This was second of 2 back to back cruises on same ship. I chose the itinerary because I wanted to see both Australia and New Zealand, plus Bali, so the two cruises we took appeared to be a great fit. We are Oceania regulars, with (now) 14 cruises on Oceania, I think 4 on Viking Ocean (loved also, but it's a little more expensive in my opinion), and 3 on Princess/Celebrity (didn't care for). I like the smaller Oceania ships a little bit better than the larger ones, mostly because of the size, lack of lines, opportunity to get to know your fellow cruisers a little more, etc. But mostly we choose by itinerary, and we seem to get Regatta a lot.
We were very pleased with our cruise experience this time around. Everything was great, except that we missed several ports (and important ports, to me, anyway) due to bush fires, weather, etc. We were cruising during the height of the bush fires in Australia, which presented some problems.
Service and food were excellent throughout these 2 weeks, and we also had the best cabin steward we've ever had on any ship, hands down. From day 1 on our first cruise, he was extremely friendly (though professional) and my husband, always the joker and sometimes the prankster, had a great time with him. Rosario from Goa, India, never missed a beat or acted too busy to chat. Cabin stewards are usually personable and proficient, but Rosario went above and beyond what I expected, and at the end of our month-long cruises, he felt like a friend.
I loved how the ship was refurbished, and after 4 or 5 months, it still looked fresh -- not beaten up by the passengers who came before! The cabins, in particular, looked more modern, with light colored furniture and more sophisticated decor/fabrics. We liked the enhancements to the TV programming a lot, especially my husband, who watched more often than I did. Some people don't like the fact that you can only have one device per room signed into O's free internet, but that wasn't a problem for us.
The passenger base on O this cruise was a little younger and more lively than the previous cruise, which spanned Christmas and New Year's. There was actually a young baby on the cruise, and her grandmother was staying in our little inside "quad" space and sometimes left the stroller outside the door. There were also older children, including some teenagers in the room next to ours, but they were well-behaved.
The service we received everywhere was wonderful - in the dining venues, public spaces, etc. We did only one ship's excursion, but it was well organized, with comfortable buses, good guide, etc. The entertainment was the usual - not fantastic, but fine for my level of interest, which is not all that high - either at home or on a vacation! I am not, however, all that interested in hearing a string quartet, so would have preferred something more modern and upbeat in addition to the house band. I didn't use the casino or spa, and only used the pool once, so won't comment on those. The computer guru was helpful, the wifi not bad, the laundry very, very popular, and the activities and enrichment activities plentiful and good. In particular, I loved doing the "Scavenger Hunt." Tendering was very efficient. We disembarked in Tauranga instead of Auckland, and it was handled by Oceania and NZ immigration personnel efficiently. Cruise director Corey was great. Oceania staff helped us with a Cruise Critic party with invitations when they found out our initial meet and greet was difficult due to crowding in Horizons after sailaway from Sydney.
My only disappointment was that we missed a few ports due to weather and/or bush fires in Australia, but what can you do? At least we saw wonderful places and met great new people on board/ (O's passengers are also well-traveled and very interesting). There was a fairly large group on board this time, all wine lovers, but other than taking up some space in Horizons on the first day, they didn't get in the way of us non-group cruisers.
Typical F category inside cabin in a group of 4, in middle of ship, both in terms of front to back and side to side. They're stable in rougher seas, and you're never far from anything, front or aft. Comfortable, with re-furbishment nicer looking and more modern than before, and quiet.
Docked at White Bay. No public transportation, just cabs, so took a cab to Circular Quay. Used ferries and walking in the city. Enjoyed my travels. For departure, if it's too crowded on the pool deck and above, just go down to deck 5 and outside to view the bridge, Opera House, etc. after departing.
Ship tour to Ballarat Wildlife Park and Sovereign Hill. Enjoyed Ballarat a lot because this was first opportunity I had had to feed the kangaroos. Wonderful. Sovereign Hill was fun but very hot that day, so we didn't see as much of it as as we had hoped to see. This was pretty much an all day excursion, and we used our onboard credit to take it. Overall I would rate it very good. Sovereign Hill is fun but not overly-unusual if you've gone to places like this in the U.S. (It's kind of like the wild west with no gunfights!)
I didn't see any way in my previous review of the Bali to Sydney cruise to review our Penguin Parade tour from Phillip Island. However, if you're offered an excursion to the Penguin Parade, and go, take a pair of binoculars, sit toward the top of the bleachers, and don't forget to look for the penguins below you on the sand as you walk on the boardwalk back to the visitors center. It was an amazing experience, but without binoculars I don't know how much you would actually see. If you do it on your own from Melbourne, be aware that pre-paid tickets are non-refundable, and that the 90 minute drive from Melbourne may be a little longer if there's congestion at the bridge going over to Phillip Island.View All 1 Sovereign Hill Reviews
If you're up for a bit of adventure, the 82 Brighton Bathing Boxes are about an hour's train/tram ride away from Port Melbourne/Station Pier. I loved photographing the colorful boxes.View All undefined undefined Reviews
This was a combination of customized and a "usual" tour by Stuart Ashdown of That's the Spirit Tour. I wanted to see the coast between Burnie and Devonport, and see some lighthouses. We took a half day tour with That's the Spirit that included stops in little coastal towns, Devonport, along a road to photograph kangaroos close up in a field, and then had lunch in Sheffield, followed by a quick visit to the beautiful murals in Sheffield. There were two more people along, who we had invited, in the vehicle with us. The tour allowed us to see beautiful Tasmanian scenery, lighthouses, the sea, the cute town of Penguin, and more. While it was not the cheapest tour we took in Australia, it was definitely worthwhile, especially considering that the vendor provides their tour for just 2 people if that's what you want. After the tour we had time to explore the Makers Workshop, which is a very nicely done info center with things to buy and eat, and several workshops with artists working. It's one stop on Burnie's free shuttle route.
I'm not much of a shopper, but the things sold here were very nice and I bought a beautiful glass plate with penguins. (Penguins can sometimes be seen during the day in their burrows. Go outside and onto the boardwalk. Find the concrete burrows, get on your knees and look.)View All undefined undefined Reviews
First took a pre-booked tour with the rural mailman (Eastern Bays Scenic Mail Run). It was great. There were several short stops for photographs or exploration or short walk on beach. There was a stop for tea, coffee, and homemade oatmeal bread. That was outside a very old church somewhere along the route. There were sheep, farms, and funky and whimsical mail boxes. The mail man, Jeff, delivered mail that had been sorted into a dish drainer. Sometimes he or his wife through papers. At one stop he delivered mail to a shed out in the middle of nowhere. It was a lot of fun, and I have great photographs. If you want to go, keep in mind he doesn't give refunds if you or your ship don't make it, and he can't wait more than a few minutes if someone doesn't make it to the meeting place in time. There is a fairly long tender ride in Akaroa, so make sure you have time to get on a tender in time to meet him. I'd book ahead though - I believe his vehicle only holds 6. Google and you'll find more info.
After the tour Jeff dropped me off at the driveway going up to the Giants House. (He first dropped others off at the wharf.) Wow! What a fantasy land of colorful mosaic people, animals, etc. Loved it. It was maybe a 20, possibly 25 minute walk back to the tender spot from there.View All undefined undefined Reviews
I had wanted to go to the WETA Cave for a short visit but someone at the iSITE info center mentioned this tour went there for a short while, so decided to try it instead of walking to find and take a bus. About six of us got picked up near the iSITE in a large van and off we went. This turned out to be an inexpensive and good way to see WETA plus a few places in the Welly area that are rather hard to get to by walking or Welly'public transportation. This may not be in order, but: We went to an overlook over the airport/cruise dock/part of city, and went to the WETA Cave in Miramar for 30 minutes -- just long enough to see the exhibits inside & pose with trolls outside; not long enough to take any of WETA Cave's tours/workshops. We saw some things briefly when back in the city (Beehive, Rose Gardens, etc.) and then took the cable car up to the top for an extra $5 AUD. The guide met us up there after about 20 minutes of free time and drove us back down. He bought us hokey pokey ice cream and took us to a beach area. (It seems many tours in Australia and New Zealand include beach stops!) The guide was a little bit too opinionated/cynical/critical in my opinion, but and the tour was kind of a mish mash of things that may or may not appeal to everyone. However, for the money it was OK. And kudos should go to the guide for dropping me off at Te Papa rather than just taking me back to the shuttle stop. I explored that area, plus the beautiful City to Sea Bridge not far away. But it was kind of cold and I was a bit tired, so I got a snack from a vendor near TePapa and went back to the ship. I'm sure I didn't see all of Welly, but what I saw, I liked. It seemed to be a vibrant city, and had a nice mixture of old and new architecture, which I found interesting.View All undefined undefined Reviews
If you like birds and/or photography, this is VERY worthwhile. You get really close to the gannets, and there are TONS of them. Maybe 6 of us were picked up in Napier and taken to the vendor center to pay if we hadn't already, and to transfer to an all terrain vehicle. There were maybe 15 of us from Switzerland, UK, Australia, NZ, Canada and the U.S. The ride of to Cape Kidnappers, where the gannet colony is, was an adventure. It took a while, and was almost a bit scary in a few places, but never dull and boring. There was commentary on what we were seeing, and were going to see. Then we got out of the vehicle and there were SO many gannets - parents, small babies, almost full-grown birds, WOW. I absolutely loved it. We were given an hour and 10 minutes there and I used most of that time just watching and taking pictures.Then it was back down to Napier, and we were also given a short tour of the town, plus saw the beautiful National Tobacco Co. building in Ahuriri.View All 10 Cape Kidnappers Reviews
This was actually a customized tour with CJays which included Wai-o-tapu, lunch, the kiwi farm, and Rotorua. There were just the two of us. It would have included lunch at a hot spring if I hadn't misunderstood something and messed that opportunity up!
We met Clem outside Tauranga port - to the right where cars were waiting, not one of the men holding signs on the grass right in front! First we drove through pretty Tauranga's beach front neighborhood, then out into the pretty countryside. We stopped briefly at Kiwi Country to taste golden kiwis. Then we went to Wai-0-Tapu for a little over an hour. That may not sound like a lot of time, but I was able to walk the first route and a small portion of another route, taking pictures but not taking a lot of time at each stop on the routes. The Artist's Palette and Champagne Pool were my favorite spots. We had lunch at a nice restaurant, included in the tour price, and visited a few things in Rotorua that I had wanted to see - St Faith's church, the outside of the museum in Rotorua, the lake, etc.View All 7 Wai-O-Tapu Valley Reviews