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.
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
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
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
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.