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Milford Sound tour companies

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Los Angeles
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Milford Sound tour companies

Any recommendations on a company that does the Milford Sound tours? I see there are several of them. Is a smaller boat better?

Te Anau
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1. Re: Milford Sound tour companies

There are a number of cruise operators on Milford Sound, and as far as I am aware they all provide a good product. Real Journeys and Southern Discoveries (formerly Red Boats) are the biggest operators,, but there are a numer of smaller operators, including Mitre Peak Cruises, Cruising Milfords, and Roscos Milford Kayaks.

With the exception of Roscos, who obviously run a vastly different operation, the others will provide a very similar experience, albeit with minor marketing differences such as more time spent viewing wildlife, or slightly longer cruise duration. All the cruise boats follow the same route, and in the same direction. (this is for safety reasons), and you will see the same things. The commentary will vary, and the time spent at any particular point of interest will change according to the dictates of the weather, and the whims of the skipper, but generally you will see all there is to see on the Sound.

There are as many opinions on large boats v's small boats as there are passengers on the boats, and most of them are wrong. You enjoyed your small boat cruise, so obviously small boats are better. It was rough, and you were sea sick, so a large boat would have been a better choice. Or the large boat carried 400 passengers, and you had to wait to get to the buffet, while the small boat was almost empty. Darn! , should have chosen the small boat; etc etc.

So to dispel a few myths.

SMALL BOATS CAN GET CLOSER TO THE WILDLIFE.

The small boats do not get closer to the wildlife / scenery/ whatever, than the large boats. The sides of the fiord are vertical, all boats (including cruise ships) can put their bow (or any other part of the boat) right against the rock wall. How much closer do you want to go?

SMALLER BOATS ARE LESS CROWDED.

Small boats are not "less crowded" than a large boat. They carry fewer people, but they are smaller, so the amount of room per passenger is the same. Actually all commercial vessels are surveyed and licensed to carry a maximum number of passengers, and this is determined by the seating area available to each passenger (aprox 18" (450mm), but it's more complex than that.) so when fully laden all boats have the same amount of room per passenger. Since most trips operate at less than maximum capacity, there is usually more room on a larger boat.

YOU GET A MORE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE ON A SMALL BOAT.

It is true that the skipper is often more 'on view' in a smaller boat, but all operators on Milford Sound allow access to the bridge at most times. There are limits to the number at any one time, and it is unlikely that all 400 passengers on a large boat would have a chance to visit the bridge, It is also unlikely, though, that the skipper on a small boat could give personal attention to his 100 passengers either. All boats have sufficient crew and commentators available to fully answer any questons passengers may have.

THE FOODS BETTER ON THE SMALLER BOATS.

Nope!

I LIKE TO SUPPORT THE UNDER DOG.

Now you are getting to the one legitimate reason to chose a small boat. The larger boats are owned by big companies (NZ companies none the less), whereas the smaller boats are mostly owned by a single person, or group of people. They have a personal stake in ensuring that their passengers enjoy themselves, and you may find you get a friendlier welcome on board. Or maybe not. The owner/operator is stuck with who he is, and if he's not a friendly type, there's not much he can do about it, whereas the big companies can select staff for their attitude towards customers, and dismiss them if they don't shape up. Nothing's straight forward in the tourism game.

There is one thing you can be certain of though. Whichever company you decide to go with, and whatever size boat. You will have a fabulous trip. It's an easy choice, because you can't go wrong.

New Zealand
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2. Re: Milford Sound tour companies

Really great summation VBC :)

will have to add this to the top asked questions.

Te Anau
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3. Re: Milford Sound tour companies

Cheers WL. I think I sometimes let my enthusiasm get the better of me :)

South Island
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4. Re: Milford Sound tour companies

I am not sure if any of the smaller boats are owned by a single person, or group of people. Cruize Milford is now owned by Jucy and Mitre Peak has recently sold out to another large company.

Best buffet goes to Real Journeys but avoid the Picnic lunches from all the tour companies because they are not good value for the money.

San Diego
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5. Re: Milford Sound tour companies

If I may jump into OP's posting, I want to also thank VBC for the great sum up. I tried to contact wanakalakes twice to no avail, so after resorting to searching so many daunting threads, I find your (usual helpful NZ'der) information helped a lot.

My remaining question, is: we will be at Milford Sound in late October.

Can we wait until we arrive in Milford Sound to purchase tickets?

Thank you. Vicky

South Island
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6. Re: Milford Sound tour companies

You can purchase tickets for the cruise when you get to Milford Sound. Go to the terminal building when you get to Milford Sound and make your choice from there. The cafe at Milford Sound seems to be run by the red boats and appears to only sell their cruises but you can make your choice from the four different cruise companies if you go into the boat terminal.

Edited: 06 September 2012, 21:49
New Zealand
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7. Re: Milford Sound tour companies

Hi Vicky :)

You can drive to Milford (allow 2.5 hours for the drive from Te Anau) and book a cruise once there.

This thread with VBC's helpful info is in the NZ top questions - the wee FAQ box on the top of the page on the NZ forum.

San Diego
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8. Re: Milford Sound tour companies

Thank you, SouthIsland Bill. It's good not to have to buy ahead of time.

Cheers! Vicky

9. Re: Milford Sound tour companies

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