Dear Shelley, Just wanted to get in touch to thank you for helping organise such a wonderful holiday. Everything proceeded like clockwork. There were so many highlights and I know you rely on feedback to keep informed. Because you did such a great job, I thought that I would therefore go to the trouble of providing you with a report card which is, in part, by way of comparisons between the lodgings we visited. Bear in mind, this is not comparing good with bad but comparing very good with very, very good so I have to mark some places down to 4 stars to leave room for my 5 star ratings!
Day 1 Christchurch. The lady who picked us up was a champion. She sang the praises of your organisation and was very helpful. Accommodation: The George. You arranged an upgrade and The George went one better. They upgraded us further to the Park View Suite – used by the Prime Minister when he visits. What a start to our holiday. Room exceptional – 4.5 stars Dinner: Superb degustation menu with so many lovely interesting extras. 4.5 stars- an exceptional start to our holiday. ( We totally underestimated the extent of the devastation in the City – shattering – made good sense of your recommendation to reverse the order, end in Queenstown and spend the extra day there.)
Day 2 Kaikoura Accommodation: Hapuku Lodge. OMG! We booked the upgrade to the Lodge Suite. Outstanding. Huge. Beautifully appointed. Exceptional bed and pillows. Service very friendly and attentive. Had to be 5 star. Dinner: Outstanding. Pauline chose more wisely than me so I ate much of hers. The house specialty, crayfish, which I chose and paid an extra $85 over the all- inclusive price for was the only slight disappointment. That marginal disappointment was offset by an exceptional breakfast spread. Food overall, 4.5 Would return at the drop of a hat.
Day 3 Arthurs Pass Accommodation: Wilderness Lodge. After the first two high quality destinations, the facilities were of a significantly lesser standard – 3 to 3.5 – showing its 20 years in room design and dimensions when compared to the previous two. However, that did not detract from our enjoyment of the stay at all. The W.L. was not trying to be anything that it was not. The aspect was spectacular and visiting is and opportunity to spend time in a wonderful region. It was a more homely destination and that was reflected in the friendliness of the reception. Michael, the owners son and host, was an absolute delight. We particularly enjoyed his tour of the sheep station and the nature tour the next morning. Food: Sound and in keeping with the style of accommodation – had my best egg ever for breakfast – food overall 3.5 Overall enjoyment factor – 4 to 4.5
Day 4 Franz Josef Accommodation: Te Waonui Forest Retreat. Rooms very smart. Very tastefully and well-designed. Welcome friendly and good advice given. Location of Lodge not as spectacular as many of the others but impossible to fault the rooms, facilities and service – 4 to 4.5 Food: OMG! Look, I don’t know if I was just in the right mood, but I did not eat better on the whole journey of gastronomic delights in NZ. I just may have never eaten better in my life. That’s what I felt compelled to tell the delightful Chef who answered my call for a meeting after the meal. Course after course was just lick-the-plate perfect. The Chef was genuinely thrilled to hear about and discuss the food. We also happened to select our favourite pick of the NZ wines that night – a Kidnappers Cliff Syrah or Cabernet Franc? The whole dining experience had to be a BIG 5! Loved the town and area. Enjoyed the hot pools. One of the highlight stays. Would love to go back.
Day 5 Lake Wanaka Accommodation: Whare Kea Lodge. Yet another OMG moment. The day we arrived was a picture-postcard-perfect day without a cloud in the sky. We drove up to Whare Kea and had the Lodge to ourselves. We were given a lovely welcome and then we took in the location - what can I say? - it was breathtakingly beautiful – absolutely world class. The common area is spectacular. The grounds are fabulous. The rooms are impressive but show some signs of being a little dated compared to some of the other amazing Lodges we stayed at but that is being very picky. I would give the rooms a solid 4 and the common area a 4.5. I would give the location a 5+. Food: Of a very high standard. Beautifully explained and presented. 4.5 Loved the area and township. Only realised that was where you were based after we had moved on – may have looked you up if I had realised that was your town and used the opportunity to tell you how clever you were!
Day 6 Queenstown Accommodation: Matakauri Lodge. In a tight contest of some wonderful Lodges – the outright winner! I believe we were again upgraded and our Lodge was exquisite. Spectacular aspect. Stunning rooms with brilliant designs and features. The welcome and introduction by the Manager was very impressive and the service remained of a high standard. The impression was that your wish was their command. An absolute 5 – world class. Food: Very good. Beautifully explained and presented. 4.5 Would love to have had more time there.
Day 7 Sofitel. A great hotel, great location and they made a special effort with service and help. A couple of the concierge’s were particularly helpful. Trouble was, they were following after the above – impossible acts to follow!
Best Lodge: Matakauri just ahead of Hapuku Best Location: Whare Kea Best Food: Very difficult but the winner is Te Waonui, closely followed by Hapuka in second and with The George, Whare Kea and Matakauri all a very close equal third.
The Grand Overall Oscar: goes to - too hard - I think we will have to come back - do you have similar good options on the North Island? Thanks again for your contribution to a memorable holiday.