A final day off for whale watching and our hostess at the Bella Vista had tried to arrange a trip with the Whale Watch Kaikoura but since they are not answering the phone it's problematic. We settled for leaving a message and in the end walked there.
The sad news is that far from being apologetic about the phones the desk staff at Whale Watch Kaikoura were offhand and defensive. So much so we were at the point of walking out and had there been any alternative you may depend on it that we would have gone elsewhere.
Also take note that their 10:30 trip is actually at 11:00 and they seem to time their trips oddly. We did have time for a coffee and scone in town and talking to the owner of the cafe it seems that, as in so many places in NZ there is a youth problem and clearly there is a good size gulf between the haves and have nots here.
On the upside the actual whale watching trip is excellent and most informative. Seasickness is clearly a problem as they are big seas here but we were blessed with near perfect conditions.
Overall however Kaikoura is the least favorite destination we have been to with the other stops all ranking higher for attractiveness and value for money. You are right on the main South Island tourist circuit here and it's sad that the quality has been been lowered as there is no need, every day brings a new crop of camper vans and coaches. The only high spot has been our hosts at the Bella Vista for whom nothing has been too much trouble.
Later: An amended recommendation as Dinner at the Green Dolphin (as suggested by the traffic policeman that stopped us as we came into town) was probably the best meal of the trip. Worth a stay for that alone. The staff are well trained for impeccable service and the food (including crayfish) excellent. We give it 5 stars.