New Zealand has quite the reputation. Land of the Long White Cloud, Middle Earth, God's Own Country, it is known as a beautiful place of mountains, lakes, rugged coastlines and tranquil fjords. The truth is, it lives up to the hype. New Zealand has graced many a travel bucket list- why not combine it with a cruise?
There are a range of lines offering cruises from Australia across the ditch to New Zealand, from the likes of P&O Australia, Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean to the smaller boutique lines like Regent Seven Seas and Silversea. With something for every cruise aficionado, there's no reason to keep putting it off- go and see what the fuss is about! See Cruise Sale Finder's Bucket List Sale for great deals.
NZ cruise ports
There's plenty to see in New Zealand, and a cruise around the major ports will give you a good taste. City lovers will have a lot to look forward to in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, beach bums will get in ample sand time should they so desire and wine drinkers are in for a treat at Napier and Picton. The scenery is almost just the icing on the cake in this nation which has it all.
New Zealand is not a year-round cruise destination like the South Pacific islands, so time your trip well. Most lines offer cruises there between October and April, but the Kiwi summer is at its best from mid-December to early March. Try February for warm weather and no school holiday crowds.
The North Island is where the majority of New Zealand's population lives, and there are some fantastic cruise ports on the eastern coast. Auckland is of course the primary one, a bustling and multicultural city where you can shop, eat, wander the lovely waterfront or explore a little more in-depth with a tour. The ships dock right at the bottom of town, so you are in the thick of the action. This City of Sails is centered around the water- a popular activity is to take a ferry across to Devonport or further afield to Waiheke Island. If you haven't booked a tour, conveniently located just 10 minutes walk from either cruise terminal is a visitor information centre which can help you find your own way around Auckland.
Beachy Tauranga is a gateway to the iconic NZ tourist destination of Rotorua which is well known for its geothermal activity and cultural attractions, including native Maori performances. As it is located 60 kilometres south of Tauranga you will need to book a tour if you want to visit Rotorua. Alternatively, you could stick around nearby and visit the buzzing suburb of Mount Maunganui, which is where the ships dock. Enjoy the seaside cafes or take a walk up the Mount itself.
Napier is well known for its art deco architecture which came about after much of the city was destroyed in the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake and rebuilt. In the Hawkes Bay region there are over 70 vineyards, so we highly suggest getting out to visit a few of them and sample what they have to offer.
The nation's capital, Wellington is a fun and walkable small city on a beautiful harbour, where you can visit Te Papa, the national museum of social and natural history. It is known for great dining and shopping opportunities, so take some time to wander and explore.
The Bay of Islands is in the far north and a feature on most New Zealand cruise itineraries. Its name does a good job of describing it- but there is more here than just islands. Experience a slice of New Zealand history at Waitangi, snorkel in the lagoon at Roberton Island or swim with dolphins on a dolphin cruise. Ships dock offshore and tender in to Russell or Paihia, so be prepared for that- it is well worth the journey.
The southern island of New Zealand is where the most spectacular scenery can be found- the kind you'll see on a postcard. The Milford region is a huge highlight, but there is more to the island than that.
Christchurch is the big smoke, a city with a fighting spirit which is still recovering from an earthquake in 2011. Nowadays, most ships dock at Akaroa rather than in the city, but it is possible to take a bus or shuttle from there to explore the CBD and urban attractions- just set it up through your cruise line or visit the iSite and make your own arrangements. If you would rather stay nearby, there is plenty to keep your attention in little Akaroa. It was settled by French immigrants and still displays a strong gallic influence. Tiny Hectors Dolphins play in the harbour, and there are many companies offering opportunities to swim with them.
Picton, tucked away in the Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island, is a charming small town where cruise ships share the waters with Interislander car ferries and multiple small craft. It is also the gateway to another of New Zealand's major wine regions, Marlborough. Don't miss the opportunity to taste these world-renowned sauvignon blancs right where they are made!
The jewel in the South Island crown is definitely Fiordland National Park. There, ships spend a few hours on scenic cruising in the Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds. The natural beauty of this region is astounding- soaring green mountains, drowned valleys, waterfalls, tranquil inlets and more. We highly recommend packing a warm jacket because when you cruise into Milford Sound in the morning the temperature is chilly, regardless of the time of year. You want to be out on deck as the ship enters the sound, it is simply stunning. Some lines offer the chance to get up close and personal with the Sounds on smaller vessels, but if this is not available, staying onboard is no hardship as there are stunning vistas wherever you look. If you have thought about getting a balcony cabin, a New Zealand cruise is the place to do it.
Cruises to New Zealand
The options are endless when it comes to ticking a New Zealand cruise off your bucket list. This is a selection of our favourites in 2015:
This Royal Caribbean New Zealand cruise in February is shorter than most at 11 nights, a great way to dip your toes in. Departing Sydney, it visits Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Picton and Wellington during the tail end of summer.
The Sun Princess heads across the Tasman in March for this 13-night New Zealand cruise from Sydney. This is a common itinerary amongst the different lines, stopping at all the ports mentioned above. Try this for a classic Kiwi cruise experience in a slightly cooler month.
In 2015 the Golden Princess will do its first ever cruise season from Australia, cruising to New Zealand from Melbourne. This ship will not disappoint!
The beautiful Celebrity Solstice can take you on a one-way New Zealand cruise from Sydney from November, stopping at all the major ports. The cruise disembarks in Auckland so you can extend your stay for a few more days and see more!
P&O Australia's classic New Zealand itinerary is the Kiwi Adventure cruise, departing Sydney. This one in November takes in everything over 13 nights onboard.
Cruise on over to New Zealand with Cruise Sale Finder and experience the wonderful scenery and friendly cities for yourself! Check out the Bucket List Sale for more great ideas.