Thanks for the email and Happy New Year too! I've been wanting to get in touch for a while, but the office's got their clutches on me again...
So, everything worked out great - all pick-ups, etc. were completely problem-free. There was always someone with the sign "Mrs. Gudrun". I also got along very well with Geoffrey (and hopefully he got along with me too). He was very polite, friendly and also competent. I just had to make it clear to him that I'm not fixated on the Big 5 and would rather see something other than a poor leopard surrounded by 50 cars. That was actually the only thing that bothered me in the Serengeti and also in the crater: As soon as a lion or leopard is sighted, all the cars race there. I wasn't used to that from my previous trips.
About the accommodations:
Arusha Coffee is Lodge really very nice, I also took a detailed look at the workshops that are on the premises.
I really liked Kiota Tented Camp once I got used to the bucket shower. Too bad you can't see sunrise or sunset from there (or at least not at this time of year). The staff was super nice, food very good, especially under the difficult circumstances.
Maybe I should have followed your suggestion and built in one more camp, but afterwards you always know better.
Lake Masek Tented Lodge: also very nice and the food was ok, but somehow I was disappointed because they had announced a big surprise for New Year's Eve, which just didn't come. Except for a few die-hards, practically all guests went to their tents at 9:30 p.m., disappointed and frustrated. There wasn't a feedback form either - apparently they don't value it there or don't need it.
Acacia Farm Lodge: really wonderful, but I was only there for one day.
I would have wished for a longer stay at the Ngorongoro crater, but Geoffrey probably played it safe with the 6 hours. This bureaucracy in Tanzania is impressive and also involves waiting times.
Some of the flights were a bit chaotic, they were postponed, you stood around for ages and didn't know what was going to happen, but in the end everything worked.
I found the Hotel Sultan Palace really great if you just want to relax. I just didn't have enough to read with me and there really isn't much you can do there except swimming. But the cottages and rooms are very tastefully decorated with attention to detail and the people are very friendly, including the couple who own the house, with whom I ended up chatting for quite a while.
What shook me a bit was the Spice Tour, because this area was so full of rubbish (single shoes, cans, bags...) that I really didn't feel like trying or buying anything there. But I also passed this criticism on to the driver who did all the transfers in Zanzibar and he also passed it on to the operators. That was a bit off-putting.
All in all I was super happy with the holiday, I saw a lot and took some nice pictures. The highlight was the south of the Serengeti with the large wildebeest/zebra herds. The balloon ride itself (boarding and disembarking) was more of a challenge - we saw practically nothing, but that's probably a matter of luck.
I said something about Sultan Palace Hotel and Kiota Camp on Trip Advisor.
Thank you for the comprehensive arrangements!