing a special trip again with Silversea. I'm used to having OBC from the TA able to be refunded if we don't use it. The Silversea contract says OBC isn't refundable, and searching the forums there are posts from people wondering how to use the OBC that isn't refunded. Is the OBC from a TA treated differently and can that balance be refunded after the cruise?

  13. From my experience:


    We thought Blu better than the MDR. But at what cost? Adding $50pp to upgrade to Aqua was worth it probably. At some point however, the cost to upgrade to Aqua is more than what we'd think Blu is worth. Wouldn't pay a couple hundred for the difference.


    On our last cruise, we went with a normal Veranda cabin and booked specialty dining for 8 nights out of a 12 night cruise at a special discount. Cost was about $350 for both of us I think. Much cheaper than upgrading to Aqua, and better experience than Aqua. My only issue was that 8 nights were too many, and that with some specialty dining options there wasn't enough variety that going back more than twice was worth it to us (I do admit I had the exact same thing in the Lawn Club 3 nights).


    I'd do veranda cabin + specialty dining again if the cost is lower than Aqua (and is often lower than Concierge). Would only do Aqua if the cost to upgrade were low enough compared to whatever class we were booking. Probably isn't worth an upgrade from veranda, but maybe worth it from Concierge if the price difference is small.

  14. Yellowstone is huge with lots of places to go and many things to see. It seems like Rotorua doesn't have the scale of places to visit as Yellowstone? The few places we went to weren't worth comparing to Yellowstone, but we didn't go to Waiatapu either. It seems to me though that is one place to stop, whereas Yellowstone has dozens of similar locations?

  15. We ran into a problem in Israel where protesters were blocking the port so tour operators couldn't get in or out. Celebrity buses were there so they were letting those people off the ship. Announcements told everyone else to stay put. I was in contact with our private tour director who emailed saying they were inside the port and to get off despite what the ship was saying. We walked down and just walked off even without any announcements that it was time or we could leave. Someone on this board once said--if they are in port and they are letting people off (the ship has been cleared) they can't keep you from getting off the ship.


    Another problematic situation happens when the ship tenders. With so many people trying to get off, it's hard perhaps for a private group to get off early because Celebrity makes sure their tours get off the ship first. We had a South American tour where, despite showing up early for tender tickets, our group was about an hour late getting off. Not really much more we could do. So if you're doing private tours in tender ports, do your best to get a ticket as early as you can, and plan that you won't be getting off even once tendering starts.

  16. Beds are the most comfortable we have ever had on a cruise ship, they have pillow topping on the mattress. Once we had the experience of a bed without the topping on the Eclipse and had the chief housekeeper come to the room and they fitted a new pillow top mattress.


    The cabin steward acted dumb saying they are all like this but I knew different, don't be misled in future.


    I'll keep that in mind next time. Lately I've been used to sleeping 5-7 hours getting up early for work, so when I'd wake up after 8-9 hours of sleep on the ship I still felt lucky. And it wasn't a bad back ache, just enough to keep me from sleeping. Of course I can often sleep out on the balcony when at sea.

  17. Disembarkation

    We were given luggage tags a few days early, but we were scheduled to get off at 9:20, well past the time we needed to be off. I went and changed our luggage tags to get off at 8am. By 7:45 they had already called our number, so we walked off a little earlier than planned. Walk all the way to the back of the ship to get off, then all the way back to the front to get into the terminal to pick up our luggage.


    All luggage was there, but a congested area getting out of the tent with everyone's driver waiting for them and everyone stopping right there at the doorway. Lines of buses, mostly Celebrity scheduled ones. We were renting a car so needed to catch the shuttle bus to the port entrance. I walked down looking for a shuttle bus but couldn't find it. After asking was told it would be the last bus in the line. It turned out to be a full size bus--put your luggage down below and climb in. Short ride to the port entrance directly with no stops. We got off and walked half a block to our rental car.


    Spent the day driving the Italian countryside to Tuscania, Montefiascone, Civita di Bagnoregio, then stopped for several hours in Orvieto. Took the funicular to the top, hopped on the bus which stopped right at the main square with their striped church. It was very uncrowded and almost quiet there. Spent several hours in the square, having lunch (and gelato), and shopping for ceramics.


    Dropped off our luggage at the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport, returned the car at the airport, then took the shuttle back to the hotel. After a short night, we were up at 4am to the airport for our flight home.


    We had relatively few problems on the trip. Even getting off the ship late in Ashdod we did the best we could and still had a great time. Seems like we saved all our troubles for the trip home, as we missed our connecting flight in Amsterdam and had to be rebooked on two more flights to get home. Arrived home about 9 hours after originally planned (at least we didn't have to stay overnight in Amsterdam), after traveling for just about 24 hours straight.


    My review would be better with pictures, but I took several thousand of them, haven't gone through them yet, and don't want to bother with how the boards make you post pictures. We're too busy getting back into life and planning our next adventure now to take the time to come back someday and post pictures. Overall it was a great cruise--we aren't really that picky and don't need much, just some peace and quiet and time to be by ourselves together.


    The End.

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