Our Cruise Excursion was titled: Multi-day Adventures -- Queenstown – Dunedin/Milford
This excursion would better be titled: “Fiordland National Park, World Heritage Excursion.” This is the destination that matters and what justifies taking two days off our extraordinary ship. It’s all about doing the stunning drive through the soaring mountains and valleys on the west side of the South Island. Before deciding to do this, there are things to consider that I have not seen in other reviews. First, you should understand the “big picture” logistically to help set your expectations. This is a two-day excursion for one key reason: it is all about getting to the Queenstown hotel so that you are positioned, on the next morning, for “the main event,” the drive through this spectacular park. The “activity level” is described as moderate, which is fair enough; it is the endurance that requires a bit of stamina. This is a very long day as you leave the ship at Dunedin at 7am and do not end things, if you follow the full plan, until after midnight. Many in our group found the excursion quite extended and taxing. The trip from Dunedin to Queenstown is very well narrated and quite interesting in its own right. When you arrive at Queenstown, you check into your hotel around 5pm and are invited to go off and see the town on your own for a few hours. Then you board a steamship “TSS Earnslaw” at about 8pm and cross Lake Wakatipu taking about 50 minutes to arrive at a “gourmet BBQ dinner” followed by a sheep shearing & sheep dog herding demonstration. I would recommend skipping it all after check-in and just enjoy the evening, on your own, at the hotel. The steamship, which is over 100 years old, was okay but was “touristy” and the sheep events are certainly characteristic of New Zealand, but not uniquely New Zealand, like the rest of the overland tour is. The second day started at the hotel about 9am and ended with re-boarding our cruise ship at about 5pm in Milford Sound. This was the drive was through the World-Heritage-listed Fiordland National Park with stunning beauty that must be seen. Whatever you may have been told, it is difficult to overstate descriptions of this wonderful park. Photography just does not capture this (but, of course, take pictures anyway). Towering peaks, plunging valleys and many hanging glaciers are just a sampling of the sights. Finally, to be considered for your decision to take this trip, there are other “costs,” beyond the excursion fee. These include that you miss what the ship is doing while you are away for two days, which, for us, included cruising the Fjords of Dusky & Doubtful Sounds. So, you miss the days and meals on the ship, which, of course, you also paid for but are now redundant. The “gourmet” meal on the excursion was nice but not nicer that what the ship offers with better trained staff. The final opportunity cost is whatever other one-day excursion, out and back from Dunedin, you might have experienced otherwise. The bottom line is that there is really no other way to see these incredible sights without making a separate journey to New Zealand and I was delighted to have the experience.
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