With a combined coastline stretching over 40,000 kilometres, Australia and New Zealand harbour heaps of appeal for holidays afloat – so choose a cruise that encompasses them both for the best of both worlds. Most departures fall in the southern summer between December and February, when the two-day crossing between the two nations is at its balmiest (it’s also the best time for spotting dolphins and albatrosses).
The majority of such cruises start or end in Sydney and Auckland. With most itineraries thus requiring open-jaw flights via different gateways, it’s best to book a fly-cruise package to achieve the best fares and conveniently add transfers, hotel stays and pre- and post-cruise tours for a seamless travel experience.
Starting from: Sydney
Cruise experiences don’t come more memorable than sailing past Sydney’s Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Explore these world icons before departure, then wave them goodbye as Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ all-suite Seven Seas Explorer sets off on a two-week odyssey. Visit Phillip Island’s koalas and penguins, magical Melbourne and tempting Tasmania before crossing the Tasman Sea to New Zealand’s fjords, islands and scenic sounds, with excursions taking in Maori culture, world-class wines or perhaps even a helicopter flight over the magnificent Milford Sound.
Book it:Elegant Resorts offers a 15-night cruise from Sydney to Auckland on board Regent Seven Seas Explorer from £11,295pp, including flights, transfers and two nights’ pre-cruise accommodation; 19 nights total, departs January 4, 2021 (elegantresorts.co.uk).
Starting from: Auckland
Try a similar journey in reverse with Viking Cruises, whose Australia & New Zealand itineraries have a focus on culture and history. Learn about Sydney and Hobart’s beginnings as penal colonies, hear the spellbinding sounds of the didgeridoo and watch traditional Maori dancing on this captivating voyage. Other highlights include Dunedin’s Victorian architecture and Napier’s impressive collection of art deco buildings. Extend with a three-night trip to Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef.
Book it: Viking Cruises offers a 14-night cruise from Auckland to Sydney from £6,590pp, including flights and transfers; departs November 25 or December 23, 2020 (vikingcruises.co.uk).
Starting from: Melbourne
Australia’s second city, Melbourne, also makes a desirable departure point for a South Seas cruise. Once the world’s richest city, its grand central avenues and labyrinthine laneways are alive with shops, bars and restaurants. Fly in a few days early to visit Mornington Peninsula’s wineries or meet koalas in the You Yangs. Then set sail on Silversea Cruises’ Silver Muse for Auckland, with stops en route including Tasmania, Milford Sound and the gorgeous Bay of Plenty.
Book it:Mundy Cruising offers a 14-night cruise on board Silver Muse from Melbourne to Auckland from £8,299pp, including flights, transfers and one night’s pre-cruise accommodation; 17 nights total, departs December 19, 2020 (mundycruising.co.uk).
Starting from: Christchurch
Spend Christmas Day at sea aboard Crystal Endeavor, the 200-guest expedition ship launching in August 2020. Its inaugural festive sailing takes in interesting ports of call such as Ship Cove, once a base of Captain James Cook, and Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third largest island. New Year’s Eve is spent in Sydney Harbour, in pole position to watch the spectacular fireworks display, before sailing on to explore the wildlife, history and natural wonders of Tasmania. The itinerary features Flinders Island, Wineglass Bay, Coles Bay and Maria Island. Extend your time on Tasmania to check out Hobart’s Museum of Old & New Art (MONA) and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary’s Tasmanian devils.
Book it: Crystal Cruises offers a 14-night cruise on board Crystal Endeavor from Christchurch (Lyttelton) to Hobart from £15,076pp, excluding flights; departs December 22, 2020 (crystalcruises.co.uk).
Starting from: Bali
Most cruises covering both Australia and New Zealand take in the obvious sights such as Sydney, Auckland and Milford Sound, but sailing on a smaller ship opens up new opportunities. This voyage on 600-passenger Seabourn Encore pairs all the big-hitters (including an overnight in Melbourne en route) with smaller ports further from the tourist trail, such as Moreton Island, tropical Townsville, Kaikoura (for whale-watching) and Stewart Island. Squeeze even more out of the trip with a beach break in Bali and a North Island self-drive from Auckland, to discover Maori heritage and geothermal scenery.
Book it:Destinology offers the 33-night Gems of the Southern Seas cruise from Benoa (Denpasar), Bali to Auckland from £16,495pp, including flights and transfers; departs December 5, 2020 (destinology.co.uk).
Land and sea
“Sydney, Rock and Reef” are the key draw cards for many first-time visitors to Australia, but most cruise passengers miss Ayers Rock (Uluru) because of its landlocked location. Bypass that inconvenience on Princess Cruises’ Australian Outback itinerary, which tours Sydney, Cairns (for the reef) and Uluru before returning to Sydney. From here, cruise round-trip to New Zealand’s North and South Islands.
Book it: Princess Cruises pairs a 13-night New Zealand cruise aboard Regal Princess with a six-night land tour of Australia from £6,115pp, including flights, transfers and accommodation; departs November 26, 2020 (princess.com).
All the way round
For the ultimate Antipodean immersion, this circumnavigation of Australia ticks all the boxes. Starting in Sydney, head anticlockwise around the continent, hugging the Queensland coast towards Darwin before crossing the Timor Sea to Bali. Then continue via Western Australia to Adelaide, Melbourne and beyond to New Zealand’s beautiful Milford, Doubtful and Dusky Sounds. Explore both North and South Islands before re-crossing the Tasman Sea to Sydney. From Sydney, head inland to the Blue Mountains or Hunter Valley wineries.
Book it:Planet Cruise offers a 39-night Australia Circumnavigation, Indonesia and New Zealand from Sydney cruise on board Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas from £4,299pp, including flights (departing February 11, 2021), transfers and two nights’ pre-cruise accommodation (planetcruise.com).
Nothing beats the peace of mind provided by an escorted tour. With door-to-door transfers from home and the services of a tour manager throughout, Titan’s New Zealand Coastal Discovery combines the thrill of exploration with none of the cares of going it alone. This cruise aboard Holland America Line’s Maasdam pairs Sydney with Tasmania before hopping up the New Zealand coast from Milford Sound to Auckland, with highlights including Napier and Rotorua.
Book it: Titan Travel offers a 14-night cruise from Sydney to Auckland from £4,499pp, including flights, transfers and two nights’ pre-cruise accommodation; 18 nights total, departing February 12, 2020 (titantravel.co.uk).