Donna & Gary Brooks, Customised Itinerary for Brooks Party, Travelled on 12 February 2014
—Fine Tours NZ also provides a lot of added value in terms of information, tools and support
We had a wonderful 23-day trip around New Zealand, and really appreciated Michelle’s assistance in organizing everything for us, particularly as we were a bit last-minute in getting it booked, so weren’t up to the task of trying to do it all ourselves.
Fine Tours NZ also provides a lot of added value in terms of information, tools and support; I’m glad we used them and would recommend to others, even if you usually make your own arrangements as we do.
The website was very helpful in identifying our interests and desired activities, and is a brilliant way to get started. We were able to customize our itinerary and in most cases went with the accommodations suggested by Michelle, with only a couple of modifications based on our research.
We were very pleased with everywhere we stayed; as promised on the website, they were all in good locations which I think is key. The Bolton in Wellington was the most out of the way, being a good walk to most of the restaurants and waterfront, but only by a few blocks – and it was a lovely hotel. Our favorite was Fletcher Lodge in Dunedin. Generally, Michelle understood what sort of accommodations we were looking for and was able to quickly recommend and book what we wanted, saving us hours of effort. Detailed reviews for each property are on Trip Advisor.
We pre-booked activities for the first couple days of our trip, which was great as we didn’t have to think about it. The wine tour was perfect, and we got very lucky with the weather for our day at Milford Sound. A fellow passenger said she’d spent a lot of time researching all the tour companies that go to Milford before picking this one; I felt fortunate we were able to rely on FTNZ to do all that for us!
At the other end of our trip, we didn’t pre-book the Americas Cup sail in Auckland, as we wanted to be flexible regarding the weather, which turned out to be a good idea since it was so windy that it was cancelled the first two days we were there.
Being met at the airport on arrival in Queenstown, with a bag full of materials for our trip, was a great way to start. The full-color road atlas was wonderful, and so helpful as we were driving around the country, even more than the bound copy of our itinerary and driving instructions for each leg of the trip. Having all the brochures about the cities we were visiting, and the cuisine guide, was also a nice touch.
The provided cell phone with airtime credit was also good to have, as we were able to give an emergency contact number to our family before we left (although thankfully no one used it!) and it was handy for making local calls – or if we’d needed to call back to the US, at the same rate as local calls, surprisingly. I did bring an unlocked smartphone and bought a NZ SIM card so we would have internet access, which I highly recommend – for only $20 I was able to check maps and other info while we were driving, as well as access e-mail, even when WiFi was unavailable or not working well (our one frustration with New Zealand).
The Kruse Travel Guide GPS system is a great idea, although the technology seems to be in need of an update. Our first unit was almost unusable as the touchscreen was going bad. I called Michelle (thanks again for the phone!) and she immediately arranged to have a replacement unit sent to our next destination – great customer service, and so nice to have that kind of support. The second unit was much better.
As a GPS, it is a very rudimentary system, lacking many of the features one might be accustomed to, such as the ability to see an overview of the route, time/distance to destination, or save addresses. And sometimes it seemed to be sending us in a questionable or wrong direction – heading from Queenstown to Dunedin, I questioned a turn and checked Google Maps, then we stopped to ask a local and she turned us around and pointed us back in the direction Google Maps indicated, rather than continuing to follow the Kruse directions. Perhaps we would have gotten there eventually but it seemed like a much longer backroad route.
Most of the time, however, it was very useful, and certainly much better than not having a GPS – I would just recommend supplementing it with printed maps and/or a smartphone to be sure. And the travel guide commentary was a unique and special benefit; it really added to our overall experience to listen to bits of local history and Maori legends as we drove.
—Donna & Gary Brooks, USA
12 February 2014