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MyBaggage Jul 5th, 2018 11:07 AM

Small ship cruise to New Zealand
Can you please offer advice/suggestions for a small ship cruise in New Zealand? The large cruise ships are not a good fit for for me. I was on a small ship (<100 passengers) to Antarctica and I loved it. I am not looking for glamour - but am looking for a ship that is comfortable, clean, with good food and good service. I am a grandmother age woman traveling alone. It is important to have a guide staff that is knowledgeable about the area, the culture, the flora and fauna.

I was originally thinking small tour group, but the small ship holds appeal as long as I get to see a lot and learn a lot. Can get into/out of a zodiac or a kayak, but won’t be looking for paddle boarding or scuba diving!

i am thinking of this trip for Feb or Mar 2019, but am flexible Thanks for your ideas.

HappyTrvlr Jul 5th, 2018 12:54 PM

Ponant may offer them.

Diamantina Sep 11th, 2018 05:30 PM

MyBaggage, I live in Dunedin, New Zealand, and just came across this article about the rise of luxury cruise ship travel to this country. I was about to post it as a new thread, but then saw your question (originally posted two months ago so maybe you've already made plans) but thought you might be interested in seeing it.

I've met a few people who have had your some of your interests (flora and fauna) and they have generally been aboard the Caledonian Sky cruise ship, which emphasizes wildlife experiences. This seems to be the link for that company:
Heritage Expeditions offers cruises to NZ's sub antarctic islands and Fiordland:
Real Journeys offers cruises of Fiordland and Stewart Island.

A land based trip would allow you ample opportunity to see culture, fauna and flora, and will give your more time to see and do more in each of your destinations. A cruise would allow you to see some of more remote offshore islands. Maybe you could consider doing a combination of the two. Consider booking an independent land-based trip, where you can travel from one destination to the other, and booking excursions from these 'base" destinations. I'm a woman in my 60s and often travel around NZ on my own, using public transport. It's a relatively safe country. Of course, renting a car would give you more options to visit places not served by public transport. If you'd like more advice on planning a land-based trip to NZ, you'll get plenty of advice on the NZ forum.

February tends to offer the driest, sunniest weather but it's also the second busiest month, particularly during the Chinese New Year holidays (Chinese New Year falls on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, Spring Festival Golden Week, Feb. 6 through 10, through the Lantern Festival, which falls on Tuesday, February 19, 2019). Fewer crowds after these dates, and the weather should still be nice. This being said, NZ's weather is highly unpredictable and can quickly change ( at times "four seasons in a day") . February and March tend to have more consistent weather. Peak wildlife viewing season is from November to early March, depending on what you hope to see.

MyBaggage Sep 12th, 2018 03:58 AM

Diamantina. Thanks for your your thorough reply. I came to the same conclusion - a cruise was going to be too limiting for me. My plans are now in place. After a short layover in Hawaii (for jet lag purposes), and a week in Australia (because it is my 7th continent), I arrive in Christchurch on March 2, for a 3-week land based small group tour - max 20 people, very important to be a small group. If I were traveling with a companion I would have opted for a self-drive, but the thought of managing the left side of the road, while navigating and also trying to see it all, was exhausting! I am on a Kirra tour, booked through Relaxing Journeys in Auckland. It covers almost all of where I wanted to go, including 2 nights in Dunedin.

The reviews I found were good, the frequent complaint being that there was too much time on the bus. I am well on the road to recovery from a broken leg, so the opportunity to give my leg a rest on bus rides has some appeal, And if the views are as stunning as I expect, I won’t mind the bus. The coaches are described as only 20 seats, one on each side of the aisle, with several creature comforts.

Besides being in a small group, the other important factor is the quality of the guide. I am pleased with the the service I received from Marie, at Relaxing Journeys. Even with a 16-hour time difference, I always received prompt email replies from her with answers to all of my questions. If Kirra delivers as well as Marie, I will be a happy traveler.

I am so looking forward to my trip to your beautiful country. Thanks again for your feedback.

Diamantina Sep 13th, 2018 01:00 AM

Glad you found a tour that will meet your travel needs. You mentioned Kirra Tours, Relaxing Journeys. Is this the tour?

If so, I don't know if you'll have free time to do your own thing but it would be a shame to miss out on the wildlife that you wanted to see and which Dunedin/the Otago Peninsula is most known for. If you'll have time to spare I highly recommend the Elm Wildlife Tour (the "lite" tour requires less walking). Reviews here:
The Monarch Cruise, Royal Albatross Colony, Pukekura Blue Penguins are also top Otago Peninsula wildlife attractions that do not require much walking (thinking of your healing leg). Penguin Place is also interesting but it requires more walking.
As you are interested in flora as well as fauna, Dunedin city also has a beautiful Botanical Garden (NZ's oldest public gardens, free admission.) with an aviary that includes native birds that are part of a captive breeding program. These birds are not capable of being released into the wild, but their offspring have gone on to help repopulate NZ's national parks. There are also many exotic birds in the aviary.

In Wellington, in addition to your visit to Te Papa Museum, try to visit Zealandia, a pest-free ecosanctuary, where you can see New Zealand's rare native birds, tuatara (a native reptile), and weta (a cricket-like insect that's one of the largest and heaviest insects in the world). It's easy to get there as they offer a free daytime shuttle from the I-Site (tourist info office) which is a few blocks from Te Papa, or from the top of the Cable Car/Botanic Garden. By the way, you'll want to both take the Cable Car and walk around the Botanic Garden (free admission). We also have an ecosanctuary in Dunedin, called Orokonui. Both Zealandia and Orokonui are ecosanctuaries surrounded by pest-free fences that offer the enclosed free-ranging animals protection from introduced predators that have nearly driven these species to extinction, predators such as possums, stoats, rats, mice, cats, dogs, and hedgehogs. All of these predators were introduced to New Zealand.

If you have a chance, you'd find a visit to one of NZ's offshore island ecosanctuaries interesting. There are several in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf, including Tiritiri Matangi. In the deep south, Stewart Island and nearby Ulva Island are about an hour by ferry from Bluff (near Invercargill).

MyBaggage Jul 6th, 2019 02:59 PM

So, I am a bit late in finding this. You are a treasure with your info. My Kirra tour was excellent. When I booked it, I was recuperating on my sofa with a broken leg/knee. I knew that any extensive walking was out of the question. Well, the trip motivated me to work hard and, eventually, I could have done more walking/hiking. My tour (I don't see it precisely on the Kirra website now, but mine was 18 days, I think) started in Christchurch and ended in Auckland. We had a group of 19 on South Island, and our group dwindled to 11 for the North Island portion. We all got along very well. My favorite city was Wellington and yes, I went on an evening tour at Zealandia - we saw the kiwi! Great. I also loved Dunedin. We did an overnight on Doubtful Sound - magical. But the real treat was the landscape - lots of jaw dropping moments. Our guide, a native Kiwi from Auckland, was superb - attentive to details, knowledgeable, and fun.. Our coach (I was on a Premium tour) was the fanciest bus I have ever seen. We gave a lift to some tourists from a broken down bus and they kept talking about how nice our bus was. As a solo traveler, I had a whole row to myself - one seat on the right, two seats on the left - so I could hop back and forth to see the sights. Yes, there were places I would have stayed longer, like Mt. Cook. And more time in the rain forest on the west coast of South Island. But very few I would have bypassed, like Queenstown - too touristy! A good stop for lunch to see the view, then move on.

I would love to return. New Zealand is marvelous!

Diamantina Jul 7th, 2019 04:57 PM

MyBaggage, I just found your recent post now. Thanks for reporting back about the Kirra Tour. Most posters on the Australia-New Zealand are independent travelers, but from time to time, a solo traveler or couple ask for small group tour recommendations so your report will be so useful (wow, what a bus ride!). That's brilliant that you saw a kiwi on the Zealandia night tour. I've been there twice but only during the day, will have to do the night tour next time. I'm glad you enjoyed Dunedin, as well. I hope you were taken to the Otago Peninsula. I agree, Aoraki Mt. Cook is really special, one of my favorite places as well. Queenstown is super touristy, traffic-choked and getting more built up and out all the time, but nearby Glenorchy is still pretty wonderful (you have to drive through Queenstown to get there).

I'll hope you'll be back.

MyBaggage Jul 9th, 2019 05:51 PM

Forgot to add - I booked my Kirra Tour, and my entire NZ trip, through Relaxing Journeys in Auckland. I worked with Marie and she was terrific. When I said I liked the itinerary of this particular Kirra tour but it was missing one place, she said, "easy!" and added an extension to Napier for 2 nights. And I live on the east coast of the US so we were dealing with a 16-hour time difference and handled it all via email.

The whole trip happened with only one minor glitch - and a call to Marie had it resolved shortly thereafter. I highly recommend Relaxing Journeys and Kirra Tours.

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