Hello to all, we are booked for this trip, after being on waitlist for months. We have a few days to make a decision and would love to hear all of the great things and a few not so great things about this trip. First Time to NZ. Thanks in advance.
Next year will be the first time that this trip is offered, so I doubt that anyone can share experiences. However, I did the Grand Australia and New Zealand trip last fall, and absolutely fell in love with New Zealand. As soon as I got word that there was another Tauck trip to New Zealand, I signed up to go (but it won't be until next fall). The scenery is gorgeous and the Maori history is fascinating. We were fortunate enough to have a Tour Director who is half Maori. If you can take a couple of extra days, you might think about going on your own to Wellington, where there is a fabulous national (not natural) history museum, Te Papa Tongarewa. Wellington itself, the capital, is a cute, compact city. Extend your trip to take a day trip from Auckland to the Bay of Islands, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. (You can probably tell that I love history!)
I did the same trip as MCD 3-4 years ago and I think we had the same TD (Nigel?)
Having done that trip, I'm not keen on this trip's itinerary. On the north island, as MCD said, the national museum in Wellington is outstanding, but Wellington is not included. We also went to Rotorua which included a Maori cultural site + a hot springs, geysers and boiling mud pits natural wonder, like a mini-Yellowstone. Auckland is a real dud for tourists with nothing to see.
On the south island, we didn't do Christchruch because it was still rubble from the last earthquake, so can't comment there. We did spend a few nights in Te Anau and the surrounding area was very worthwhile.
Personally, if I were going that far to that part of the world, I'd do the combined Australia/NZ trip. I guess it depends on your personal preferences. Living in Colorado, I'm not as wowed by mountains as flatlanders. Paraphrasing Sarah Palin (but true in my case), "I can see Pikes Peak out my window." :-)
BKMD -- Our Tour Director was named Miles.
OK, now that you mention it, it was Miles. Not sure where I got Nigel from, though it has been several years and a number of tours later. Big guy, very affable, shaved head, a little hard to understand at times with his Kiwi accent...
We were on the Spotlight to New Zealand Trip in February, 2018. We started in Wellington and ended in Auckland. Other than the museum in Wellington, we wondered why the trip started there. Our hotel in Wellington was not up to Tauck standards. It was old and tired and the room was very dated. The museum in Wellington was interesting, but the Tauck group was not kept separate from the many others visiting the museum. Crowds of people were there mixing in with our group, and the guides did little to focus on our group. We couldn't hear the guides and people were wheeling baby strollers through our group. We made the decision to leave the museum because the conditions of this tour weren't worth staying there. We tried to find our TD, but she was nowhere to be seen. Tauck was not going to Christchurch at that time because of the damages from the earthquake.
The biggest negative of this trip was the our Tour Director. She was late for the Welcome Dinner, where Tauck guests served themselves their own drinks, and things went downhill from there. She did improve slightly after the first 3 days of the trip (after people complained), but she definitely wasn't up to Tauck standards. She had problems managing the group, and many of our dinners together were chaotic, with guests being served the wrong meals, along with the switching of plates. There were some Tauck first timers on this trip and they kept asking: Is this what a Tauck Tour is like? We assured them it wasn't, but many guests were dissatisfied with the whole experience.
We loved New Zealand, but unfortunately this was the one Tauck Tour we have taken that we would not recommend to others. We didn't spend any time learning about the Maori Culture, but luckily we had booked a private Maori Culture tour after the Tauck Tour was over. We did see a Maori dance performance at a museum, but we were given very little background information on the culture. The flights and the helicopter trip were great, but the performance of our TD kept impacting this trip.
This was our 4th Tauck Trip, and all of our other Tauck Trips have been wonderful! We see that this trip has been changed since we went...hopefully things have improved. We did contact Tauck when we returned home and they were responsive to us.
We took the Spotlight tour a few years ago. We arrived in Wellington two days early, went to Zeelandia on our own which was one of the highlights of our tour. Also saw an excellently play at the theatre. We also took a thorough tour of the museum on our own because we knew the Tauck guided tour would only skim the surface. I think Wellington was where you could take the Lord of Rings tours from, not our thing. There was a lovely restaurant near the hotel, we chatted to locals there and had fun. The hotel was probably the same as you stayed in. Before the tour began, the staff were indifferent to us, when the tour began, they were totally different, better service and attitude, say no more.We went to Rotorua with Tauck at that time, when I looked at new ship cruise, it was Ok, not perfect. I would go to NZ in a heartbeat again. Also, Queenstown was a favorite, too difficult to look up tours to check on the iPad, Tauck told me there were problems with the iPad app and to use a computer to look up tours.
We did Spotlight on Australia separately. Although it’s two long flights, we went Premium economy. Went to Australia in their winter. Too hot for us in summer. Went to NZ in their summer, perfect. Extended beginning and ends of both tours so saws more of those four cities.
I still prefer land tours over sea or river tours. The bus rides on the land tour of NZ were wonderful. Can’t imagine missing those being stuck on a boat. NZ is safe to go round at night too.
Tauck is not using the "tired" hotel in Wellington next year on its Grand Australia and NZ tour. I agree that there was not a whole lot that was appealing in Auckland itself, but there are several day trips outside the city that you can take on your own after the tour ends, including the Bay of Islands that I mentioned, Rotorua (which I also did on my own) and Hobbiton and the Waitomo glow worm caves (the last two of which I did not do). The new NZ tour includes a choice of trips from Auckland, including to Waiheke Island (where we went on the Grand Australia and New Zealand tour) or Hobbiton or the glow worm caves of Waitomo. Most of us on my tour last year went to the glow worm caves on our own in TeAnau. It was an interesting experience, and I'm glad I did it, but I don't need to do it again. I enjoyed our trip to Waiheke and our lunch at Mudbrick Vineyards there, though it does not appear that lunch there is included on this new NZ tour.