—Fine Tours New Zealand was very responsive to our requests, questions, suggestions ...
“Fine Tours New Zealand made recommendations and reservations for lodging, car rental, and four tourist activities during our month-long visit to New Zealand. We used one of their “standard” tours as a baseline and, working with their agent, customized it to our schedule and preferences, ending up with a clockwise tour of both islands. Fine Tours New Zealand was very responsive to our requests, questions, suggestions for changes, and various adjustments until we agreed on the final itinerary. This was our first visit to that country. We arranged our own air transportation to and from Washington DC to Auckland, the details of our daily activities, and several tourist activities. We are relatively experienced, older, retired, and reasonably active travelers. We typically make our complete itineraries (flights, car rentals, hotel reservations, activities), enjoy cultural activities, and try to exercise (walk or brief hikes). We have used travel agencies or been with small tour groups for visits to Greece, Morocco, Peru, Turkey, and Egypt. We chose Fine Tours New Zealand based on recommendations from their web site and because we did not feel we had the time to investigate and make lodging arrangements. We enjoyed our visit VERY much and would recommend using FineTours for making hotel, car, and itinerary arrangements.OBSERVATIONS We liked visiting New Zealand and having almost a complete month for travel there. The weather in February/March was temperate and nearly perfect for tourists as we had only one cloudy day and barely a sprinkle on another. (An anomalous experience -- there is usually abundant rain in New Zealand; the country was experiencing a severe drought during our visit.) The people are very friendly; practically every town has its own iSite for tourist information as well as well-identified public toilets. The country is very clean. There is a plethora of printed tourist material everywhere -- maps, accommodation brochures, flyers for attractions. We were able to use our credit card for most payments. There are no charges to go to the national parks or reserves. The brochures, atlas, GPS device, detailed itinerary, and reservation coupons provided by Fine Tours New Zealand had mixed utility. As we had independently worked out, printed, and brought our own detailed itinerary based on theirs and a NZ Rough Guide, their detailed itinerary was of little additional use during the trip. The GPS (see below) and the itinerary’s directions were not helpful. For daily use, we followed local maps provided by the iSites for both Islands. The brochures were most helpful in providing maps for larger areas such as Wellington, Auckland, and Picton. As we traveled, we discarded ones for the places already visited. We provided the reservation coupons as required. Ultimately, we only returned home with the atlas. It was convenient to have the lodgings selected and paid for in advance. Had we known better, we would not have included the breakfasts at the hotels because the frequent buffets were usually much more substantial than we needed, and, in contrast, the occasional “continental” breakfasts in our rooms seemed meager. Local cafes and bake shops are everywhere, and going to them would have offered more choice and been a little more interesting. For the most part, the lodgings fell into the “3-4-star European standards” category we prefer. (Detailed comments for all but one lodging are on TripAdvisor under ERNTravels.) Two were really well below our standards and not recommended. Many of the rooms included kitchenettes and separate living area. Almost all the hotels have guest laundry facilities -- coin-operated, and sometimes "free" -- making it very easy to pack light and keep clothing washed. Most hotels charge for internet access, particularly in the rooms. The car rental arrangements through Europcar were easy to navigate. We had little trouble adjusting to driving on the left side of the road, helped in part by having automatic transmissions. We made sure that we bought fuel regularly as some drives were long with few service stations. It's hard to imagine seeing New Zealand without a car, which allowed us to stop for activities, hikes, wine tastings or sheep on the roads. While the distances are not always long, the 2-lane roads are VERY windy. Overall, traffic is very light. The Kruse (sic) GPS was primitive, at best, by comparison to European and American standards. On several occasions, the directions were incorrect or difficult – getting us on one lane, unpaved back roads in order to get us back to a main road, for example. The display did not show the names of the towns through which we were traveling and did not show nearby service stations or other businesses. The displayed distances showed the kilometers to the next intersection or turning point, not the distance to the final destination. Recorded commentary on the GPS about various sites as we drove through them, triggered by location, was variably interesting; the background music surrounding the commentaries was often annoying. We ultimately disconnected and did not use the GPS. The cell phone was useful on several occasions when we were running late to our B&Bs and for confirming tourist activities in advance, as required. Otherwise, we did not use the phone. We found food to be more expensive than expected and generally good. Most menus are fairly standard. The green-lipped mussels, lamb, and venison were very good. We usually had one small dinner in addition to the breakfasts. For examples, bread is an extra charge, and restaurant desserts seemed to cost between $10 - $16. On some evenings, we picnicked in our room with provisions from local grocery stores. New Zealanders like their coffee filtered and very strong. Sometimes tips are included, and sometimes no tip is expected. Wine tastings at vineyards are inexpensive, but wine itself is generally not. Sandflies are horrible pests, prevalent in rain-prone areas of the South Island. Milford Sound is notorious for them. They carry no diseases, but their painful bites cause nasty welts for days. A tourist must be prepared with insect repellent to cover any exposed areas. We hope you have as wonderful a visit as we did! ”
—Elizabeth & Michael Nigro, USA
—Will not hesitate to recommend your company to anyone.
“Have just returned from a wonderful trip that was so well planned in all details. From lodging to car rental, cellphone and GPS. Will not hesitate to recommend your company to anyone. Thank you so much.”
—Karin Rosenstrom & Jeanine Shea, USA
—Did an excellent job of putting us in ... great spots for bird and wildlife watching
“We had a wonderful time touring as much of New Zealand as we could pack into 18 days. We were very pleased with all of our accommodations and other tour arrangements. I love maps so I was pleasantly surprised at the very nice atlas we were provided as well as all of the day by day directions and detail maps. With the atlas in hand and the GPS we were able to explore all sorts of places we may have passed by otherwise. My wife and I also really enjoyed the Cruse GPS as we were able to learn all sorts of things we would not have otherwise discovered. We told Nicky during the planning stage that what we really wanted to experience was the natural beauty of New Zealand as well as do some birding and other wildlife watching. Our itinerary did an excellent job of putting us in some really great spots for bird and wildlife watching with the highlights being the albatrosses, penguins, parrots, and kiwi. (We did cheat a little on the kiwi as we saw them at the Mount Bruce wildlife center.) The natural beauty on the other hand just seemed to be everywhere! One thing that we really enjoyed that you can't get from pictures or even from the tour book is how wonderful the people in New Zealand are - everyone we met was just happy, obviously proud of their country, out of their way helpful, and above all just really interesting to talk to. Our accommodations were all exceptional so I hesitate to single one out as better than the rest, but I will mention two that we really didn't want to leave - the Lambton Heights B&B in Wellington and the Kaimata Lodge near Dunedin. We really hope to return sometime for more adventures!”
—John & Katherine Gordon, USA
—We got only the best impressions from the trip.
“Trip to New Zealand from 04.01.2012. – 31.01.2012. Trip from north to south island, self-drive Vita, Aivars – Latvia, Europe First of all, we’d like to thank David and Cary, and Angela for planning our trip. Our first trip to New Zealand - North Island was in year 2008 for five days. At the time we got know David, Cary and the company "Fine Tour New Zealand”. Then they made such a nice trip for us, that we choose them and "Fine Tour New Zealand” once again. This time we wanted a longer trip - travel to the North and South island and Stuart Island too. We got only the best impressions from the trip. First time in our lives we drove a car, which wheel was in the right side. We didn`t have any problems, only the first day – we tried to switch on the turn signal, but got window washers instead! Ha ha ha! That was funny. We have traveled a lot in Europe and hotels in New Zealand were surprise for us. If in Europe there are breakfast and simple apartment for two people, then in New Zealand apartments are more like flats with all utilities: lux kitchens, washer, coffee and tee automat etc. At the first we didn’t like that there isn’t any breakfast in the mornings, but at the end of our trip we changed our mind and we liked it very much. We could buy our own food and make breakfast whenever we wanted and sometimes even eat in bed. That was really nice. Traveling we made an opinion, that New Zealand contains characteristics from the entire world. There are tropical places: palms, nice beaches like at the Mediterranean Sea. There are mountains like in the Alps and volcanoes like other places in the world. There are steppes like in Russia. There are glaciers like in the Alps and other mountains. There are fjords like in Norway. There are very big plains and a lot of other things. Ou.. and many, many sheep, we liked them so much! Another surprise was traffic. There were so few cars on the road. We drove protractedly and met just a few cars. That was unusual if we compare with traffic in Europe. In internet forums we have read that New Zealand and rain is the same. We prepared for rainy time, but mostly we had a sun. That was lucky. We couth the sun both Milford Sound, and Stewart Island, and Franz Josef Glacier, and Mt. Cook. All these day we had luck with the sun. We were happy about that. The only day, when we had a rain, was a day when we went to distal north point, to Cape Reinga. We were in all furthest points in New Zealand, except the east. In New Zealand are very beautiful and interesting flora and fauna. Two birds we liked very much – Veka, which is very similar our chicken only without wings and always has a good appetite, and Kakapo, which is more like parrot and liked nuts. We were upset, when saw a Christchurch center. It was completely damaged and confined area. Most of all we liked National Park of Abel Tasman and Chalets, where we lived. Bays and sun, beaches, amazing nature and hike to one lounge where we had a really delicious meal and had one of the most delicious wine in New Zealand. Once more we want say thank you very much to „Fine Tour New Zealand” and David un his wife Cary and Angela. We advise them to all travelers.”
—Aivars Valainis & Vita Berzkalne, LVA
—We really enjoyed the peacefulness and cleanliness of this beautiful country.
“This is second time that My family and i have visited New Zealand. We really enjoyed the peacefulness and cleanliness of this beautiful country. The water in the lake is so clear and the air is so fresh. The only one thing that I think need some improvement is the wireless communication system. Should be made readily available at all motels or hotels. Upgrade the communication system will be a plus to New Zealand in today world.”
—Ben Soh and family, SGP
—No hesitation in recommending Fine Tours to help in the planning your trip of a lifetime.
“From the moment we were greeted on arrival at Auckland airport until our departure from Christchurch three weeks later your arrangements were impeccable. With a lot of miles to get through the bound itinerary was invaluable in providing us with the information we needed to get from A to B with points of interest to view on the way, but with enough flexibility to allow us to 'do our own thing'. No complaints at all about the choice of accommodation. A couple of rooms were looking a bit tired, as places were undergoing refurbishment, but some of the most delightful hotels we've ever stayed in with very comfortable beds! It was great to meet Angela who had coordinated all of the arrangements for us when dropped by your office in Wanaka. I only wish the view from my office window was the same as yours - I've got Didcot power station rather than lakes and mountains! New Zealand is a very beautiful country with amazingly friendly people. I have no hesitation in recommending Fine Tours to help in the planning your trip of a lifetime.”
—Neil & Julie Fraser, GBR
—Thank You very Much Fine Tours NZ. This was truly a great way to travel.
“Firstly thank you very much for all the wonderful memories and excellent holiday that you fine tours nz have helped us to achieve. Charlotte and myself could not believe just how beautiful our country is. And to see it through such lavish accomodation that you booked for us. Made it that more special. Every hotel we stayed in. We couldn't believe it we didn't have to lift a finger. We truly felt like we were on holiday. Each accomodation showed us such great respect in every way. The food we had whilst on holiday was so nice. The rental car you's organised for us. Perfect. It was cheap on petrol. It was very economical. Each destination just seemed to get better and better. We are definitely going to go through fine tours nz again when we book us another holiday, and we hope our family and friends do too. They would be silly not to. Anyone would.The George Hotel was one of our favourites we loved it there. The entire atmosphere was great. The Tranz Scenic train ride was a nice relaxing ride great scenery. Franz Joseph the Scenic hotel wow the veiw from our room was amazing. Queenstown and the Heritage hotel. Lovely hotel lovely veiws.The night on the navigator on Doubtful sounds we loved it. There we saw Dolphins for the first time, so that was special. Mount Cook the Hermitage. Spectacular This place is so nice. We want to go back there. And Kaikoura the Hapuku Lodge. If anyone reads this. You have to stay there. This was our favourite place of all. Everything about this lodgeis breath taking. I could go on and on about Hapuku Lodge. Thank You very Much Fine Tours NZ. You's are a truly great way to travel. Sonny and Charlotte Pikari Auckland NZ”
—Sonny Pikari and Charlotte Pickery, NZL
—Next time we visit the real middle earth we will not hesitate to book again with you.
“Hi Kerry. Thanks for our fine tour! The motels were well suited to our needs. The weather was cooperative, and we were able to see the sights everywhere we stayed. Of course, the drive itself was spectacular. We could have spent months without running out of places to go and sights to see. I was gratified to see the model triple expansion steam engine I donated to the Earnslaw displayed on the ship. The next time we visit the real middle earth we will not hesitate to book again with you.”
—Tom & Margaret Pearce, USA
—This trip arrangement was a relax one where we have more time
“Thanks to Nicky for the NZ itenary arrangement. Me & my friends really enjoyed the trip. It was amazed to be back after 18 years for me while my frined is her first trip. This trip arrangement was a relax one where we have more time to explore from one place to another place and not have to drive daily. the Kruse GPS is amazing. During the whole journey, we are being brief on every town that we cross by. The Kruse documentary not only gave us information about NZ and the people but also the tourist attraction places where some of it is not in the map. I would encourage tourist to subcribe to Kruse if they have the chance to visit NZ. Franz Josef Glacier is really facinating. Exploring at the top of the glacier really an unforgetable experienc. Overall it is a worth holiday and hope we can come back to explore the north island.”
—Fariza Binti Kassim & Eshah Binti Othman, MYS
—Everything was organized very well and absolutely no problems occurred
“Thank-you to Fine Tours for my custom trip through both the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Everything was organized very well and absolutely no problems occurred while I vacationed in New Zealand from May 13-31st. Although some of the hotel rooms were of below average caliber, all rooms were clean and tidy. I quite enjoyed using the Kruse system and learning about the history and culture of your country. All side excursions were well thought out and definitely were a "must do". It was a pleasure to deal with Angela in preparing this trip and she was fast/courteous/helpful with any questions I had. I would definitely book another trip through Fine Tours if the opportunity presents itself in the future. Thank-you.”
—Lloyd Dolha, CAN