Welcome to Melbourne
Tour begins 6:00 PM. Transfer is included from Melbourne Airport to the Sofitel Melbourne On Collins in the heart of the shopping, dining, and theatre district. Join us this evening for a welcome reception at the hotel is followed by dinner.
The Heart of Melbourne
Take a walking tour of Melbourne this morning, with a motorcoach tour of major landmarks, including Fitzroy Gardens, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Parliament House, and Olympic Drive. Visit the Shrine of Remembrance, one of Melbourne's most important landmarks, honoring the service and sacrifice of Australians who served in wars and peacekeeping missions; built originally as a memorial to those killed in World War I, the shrine is attended by volunteers in World War I uniforms, and is dedicated to sharing stories about war, peace, sacrifice, and lessons learned. This afternoon, spend free time in Melbourne on your own. The city is famous for its food culture, museums, galleries, and bohemian style, and its inner city is distinctly European, with some narrow streets reminiscent of Paris.
Fly to Cairns & meet the Crocs
Fly to Cairns, a city surrounded by rainforests, where your first stop is Hartley's Wildlife Park, an award-winning ecopark of specially designed habitats that makes you feel like you're in the wild with crocodiles, lizards, cassowaries, and other indigenous wildlife; your visit includes a boat cruise on the lagoon with a naturalist guide. Next, visit Barron Falls in Barron Falls National Park, where you'll ride an open-air gondola on a four-mile trip through the treetops of a rainforest; soak in the sounds of the forest and dazzling birds-eye views of the Tropical North Queensland region. Arrive at Cairns and check into your luxury hotel on Trinity Inlet. Join us this evening for a private dinner and show at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, a museum and theatre dedicated to the history and culture of the "Rainforest People."
A great day at the Great Barrier Reef
Cruise to the Great Barrier Reef, with a biology presentation and a snorkeling demonstration en route. The coral reef is one of the world's great natural wonders, considered the largest living thing on the planet; more than 1,400 miles long, it is longer than the Great Wall of China and visible from outer space; its vast ecosystem is home to countless species of fish and marine life. On arrival at the Marine World Outer Reef you can snorkel or view the amazing sights through a glass-bottom vessel, or relax aboard an anchored pontoon platform. Options available at additional cost include scuba diving, helmet diving, SEABOB (an underwater jet snorkeling machine), marine biologist-guided snorkel tours, and scenic helicopter rides. Return to your hotel in Cairns where the evening is free. The city is a cosmopolitan tourist destination that caters to all tastes, and there are many restaurants in walking distance of the hotel.
Fly to Sydney, where sightseeing with a local guide includes The Rocks (an historic neighborhood of open-air markets and the city's oldest pubs), the Botanical Gardens, the Central Business District, Hyde Park, St. Mary's Cathedral, and the neighborhoods of Darling Point and Rose Bay. Check into your hotel in the heart of the city, a short walk from the Sydney Opera House and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The evening is free.
A g'day in Sydney
Walk to the iconic Sydney Opera House for a tour with a local guide. Projecting into Sydney Harbor, the operahouse is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an architectural masterpiece of interlocking shells (or sails) surrounded by terraces and pedestrian concourses. Inside are a concert hall, several theatres, a multipurpose hall, and a recording studio, as well as cafes, restaurants, and bars. This afternoon enjoy free time on your own, then join us for a private cruise on Sydney Harbor that includes a farewell reception and dinner.
Fly to Queenstown & a jet boat ride
Fly to Queenstown and check into your hotel on the scenic shores of Lake Wakitipu. You will have crossed a time zone, so turn your clocks ahead two hours. Get an adrenalin rush on a Thunder Jetboat ride through a river gorge, taking hairpin turns and skimming the water at speeds up to 95 mph (spray jackets and life jackets provided). Or ride a gondola high above Queenstown to take in the panoramic views of the city, the lake, and surrounding mountains. Dine at leisure at the hotel this evening.
Arrowtown and free time in Queenstown
Explore Arrowtown, a historic gold-mining town on the Arrow River which retains much of its original character and charm. Then return to Queenstown for free time on your own; relax at the hotel, enjoy the spa, go hiking, or explore Queenstown, which calls itself the Adventure Capital of the World (the birthplace of bungee jumping).
Dunedin / embark Le Laperouse
Drive to Dunedin (du-NEE-din) on the Otago Peninsula. The city bears the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, while Otago takes its name from the Maori village, Otakou, which preceded it. Dunedin was settled by Scottish missionaries in 1848 and later made its fortune during the Otago Gold Rush of the 1860s. Disembark ship and take your choice of sightseeing options. On a guided tour of rugged Otago Peninsula, explore its natural wonders including volcanic rock formations and habitats of royal albatross, sea lions, and yellow-eyed penguins. Or enjoy a guided walking tour of Dunedin, with its well-preserved Victorian and Edwardian architecture. Or tour Larnach Castle, built by a Victorian merchant-baron in Gothic Revival style, with exquisite gardens and stunning seaviews. After lunch, embark Le Laperouse to begin your cruise; sail for Fjordland National Park this evening.
Fjords... colors and mist on a day at sea
This afternoon, sail into Dusky Sound, once a popular whaling and seal-hunting ground, where humpback whales still frequent the waters, along with bottlenose dolphins and seals. The sound is one of New Zealand's most inspiring natural settings. Dense forests line the shores, and the steep-sided cliffs pour with waterfalls in the rainy season; the islands are havens for birds including petrels, prions, and kakapos. Discover Doubtful Sound, Fjordland's deepest fjord, that wanders for 24 miles inland, lined with intensely green forests and mountains shrouded in mist, which Charles Lyttleton described as "an awesome place, with its granite precipices, hanging valleys, its earthquake faults, and its thundering cascades."
Treasured sights on a day at sea in Milford Sound
Arrive in Milford Sound, a fjord of breathtaking cliffs, rain forests, black water and alpine peaks at the edge of Fjordland National Park. The Maoris call it Piopiotahi; Rudyard Kipling called it the Eighth Wonder of the World. Explorer James Hingston, who saw it in 1883, marveled at the shoreline mountains that tower thousands of feet and seem as if they "were just carved yesterday by the stupendous wedges of titanic masons." In fact Maori legend says they were carved by a god with a keen-edged adze. Rain-fed waterfalls plunge from great heights; the more striking mountain formations go by names like Mitre Peak, the Lion, or the Elephant. The sound is a marine reserve habitat for fur seals, dolphins, and occasional whales, and a breeding ground for Fjordland Peguins.
A marvelous day at sea
Spend a day at sea as Le Laperouse sails up the western coastline of South Island, a showcase of seaside towns and national parks, swaths of pristine wilderness and Southern Alps. There are videos and documentaries on the region available. Or you can relax and enjoy the ship's amenities, which include a pool with panoramic view, a counter-current swimming system, a spa, a solarium, and outdoor bar and lounge.
Picton and Marlborough Valley
Picton is a picturesque seaside town of cafes, restaurants, and galleries, where ferry service connects to the islands of Marlborough Sounds. Your choice of shore excursions today includes visits to Omaka Aviation Heritage Center, film director Sir Peter Jackson's personal collection of World War I aircraft and artifacts; Makana Confections, a boutique chocolate factory; Yealands Winery Estate on the Seaview Peninsula; and Barewood Farm, for a sheep-shearing and dog-herding demo, and a country-style lunch. Or travel to a wine estate in Marlborough Valley, a landscape of spectacular beauty and one of the premier wine regions in the world, followed by a visit to Upton Oaks, a Victorian home surrounded by a romantic, intimate "garden of national significance." Or go kayaking on Queen Charlotte Sound with an optional hike around the Queen Charlotte Track, a scenic trail of coastal views, historic landmarks, and varieties of bush and wildlife. Dinner tonight is aboard ship as you sail for Wellington.
In and around Wellington
New Zealand's capital city is also the nation's cultural heart, nestled in a sheltered harbor ringed by mountains at the southern tip of North Island. The compact metropolis is an energetic hive of government and commerce, theatres, museums, galleries, restaurants, and cafe culture, whose Miramar suburb ("Wellywood") is famous for its film studios; the Lord of the Rings trilogy was made here, as well as other blockbuster films like King Kong and Avatar. Ride a cable car to Mt. Victoria lookout for a stunning, panoramic view of the city and its harbor, then you have a choice of city sightseeing. Visit the Wellington Botanical Gardens and the Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa Tangarewa), an interactive, innovative museum dedicated to the nation's art, science, and natural history, and the history and culture of its indigenous people. Or drive the rugged coast on a "seal safari" to find seal colonies and wildlife you may meet along the way, such as wild goats, horses, deer and ostrich. Or explore the local food scene on a Capital Tastes Tour, sampling artisan flavors and going behind the scenes of some of the city's eateries with a local guide. Or take a walking tour of Matui Island, the site of a Maori fortress, now home to rare birds, reptiles, and penguins. After lunch, enjoy free time on your own; downtown and the waterfront are a delight to explore, and the architecture spans the gamut from ultra-modern to Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco masterpieces.
Napier and the wineries
Arrive in Napier, a coastal city on Hawke's Bay, North Island, where you have a choice of shore excursions. Napier was leveled by an earthquake in 1931 and completely rebuilt within two years, which accounts for its unparalleled wealth of Art Deco architecture. Take a ride around town on the Hawke's Bay Express, a modern road-train built in the style of a vintage steam locomotive from the Art-Deco era. Or bicycle along the Water Trail, a dedicated cycling path following the coast to Taradale, where you can see an historic Maori pa (fortress), enjoy refreshments, and get a transfer back to port. Or visit Horsford Downs, a private home in the country, where Hamish Prins will show you his gardens, orchards, and boutique winery, and entertain you with stories. The area around Hawke's Bay is home to 72 wineries. At Churchroad Winery you'll get a tour and tasting and insights into pairing wine with food. Or discover Mission Estates Wines, New Zealand's oldest winery, founded in 1838 by French missionaries.
White Island... lava bombs and fumeroles
White Island is a live volcano 30 miles off the mainland. Most of it is underwater, so the rim of the crater is near the waterline. Our visit is weather-dependent. Land on the island by zodiac. Within the crater is a world of hissing and roaring vents, bubbling mud pits, lava bombs, and vivid colors. Also on the island is a lake of steaming acid, a sulphur-mining factory abandoned in 1914, and a breeding colony of Australasian gannets. Return to ship and spend the rest of the day at sea.
Maoris artisans and geysers in Rotorua
Sail to Tauranga, a city on the Bay of Plenty near Mount Maunganui, an extinct volcano. Maunganui (also called Mauao, or The Mount) may be cold, but geothermal activity still rages under the earth in nearby Rotorua, steaming up from cracks, fault-lines, geysers and hot springs. Rotorua is also where European settlement began in New Zealand. You have a choice of excursions: visit historic Elms Mission House, built for an Anglican missionary in 1847; in Rotorua Forest you'll also visit Whakarewarewa, an authentic Tamaki Maori village, where you'll be welcomed to their sacred grounds, see a traditional dance, and a demonstration of how the Maoris use steam from the ground and hot springs to cook their food. Or visit Rainbow Springs Kiwi Encounter, a kiwi hatchery and nursery, where the birds are raised and released into the wild; watch Maori artisans and carvers at work near Pohutu Geyser; then head to the Agrodome for a tour of a sheep farm that includes demonstrations of sheep shearing and dog herding. After lunch, return to the ship. This evening, attend the captain's farewell reception, followed by dinner, as you sail for Auckland.
All about Auckland
Ride the ferry to Waiheke Island for a tour of an olive estate, a wine tasting and vineyard lunch; enjoy some time at leisure. Join us this evening for our farewell dinner that marks the end of a fabulous journey.
Pleasures of Waiheke Island
Sail by ferry to Waiheke Island, a picturesque haven of vineyards, wineries, and olive orchards. New Zealand, with its moderate climate and diverse terroirs, is famous for its distinctive wines, and today you'll learn why at a visit to Batch Winery for a tour and tasting. Next, visit Rangihoua Olive Estate to see how its award-winning olive oils are produced. Following lunch, return to Auckland for free time, then join us this evening for a farewell reception and dinner at a local restaurant.
Tour ends: Auckland. Fly home any time; transfers are included from Hilton Auckland to Auckland International Airport.