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Cruising New Zealand From Melbourne to the Long White Cloud

New Zealand is just across the ditch from Australia and Princess Cruises’ latest ship to start cruising regularly in Australasia, Golden Princess, is making the most of sailing from its summer homeport of Melbourne to all ports NZ.

The Land of the Long White Cloud, or Aotearoa – as New Zealand was called by its first Polynesian inhabitants – holds many attractions for visitors. Moviegoers will be familiar with the dramatic scenery of the North and South Islands that formed the backdrop for The Lord of the Rings series and various tours offer the chance to see famous locations in real life.

Taitomo Island Piha Beach Auckland New Zealand


Depending on the departure date, the first or last stop on Golden Princess’ round-trip cruises is Auckland, on the North Island. Known as the City of Sails, Auckland is a bright, breezy city – view it from the 328m-high Sky Tower, sign up for a Bridge Climb or take a leisurely ferry trip to pretty Waiheke Island in the harbour.


Tauranga is the largest town in the Bay of Plenty and its popular beach town, Mount Maunganui, is a 15-minute drive from the port. Golden Princess runs tours to Tamaki Maori Village, where you’ll experience Maori singing and dancing and taste traditional food – or you can paddle a canoe up the scenic Wairoa River and learn about Maori legends along the way. Rotorua’s steaming hot springs and boiling mud pools are about an hour’s drive from Tauranga. It’s an important Maori cultural centre.


Still on the North Island, Golden Princess calls into Gisborne, a renowned wine region and home to one of the country’s largest Maori communities – scenes from the award-winning film Whale Rider were shot at the nearby Whangara Marae.


The next stop is Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. For a quick overview of the city, ride the historic red cable car to the Botanic Garden, walk back down the hill past the “Beehive” parliament building, then take a guided tour of the amazing Te Papa Tongarewa museum.


After crossing Cook Strait to the South Island, the ship docks at Akaroa. This scenic port is set in the heart of an ancient volcano and boasts an unusual history of British and French settlement. It’s a charming village in its own right, and also the jumping-off point for tours to Christchurch; the city is rebuilding after the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and is well worth a visit.


Dunedin has a Scottish heritage – the name comes from the Gaelic word for Edinburgh – and is home to New Zealand’s only castle, Lanarch Castle, as well several Scottish-themed restaurants and the historic Speight’s Brewery, where you can sample the beer on site. Wildlife tours of the spectacular Otago Peninsula depart from Dunedin.


Sailing through Fiordland’s magnificent Milford, Doubtful and Dusky Sounds is a highlight of the cruise. Fiordland is New Zealand’s biggest national park and its craggy peaks, rainforests and waterfalls are a photographer’s dream. Be prepared for mist or rain, however – it is one of the wettest regions in the country.



Golden Princess itineraries

In 2016, the 2600-passenger Golden Princess will sail five 13-day round-trip cruises from Melbourne to New Zealand between January and March, and a further three 13-night round-trip cruises in December. Itineraries in New Zealand start in either Auckland or Fiordland and visit the ports mentioned above. There are two sea days at each end of the cruise.


Golden Princess is the biggest ship to homeport in Melbourne. More than half of the staterooms have private balconies and it has a beautiful Lotus spa and gym, four swimming pools, nine whirlpools and 12 restaurants and cafes. Celebrity chef Curtis Stone’s Crafted by Curtis dishes will be on the menu in the main dining room.


Among the many exciting features on board is Skywalkers Nightclub, suspended at the back of the ship and reached by a moving walkway above the decks. Activities range from enrichment classes in the scholarship@sea program to sports, stage and musical shows in the Princess Theater and Vista Show Lounge, and Movies Under the Stars. Shoppers enjoy generous discounts at designer shops and there’s no need to worry about currency conversions as everything is in Australian dollars.


MS Maasdam Melbourne to Auckland

Holland America Line’s MSMaasdam has one one-way Melbourne to Auckland itinerary on its 2016 schedule. The 16-night cruise departs on November 2016 and visits Sydney and Eden in NSW and Hobart in Tasmania before crossing the Tasman Sea and heading for Milford Sound.


MS Maasdam then visits the same destinations as Golden Princess, with an additional day of scenic cruising through Queen Charlotte’s Sound plus a call to Picton on the South Island, and a visit to the Art Deco town of Napier on the North Island.


Picton is the gateway to the beautiful Marlborough Sounds, the largest grape-growing and wine-producing region in New Zealand. From the attractive fishing village you can take dolphin-spotting cruises, a cycling tour that includes cellar-door wine-tasting or a high country safari to see a Merino sheep farm.


Napier was rebuilt after a massive earthquake in 1931 and today is a showcase for Art Deco, Stripped Classical and Spanish Mission architectural styles. The town is set on the Hawkes Bay coastline, an area that produces some excellent chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot wines. You can take winery tours, hop aboard a helicopter for a scenic flight over the town and surrounding countryside, or join an 11km Mohaka River Rafting Trip.


The 1258-passenger MS Maasdam is a classic ship that had a major makeover in 2011. It is almost identical to P&O Cruises’ Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden (former HAL ships) and accommodation ranges from inside cabins to spacious suites. Formal nights, afternoon tea and a $2 million art collection appeal to traditional cruisers, while younger couples and singles tend to gravitate towards the specialty bars and the nightclub in the Crows Nest Lounge.


There are two pools (one with a retractable roof for all-weather dips), four restaurants, and a spa that has several treatment rooms, a well-equipped gym, a thermal suite and a beauty salon.


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