We were on the Mercury 1/20 Syd-Auk cruise and had a great time. It's hard to know where to start as far as input, there is so much. If you have questions I will be glad to answer them.
I will say the weather was more like summer in Alaska. We knew that ahead of time and dressed in layers. When are you going? If you do the land tour beforehand, it WILL be HOT and buggy. Tablemates took the land tour and told us all about it. We weren't quite ready to shell out as much as the cruise for the land tour and are glad we didn't.
We flew in a day early to a very cool, rainy Sydney, but it was still a lot better than Ohio with below zero temps, lol. I would not try to fly in any later than the day before boarding. Flight delays and cancellations are the norm and aome of my fellow pax missed the flight from CA and came in a day later. Some were lucky to get to the ship before it sailed. I wish we had come in even earlier to see more of Syd. We stayed two extra days in Auk., touring with someone we knew on the full day, 2/4. the Hilton auk. is actually connected to the pier and just a short walk to the entrance. We used a free luggage trolley and left it in the lobby while checking in. The bags were in our room by 1:00. In the meantime we took a harbor cruise on a sailing ship and walked around a bit. There is a lot to see and do within walking distance and a "food court' of sorts on the harbor where the sailing ship docks.
I'll check back for any questions you may have.
We are booked on the Millennium for the cruise that leaves from Auckland on Nov 23 and disembarks in Sydney on Dec 7. Is yours the Dec 7 out of Sydney? If later, maybe I'll have time to communicate our experience to you. Have you booked any hotels in Sydney or Auckland yet? We have our Auckland hotel, but have not decided on one for Sydney yet. Would like to hear of any recommendations. We will be in Sydney for two days prior to coming home. Hope the Millennium has all her past propulsion problems resolved.
We stayed in Hiltons in both Syd and Auk and were very happy with them.
TA tried to get us into the Crowne Plaza in Aukland last March and it was already full. She discovered that if she booked us into the Auk. Hilton on our own, it was a lot cheaper than booking with Celebrity. The only difference is breakfast was not included. We took the Super Shuttle to the airport and it was only $29 for two. I'm sure the X shuttle was a lot more.
We are booked into the Crowne Plaza in Auckland. We will look at the Hilton in Sydney. Thanks! Was the Super Shuttle transportation to the airport from the ship or the hotel? We will need transportation in Auckland from the airport to the hotel and then from the hotel to the ship. In Sydney.. from the ship to the hotel... then to the airport. We were thinking of just doing a cab, but will look into the shuttle where available.
The hotel concierge told us that there is a super shuttle for $30 (actually it was $29) and the discount cab for $35, both prices for two. He ordered the shuttle for us to the airport from the Hilton Aukland. It would probably be available from or to anywhere. Friends from the cruise, who stayed at another hotel took one, too. It will come when you want it and is not on a certain schedule. Ours had made other stops before it got to us and went to a private home for one other person.
We had been told it was $60 for a cab to the airport from the ship, so we were pleasantly surprised to find out the cheaper alternatives.
A lot of people did the Aukland Highlights excursion and were taken to the airport or downtown afterward. Our friends at the other hotel did that and took a cab to their hotel. We really like the fact that the Hilton Aukland was right there and we didn't need any transpo.
The Sydney Hilton had an X rep working there to coordinate everything. You could probably book the cruiseline shuttle. There were a lot of people from our cruise and those coming off staying there. Our TA booked us in Sydney through X, so the transfer was included.
The exchange rate was good, unlike what it is everywhere else. I bought $150 AUT for $145 US from AAA before we left. I got NZ dollars on the ship. I don't remember what it was the first time, but the second time I paid $150 US for $180 NZ.
Be sure to get your Australian visa. You can do it online or have your TA do it for you and it won't cost anything. We didn't need the printouts I brought because the airline had already checked everyone booked on our flight from S. Fran. before we boarded. The only ones being checked at the time of boarding were the stand-bys.
NZ doesn't require a visa, but makes you pay a departure tax of $25 pp before you can leave on your flight.
They are also VERY diligent about the quarantine laws--bringing any food, seeds, etc, in or out of the country. They have sniffer dogs at every port checking everyone's purses, tote bags and backpacks as you leave the ship. You also have to carry a government issue ID. An official came on board our excursion buses every time and looked at our SeaPasses and IDs.
Photocopies of your passport are not accepted. We used our driver's licenses and kept the passports locked in the cabin safe.
These rules were published in every Daily, announced by the CD after each show and on the PA every few minutes every port morning. Still the woman behind me, waiting for our tour to be called, had to run back to her cabin to get her passport when she was told the copy wouldn't do. Shortly after that, a woman was taken out of line when the dog indicated her bag had food--two apples! :eek: Hellooooo!
I don't know if they didn't listen to the announcements or think the rules don't apply to them, lol. I got pulled out even though the dog didn't stop at my backpack. I had nothing illegal and still don't know why he stopped me.
The dogs were at the terminal when we picked up our baggage and at the airport when we had to turn in another quarantine statement before leaving. NZ officials were on the ship between Hobart and Dunedin and we had to turn in a quarantine statement then, too. You were assigned a time according to your deck # and it took two days to process everybody.
We made sure we had enough NZ cash to pay the shuttle and departure tax. The airport will do a charge, but it was easier and quicker to just fork it over. I don't know how it works if you are leaving on the ship. I'll see if I can find out.
I had looked at an unescorted tour earlier that started in Auckland, then down to the south island. This tour was by coach, with 3 train trips included. But by the time I calculated the costs, it came out almost $4000 more than the Celebrity cruise. Also, some days had coach leaving at 7:30 AM, and arriving at hotel about 6PM.
Now the Celebrity cruise includes Sydney and Melbourne in Australia and about the only thing missing are the train trips! We had our fill of train travel in 2000 when we traveled from Beijing to Mongolia, then Siberia, Moscow and St. Petersburg.
And every night we will havea great dinner and entertainment!
We discovered that breakfast is free if you book through the cruiseline, or at least through X. We booked with X at the Hilton Sydney (our names were highlighted on her list), but not at the Hilton Aukland. The hostess consulted her list and we were not highlighted, so we had to pay for breakfast. We chose the buffet because it was cheaper, $18 instead of 20+ from the menu. :eek: According to our TA, the savings in booking us on our own far outweighed the price of breakfast.
When we ate off the ship, except for the excursions, the food was very $$$. But as a rule, there is no tipping in either country, which saves a little.
We started out tipping the tour guides, but noticed most others didn't and there was no mention of it, so we didn't tip after that.
The food we got on our excursions was very good and we didn't have to find a place to eat.