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The Noordam Holland America ship docks across from the iconic Opera House. The sunset sail away from Sydney Harbor is breathtaking.

 

Goodbye Sydney. The beginning our 14-day cruise from Australia to New Zealand aboard the Noordam.

Australia and New Zealand kept calling our names, but let’s face it, they are a long way from home. I was a little overwhelmed by the complicated planning aspects of trying to fly around the huge continent of Australia and how to navigate both islands in New Zealand. The easy way, to see a lot in a short time, was a luxury cruise to both countries. So we booked a 14-day cruise on the ’s 1,900-passenger classic vessel departing from Sydney, Australia and finishing in Auckland, New Zealand. 

Cruising

Cruising in Australia and New Zealand is the ideal way to explore the thousands of miles of coastline and the spectacular landscapes and attractive cities each country offers. And you only unpack once! Our well-paced cruise included 3 days at sea to relax, swim, spa, attend lectures, movies, cooking classes, martini sampling, classical music concerts, yoga, pilates or dazzling entertainment in the BB King Blues Club or the Mainstage. From elegant dining at specialty Italian, seafood, or steak restaurants or the main Dinning Room, to the ubiquitous buffet or the pool side burger and taco grill, there is something for everyone aboard.

Sydney

Imagine a glimmering, youthful city like San Francisco or Cape Town, built around water with hundreds of bays and 37 beaches, and an iconic Opera House – that’s Sydney. And add a cosmopolitan vibe, athletic, lovable Aussies, safe bike paths and a world-class cuisine. Our three days in Sydney were not enough. We sailed out of Sydney at sunset, slipping by the majestic Opera House and sadly saying goodbye to one of my favorite cities.

Standout: A highlight of our visit to Sydney was visiting the Fish Market and staying at the five-star situated on bustling East Circular Quay. Our spacious apartment had views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with a great balcony for watching the local ferries and cruise ships pull in and out. The location is perfect to walk to the nearby Opera House, the gardens and major attractions. My husband and and sat on the balcony for hours just watching the boats and life on the Quay. Location is number one, and this can’t be beat. It is my favorite place to stay in Sydney.

Melbourne

Melbourne, is a vibrant cultural center with cutting-edge art, architecture, historic galleries and museums. On a walking tour we explored a labyrinth of arcades and alleyways with gardens, mural art, a vibrant Chinatown a dizzying array of restaurants, rooftop bars, bistros, and markets. From Melbourne we sailed across the Bass Straight between Australia and Tasmania, a scenic passage dotted with more than 100 islands to Hobart, Tasmania. 

Fitzroy in northern Melbourne has a bohemian reputation, eclectic bars and restaurants, and street art that covers the narrow backstreets, where small galleries sit alongside corner pubs and terrace houses.

Swanky bars and rooftop pubs attract young professionals for boozy bottomless brunches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hobart

Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart showcases modern and contemporary art alongside antiquities to create a hands-on, surreal museum experience.

Just a few of the fresh fish options at a local restaurant.

Hobart is known for its rugged wilderness, fresh seafood, sailboat racing and a historic colony for the approximate 300 inmates who founded Hobart. The highlight of our time in Hobart was the ferry ride and visit to the Museum of Old and New Art with its’ whimsical, creative and contemporary architecture and exhibits. A visit to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, encompassing approximately 34.6 acres, is a must. Opened in 1818, its gigantic rhododendrons are the size of redwood trees.

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Hobart we crossed the Tasman Sea to New Zealand, allowing us time to relax and enjoy many of the organized activities aboard the Noordam. I went to a Yoga class, a cooking class, a lecture about New Zealand culture and attended several classical music performance.

Milford Sound was described as ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’ by Rudyard Kipling. 

 

 

Milford Sound at sunrise from the deck of the Noordam. 

 

Milford Sound                     We cruised into Milford Sound, a fjord in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island at sunrise. Snow dusted the mountains above the sheer sides of the fjord and Mitre Peak. Thick green rainforests descend to the water and powerful waterfalls plummeted into the sea. The fiord is home to fur seal colonies, penguins and dolphins.

Fiordland National Park.

We cruised through more spectacular ice-carved fiords with pristine mountain to sea vistas all morning in Fjordland National Park, the largest of 14 national parks in New Zealand. 

Dunedin

Our next port of call was scenic Port Chalmers and the region’s cultural capital of Dunedin, founded in 1848 by Scottish settlers who gave it the Gaelic name for Edinburgh. A bag piper dressed in Scottish finery welcomed us at the town center. The town is nestled among rolling green hills that drop sharply into the sea, and is reputed to be one of the best-preserved Victorian cities in the world. A walking tour of the town revealed a wealth of Edwardian and Victorian buildings, including the stunning Dunedin Railway Station. 

 

If you have ever been to Edinburgh, a cruise to Dunedin with Holland America Line may give you a deja vu.

Dunedin’s Railway Station, with its ornate Flemish Renaissance-style architecture, is the country’s most photographed building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holland America is a sponsor of America’s Test Kitchen where we learned how to make pots de creme, fried pickles, and salmon.

The chocolate festival served after dinner to much fanfare is a favorite of passengers on Holland America Cruises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christchurch

Cruising up the east coast of New Zealand’s southern island, we stopped to explore the English-flavored city of Christchurch, spread at the feet of the Southern Alps. The town is being rebuilt after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes that destroyed many of the historic stone buildings. It has been nicknamed the “Garden City” because of it’s natural beauty and the green expanse of Hagley Park and Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

Wellington’s waterfront is filled with bean bags and professionals eating picnic lunches in the business area.

Wellington

Our next stop was Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. Don‘t miss the impressive Museum of New Zealand along the waterfront with exhibits about the country’s art heritage, history, Maori culture and natural history. The highlight was our walking tour and affable guide who led us along the waterfront promenade, sandy beaches, working harbor Lambton Quay and for a ride up the steep hills on the red Wellington Cable Car that reminded us of San Francisco.

Marlborough is heaven for sauvignon blanc lovers. 

Snowcapped mountains, lakes, vineyards and grazing sheep are just part of the magic of Marlborough.

Wine tasting in the morning, a gourmet vineyard lunch with freshly-caught seafood with Brian and his wife, Vineyard Manager at Sacred Hills Vineyards. 

Picton and the Marlborough Wine District

The next day we cruised into Picton, a picturesque port and gateway to the wine country of  Marlborough.Of course, we visited vineyards and sampled some of the regions fabulous wines. Sacred Hills was our favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

The highlight of our cruise tour was a visit to a Maori school and meeting house where we were regaled with stories and songs by local Maori students and adults.

Rotorua (Tauranga) Land of the Maori  

We sailed to Napier, an art deco town and then into the turquoise waters of the Bay of Plenty to visit the port of Tauranga and walk on its white sand beaches. 

 

 

 

 

Auckland. The city of sails. Our final stop was the cosmopolitan and multicultural Auckland is a world-class city teaming with upscale shops, cafes and fine dining. It has hosted two America’s Cup challenges; and its marinas are brimming with world-class yachts. Count on two hours to visit the remarkable Maritime Museum and book one-hour sailing trip into the harbor aboard a ketch-rigged deck scow. Or check out a sail on a former America’s Cup racing yacht .

Queenstown

After we left the ship we flew to Queenstown in the Southern Alps. It is considered the center of adventure sports including bungee jumping off Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge and jet-boating on the Shotover and Dart rivers.

We indulged ourselves for 3 nights in an alpine suite with lake view at the luxurious 5-star St. Moritz Hotel, an Accor Property. There probably isn’t a better view in Queenstown, overlooking Lake Wakatipu to The Remarkables mountain range and a short walk to the bustling mall and waterfront. We had a large suite with kitchen facilities, a living room and a separate bedroom. We ate most of our meals in the hotel because the cuisine was excellent as well as the sunset views of the lake and mountains.  The highlight of our stay in the area was a hike on the famous Routeburn Track through dense beech forests, beneath soaring mountain peaks and waterfalls. The Milford and Routeburn Tracks are among the truly ultimate hikes of the world. 

WAY TO GO

Cruise:  

Sydney Luxury Hotel on the waterfront: 

Queenstown St. Moritz Sofitel :

 

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