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New Zealand has always been a popular summer destination. The great attractions of beaches, bays, wineries, Maori culture and geothermal parks are always better when the sun is shining.

Now there’s the opportunity for travellers to take cruises from Melbourne to New Zealand. From mid-November, the 108,665-ton Golden Princess will be based in the southern city, heading out across the Tasman to New Zealand for the next four months.

Launched in 2001, the huge Princess Cruises’ ship has four swimming pools, three main restaurants and three specialty dining venues, the adults-only Sanctuary retreat along with plenty of bars, showrooms and a luxurious spa.

Most cruises to New Zealand are 13-night round trips (from Melbourne to Melbourne), while two cruises are nine-night itineraries between Auckland and Melbourne and reverse. Here’s what’s on offer:

Be the first to sail out of Melbourne on the inaugural cruise (November 12, 2015) and beat the holiday crowds. Setting off in the afternoon, you’ll leave the cares of city life behind as Golden Princess heads north across the Tasman Sea for three leisurely days at sea. The first stop is Auckland for a long visit, with time to explore the city during the day and evening. Next stop is Tauranga, gateway to Rotorua and the world of bubbling hot springs and geysers. Venturing south, there are calls at Gisborne and Wellington on the North Island and three calls on the South Island. Highlights are sure to be quaint little Akaroa and dramatic Fiordland, rounding off 13 nights of fun.

What about combining a nine-night cruise around New Zealand with a land-based holiday? Two cruises travel one-way between Australia and New Zealand. Hop aboard the December 12, 2015 sailing from Auckland and cruise back to Melbourne (calling at six ports) or board in Melbourne on January 10, 2016 and cruise to Auckland. They offer all the same ports of call without crossing the Tasman Sea twice.

For festive types, the December 21, 2015 sailing provides the opportunity to spend Christmas and New Year’s in New Zealand. After three days cruising the Tasman, the Golden Princess will dock in Auckland for yuletide celebrations. Then it’s on to Gisborne, the first city in the world to greet the new day. (For wine-lovers it’s also known to produce a great drop of chardonnay.) In Wellington, passengers should take a ride on the city’s red cable car or if wine is still on the agenda, take a tour to the nearby Wairarapa vineyards. The New Year is always a fun time on the high seas, however sailing towards the sensational fiords on a gleaming white ship is the icing on the cake.

February is a perfect time to visit New Zealand. The holidays are officially over but the weather is still great. Heading out on both February 11 and February 24, Golden Princess will spend 13 nights visiting our neighbours across the Tasman. In Auckland there’ll be plenty of time to take the ferry to Waiheke Island, right in the bay. In Tauranga the ship docks right at Mount Maunganui, where two beaches and a charming little township are an easy walk from the terminal. And crossing through Milford Sound is perfect during these summer days.