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“Tacky! Pre-recorded commentary on the boat”

Wilsons Abel Tasman
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Year-round guided and independent walking, guided sea kayaking and water transport in Abel Tasman National Park. Options from 2 hours to 5 days in the Park. Fast, safe comfortable Vista Cruise. Overnight at Torrent Bay Lodge or Meadowbank Homestead – Awaroa on the beachfront within Park boundaries. Ensuite accommodation, fine food, no heavy packs to carry. Travel with multiple NZ Tourism Award winners. Let us take care of the details while you switch off and enjoy.
Hell, Norway
Level Contributor
107 reviews
42 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 323 helpful votes
“Tacky! Pre-recorded commentary on the boat”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 26 November 2013

Along with seemingly every other tour operator in New Zealand, Wilsons charges a lot of money for its services. You'd think that the company -- which prides itself on being a family business (SFW?) -- could shell out for live commentary on its boats. Alas, it's canned - and recorded in a dismal monotone. The pronunciation of "grande plage" is horrendously laughable.

Once, when the boat was going back and forth a little, trying to execute a maneuver, it triggered the same commentary for that particular area three times. I almost know it off by heart. Seals, whales, penguins and unicorns could have passed by the boat, and we'd never have known about it.

My wife and I did "The Great Day Out," which was highly recommended by the chap in the Wilsons kiosk on Kaiteriteri beach. It involved a trip all the way to Totaranui, then a bit of a return to Tonga Bay Quarry from where we hiked for an hour or to Medlands Beach for the pickup back to Kaiteriteri.

Besides the turgid commentary, this boat trip seemed like more of an opportunity for Wilsons staffers to lounge about the boat before picking up and dropping off supplies and people at the various stops on the way. At one point, the boat picked up an elderly woman in a Wilsons polo shirt, who was drinking from a wine bottle at 11 am, accompanied by 2 little dogs - not sure dogs are even allowed in the park. Attention to the wellbeing of paying passengers seemed subsidiary.

The sights and all that were nice, but I would recommend going with their rival. Dismayed upon my return, I went to the Abel Tasman Shuttles kiosk at Kaiteriteri and learned from the aghast lady there that they do live commentary.

New Zealand is at risk of becoming a serial rip-off destination, and vaguely insulting treatment of customers will have long-term consequences on its reputation.

Visited November 2013
1 Thank dgdevil
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
DJWAbelTas, Wilson family member at Wilsons Abel Tasman, responded to this review, 27 November 2013
To give a less emotive perspective – the Abel Tasman National Park Day trip you did cost NZ$75 = US$62. Is this a lot?

We accept family may not be important to you but we personally embrace the multi-generational values it brings to our business and our team do care about the experiences we deliver to visitors. I owe it to them to provide clarification to some of your assumptions.

All of our staff, including Boat Hosts, have an excellent reputation for their helpful and attentive service. Please see the reviews below. Equally the team respects a visitor’s desire to relax and enjoy without interruption. We will review this balance.

Wine at 11am? We were horrified to see this representation. No wine was brought on board and the log of the day shows three people got on at Awaroa at 11.22am. We sold one 375mm bottle of wine from our onboard café at 11.43am. It was a very special lunch, celebrating unification of our Awaroa family, split 3 generations ago by a shocking murder. They were delighted with the polo shirt we gave them. Currently Both Torrent Bay and Awaroa are enclaves of private land and land owners are permitted to take their dogs with them.

Our Skippers do provide live commentary. Given the broad NZ accents of some of our skippers and mindful of our international audience and customer feedback, we do encourage our team to slow their speech rate down. We encourage them to improve their indigenous and foreign language skills but obviously work is still to be done. It has taken extra time, money and technology to provide skippers the ability to pre-record key messages. This is supported by Maritime NZ and Department of Conservation as it ensures that, regardless of a Skipper’s commitments on the bridge, passengers are informed about safety information and preparation for the next stop. The skipper supplements these messages with details of who is getting off, greetings, farewells and other topical events that occur along the way. Stories and safety messages can be repeated if the boat has to unexpectedly backtrack. The skipper should have stopped this. The verbal commentary is supported by a printed version in a range of languages for those that require it.

You are correct the boat does stop for a closer look at the beaches and lets people on and off so they can do day options, such as the Great Day Out walk you chose yourself. We are also providing a link to the local communities in the park that enthusiastically support us.

Guides and lodge staff are transported aboard the Vista Cruise. Although they are sometimes in uniform, they are technically not working whilst onboard. During the period you were travelling new season lodge, walk and kayak staff were in training so there would have been much interaction going on. In future, we will try ensure off-duty staff are not wearing branded clothing and there is more differentiation between staff uniform and retail clothing.
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640 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
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English first
Sydney, Australia
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“We could not fault the 5 day guided walk”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 November 2013

4 lady friends walked, kayaked and canoed the 5 day guided walk which we could only describe as excellent in all areas. Some of the scenery was just breath taking. The tour guides Pipi, Sam and Marios were all very knowledgeable with all aspects of the Abel Tasman Walk and helped us all in any way possible. Nothing was too much trouble. Some of us had not kayaked or canoed very much and the guides helped us feel safe and comfortable to he point that we all really enjoyed the days. The food and lodges were excellent. The other walkers in the group were very interesting and had lots of fun. We would have no hesitation in recommending this walk to any one.

Visited November 2013
1 Thank 999jeannie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Longmont, Colorado
Level Contributor
4 reviews
“Split Apple Paddle”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 15 November 2013

We were originally scheduled on the Beaches, Bays and Seals all day adventure, but we were delayed and had to call ahead to cancel. They were very accommodating and booked us on the 1/2 day Split Apple Paddle. No one else signed up, so the four of us had our tour guide, AJ, all to ourselves. (me, my husband, and 2 adult kids). AJ was very friendly and knowledgeable and made the afternoon a fun trip for the whole family!!! I would highly recommend Wilsons for your New Zealand adventures in the Abel Tasman area.

The Prater family, Colorado

Visited November 2013
Thank Susan P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Gold Coast, Australia
Level Contributor
361 reviews
43 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 355 helpful votes
“Outstanding guided walk with 5 star service”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 11 November 2013

My wife and I did the 5 day guided walk. It can only be described as exceptionally good. We enjoyed every moment, walking through some of the most beautiful scenery and also lonely stretches of estuary. The lodges were both excellent and the group we were with had many interesting conversations and a lot of fun. The ensuited rooms were excellent with very comfortable beds. The guides Sam, Marios and Pippy were each outstanding and knowledgeable and nothing was too much trouble. The food was healthy, delicious and abundant. We could not fault any part of the journey... 5 stars

Visited November 2013
1 Thank GlobetrotterJSH
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Level Contributor
38 reviews
15 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
“Wonderful way to spend a day experiencing Abel Tasman”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 10 November 2013

We really enjoyed the Wilsons' Kayak, Seals & Walk Day Trip in late October. It combined a couple of their activities, the kayak guided trip plus a coastal boat ride with a drop off for a self guided hike.

My husband and I were a little worried about the weather for the kayaking since it was still spring in New Zealand. Thankfully we lucked out it was fairly nice. Not too much wind and the sun came out periodically. Also? Gear is important! The tour company decked us out with windbreakers that had neck and wrist guards and also the skirt thing that you put over yourself like an apron and then stretch it out around the opening of the kayak where you’re sitting so that it protects you from water sloshing into the area where you’re sitting. Those two items made a major difference in our comfort level. We had a really nice ocean kayak along the coast for a couple of hours, making our way west from Kaiteriteri to Split Apple Rock which is a huge rock…shaped like an apple split in half. Our guide, A.J., was energetic, friendly, competent and had some great stories to tell about local stories and history.

We headed back in at lunch time and were given our packed lunches to eat. Wow. Each packed lunch included a fairly big quiche, a roast beef sandwich, a scone with butter, a chocolate cookie, an apple and an orange/apple juice. As hungry as we were we couldn’t come close to finishing all of the tasty goodness and ended up saving some for snacks later.

After lunch we headed out to our afternoon portion of our tour, a ship taking us along coast and then a hike back part ways with a pick up at another beach. That was one of the things I really liked about Abel Tasman. It’s set up so that there are water taxis going to most of the beaches along the coast. You can get dropped off at several secluded beach points and either hang out there or go hiking to another beach and get picked up there.

We were dropped off on the beach at Tonga quarry (fortunately the Wilson boat had an extendable gangplank so you didn’t get wet embarking and disembarking). It was a very pretty trail that went inland for much of it and we got some lovely pictures. The initial steep descent up the beach quickly turned into a relatively flat hike with not too many uphills so it was pretty easy. The trails were very well maintained and had drainage sections so that it also wasn’t too muddy. We made our way through forest, over a bridge that crossed a stream with a cool waterfall and closed in on our pick up point, Medlands beach, in plenty of time for the 4:55 pm pick up. One major bonus was that as we neared the end of our trail we trecked by a coastal area and saw a seal hanging out in the waters! We got some great pictures and hung out just watching the seal swimming around before continuing on.

One thing. As we waited for pick up at the beach, the sand flies discovered us. Well they discovered me and ignored my husband. The females bite so be sure to take some insect repellent with you whenever you go hiking or near the water in the South Island.

Visited October 2013
Thank Kim J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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