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Alice9 Jan 24th, 2008 08:42 AM

Milford Sound - cruise questions
So, we'll be staying in Te Anau for a few nights, and can drive to Milford Sound and take a day cruise from there. A couple of questions though,

Is there much difference between the various operators? What about the different types of cruises they offer? Does time of day make much difference?

We'll be there late March - do I need to book now, or can I wait until we get to Te Anau?


Pula Jan 24th, 2008 06:35 PM

You can wait. Late March is a lovely time of year but I don't think it's any worse than the Christmas-New Year's crush and it's probably better -- and you don't need an advance booking even then.

I think there are only two, three max, boat operators in Milford. Real Journeys are the biggest and so are their boats. I'm a fan of the red boats because they are so much smaller -- Red Boat Cruises, I think. Whichever boat you end up on, it will be worth it.

marg Jan 24th, 2008 09:20 PM

We visited Milford Sound in November - the visitors' information centre suggested that (as independent travellers) we avoid the cruises around the lunch period as they tended to be packed with coach tours. I think the cruise we went on departed about 2 pm and was only about 25% full. We didn't book ahead, just arrived at the booking office, and chose one of the larger boats because they looked more comfortable. There is a cafe at the parking area and you could buy snacks and drinks on the boat.

tropo Jan 24th, 2008 11:25 PM

Alice9 - we were in Milford Sound last November. We took the Real Journey boat trip, and it was great, the commentator was interesting & funny. But it wouldn't matter who you take the journey with, they all follow one another, and see the same scenery, its just beautiful. Interesting when the explain how the penguins there raise their young, when they have more than one chick.
We took the morning trip, and back in TeAnau to do more sightseeing, then a later afternoon coffee, followed by a great dinner.

Alice9 Jan 25th, 2008 04:47 AM

Thanks so much. We'll contemplate whether we are big boat or smaller boat people, and the advice about avoiding midday is excellent.

Thanks, as always, for being such a big help.


angelnot1 Jan 25th, 2008 11:12 PM


I cut and pasted part of my trip report which is relevant to the Milford Sound cruise which you might find useful- We were there in February 2007.

"IMPORTANT- do visit the chemist or supermarket in town before you set out to the sounds and buy insect repellent but ask for one specifically for sandflies. Sandflies are sneaky little creatures and you don't feel them biting and often the red spots do not come up for a few days.

We bought the recommended Ultraguard (around $16 NZ)and it worked for everybody except me!Still I probably had fewer bites than if I hadn't used it. The main areas to cover are your ankles, hands, cheeks. we also sprayed some on the clothes. The advice we were given was to put the repellent on while in the car and reapply some on arrived at Milford.

I was also told that taking vitamin B6 for some time prior to travelling helps; I guess for Aussies it might mean lots of vegemite sandwiches......

......We had a leisurely drive to Milford Sound as our scenic cruise was not until 3pm.

I purposely booked us on the last cruise at 3pm (Real Journeys on Milford Monarch) because the first cruise at 9 am and the last one at 3 pm are less crowded.

The 3 pm cruise is not available all year so you might want to check the company's site for details. The cruiser carries up to 400 passengers and there were twenty on the 3 pm cruise.

.....When we reached the Milford Sound my first impression was that it was like a busy transport interchange. Massive carpark, planes and helicopters taking off every few minutes, people bustling around and the sandflies surrounding one in droves! And this was the less busy part of the day..

Very quickly however I realised that there was a good system in place to move things along. There is a shuttle to take you to the marina where the boats are berthed or you can walk about 500 or so metres.

At the car park there is a cafe and there are picnic tables on the grass outside. We had brought our baguettes, ham,cheeses, tomatoes etc and drinks so sat at the table for our al fresco lunch.

It was great execept for the sandflies.I will repeat my comment in the initial section of this report - make sure you apply the appropriate repellent before you get to Milford and then reapply it on arrival.

The pesky things seemed to disappear once we got under way...

We walked to the terminal and waited for some 200 people to disembark and then about 20 of us boarded for the final cruise of the day. We obviously had total freedom of the boat.

The girls stayed up top most of the time braving the winds which are inevitable in such a long "tunnel".

We alternated between the middle covered deck with panoramic windows extending into the ceiling so you could look up at the towering cliffs and the side and top of the boat.

The grand vistas in front, to the sides and behind us were magnificent.
The boat pulled quite close to one of the many waterfalls and we caught some of the spray.

Then there was the excitement of seeing beautiful seals resting on the rocks and later some more frolicking in the water.

The skipper announced that we would make our way to the very mouth of the Sound where it meets the Tasman sea before turning back for our return journey. It was such a thrilling contrast- emerging from the walled tunnel of the sound to the open sea beyond.

Throughout we were snapping photos like crazy and taking breaks with a cup of well brewed coffee or tea (available on the middle deck,self service, free of charge)

Through a friendly crew member we were allowed to go on to the bridge and see the skipper do his work. We were amazed that the steering is done by gently tapping the smallest of joysticks - I imagined a big, round wheel. The girls were thrilled to be allowed to sit in the skipper's chair and have a 'simulated'go.

He told us that the snow comes to about half way down the mountains (where you see some bushes growing). Also that there are 85 staff at Milford Sound who live in the staff quarters behind the airfield. It is a particular type of lifestyle and during time off people go to Te Anau.

So overall the scenic cruise was all about stunning scenery, cheerful crew and good coffee.

As we were returning we had to wait to allow the overnight boats go out - that will be something to look forward to the next time. Also on this occasion we did not walk Milford track, which I had hiked so many years ago, - another one for the next time.

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