Three of us - two from the UK and one from Australia - had been advised by a friend not to miss a cruise on the remote Doubtful Sound even if thatmeant missing Milford Sound, much vaunted as the world's best tourist attraction and apparently sharper but smaller - and overcrowded in peak season, with only short times there normally possible. Overnight on Doubtful was the opposite. Lucky with stunningly peaceful weather while Otago to the east drowned, our overnight cruise with Real Journeys was one of those life-memorable moments you can talk about for ever. Most reviews here I read were much of the same opinion, but I was amazed to read one which said the food was ordinary - the food for us was utterly spectacular, and I found myself talking to friends about that afterwards - even before mentioning the astounding scenery, the mollymawks and albatrosses, the seals in the mild gale at the fjord's mouth, the astonishing 'tree avalanches' marking the vertical mountain sides, and of course the 'Sounds of Silence' switch-off in a quiet bay in the morning. I would suggest that in future they park the boat far away from a waterfall, even though it is a sound of nature - but anyway it was still memorable to hear bird sounds emerging from the forested mountain slopes the more you tuned in. All on board except one irritating French girl stayed utterly quiet as instructed. As for the cruise being 'regimented' and the information routine and pre-processed, I couldn't disagree more: nothing could have been more customised and adaptable, any questions would be answered and there were loads of books about the wildlife etc. The chap Jason who took us out on the tender boat to places underneath the dripping vegetation knew all that stuff, and was even personally studying the geology in detail by drawing his own maps, so that he could talk about it. But all the crew (staff?) were extraordinary multi-taskers - their schedule was an intense one but they were all wonderful. As for the food ('all you can eat' on a grand scale) - did I mention that? The coach trip over the Wilmot Pass, the boat over Lake Manapouri, and the quick look at the hydro power station museum were also of great interest. I forgot to say that I adored the food too - though I couldn't eat half as much as the young chap we got talking to!
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