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Cruising In New Zealand - Everything You Need To Know

Joanna Hall

Australia and New Zealand are island nations which coexist in the South Pacific as close neighbours and have different personalities. While a healthy sibling rivalry exists on the sporting field, New Zealand has its own distinct offerings that cannot be compared to Australia, from its Maori culture to the sweeping vistas portrayed in blockbuster movies like "Lord of the Rings”. The early Polynesian inhabitants called New Zealand “Aotearoa”, which means “The Land of the Long White Cloud”, and the country is divided into North and South Islands, separated by the Cook Strait. The North Island is more heavily populated, with larger cities including Auckland and the nation’s capital, Wellington, while the South Islands all about wide open spaces, spectacular mountains, lakes and glaciers. From the Bay of Islands at the top of the North Island to dramatic Fiordland in the far south, cruising New Zealand opens up a world of natural wonders, and reveals a vibrant culture which really defines a proud nation. 

Australia’s Major Cruise Lines

New Zealand doesn’t get the same attention as Australia when it comes to cruising, as the season is considerably shorter, however, it features on itineraries of most major cruise lines and visiting ships. P&O Australia is one of two local mainstream cruise lines with ships based in Australia permanently, while other Carnival Corp. brands also make regular calls to New Zealand during the summer months, including Princess, Holland America Line, Seabourn and Cunard.  

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises also offer cruises to New Zealand each summer, with visiting ships often making calls on their repositioning cruises from other parts of the world ahead of the season start. Most of cruises depart from either Sydney or Auckland. 

Of the visiting ships, cruise lines including Crystal, Oceania, Regent, Silversea and P&O World Cruises arrive between December and January, either for a short season of cruises, or on grand Pacific voyages or world cruises, along with Ponant and Azamara Club Cruises. And finally there are limited expedition cruises, which tend to mix visits to large ports with scenic visits to less-frequented locations, while some expedition cruises visit New Zealand’s South Island en-route to sub-Antarctic islands.

Itinerary Options

The majority of cruises visiting New Zealand during the summer are round trips from Australia, however, there are also opportunities for one-way voyages to Australia, usually from Auckland or Wellington. Roundtrip itineraries are mostly longer voyages of 10-day or more, while one-way trips can be as short as a week.

Roundtrip cruises from Australia usually include visit popular ports including Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Akaroa and Dunedin, with longer cruisers having additional stops at destinations such as Bay of Islands, Napier, Picton, and scenic cruising of Fiordland. Some will also tag on additional ports of call in eastern Australia, such as Melbourne, Hobart and Newcastle, and others will include a handful of South Pacific destinations in New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji.

A circumnavigation of New Zealand is a relatively new option on offer during the summer months, with ships operating them including the Caledonian Sky, and there are repositioning and transpacific cruises which feature New Zealand at the beginning or end of the Australasia cruise season. These are typically offered by ships from the Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Holland America Line fleets.

Best Time Cruise

New Zealand is best enjoyed during the peak summer months of December, January and February, although the season officially kicks off in early October, and extend to the end of April. Between May and September only a handful of ships visit, with no activity at all in July. New Zealand has high annual rainfall spread evenly throughout the year, and it is famous for weather which can change unexpectedly. While the far north can have subtropical weather during summer, and inland alpine areas of the South Island can be as cold as -10 Celsius in winter, most of the country lies close to the coast, which means mild-to-cool temperatures year-round. The average New Zealand temperature decreases as you travel south, with January and February the warmest months; in summer, the average maximum temperature ranges between 20-30 Celsius (70-90 Fahrenheit) depending on where you are. Always pack layers and rain wear, and remember that like Australia, summer is also a standard holiday period for families, so expect more crowds around major attractions and tourist spots including beach resorts. 


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  1. Posted by on 13th Nov 2018 Verified Customer

    Nice Article 4 Star Review

    Nice article covers the basics

  2. Posted by on 13th Nov 2018 Verified Customer

    Great For Newbies 5 Star Review

    Enjoyed this story but it would be great to learn a bit more about unusual things you can do on an kiwi cruise....we love going there and have been about 4 times but finding new stuff to do in port is a challenge. What do you think?