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Ports of Call Review - Sydney to Auckland


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Ports of Call Review – Sapphire Princess cruise 23 Dec 2004 to 6 Jan 2005


Sydney – Melbourne – Hobart – Fjordland National Park – Dunedin – Christchurch – Wellington – Tauranga – Bay of Islands – Auckland


At all ports we were docked earlier than posted and the ship left on time or a little later than posted.


We did all tours on our own or booked privately on the internet.


Overall, we enjoyed all our port days although it would have been better if they had been a bit warmer and less cloudy BUT we didn’t get too much rain (until Auckland) and for that we are thankful.




We live in the Blue Mountains about 1 ½ hours west of Sydney and travelled by train into the city one day early. Taxi from Central Station to hotel was A$15. We stayed at the Quay West Suites and got a last minute deal through Wotif.com for A$225 for a Bridge view suite including breakfast for two.


The suite included a full kitchen with dishwasher, full bathroom and laundry with washer and dryer, dining table, lounge and internet access. The pool deck on the 24th floor afforded great views over the harbour and we took a few pics of the ship coming into the harbour between 5-6am.


We checked out just before 11am on the morning of the 23rd and walked, with our luggage, down to the wharf. Great 5 star hotel in a great location, highly recommended.



Port side to the dock. Sunny, warm day.


They had a sniffer dog checking everyone’s hand luggage after debarking. Each small group of people would have to line up and put bags on the ground for the dog to check, one person in our group had their candy taken off them so don’t bother taking food off the ship in Australian ports, they did the same thing in Hobart but did not have the dogs in NZ.


We walked off the wharf and a short walk up the street brought us to the tram. It being Christmas Day they were not charging for the tram ride. We got off at the casino and walked along the promenade area of the Yarra River, crossed one of the bridges and into the city.


Just after 10am we went to the Rialto building and paid to go up to the Melbourne Observation Deck, great views here and with a 20 minute video of Melbourne included was worth the cost. You can print out a 10% off entry price from their web site.


We walked back toward the casino and stopped at the aquarium, if we had more time we would have paid to go in but we had spa appointments for both of us at 3:30 so we did a quick stop at the casino to check it out and then went back to the ship around 2pm.



Starboard side to the dock. Cloudy, overcast day.


We walked over to Salamanca Place and looked around, lots of old sandstone buildings but all the shops are for tourists and we didn’t stay long. We then walked around the streets in Battery Point and came back to the city area and stopped in the Information Centre. Plenty of tours on offer, most of the longer ones had left by 10am so get there before this time if you want one of the longer, out of town tours.


We decided to come back around midday and take a bus tour up to Mt. Wellington but the day was overcast and by the time we came back the clouds had descended and it wasn’t worth going.


We took a local bus out to Wrestpoint Casino but they don’t open for gaming until 1pm so we just came back into the city area and looked around the shops. After taking another local bus out to the west of Hobart we walked back to the ship around 1:30pm, stopping at one of the local waterfront fish & chip places on the way.


It isn’t very far to walk from the wharf and they had taxi’s and double decker bus tours just outside the gate. It rained in the afternoon when Paul went back into town to buy a hat he had seen so he was kinda wet when he got back but the rain didn't last long. They had pipes and drums as a send off.

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Fjordland National Park

Started off a clear day with some cloud but got considerably worse as the day went on.


Milford Sound was first and it was beautiful, waterfalls and high peaks with snow. This is where you get off to take the overland tours. I think we then went into Thompson Sound and out through Doubtful Sound and then down further to Breaksea Sound and out through Dusky Sound. Visability was poor due to low lying cloud but what we could see was very pretty and it was also very quiet and peaceful.



Starboard side to the dock. It was raining early but cleared to sunny in the afternoon.


We took a bus, NZ$6, into the city and they dropped us off just across the road from the Cadbury factory. We were a little early for our tour so we walked over to the train station to check out their tiled floor and leadlight windows, very nice. Our tour of the chocolate factory was for 10am, unfortunately we had a shortened tour because the main factory is closed over the Christmas/NY period. It was still interesting and we bought some chocolate to take home to the kids.


We then walked two blocks into the town centre and checked out the tours from the Information Centre and booked a 2 ½ hour tour out to Larnach Castle, cost NZ$35 each. The bus driver was great, he narrated the entire journey both to and from the castle about the Larnach family and he also took us on the tour of the castle.


We walked up the narrow stone steps to the turret of the castle at the end of the guided tour and we really got lucky as the clouds decided to lift and we could see the great view. When we first arrived at the castle the clouds we so low that there was no view whatsoever and you wouldn’t have thought you were high on a hill with water views all around! After getting back on the bus we drove a different way back and got some history of the town as well. Great tour and well worth the cost.


We had a light lunch and then walked around the shopping area, instead of just taking the ship’s bus back we paid NZ$15 each and got a one hour city tour which ended at the ship which was great. We drove past all the major buildings, botanic gardens, stopped at the world’s steepest street, they have a souvenir shop here, and then picked up all the stranglers who had missed the last bus and were taken straight to the ship.

We had pipes and drums send us off again. Love those send offs!



Starboard side to the dock. Cloudy day with sunny periods.


We got on a local bus, free, and were taken to the Info centre which they had set up at a local club. We then waited for a local bus to take us into the city centre. All day bus ticket NZ$7 each. We then took another bus out to the Antarctic Centre and spent a few hours there. Cost for combo ticket for entry, audio device, booklet and Hagglund ride was NZ$40 each. Paul videoed the Hagglund ride which was a lot of fun and we enjoyed our time here.


We had to wait for a bus back into the city and decided on the way that we probably didn’t have enough time to go on the Gondola so we walked around the park area in the city and checked out the trams and punting on the river, NZ$18 for 30 min ride.


I would recommend if you want to go to at least two different attractions that you take the ships bus into the city or take a taxi to get you from one place to another. We wasted a lot of time waiting for buses.

We got back to the ship around 5pm and had another pipes and drums send off.



Port side to the dock. Fine sunny day with some cloudy periods.


We had booked a private tour with Wellington Rover Tours over the internet and after they were finally allowed onto the dock we left around 9am. It was the Rover Ring Tour visiting places of interest all to do with the Lord of the Rings with lunch and afternoon tea included.


Paul is the LOTR fan so I just enjoyed the day as sightseeing. When we booked we asked for one lunch to be vegetarian but when lunch was set up there was no vegetarian sandwiches provided. Another person on the tour, also from the ship, had specified no pork and most of the sandwiches had either ham or bacon on them! When we told the guide of our problem he just shrugged and said ‘oh well’. No apology or ‘sorry’… We paid NZ$150 each for this tour and to me that is just NOT good enough!


Lunch seemed rushed to me and there was no afternoon tea stop at all. The guide did take us to Te Papa to the shop there which sells LOTR souvenirs but he gave us just 15 mins. He didn’t have to take us there but we had time since we didn’t stop for afternoon tea so it was the least he could have done, we got back to the ship at 4:30pm. I would only recommend this tour to diehard LOTR fans.

We had bagpipers send us off.

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Port side to the dock. Sunny day with a few clouds.


We pre booked a hire car so we walked off the pier and took a taxi to the city depot of the rental car company. There were rental cars available at the wharf so if you get off early you could get one easily, I did not see rental cars waiting at the dock at any other ports of call.


Paul, although he knew we were hiring the car and he wanted to do the driving, had decided not to bring his drivers licence with him thinking that he didn’t want to lose it! arrhhh So I drove us down to Rotorua and to the Whakarewarewa Thermal Village. For NZ$20 each we got a guided tour, cultural performance, map of the village for walking around on our own and plenty of shops with souvenirs to look at. We enjoyed our visit here. Lunch we had in Rotorua and then drove out to Hell’s Gate and paid NZ$60 each for a walk around the reserve and mud bath and spa. We also enjoyed this and my skin after the mud bath and spa was SO soft! Definitely worth a one time visit.


Once we took the car back to the depot one of their staff drove us back to the ship where we had a brass band send off. This port had the best send off as hundreds of people lined the beaches, parks, roads, boats, where ever they could, even around Mt. Maunganui… all yelling and waving, it was wonderful.


Bay of Islands

Anchored in harbour with tenders to shore. Sunny day to start, cloudy later in the day.


We pre booked an all day tour with Kings Dolphin Tours for their Day in the Bay which included dolphin viewing and swimming if permitted, Hole in the Rock, beach and snorkelling stop and boom netting. Unfortunately the Bay dolphins were not in the Bay on this day, we did see two bottlenose dolphins out by the hole in the rock. These two dolphins had been hanging around for a couple of weeks because one of them was sick and because of this we couldn’t stay close to watch them. We tendered to shore at a small beach for an hour to snorkel, swim, lay on the beach or go for a walk, not many got into the water as it was quite cold.


The staff on the boat said the water temp was approx. 13-15 deg C… way too cold for me. After getting back on the boat they had the boom nets out for anyone who wanted to be dragging around, they did supply short wetsuits but it was still way too cold for most to get into the water, some of the kids were shivering about 1 minute after getting in… it did look like a lot of fun though.


It was nice being out on the water for the day but disappointing there were no Bay dolphins to see and also disappointing the water was so cold otherwise it would have been a great day. To actually swim with the dolphins would have made it exceptional… wonder how often that happens..??

We spent about an hour walking around Paihia and then took a bus which was free, back to the tenders. The town of Russell was a 10 minute ferry ride from Paihia but we didn’t have the time to go there.

No send off from this port of call.



Starboard side to the port. Cloudy, overcast and raining.


After disembarking we got a taxi, NZ$14, to the Hyatt Regency Hotel, checked in and stowed our luggage as our room wasn’t ready until 2pm. I got a discounted rate for this hotel at A$135 per night.


We walked down to Queen St and looked around the shops, all open since it was a working day unlike many of our previous port days. We rested later in the afternoon before getting dressed in warm clothes and took a taxi out to the showground to Cirque Du Soleil’s Quidam. I had booked these tickets back in July and got front row seats which was worth waiting for, we both loved the show.


Next day, rained all day! Paul had an internet friend pick us up and show us around for the day. They took us over to the west coast to the black sand beaches, we stop at a pub for a drink and lunch and since it was so wet they took us to Kelly Tarlton’s which at NZ$26 each isn’t cheap but it was interesting.


Last day in NZ and it started out cloudy but the sun did come out just before lunch! WOW sunshine. We walked down to the Victoria Park Markets which was really good and then back to Sky Tower to take in the view. I lasted about 10 minutes up there, didn’t like it at all which is strange because the Observation Deck in Melbourne didn’t bother me at all.


Anyway, I came down and watched a few people do the Sky Jump (they had reverse bungy just a block away too) and then we went back to the hotel, got our bags and used the Air Bus, NZ$15 each, to get to the airport. We got there two hours before departure and had about 10 minutes down time in all, it took almost the whole time for us to get checked in, pay our NZ$25 departure fee, customs etc. and get to our gate, where we sat down for all of 5 mins before we were called to board. Allow plenty of time at the airport.



There were plenty of local taxi’s at all ports we visited and please remember tipping isn’t expected, you can do what we did and just round up to the nearest dollar.


The Hyatt does have quite a steep hill to go down into the city shopping area so walking back is quite a climb so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone that has difficulty walking. The hotel does have a shuttle bus for local drop offs but it does not take you to the airport, you need to use the Air Bus or Supershuttle for that or you can take a taxi.


In each port, if you have nothing pre planned, I would recommend going to the city Information Centre and checking out what tours they have on offer, some ports had tours available on the pier. Much nicer and more informative taking a narrated tour than doing it all on your own and learning nothing about the city you’re in plus most of the city tours are quite inexpensive.


For independent travellers, if know what you want to do make sure you plan your time well. Give yourself a time limit at each place you plan to visit (if you’re planning on doing more than one thing) and if you think you are running out of time… take a taxi. Better to spend a little extra money than miss out altogether.


I may add to this if I think of anything else of interest.

Paul took hundreds of pictures but it may be a few weeks before they get posted.



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Hi Kim, Thanks for the reviews. They are most helpful. One more question. Is the ocean pretty calm or rough? I am concern about motion sea sickness. We are leaving in two weeks for Auckland. Thanks again Peter.:) :confused:

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The seas were calm everywhere except crossing the Tasman. The night we left Hobart the seas where quite rough although it didn't bother me in the least.

They locked the promenade doors on the starboard side so you couldn't exit that way and roped off each end of the port side so you couldn't walk around there... that was because it was so windy and they didn't want people getting knocked over.

They did cancel the show in the Princess Theatre because of the rough seas, and yes many people complained the next day about that! I did not talk to anyone who thought it was so rough they were sick but I also didn't talk to every single passenger on board either. To be safe, if you are prone to seasickness then take medication with you.




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