New Zealand &
by Jean and Ralph Walker
06 January 2005 Departure from Auckland NZ
07 January At sea
08 January Wellington NZ
09 January Christchurch NZ
10 January Dunedin NZ
11 January Fjiordland NZ
12 January At sea crossing the Tasman sea
13 January At sea crossing the Tasman sea
14 January Hobart Australia
15 January At sea
16 January Melbourne Australia
17 January At sea
18 January Sydney Australia
We are Australian, married, a ďBaby boomerĒ couple still working. Our occupations are Coordinator of Travel courses at a Travel College, and Registered Nurse. This was our sixth cruise in total 4th on P/O Princess. We will talk in this report about the cruising experience and briefly on some of the ports of call.
Firstly may we say that it was great to see so many Americans and Canadians cruising in our part of the world. We hope you enjoyed the experience and would love to see you back again. We really enjoyed sharing experiences with you all.
PRIOR TO CRUISE
We arrived in Auckland 3 days prior to the cruise departure and stayed at Rydges Hotel which is about a 20 min walk to the shipping terminal. The streets are well paved so you can wheel your luggage easily. Rydges is a comfortable ďno frillsĒ hotel reasonably priced with an excellent restaurant adjacent. We really enjoyed our meal there. There is a lot to see in and around Auckland so several days prior to cruise start would be a good idea. A cruise on the harbour or a visit to one of the offshore islands, wine tastings, a ferry to Devonport across the harbour would be some of the things you may want to do. You can obtain discount voucher booklets for a range of attractions around Auckland and thus be able to save quite a bit of money. Viaduct Harbour is a great dining area near the Sapphire Princess berth where the Americaís cup yachts where berthed during the races. There are quite a few excellent restaurants here for you to choose from.
We liked V Grill, good food, service and not too expensive.
As many people have stated in reports previously it is essential that you arrive at the cruise departure point at least the day prior. It is extremely dangerous to arrive on the day of departure as quite a few people found out on this cruise when their luggage failed to arrive before departure of the ship. You only need a flight delay and you have big problems.
On our departure day 6th January at about 8.30am we walked to Sky Tower which is about 5 minutes walk from Rydges and took the elevator to the top and where rewarded with a magnificent view of Auckland and the Sapphire Princess at her Princes wharf berth. Sky Tower is about 80 stories high so the view is spectacular and a must when in Auckland. If you are lucky you may see people undertaking a bungy jump from almost the top of the tower. They allow a discount of 10% is you have one of the discount vouchers.
THE CRUISE EXPERIENCE
We left our Hotel at about 10 am and walked down to the ship. Embarkation on our tickets was scheduled to start at 12noon but from previous experiences we have sometimes boarded early and we like to get onto the ship as early as possible. No information was provided with our tickets by Princess as to exactly where we had to go to check in. The Princess wharf area is quite large and there were a lot of people like us who were there early and as confused as us as to where to go. Luckily we walked alongside the ship and came to a gate where porters where collecting luggage from passengers. We were then told that you had to go and line up on the other side of the building just south of the main entrance to the Hilton hotel. That was fine and we joined the quite large queue ready for check in. By this time it was probably about 10.30am. Princess must in future provide a little map with the tickets showing the procedure for dropping baggage off and then embarkation. They must also put up some clear signs as people are approaching the wharf telling them what to do with their luggage and where to go to join the queue. At this time there were quite a few people complaining about their attempts to find out where to go for checking in. Some of them had been dropped off in taxis at the queue with their baggage and they then had to take their baggage round to the gate where the porters
were. You can imagine how happy they were and this is not a good way to start a cruise.
The area where you had to queue had no seats and some of the older people
wanted to sit down and couldnít do so. Princess should look at some other method of embarking passengers rather than get everyone to queue up. Maybe passengers could be given an exact time to be there rather than have 1000 passengers trying to board at the same time.
Apparently there had been some problems with the disembarkation process and there were still people coming off the ship at 11.45am. We heard rumours of immigration computer problems but what ever it was we didnít start the boarding process till 12.15pm. What followed was a complete shambles and most of the passengers were extremely unhappy with Princess and New Zealand Immigration although we feel it was more Immigrationís problem than Princess Cruises.
They started to form a second queue as there were people blocking the entrance to the Hilton Hotel at about 11.30pm At 12.15pm we entered the terminal but the people in the second queue who had not been waiting nearly as long as those in the first queue started to move in at the same time as us. They should have held these people back as there were a lot of people in the first queue unhappy about this. Then the first major problem emerged.
You all have to fill out immigration forms. Why couldnít these forms have been sent out with the tickets so people could have them ready? Why couldnít some laterally thinking person in New Zealand Immigration have given the people the forms outside so they could be filled in whilst the passengers where waiting for
check-in? That would have saved a lot of time and allowed the line to move much quicker and there would have been no agitated annoyed people. Take note NZ
Immigration! A lot of people who had been lined up for 2 hours stopped to fill out the forms and lost their place in the queue. Donít stop just keep moving and fill the form out as you go along. You have plenty of time to complete them before you get to Immigration.
The procedure then to get onto the ship took about 1 1/2 hours. We know security has to be very tight these days but the procedure must be streamlined better. We think there are a lot of Princess passengers who will think long and hard about embarking in Auckland in future unless things are improved. There were plenty of Princess staff to help with the Princess check in and I thought this part of the proceedings worked very well.
Once we were on board the ship we dumped our hand luggage and did what we always do--head to Horizon court on the 14th deck for the buffet lunch. If you like a nice cold drink then I suggest you purchase the coke card which costs USD 30.00 and allows you unlimited soda and coke drinks whilst on board the ship. You will save money this way over the whole cruise. The sticker is stuck to the front of your cruise security card. Previous reviewers have stated that the waiters were a little slow in providing the soda and coke drinks but we didnít find that on this cruise
The ship in general
Firstly we think the Sapphire Princess is a great ship and we certainly would like to cruise on it again. Some people aboard found the size of the ship a little overwhelming and they thought a smaller ship would be more to their liking. We can understand that but we like the larger ships with more people on board. Although there were approximately 2700 passengers on board we never felt crowded. We didnít get a chance to use the gym, lotus spa or the casino so canít comment on those.
There was a shipboard orientation tour at 3pm on the first day and as this was the first time on the Sapphire Princess we tagged along. It lasted for about 30 minutes and we would recommend it. Ralph took some shots of the ship which my Travel students will get to see in due course. This was followed by the safety and security drill prior to departure from Auckland which all passengers have to attend unless they are doing back to back cruises on the same ship. This drill lasted for about 30 minutes.
One of the first things you should do on day two of the cruise if you are not American, Canadian or British is to check and see if you have the right colour Princess cruise card. If you have completed more than one cruise and have been given a blue card you should see the Captains Circle membership officer to make sure she has you on her list for the Captains circle party and for what its worth she will get your card colour changed. This cruise card acts as your room key and security card whilst on the ship. It is deactivated as soon as you leave the ship for the last time at the end of the cruise. For some reason only Americans, Canadians and British appear in the Princess data base for Captains circle. This problem should be immediately rectified by Princess as it is embarrassing for other nationalities. By the way there were approx 1300 Americans, 400 Australians, 300 New Zealanders and quite a few British together with a smattering of other nationalities on board.
Princess cruises add a USD 10.00 a day per person amount to your bill and that covers your tipping for the total cruise. This is done so that people employed on the ship who are not in direct contact with the ship can also receive something. If you donít like this idea you can negotiate with the Pursers office to have the amount reduced if you wish. We knew some people who did this as they had 2 small children who also were charged 10.00 and they thought this was not fair. We have no problems with this arrangement and in fact several people ie our room steward Jose and a Hungarian couple Judit and Balazcs waiters in the Sterling Restaurant who gave us exceptional service got a little bit extra. Jose was extremely efficient and everything in our cabin was perfect. We asked for several small jobs to be done in the afternoon and by dinnertime they were attended to.
The self-service laundries were spacious with plenty of washing machines, dryers and ironing facilities. Change machines and laundry powder dispensers were available in each laundry. Cost of laundry Ė USD $1.00 each per wash, per drier and for the washing powder dispenser. The machines accept US quarters 0.25c. Early morning or late at night or when the ship is in port and everyone is off the ship are the best times to do your washing. On sea days and between 4-6pm on port days the laundries can get very busy. There also seems to be only two irons per laundry.
If you are using several appliances in your cabin at the one time it might be an idea to bring an adaptor board, as there is only one general plug. This is a USA type plug so if you are coming from another country you will need to bring an adaptor.
On sea days there is always plenty to do. In fact sometimes there is too much and you find yourselves having to choose between several things. One of the improvements that could be made on the ship is to the Princess Patter, which is the newsletter that you receive each evening after you have had dinner. We think the layout of the newsletter could be improved. Sometimes you have to really search to find the information you need. We think similar topics should be grouped together and maybe a tear off part with
what's on for the day so that people can detach it and take it with them during the day or night rather than take the whole newsletter. Quite a few people were making the same comments.
We were extremely impressed with Skywalkers, which is situated at the back of the ship. At nighttime it is a disco after 10.30pm and during the daytime is a restful area for reading and just watching the sea. We had a rough day crossing the Tasman and it was great to sit on the side wing and look right down the left side of the ship to the Bridge and notice the pitching motion of the ship. The chairs in sky walkers are extremely comfortable. During the daytime you can always get a seat there.
The library has a very good selection of books and you can take a book out of the library now without checking it out. You just have to remember to return it. If you try and walk off the ship with the book you will get a rude shock as there is a security device implanted in all the books!!
Ralph enjoys a jog and Jean enjoys walking. We both used the Promenade deck for our activities usually early in the morning as there were fewer people around. You will have to climb some stairs at the front side of the ship but they arenít a problem.
The internet cafť is very large with lots of computers. We never had to wait to get on a machine and the cost was extremely reasonable.
On our last cruise the quality of the shows was a little variable. Not so on this cruise. We both thought all the shows were excellent particularly the comedian Bobby Dennis from Sydney. Absolutely fantastic donít miss him if he is on again.
If you lose your way on the ship particularly early on in the cruise just look for the ship location map and that will help. After a few days most people were finding their way around without too much trouble. The carpets on the left/port corridors are in Blue and on the right/starboard side are red in case you are not sure what side of the ship you are on. It does happen
Our biggest complaint about Princess cruises was that particularly in the restaurants when we ordered a bottle of wine we had to always ask for our receipt with the amount of the purchase shown clearly. In all other parts of the ship,
i.e. the bars, photo shop etc you always receive a receipt. Princess need to immediately correct this so that for every purchase on the ship you have a receipt. The night before you disembark you will receive your final account and all of your purchases should be shown. We strongly recommend that you get a copy of your account every couple of days so you can keep a check on your spending as you go along because it is so easy to forget what you have spent. We keep a sequenced record of all receipts and cross them off on the account every couple of days. If you donít do this you might have a problem at the end trying to remember all your purchases and this is not a nice. Feeling at the end of the cruise.
There is no designated card room on board so all the bridge enthusiasts on this cruise spread themselves out in all sorts of locations around the ship.
We believe very strongly that their should be signs at various points around the ship and in the Princess Patter alerting passengers to the dangers of exposure to the sun. We have a particular problem with people getting skin cancers here in Australia. Passengers should be warned not to stay out in the sun for too long and to have plenty of protection whilst doing so.
The cooking demonstration and tour of the galleys is usually done on the 2nd last day and is worthwhile doing. The Executive chef was also promoting its cookbook, personally signed by him. We bought a copy and it has some great recipes.
They also had a tour backstage which again we found very interesting. We were introduced to some of the performers in the show. They were extremely helpful and everyone was congratulating them on their excellent performances.
We had one very rough day crossing the Tasman with 16-20 foot waves and a few people were feeling a little unwell. Donít let this put you off doing a cruise because there are lots of things that can be done to take away that feeling such as patches, seasick tablets, etc.
The debate regarding 1st or second dining room sitting versus Anytime dining continues. We prefer anytime dining and what we try and do is make bookings for the next night the day before. As soon as we arrived in our cabin we rang the concierge desk and made bookings for the Sterling restaurant for the first night and for Vivaldiís the specialist Italian restaurant for the second night. We book for 8.15pm but bookings can be made prior to 6.15pm or after 8pm for any of the 4 dining rooms catering for anytime dining. If you are on 1st or 2nd sitting dining you must dine in the International dining room, although you can book into the 4 Anytime dining rooms if you wish for a change. If you are on anytime dining you can only go into the 4 specialist dining rooms not the International dining room. You can order anything off the International dining room menus for all 4 restaurants. These menus are available for all meal sittings. As well each of the special restaurants have their own special menus,
i.e. Sterling is a steak restaurant and so steak features prominently on their menu. This was Ralphís favourite place and he loved the Rib eye fillet and the New York Sirloin steak. Vivaldiís has an Italian theme and we thought also was very good. Both these restaurants are side by side on deck 5. Santa Fe has a Mexican theme and together with Pacific
Moon are side by side on deck 6. We dined in both of them but had the international menu. As we have been to Sabatiniís specialty restaurant on several occasions previously we didnít dine there this cruise. There is a USD 20.00 cover charge per person.
In all of the restaurants waiters always asked us if we were enjoying the meal. One one occasion there was a misunderstanding and two dishes Ralph had ordered were bought out at the same time. They offered to take the second dish straight back to the kitchen and replace it with another when I was ready.
If you really canít decide between the Lobster and the Pheasant order both or if you like the Lobster so much then order another serve. It doesnít matter. You can do this at any time on the ship. Yes, that did happen to me on several occasions.
The buffet at Horizon Court on deck 14 was quite acceptable. Everything seemed fresh and we thought the food tasted fine. Many people go up to Horizon Court and pile their plates up with food and return to their cabin to eat. Particularly those with balcony cabins.
The great advantage of anytime dining is that even though you have made a booking if you want to adjust the time you can without too many problems. It is possible not to have to make any bookings and you can line up to get in. Sometimes you might have a little wait so it is better to book even if you have to change the time.
Many people want to dine in Sterling as their menu is very good so we strongly suggest booking there. We think in the past there has been problems with people lining up to get into this restaurant for a long time and this may be the reason why Sterling as well as the other 3 Anytime dining restaurants have introduced a policy of no bookings between 6.15pm and 8pm so as to cater for walk up diners. We had a Hungarian couple Balazcs and Judit looking after us for about 6 meals. We liked them so much we asked for them when we first entered the restaurant. Look out for them if you are dining in the Sterling restaurant.
The wine list in the restaurant is a great improvement on our last Princess cruise with much greater variety and reasonably well priced.
We had all our breakfasts in either the Santa Fe or Pacific Moon restaurants as they are the only ones open. You only alternative is Horizon court, which is open 25 hours a day or you can have room service. We think the restaurants should be open a little longer for breakfast and lunch. They are open 7.30-9.30am for breakfast and 12-2pm for lunch. Sometimes it is hard to get there because so much is happening on the ship.
We think the ice cream stall where they charge extra could be eliminated as people can get free
ice creams between 3.30pm and 4.30pm in Horizon court and different flavours of
ice cream are always available at lunch or dinner in the restaurants. The open-air Trident grill and Pizza bar near horizon court were very popular and we enjoyed the hamburger and pizza that we had there.
Afternoon tea between 4.30 and 5.30pm where you have cakes and tea or coffee is worth the experience.
Overall the meals and service were excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner right through the cruise. We had no complaints at all.
We donít always have a balcony cabin it depends on the cruise. We went for a balcony on this one because it is summer time here and we thought we would be able to sit on the balcony a lot. As it turned out the weather was quite cold and wet and we didnít get onto the balcony as much as we wanted to. Also we were going into some great ports with spectacular views,
i.e. Sydney, Wellington, and Hobart. We are thinking of going on a Trans Atlantic cruise later this year and will probably book an inside cabin on this one as the weather on the
North Atlantic could be marginal at best. It depends where you are. One very important point to bear in mind with cabin selection. Always keep away from stairs and try and get a cabin in the middle of the ship or towards the rear so as to avoid motion of the ship in a storm. We had some rough weather on the Tasman and at the front of the ship you noticed the forward motion of the ship quite a bit whereas in the middle of the ship there was really not a lot to worry about.
On Dolphin deck 9 most of the outside balcony cabins are mini suites and have a large totally open to view from above balcony. Our balcony was half open but only half the size of the mini suite balconies on deck 9.
We feel that you either get an inside cabin or a balcony cabin. A cabin with a porthole is more expensive than an inside cabin and we think a waste of money as you canít feel the fresh air or lean over the balcony. If you have an inside cabin you are only several minutes from the promenade deck or the open decks above.
Your security card gets you into your cabin. Make sure when leaving your cabin that your door is properly closed. On several occasions our door did not properly close. There wasnít any clock in our cabin, luckily we brought our own.
The design of the cabin made good use of mirrors to enhance the feeling of light and maximise space. The open space wardrobes without doors provided plenty of hanging and storage space for our requirements. Our main cases fitted side by side quite comfortably. Bedside lights have dimmer switches. Soaps and towels were changed twice a day. There is a safe in every room and our cabin had a fridge as well as 2 chairs,
and 2 lollabouts and a table on the balcony. Outside your door on the side is a letterbox with your cabin number on it so that the newsletters or other information can be left for you.
If you wish to drink wines in your cabin Princess seem to have no problems with you purchasing wines or champagne and bringing them on board at embarkation or at the ports of call. I am not quite so sure about spirits though. We wanted to have some drinks on our balcony from timer to time and Concierge brought up wine and champagne glasses for us to use for the entire cruise. You can take these wines into the dining room but you might be charged a USD 10.00 corkage fee.
They charge for spring water in your cabin so we always take a water bottle with us and go up to Horizon Court and fill the bottle up with fresh water from there.
PORTS OF CALL
If you are like us and like to get up early to watch the arrival into the various ports we would suggest if the wind is not blowing too much you go to the observation point on top of the bridge at the front of the ship. If the wind is blowing then maybe deck 7 promenade at the bow will give you some protection and nearly as good a view. Other options are deck 15 at the front where you are slightly protected with glass windows or Skywalkers at the rear of the ship but the views straight ahead are somewhat blocked by the funnel. We thought the best ports to sail into and ones you must get up early for are Wellington, Hobart, Melbourne and
of course Sydney. Be careful sometimes the ship arrives early. It might show an arrival time in port of 8am and you might be docked at 6.30am. That happened to us a couple of times so I always set the alarm earlier.
On departure of the ship I think the above also applies.
If you donít want to book any of the Princess excursions at all the ports you will have a choice of shuttles, limousines, and local coach tours all vying for your business. Donít forget to get the best price. If there is a group of you a shuttle will work out to be a very economical way of getting around. Some people think the Princess tour prices are a little steep. That may be so but I know from previous tours that you generally get value for money on the tours and doing your own thing doesnít appeal to everyone.
If you are travelling independently you need to make sure that you get back to the ship at least 30 minutes before sailing. The ship will not wait for you and I believe we left a few people behind in one of the ports. If you are on an official Princess tour and the coach is late back the ship will wait for you. This happened on several occasions on this cruise.
As we knew most of the ports very well we opted to do our own thing but I will pass on some thoughts to you, which may be of assistance.
In every port the local tourist authorities had small tourism stands manned by local people with a wealth of knowledge of the area. They all had lots of brochures to hand out and I was most impress with the way they all tried to help everyone.
You will be asked to take photo ID and your Princess cruise card with you whenever you disembark the ship in any port. You will need to show both to get back on board the ship.
Arrival into Wellington is quite spectacular with the city appearing at the front of the ship as you sail in. As quite often happens in Wellington it was wet and we opted to have a look around the town. There is plenty to do there and I really donít think a tour there is necessary. You can get a free shuttle to the city centre or if you are feeling energetic you can undertake a 15-20 minute walk from the ship to the Railway station where you can board the yellow circle city busses and tour around the city. These busses come along every 15
minutes or so and you can get a timetable when you get on board. We did a complete city loop, which took about 20 minutes just to get our bearings. It will cost you NZD 6.00 for an all day hop on hop off pass which takes you past many of the important sights in Wellington such as the Te Papa and Maritime museums which are about 1 stop away from each other. Both these museums are excellent and require a few hours to enjoy. You can also get off at the major shopping area, the New Zealand Parliament house and the famous church near the railway station, which is worth a look. You must stop at the Mt Victoria rail car stop where you can take a 15 minute journey to the top of the mountain for a fantastic view of Wellington and the Harbour. Pray that the weather is good. We were lucky as the morning was very wet and murky and we waited till the afternoon when everything cleared away and we had a great view from the top. Spend some time wandering the park reserve at the top of the hill. It is quite beautiful. All of the above will keep you very busy in Wellington.
To get back to the ship again a 15-20 minute walk and I seem to recall someone else in a past review giving a warning to people to make sure they cross over to the right hand side of the road before you reach the rail signals as there is a big bend in the road near the ship and if you stay on the left hand side you will have trouble crossing the road as it is extremely busy and you canít see what is coming. The cars come round the corner at high speed so it is rather dangerous. One gent was almost hit by a car, as he didnít move quickly enough across the road.
You will arrive at the port of Lyttleton which is about a 30 minute coach transfer to the Christchurch city centre costing NZD 6.00 each way. There is plenty to keep you busy in the city of Christchurch without going on a tour to the country side. If you look at the Princess tours you will see an all day train ride on the Trans Alpine Express which you can do from Christchurch. Indeed Christchurch is a beautiful city settled originally by the English and one of my favourites in this part of the world. This is a very difficult decision what to do. All I can say is maybe look at the city first time and do the train trip next time you are in Christchurch because I am sure you will be back again.
If you decide to stay in Christchurch there is much to do. Here are some thoughts, which will take up the day. Look at the Cathedral on Cathedral Square right in the town centre where the coach will drop you off, do some shopping at the stores around the Square. Possum and merino lamb cardigans are a very good local buy and a lot of the shops donít mind knocking something off the price for you. Once you have looked at Cathedral Square go down and walk along the Avon River, which is quite beautiful scenery. You will think that you are walking along some of the beautiful rivers in England. You can even go for a punt ride on the river if the weather is acceptable. By now it probably will be time for a drink and we stopped at an English style pub called the Bard on Avon about a 5 minute walk from Cathedral Square. This pub had many English beers on tap as well as Irish Guinness and Murphyís stout. The meals there look excellent, big serves and there were lots of locals drinking there, always a good sign. Extremely friendly service. Next walk or get the circle city tram for a 5 minute tram ride west of the city to the Arts Museum and the General Museum and Botanical Gardens. Absolutely excellent all of them.
You can get a pass on the circle city tram for the day if you donít want to walk around.
If you have time you can get a local bus to the Antarctic centre, which is well worth a look. This museum is about 15 minutes from the city centre out towards the Airport.
On the way back to the ship if you have time it is possible to walk to the local bus depot about 5 minutes/2 streets south of Cathedral Square and get a local bus number 28 to the cable car ride on the top of the Lyttleton hills. This bus leaves about every 30 minutes and the trip takes about 30 minutes. We didnít do this as we ran out of time but will certainly do so next time we are in Christchurch as we were talking to people on the ship who said the view was spectacular looking back to Christchurch and towards the ship. Apparently once you finished the cable car ride they were providing busses to the Lyttleton bus depot and a free transfer from there back to the ship. The cable car ride each way takes about 10 minutes.
You will arrive at the port of Port Chalmers, which is about a 30 minute coach transfer to the Dunedin city centre costing NZD 6.00 each way. You will be dropped off at the Information centre right in the heart of the city at the Octagon. We purchased a city sights tour from the information office. It cost NZD 15.00 per person and lasted for one hour and we were taken around on a double decker bus with an excellent guide. We thought a very good introduction to Dunedin, which was first settled by the Scots. Once that tour was completed we booked another one out to Lanarch Castle and I think this is a very good tour to do because not only does it give you a good look at the castle and the gardens it affords some wonderful views as you travel along the coast on the way there. This tour takes about 2 Ĺ hours and drops you back at the Octagon. Shops are nearby with Lyle and Scot knitwear very good prices here. Back to the ship on the transfer.
The Sapphire Princess weather permitting cruises through the most southerly sound known as Dusky Sound and then enters Doubtful Sound finally arriving at Milford Sound the best known of the Sounds. It rains and you have low cloud approximately 260 days of the year here so you need a good day weatherwise. You can be lucky sometimes we had a perfect day. You do not get off the ship but get a good vantage point and keep the camera clicking. A magnificent part of the world.
Arrival in Hobart is at Constitution Dock about 10 minutes walk to the centre of town past the docks where the Sydney to Hobart yachts arrive. Again there are very good tours of the city for AUD 15.00 hop on hop off similar to Wellington. Tickets for these tours can be purchased from the information office one block past Constitution dock on the main street about 10 minutes walk from the ship. We decided to book at tour to the top of Mount Wellington, which left at 12 noon and cost AUD 22.00 per person. In the meantime we went for a walk past Salamanca Place, which is a mecca for shopping and very near the information centre. From there we walked through Battery Point through a couple of beautiful parks then back to do the tour. The weather was excellent and the view from the top of the mountain was superb. After the tour a quick walk around the city and then back to the ship. We like walking as much as possible because it helps to get rid of the bulge. You all know what I mean. Leaves a little bit of room for tea that night.
The ship docks at Station Pier the port for Melbourne, which is a little way out of town. Again you have a choice of doing your own thing or taking tours. If you want to travel around on your own there is plenty to do. We would suggest you get off the ship and walk to the end of the pier near where the tram stop is. Purchase a metro pass costing AUD 5.00 per person, which allows you unlimited travel on the busses, trams and trains around Melbourne for the whole day. It will take you about 20 minutes to travel into the centre of Melbourne on tram 109. On your return to ship look again for tram 109 to Port Melbourne. About 2 stops before reaching the Collins Street - Elizabeth Street stop which is in the centre of the city you must get off the tram and go to the top of the Realto tower for a great orientation view of Melbourne. You then must visit the famous Victoria markets about 3 stops from the centre of the city. Melbourne is a city of Parks and Gardens so a walk through Fitzroy Gardens is a must. St Kilda to the south a busy cafť scene is worth a look as is Lygon Street to the north a mecca for restaurants and the cafť society. We are very familiar with Melbourne so walking around is fine for us but for someone new to Melbourne We might suggest a tour to the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong ranges where you can ride on the steam train ďPuffing BillyĒ This is a great trip.
Getting off the ship at Sydney was very simple. Immigration was completed in Hobart when we first arrived at an Australian port and in Customs were very
efficient Sydney. Groups of people doing different things were colour coded. We were off the ship in 20 minutes and on our way to the airport for the short flight home. We would recommend the Princess Airport transfers in Sydney which only cost USD 24.00 per person and was quick and efficient. The taxis or shuttles are not that much cheaper.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Sapphire Princess and are now thinking about our next cruises, possibly Baltic and Northern Trans Atlantic later this year. We will be looking for reports from other people who have done these cruises.
Special praise for the Cruise Director Alistair Greener and his Assistant Frankie together with the rest of the staff who performed beyond expectations. Special praise also for all the people who keep the ship spotlessly clean. Cleaning goes on around the clock 24 hours a day.
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