Due to our age, my wife and I wanted to plan and experience a "once-in-a-lifetime" vacation while we are still able to enjoy it. We started by contacting Zicasso in early March 2013 if I remember correctly. 2 companies responded. A co-owner of a competing company responded, made many promises, and failed to meet any of those commitments or demonstrate the common courtesy of indicating by email she apparently didn't want our business. Then, an agent with another Australia travel company responded, planned and executed the perfect "once-in-a-lifetime" vacation for us. We returned late last Friday evening. Today, the following Thursday, my wife and I agreed we had finally recovered from the exhausting and thoroughly enjoyable 34 day trip!
Our vacation involved traveling to Australia (Cairns, Ayer's Rock, Alice Springs, Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne), New Zealand (Christchurch, Franz Josef, Queenstown, Christchurch, Picton, Wellington, Rotorua, Paihia during cyclone Lusi, and Auckland) and Fiji (The Outrigger On The Lagoon Resort) over a 34 day period.
5 years ago we had spent 10 days in New Zealand and that made it a little more difficult for our agent to plan that portion of the trip. Some things we wanted to experience again and others we didn't. She did a magnificent job in meeting our desires to return to certain areas, repeat certain experiences, to offer new exciting experiences in those same areas and provided some new experiences in different locations in New Zealand.
We experienced a lot of 13 hour days and had an incredibly enjoyable time.
In Australia we traveled by air, bus, ferry and boat.
I was somewhat apprehensive about traveling by ferry, bus and train throughout the entire New Zealand portion of the trip but it turned out to be an incredibly enjoyable method of seeing New Zealand if you have the time! I don't know it could work as well in any other country but it works well in the land of the Kiwi! The railway company even transported our checked bags at Picton to the Interisland Ferry and we picked them up at the baggage carousel in Wellington. One of the buses was a tour bus but most were regularly scheduled intercity buses with locals getting on and off at regular stops.
My wife and I can't imagine that any other company could have planned and executed a better vacation for us!
We will use this travel company again and will request the services of our agent!
How did you find out about Zicasso?
I just Googled Australia/New Zealand trips and found Zicasso. I had looked at several "canned" and guided tours and didn't see what I liked so I decided to see what someone could design for us. It was a great decision!
We took a lot of tours. In fact, the only "free" days we had of the 34 days were 1 day on Wellington and we spent that locating and purchasing replacement luggage for some damaged in travel and 2 days in Fiji.
The "Sounds of Silence" dinner in Ayer's Rock stands out with the host designed multi-national seating at each table for a formal dinner with separate wines for each course coupled with an astronomer guided viewing of the constellations of the Southern Hemisphere. While the food and wines were quite good, sharing it with people from 3 other countries only made it better! We would highly recommend that if you are in the Ayers Rock area, attend this dinner! It makes for a very enjoyable 5 hour evening! Watching the color of Ayer's Rock change in the evening and the sun set behind Kata Tjuda is pretty special too!
The Port Arthur Historic Site and Coastal Wilderness Cruise out of Hobart, Tasmania present some unbelievably beautiful coastal scenery by boat and the Port Arthur Historical site is quite interesting too. This is a 1 day event covering both sites and both present some great, varied photographic opportunities!
Out of Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road tour and the Phillip Island Penguin Parade provided an surprisingly enjoyable times. Take cameras on the Great Ocean Road Tour! The 12 Apostles alone are incredibly beautiful and worth photographing! While you aren't allowed to photograph the Little Penguins, it's well worth the experience to see them come in from the sea as they do each evening!
The Doubtful Sound tour out of Queenstown is quite beautiful and we would recommend it as it presents a lot of beautiful scenery worth photographing.
Hiking into the base of the Franz Josef glacier is not really that difficult and quite enjoyable! I would highly recommend it.
Of all the hotels and resorts that we stayed in, the 58 on Cron Motel in Franz Josef stood out as one of our top 3 most liked accommodations on the entire trip. The rooms were exceptionally clean, well decorated, in good condition and the wife and husband owners/operators who live on site could not be any nicer. We just felt welcome when we stayed there!
Memorable event? Here's a memorable event of a different kind. Arriving in Paihia, Northland, NZ in the dark by bus. Three couples got off and as it happened we were all from the USA. All of the nearby businesses were closed and then cyclone Lusi was starting to come ashore providing us with increasing winds and intermittent rain showers. One wife wandered into the one business open, a caf to ask about how to arrange a cab or shuttle to our hotels. The owner brought around his 2 seater pizza delivery mini-van. One couple at a time, husband and baggage in back, wife in the passenger seat, he drove us to our hotels. I rode in the back of a pizza delivery van on my hands and knees, gratefully I might add and the man refused any form of compensation for transporting us to our accommodations. The next day Lusi caused our 1 day tour to be canceled. That evening Lusi was downgraded to a tropical depression/storm. We managed to eat 3 meals in the generous man's caf over the next 36 hours before we departed Paihia. The generosity of a Kiwi caf owner to 3 US couples will remain in my memory!
Get somebody else to pay for it?
Seriously, it was a hectic pace for 34 days and we enjoyed every minute of it. As we started recovering with 2 days of nothing scheduled in Fiji, I asked my wife if she'd do it again. Her reply? "In a New York minute!"
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