New Zealand by cruise vs. land

Old Jul 23rd, 2011, 12:55 PM
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New Zealand by cruise vs. land

We are debating taking a 13-day cruise to New Zealand from Sydney on Sea Princess of Princess Cruises in late October/early November. We really want to make sure we don't "miss out" on anything considered important to the New Zealand experience.

The itinerary involves 8 straight days of land experiences flanked by 2 days at sea getting to and from NZ. The 8 days, with timings of docking and sailing, are:
Fiordland Natl Park - 7A-4P
Dunedin/Port Chalmers - 8A-6P
Christchurch/Lyttleton - 8A-6P
Wellington - 8A-6P
Napier - 7A-2P
Tauranga - 8A-6P
Auckland - 7A-6P
Bay of Islands - 7A-4P

I am wondering if the time spent at these various places, and any related ship excursions that the cruise line might offer, seem sufficient to really be able to experience the best of NZ. We wanted to try the cruise thing because one of us has not been on a cruise before, and it seemed like a good way to take care of 2 trips at once. However, I am wondering if doing a trip by land might be more suitable. Just looking at the timings, I am not sure if everything will be rush-rush (how long does it take to get to Roturua from Tauranga), if any of the sights are necessarily the best use of time (not particularly excited about Auckland at this stage, but admittedly don't know enough about it yet, and also not sure if it is advisable to visit Christchurch yet), and if we will actually be able to see things we really want to see (Milford Sound seems like a must-see, but is it doable based on the timings/locations of docking?)

We are not opposed to do doing things by land, just seemed like a good idea at first blush.

Thanks for your input.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2011, 04:44 PM
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Hi itspat -

I've never taken a cruise, so I can only give you my impressions based upon my many on-the-ground visits to NZ.

Of the places listed, only Fiordland and Lyttleton would appeal to me, and Lyttleton is a mess these days.

The problem with cruises is that you only see the ports and a wee bit inland, you miss everything in the middle, often the best of what's on offer.

There's no time to wander and get lost, no opportunity to detour at every interesting bend in the road, no chance to truly explore. And the whole group aspect...masses of people descending on a port and being ferried off in differnt directions, well, it just doesn't appeal to me, but it may to others. It really depends on your particular travel style.

The advantage is that you can see a bit of both islands in 13 days, which would be near impossible if you were to do it on your own.

A cruise is probably a great introduction to NZ, and it will give you a good taste, but I'd be really surprised if you don't find yourself wanting to return to explore more in-depth.

Where does the boat actually dock in Fiordland?
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Old Jul 23rd, 2011, 07:30 PM
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I'm not saying you won't enjoy NZ (after all many people visit nothing more than Auckland, Rotorua and the Bay of Islands) but it may give you enough of a taste to leave you frustrated.

I suppose it depends on how active you are, and how much you prefer cities and towns to nature.
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Old Jul 24th, 2011, 06:43 AM
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I have been to New Zealand 3 times and I have also taken numerous cruises. But I would never consider combining the two. I find cruises are great for relaxation, on-board fun and a cursory visit to a port or two. However, some of the best of New Zealand is found in its interior and a great way to see the country is by driving through it in a leisurely fashion.
Should you decide to do a land tour as opposed to the cruise, I think you could see some great sights on both islands in 14 days (which I've done twice) or just focus on the South Island for those 2 weeks.
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Old Jul 27th, 2011, 09:05 AM
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Thank you all very much for your input.
2 follow-up questions:

1) KNOWING that the experience of NZ's interior will be limited, is there ANYTHING representative of NZ that is of value to be seen from a standard cruise land excursion? Or do you literally think it is akin to going to Egypt and sailing down the Nile but missing the Great Pyramids entirely? (I know, not a fair comparison, we are just trying to figure out how bad we will feel if we see NZ by cruise and miss the interior!)

2) I know it's a NZ post, but any idea if you can see the major sights of Sydney easily in time before and after the cruise if you are arriving into Sydney by international flight around 7A and the ship sails 4P - or the ship arrives 8A and the international flight departs 10P? Just trying to figure out how easily accessible Sydney Harbor and the Opera House +/- zoo would be in this time frame.

Crazy, hectic, I know... this is all just a rough blueprint at this point.

Thanks.
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Old Jul 27th, 2011, 09:07 AM
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Also, Melnq8 - not sure where it docks in Fiordland... we still have quite a bit of research to do on the whole thing...
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Old Jul 27th, 2011, 10:56 AM
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I'm assuming you'll do well in Fiordland, maybe too well? Depends on where they do stop but it may be 3 of the fiords.

Dunedin, if you stop in Port Chalmers you are fairly close to the Otago Peninsula. If it's in downtown Dunedin then not sure you can get out there and back, but you'd be able to see some of the heritage buildings such as the train station.

Wellington you'll be able to tour the city. Te Papa and Botanic Garden, it's pretty compact, the waterfront district is nicely renovated.

I imagine they are diverting to Akaroa for Chch? Assuming you'll see dolphins as you come in on the cruise so not sure what you'd do for a day other than that.

Auckland doesn't thrill me even on a land tour. Nor does Tauranga. What some people do is leave the boat at Tauranga and rejoin in Auckland so that they can visit Rotorua without rushing.

Bay of Islands I guess depending on where you stop. Probably just as nice cruising thru there.
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Old Jul 30th, 2011, 03:18 PM
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My Daughter and son-in-law were musicians on the Sun Princess which did the same itinerary last year. The ship will not dock in Fiordland, they sail into three sounds, Dusky Sound, Milford, (the name of the other one escapes me at the moment).
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Old Jul 30th, 2011, 06:40 PM
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Based on your stated arrival and departure times, I don't think you will have time on your arrival day to do much of anything in Sydney. If your flight arrives at 7am, it will likely be 10am before you can expect to get into Sydney. That will leave you only 4 hours or so because I imagine you have to be on the ship a couple of hours before it sails.

However, on your last day, if you dock at 8am, you can probably be off the the ship by 10am. If you flight leaves at 10pm, you can stay in Sydney until 6:30 pm or so. That will give you about 8 hours of sightseeing and you can see Sydney Harbour, the Opera House, and even squeeze in several hours at Taronga Zoo. But, what will you do with your luggage?
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Old Aug 1st, 2011, 05:44 AM
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Hi Pat,

I'm going to echo what everyone else says and just tell you that in addition to being a Kiwi Specialist, my travel agency also specializes in cruises. If you were my client, I would advise you that if, as you stated, your goal is to see NZ and not "miss out" on anything, then a cruise is NOT the way to go.

I would second this remark for many other cruise destinations as well; cruises are great for smaller destinations, to give you a "feel" for an area and to visit several places without packing & unpacking; however, for example, there's no way you're going to be able to see much of, say, Rome, in 5 hours.
This is basically the same point Longhorn makes, I'm just chiming in.

My advice would be to go to the Tourism New Zealand website and see who's listed as a Kiwi Specialist in your area - go to them and tell them what YOU want to see & do, what YOUR interests are (vs what the cruise line thinks you should see , and then have them custom design your NZ trip.

Hope this is helpful & let us know!

Regards,

Melodie
Certified Kiwi Specialist

p.s. hopefully you won't have any problems with the website; the L.A. office tells me that they're "re=vamping" a few things which always messes things up!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2011, 02:43 AM
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This was all most helpful and has made us think about some things we hadn't considered. There are a few "seemingly" good shore excursions that hit most of the touristy high points off the cruise, but the costs really start to add up fast. We are still trying to decide what to do - I'll let you know! Thanks for the input.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2011, 08:26 AM
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Hi again Pat,

I can tell you FOR SURE that 90% of any cruise line's shore excursions are overpriced (and don't get me started on pre/post hotel stays, which I never book through the cruise line for clients - I can save them money if I book them on my own).

There are some places that ships go (Caribbean) where not only is it more economical and BETTER to do your own excursion, you're helping the local economy as well. Then there are places where this doesn't work so well (Alaska,depending on which port) because the cruise line has snapped up every local tour operator in a small port.

There are also alternative companies who have copied the cruise line's excursion exactly, or very similiar, at a lesser cost. I've used a few of those, but unfortunately, they're limited to smaller, popular markets, mostly the Caribbean and Alaska.

Hope this is helpful!

Melodie
Certified Kiwi Specialist
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Old Aug 3rd, 2011, 07:24 AM
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Hi Pat,

This past January my DH and I took a 14 night cruise from Sydney to New Zealand on RCI (Rhapsody OTS). We loved it. Yes, it gave us a taste of New Zealand.

We did not take any of the ship's over-priced excursions. There are wonderful small private tour companies for each port. There is so much to see, you will have to make choices about what you see. In Bay of Islands, we took a sailing ships through some of the islands, anchoring at one to explore it. In Auckland we took a tour that took us to the other side of the island. In Tauranga we rented a car to visit the the glow worm cave. We saw a lot of the countryside that day. We missed Napier due to a cyclone, but there are several tour companies that will show you the sites of Napier and the surrounding area. In Wellington, we hired a van to take us to some wineries and LOTR sites (about an hour out of town). Tour included a mini tour of the city. We also had a few hours to walk in town. We were lucky to visit Christchurch three weeks prior to the second large earthquake. We took the local bus to visit the Antarctic Center near the airport (loved it) and walked all over the city. In Dunedin we took a day long tour to the Otago Peninsula. Fabulous day. We visited the Albatross Colony, went to private property to walk amongst the sheep down to a beach to view fairy penguins, yellow eyed penguins and walk close to huge seals. We even toured Dunedin. There is no stop in the Fiordland National Park. We sailed through Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sounds. We did stop in the middle of Milford Sound to pick up PAX that had taken an overnight ship's excursion to Queenstown. All in all, I think we saw a lot. Sure, we missed some things, but we don't regret taking a cruise versus a land tour.

I do not know where you are flying in from, but I would arrive in Sydney a few days prior. So much to see and do. It also helps you to adjust to the different time zone. I've been to Sydney four times and still find new things to see and do.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2011, 12:28 PM
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We are also debating to visit NZ whether by land or by cruise. We'll probably get to see more by land but are leaning toward cruise, because I would be the only one driving, and I would also be the one coming from a completely different time zone (jet lag). We have never been on a cruise either.
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Old Aug 5th, 2011, 03:02 AM
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itspat, our recent trip to NZ-Australia included the same number of nights in NZ as your cruise (8) only we 'cruised' by air as opposed to water, and did it independently.

The main concern with brief overall looks, be these looks by cruise, air or whatever, isn't that you won't enjoy yourself. BarbAnn has related her experience cruising, and we certainly enjoyed our trip.

The concern is that one's itinerary is risky in that it allows little room for problems like, well, BarbAnn mentions a cyclone, but there could also be delays in debarking from the ship (thereby cutting down your time in the given port). On our end, had our various flights been late or even cancelled, things might have turned out very differently. The lesson in both cases is that tight schedules leave little room for manoeuvre.

On that note: Our 8 nights were spread over 4 stops, beginning with 3 nights in Queenstown (to which we connected after flying to Auckland.) I had little choice on the timing of the trip, due to work/personal considerations, but in hindsight I really would have liked a fourth night in Queenstown, especially as it was our 'gateway' stop. I felt our 3 nights to be just, and only just, enough time there.

So, in hindsight it was risky to not leave any 'buffer' room for cancelled/postponed outbound flights to one's starting gateway (which does happen. It has happened to us on other trips, plus on this one we returned to LA to find some unhappy people at our LA hotel who had had their outbound flight to Auckland cancelled.)

If you do elect to take your cruise that leaves out of Sydney, you might want to consider arriving 2 full days before the cruise departs. This not only gives you more time in Sydney, but more importantly, reduces the risk of missing the cruise in the event of flight schedule mishap.

I think you might want to prioritize what you want to see in NZ first, and then decide if a given method -cruise or land - will fit your wants and constraints. Whereas there are cheaper (and shorter) ways to test out cruising, to see if it is for you.
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Old Aug 5th, 2011, 09:32 AM
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And of course you do know that darn Chilean volcano is still causing havoc with flights in the southern Pacific Rim, including Australia and NZ?
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Old Aug 5th, 2011, 04:32 PM
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mlgb, I must have a word with that volcano...
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Old Aug 18th, 2011, 02:32 PM
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We have the luxury of time, so are doing both - 5 weeks land, mostly south island, then a cruise out of Auckland, back around NZ and to Australia. We'll leave some city sites for the cruise, allowing more nature time, though some ports . We generally look at new cruise destinations as a "glimpse" into a place, though, I admit, we haven't often gone back (Scandinavia/Istanbul) even though I would like to. Either way you'll have a great trip.
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 11:20 AM
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I know this is an old post, but just want to follow up regarding my comment. I finally made it out to NZ earlier this month (for two weeks) and did it neither by cruise nor by self-drive. I ended up doing independent coach tours, which seems popular in NZ among the backpacking crowd, and NZ has a very good long-distance bus system, although I did not stay at hostels. I found this way to be a nice alternative to a fully escorted tour also because there were different people on the bus each day. I used InterCity/Great Sights/Real Journeys, and they share run sheets so they make sure you don't miss your connections, and all the tour guides/drivers were friendly and helpful.
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Old Aug 20th, 2015, 08:09 PM
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We did a 15 day tour around New Zealand, leaving from Sydney with a stopover in Melbourne on the way back.
You can check our tour here:
http://hansellajc.wix.com/hanselltra...f21933cd57f91a

Hope it helps
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