Australia - New Zealand - Fiji - OPTIONAL TOURS.

Oct 1st, 2003, 02:10 PM
  #1  
Lev
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 204
Australia - New Zealand - Fiji - OPTIONAL TOURS.

We'll take Australia - NZ - Fiji tour with SmarTours.
Just got their itinerary with optional tours.
Which ones do you recommend?
1. Sydney:
Sydney's Sunset Dinner Cruise ($45)
Sydney's Cofee Cruise ($24)
Sydney's Dinner Cruise ($65)
Full day Blue Mountains and Wildlife Tour ($60)
Full day hunter wineries plus lunch ($76)

2. Cairns:
Full day Kuranda Scenic Rail tour ($79) + visit to Aboririginal Cultural center ($20)

3. Melbourne:
Phillip Island and Fairy Penguins Express ($53)

4. Christchurch:
Christchurch highlights morning tour ($35)
Mt. Cook scenic flight ($175)

5. Queenstown:
Walter peak farm tour and cruise ($32)
Cruise on TSS Enslow and Dinner ($55)
Queenstown by night with dinner ($40)

6. Fiji:
Full day Tivua island cruise plus lunch. ($50)

Thanks. Lev.
Lev is offline  
Oct 1st, 2003, 03:31 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,430
Hi, Lev!
Well, they all sound nice, so I suppose it depends on which way your interests lie.... but my own feeling is, never take a guided tour if you can duplicate it independently. Brochures like yours are useful to decide which are the places to go to -- and certainly a Blue Mountains Day and a couple of sailings on the harbour are mandatory.
Anyway, to cases: I wouldn't take any of those Harbour cruises in Sydney, because you will be paying high prices to see the same sights that the commuter ferries see for next-to-nothing. You can buy a ticket for $AUD13.40 which will allow you to travel all day on the many Sydney ferry routes (PLUS buses and trains if you want), and three or four of these will provide a better experience than the tourist-oriented (and tourist-priced!) "coffee cruises"... I hear the food is not all that great, so all your gaining is a commentary to tell you that you are, indeed, looking at the Opera House, etc.
Likewise, the Blue Mountains Tour is something you can do by yourself simply by hopping on one of the trains that leave hourly from Sydney Terminal Station. The guided tour MIGHT be worth doing if it went by mini-bus and stopped on the way up at Euroka Clearing in Glenbrook (ask them if this is one of their stops), as this is a great (and not possible to do from the train) place where you can get up close to wild kangaroos.... but if your tour is just the "usual" Katoomba/Echo Point stop (after which you repair post-haste to the company's designated restaurant and souvenir shops), then forget it. Do it yourself, and make sure you choose a clear day -- lots of the tours take you up when the best sights are enshrouded in fog and you can't see anything -- what do they care?
So that leaves the Hunter Valley Tour. I think that would be the one I would choose, because it would not be so easy to do any other way. I still think it's expensive, however, for what you are going to see -- you could, I feel, use a day in Sydney much more effectively, just by walking around (or stopping overnight in the Mountains, or taking a day trip to Canberra).
Alan is offline  
Oct 1st, 2003, 05:33 PM
  #3  
sandi
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The comments from Alan are worth considering.

But I should mention that often "options" provided by your tour operator that are prepaid before departure, or booked thru your tour guide are "often" higher than if you booked them independently once you get to your destination.

If these don't have to be prepaid, rather bought from your tour guide, I would suggest you check the prices from the Tour Desk at your hotel. If they are the same then book with your guide as the guide gets a commission. If lower, than go with what the Tour Desk offers.

As if possible, try to take independent tours vs. coach tours, though sometimes and to some destinations this isn't possible.

I'd omit the Fairy Penguins under all circumstances - it's a long trip and don't get back till late, oh so touristy and "you cannot take photos" here.
 
Oct 1st, 2003, 08:41 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi Lev,

I'm familiar with all these tours and would have to agree with Alan and Sandi. For the most part (not always, nothing is ever absolute); most of those dinner/lunch type cruises are always buffet type affairs with food on a steam table set up for the "masses". I don't think it will enhance your view of the Harbour in the least. Much better to have a nice lunch or dinner prior/after to cruising around the Harbour, or even pick up some items and have your own picnic onboard!

Most of the tours to the Blue Mountains are aboard 50 passenger Grey Line type tour buses, and as Alan says, stopping at those obligatory places like the souvenir shops (which I personally detest). I usually put my clients on a tour with a private guide in a vehicle that has no more than 6 passengers and the guide will stop if there's something of interest that pops up during the tour as well as hits areas that the larger buses don't go to.

A Hunter Valley tour is a good way to go as you don't have to worry about drinking and driving (and getting ticketed).

Kuranda is a "must do" on almost every itinerary, and I think it's a very good tour; taking the train up, going past the Falls and then taking the Skyrail back.

I would skip the Fairy Penguins altogether in Melbourne (although there's other places that I'd recommend this type of tour). As Sandi said, it's very touristy (they now have bleacher type seating for the hoardes of tourists converging there).

For Mt. Cook by air, just make sure that this tour is refundable in case of bad weather, which happens frequently.

In Christchurch, get a good map and take the tram around town, you'll be fine.

Queenstown -- personally I love Walter Peak and the cruise on the Earnslaw, including singing old songs on the way back, it's lots of fun, and actually, in this particular instance, the BBQ lunch at Walter Peak is very good and a good value I think. I'm not sure which "Queenstown at Night" tour you might be referring to...so I can't comment on that.

One caveat on pre-booking tours -- I'm all for independent travel, but on some things it makes a big difference as to how much time you have alotted in an area; what's going on (festivals, etc) during the time you're going; and what other things you may have scheduled. As an example: last year I had clients who wanted to take the dolphin tour in Kaikoura, NZ. They only had one day and I pre-booked it for them. As it turned out the tour was completely booked and they turned people away at the dock; if they hadn't had a prior reservation they would have been out of luck and this was a highlight of their trip.

Hope this helps!

Melodie
Certified Aussie Specialist

wlzmatilida is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2003, 07:15 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I agree with all the above writers. We just returned from 3 weeks in NZ & Australia & wish we hadn't booked ahead for any of the tours we took. We enjoyed the luncheon cruise of Sydney harbor but you can easily book it yourself when you get there, Otherwise, the ferries are fabulous. We had prepaid for the fairy penguins tour from Melbourne & cancelled it when we discovered it returned at 10:30 pm! Now we have to try to get a refund from our travel agent. You really can book everything when you get there & see your schedule & how you feel.
LisaE is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2003, 06:59 AM
  #6  
Lev
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 204
I'd like to thank all who responded to my questions.
I do appreciate your advices very much and will plan accordingly.
We will have 3 days in Sydney and 2 days in Melbourne. Do not want to miss anything 'significant'. What is MUST DO in Sydney and Melbourne?
Thanks. Lev.
Lev is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2003, 01:59 PM
  #7  
Janese
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When you get to Sydney the "must dos" will be obvious or check this site for previous answers.
I agree with everything Alan said and add that having taken a dinner cruise myself I would never suggest anyone did it because you can do so much better by just getting on a ferry and going someplace for dinner and get the ferry back again. Stay near Circular Quay where most of the action starts and check out the tourist kiosk over the road from the Quay for the best information.
 
Oct 6th, 2003, 10:15 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 4
Hi Lev!

We are also taking the SmarTours Australia - NZ - Fiji tour and are wondering when you depart? We were shut out of the December and early January departure and are now taking a January 20th departure. If you are departing before us, we would love to hear your feedback upon your return.
MAbbe is offline  
Oct 21st, 2003, 11:04 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
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What about New Zealand in May or June?
goldjimmc is offline  
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