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Australia New Zealand Cruising

Sheila Cannon Mar 05, 2015 0

My husband and I just got back from a 12 night cruise from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia with a surprise stay in Fiji at the end.  I’d like to share some of the highlights from our trip to give you some ideas for your next romantic vacation.  (This is even a beautiful destination for a honeymoon.  I just helped a couple arrange a similar cruise recently, along with a bit of a land tour prior).  Australia New Zealand Cruising is a fabulous, relaxing way to see some of the main sites of both countries. You’ll only have to pack and unpack once, while someone else does the driving.

Auckland Skyline

Auckland, New Zealand – We arrived in Auckland one day early to make sure there were no problems with flight delays.  We left the US on Thursday February 12 and interestingly, we lost Friday the 13th completely.  Auckland is a beautiful city with lots of great hotels, dining and shopping options; all within walking distance of the cruise port.  We had a nice dinner (it was Valentine’s, which the New Zealanders don’t celebrate nearly to the extent we do) on a balcony overlooking the city and went to bed early to recover a bit from our jet lag.  The next morning we had time to visit the top of the Sky Tower; an observation tower rising 1,076 feet in the air with 360° views of almost the entire tip of North Island.  They even do bungee jumping from the top of this tower.  We saw our ship in port and another Princess ship; the Dawn Princess, coming in.  After a late breakfast and checking out of our hotel, it was time to board the ship.

The Diamond Princess – Our Home Away from Home

The Diamond Princess is one of the larger Grand Class ships of the Princess fleet.  It is one of two ships built in Japan and is a bit unusual.  In early 2014 it underwent a makeover to add two notable Japanese amenities; a bath house and a sushi restaurant.  Not surprisingly, it sails a good part of the year from Japan.  We liked the ship.  We found the service, food and entertainment to be very good, but we missed our favorite International Café and Vines Wine Bar.  It’s the 50th anniversary for Princess Cruises and we definitely enjoyed some of the special themed nights and entertainment celebrating the milestone.

Our cruise on the Diamond Princess visited the following ports and fiords:

Ports Distance inNautical Miles
Auckland to Tauranga 137
Tauranga to Akaroa (after 1 day at sea) 598
Akaroa to Port Chalmers 141
Port Chalmers to Dusky & Breaksea Sound 246
Breaksea Sound to Doubtful & Thompson Sound 19
Doubtful & Thompson Sound to Milford Sound 49
Milford Sound to Hobart (after 2 days at sea) 894
Hobart to Melbourne (after 1 day at sea) 436
Melbourne to Sydney (after 1 day at sea) 546

We do things a bit unusually when we’re cruising.  Although we’ve done many excursions with the cruise lines on our 20+ cruises all over the globe, when we feel confident in our ability to get around, we generally will rent a car for the day when in a port.  I don’t recommend this unless you have a very good sense of direction and are willing to take on the responsibility of making sure you’re back on the ship in time or to deal with the consequences if you aren’t, because it will leave without you.

Hobbiton Movie Set

Tauranga is a busy, mid-sized city by New Zealand standards.  Driving in New Zealand and Australia is quite challenging, because they drive on the left and there are lots of roundabouts.  It takes focus to keep it on the left, especially after a little break.  We did fairly well and luckily any lapses we had didn’t cause any issues.  Although a thermal valley, cultural Maori performances and kiwi sightings are popular; the highlight for us at this port was a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set.  We saw Bag End where Bilbo Baggins lived, the Party Tree and ended the tour at the Green Dragon Inn, where we enjoyed a pint of special ale made only for Hobbiton.

It is so fantastic to come back to the ship after a day exploring a port; knowing that we don’t have to worry about finding a restaurant or wondering what we’ll do for entertainment for the evening.  In the morning, we leave the bed unmade, the towels on the floor and come back to a spotless room.  It really is practically worry-free; with everything taken care of by the cruise line.  We enjoyed our days at sea relaxing, reading, and exploring the ship, trivia games with some new-found friends, dining in style and the many entertainment opportunities in the evenings.  We’re not really into shopping, but for those that are; there are many shops and special themed sales daily.

Sheep!

Akaroa is the only port to which we tendered; meaning that the passengers were transferred to the pier via the lifeboats.  Akaroa is a small city and it reminded me of Catalina.  I had arranged to rent a Mini Cooper; which I’ve wanted to buy for several years.  I was the driver for the day so that I could see what it’s like.  Christchurch is the nearest large city and some passengers went there for shopping and museums.  Other passengers enjoyed the wildlife cruises; hoping to see the Hector dolphin, fur seals and Blue Penguins.  We just enjoyed the scenery through the hilly landscape to grand vistas, watching fisherman on a beach and getting stuck as a sheep herd surrounded our little car.  (There are 10 sheep for every person in New Zealand).

Rare Yellow-Eyed Penguin

Port Chalmers was our last port in New Zealand.  There isn’t much right in Port Chalmers, so everyone heads to Dunedin, which is located in the southeast of the South Island on the Otago Peninsula.  A train ride in the Taieri Gorge is the most popular excursion the ship offers and it was sold out on this sailing.  There’s lots of bird life on the peninsula drive.  It’s gorgeous, but we knew we’d better keep our eyes on the road, as it’s a very sheer drop off most of the way, with no guard rails what-so-ever.  I had a bee in my bonnet to see penguins here, so we stopped at Penguin Place for a Yellow-Eyed penguin tour.  Because they are unusually shy and their habitat is decreasing, these penguins are quite rare.  We only saw about five birds on the tour.  Thankfully, there are conservation efforts like Penguin Place in existence.  We ended our day in Dunedin with a stop at a “clubroom” that sells Tui beer; the largest brewery on North Island.

Fiorland National Park, NZ

The whole of the next day found us sailing slowly through famous Fiordland National Park.  The scenery was beautiful with densely treed green hills emerging from the sea, creating the channel in which our ship sailed.  First we sailed from Dusky clear through to Breaksea Sound.  Then we went along the coast for a little way and entered Doubtful and emerged from Thompson Sound.  We sailed up the coast for a longer stretch before entering the last sound which was Milford.  Milford Sound was the most spectacular being the only one at that time of year that had snow in the higher peaks that we could see.  We saw an occasional small boat or kayaker, but at the most inland point of Milford sound there were many sightseeing boat and airplanes.

Please check back next week, where I’ll be sharing our New Zealand experiences cruising Australia & New Zealand.

I’m Sheila Cannon and I help career focused couples, who have no time to plan, have the honeymoon, destination wedding or romantic vacation of a lifetime custom designed for them without them having to lift a finger.  If that’s you, click here to get started putting me to work for you!

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    I'm Sheila Cannon with Carefree Romantic Vacations. I work with busy couples who long to realize their dream of an exotic honeymoon or stress-free romantic vacation. They want to experience adventure & culture, in an exotic locale. They don't want the stress, drama or hassle of trying to do it all themselves.

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