There are few cruise destinations in the South Pacific that can offer such a variety of exciting things to do and see in one itinerary as the Land of the Long White Cloud. While quite different from your typical tropical holiday spot, it provides amazing scenery, cultural encounters, city sights and a laidback Kiwi vibe that can’t be replicated elsewhere.
With so many different aspects to cruising around New Zealand, it’s easy to be a little overwhelmed. We’ve put together a quick guide to what you’ll need to know to get the most out of your adventure in Aotearoa.
New Zealand is an island nation right down in the bottom of the South Pacific, bordering on the Tasman Sea. It is made up of three main islands, of which the creatively-named North Island and South Island are by far the biggest. Small Stewart Island is right at the bottom of the country and only visited by the more intrepid and smaller cruise ships.
The varied landscapes of New Zealand range from inland mountain ranges to wild, black sand beaches to rolling farmland and beyond. The interesting native birdlife, sea creatures and dense native forests make it an ideal destination for nature lovers, and there are bays and coves of all kinds to discover on the long coastlines. New Zealand’s cities are metropolitan but relaxed, particularly in the hot, lazy summer months.
Adventurous cruisers will love the many opportunities for activity available in New Zealand’s ports. City stopovers like Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Tauranga are great for independent exploration and a spot of shopping, but excursions make it simple to see some of the country’s more remote spots. New Zealand is where you will find some of the South Pacific’s best scenery, so bring a camera.
A 4WD tour along the coast near Wellington, swimming with dolphins in Akaroa, kayaking in quiet harbours or jet boat rides in beautiful rivers are just some of the intrepid experiences available to those cruising to New Zealand. The TranzAlpine railway from Christchurch or Akaroa is a great way to see some of the country’s famous mountain scenery, and Lord of the Rings tours from Tauranga will give insight into New Zealand’s role in the beloved piece of pop culture. There are also plenty of wine regions, notably those in the Hawke’s Bay which is accessible via Napier, the Marlborough region near Picton or the island of Waiheke just a short ferry ride from Auckland. A tour of vineyards to taste the flavours of New Zealand is a great way to spend a summer’s day!
New Zealand is far more celebrated for its splendid scenery than its dining scene, but there are plenty of good things to eat here. The bigger cities that most cruise ships call in to, especially Auckland and Wellington, have some fabulous restaurants. Step off the ship in central Auckland and it’s just a few minutes’ walk to the Viaduct Basin, Wynyard Quarter and Britomart Precinct, three trendy neighbourhoods with myriad restaurants and eateries of all kinds.
Although there is no specific cuisine unique to New Zealand, there are several things that the country does well. Abundant farmland means great beef, lamb and dairy products, and plenty of fresh produce. Seafood is never in short supply either, so you can expect fish, shellfish and crustaceans on many menus. One of the nation’s favourite dishes is a simple fish and chip meal: battered and deep fried fish fillets and chunky potato chips (fries) wrapped up in paper and enjoyed on the beach.
Wine is, of course, a famous product of New Zealand. Try a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or a red from the Hawke’s Bay. Of course you will also have endless treats awaiting when you return to the ship, with the array of dining experiences available onboard.
The New Zealand Dollar (NZD) is the only currency used in New Zealand, and it is readily accessible via ATMs or currency exchange outlets at most ports that cruise ships visit - alternatively, travellers can buy some before leaving home. Tipping and haggling are not customary in the country, so putting a coin in a tip jar or adding a gratuity to a bill is entirely optional.
New Zealand’s climate is temperate and mostly a bit colder than the rest of the South Pacific. The summer months are pleasantly hot, particularly January and February, but rain is never out of the question at any point during the year. The sun is harsh, even when it’s overcast, due to a hole in the ozone layer, so bring plenty of sun protection, a rain jacket and long layers in case of cooler temperatures. If you are cruising outside of summer, expect some cold nights and possibly chilly days too.
English is spoken throughout New Zealand, and is one of the official languages of the country alongside Maori, the language of the native people. While visitors are unlikely to hear Maori spoken outside of cultural presentations and the occasional TV show, some phrases such as Kia Ora (hello) are in common usage. Many place names are of Maori origin.
On the whole, New Zealanders are laid back people, reserved rather than effusive but very welcoming. Polite friendliness will open up many doors and conversations. Dress casually for most places.
New Zealand has famously been used as a location for various movies - the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Hobbit, the Chronicles of Narnia and more. Wellington is home to the Weta Workshop, where much of the New Zealand film magic happens. You can visit the still-intact Hobbiton sets in hills of bucolic Matamata, and get a glimpse of Mount Doom which is otherwise known as Mount Ngauruhoe.
Ready to explore and discover the unforgettable land across the Tasman? Our New Zealand cruises can get you there.