Cruises in the South Pacific feature a multitude of destinations that are a study in contrasts. Each region has its own distinct cultural appeal.
Though there are nuances among itineraries, most run 12 days or longer, and nearly all include a mix of cruising Australia’s east coast and Tasmania (the Australian island state) with New Zealand’s North Island and South Island. Some extended itineraries, often more than 30 days in length, also feature Asia.
A continent and a nation, Australia features the desert expanses of the Outback, where you’ll find kangaroos, koalas, wombats and the platypus. Equally stunning is the Great Barrier Reef, an underwater wonderland teeming with marine life.
Australia also boasts breathtaking cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne. Often called the most spectacular harbor in the world to enter via a cruise ship, Sydney’s famed Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge await guests on deck and evoke the spirit of “G’Day!”
Cruisers also have a chance to explore inland. Cruisetours, which are tours offered before and after cruises, typically are offered only in Australia and allow passengers to get deep into the Outback to admire the giant red monolith known as Ayer’s Rock and the ochre domed rocks known as the Olgas. Other cruisetours take pre- or post-cruisers to the Great Barrier Reef.
Passengers on a South pacific cruise can opt for flight-seeing excursions that afford stunning views of the Daintree Rainforest, Tasmania’s Mt. Wellington, and the Great Barrier Reef.
Southeast of Australia is New Zealand, comprised of the South Island and North Island. New Zealand boasts an abundance of natural attractions and recreational opportunities hard to rival. Only in Auckland, for example, can cruise passengers board an America’s Cup yacht to sail past the America’s Cup Village, with its super yachts. Cruise passengers also can retrace the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, visiting some of the best-known sites from the film.
Since the first sailing ships from Europe dropped anchor among French Polynesia’s lagoons and coral atolls, the magical islands have symbolized romance and natural beauty. Vacationers on South Pacific cruises can take in volcanic peaks shrouded in wispy clouds, mysterious rainforests, white-sand beaches, a profusion of flowers, including Tahiti’s spectacular black pearls.
Remember, with seasons reversed in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, the major cruise lines typically operate “Down Under” from November through March.