They say, “It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.” This wisdom particularly applies to New Zealand, an otherworldly destination of glacial fjords, bubbling mud pools, rolling hills, and ancient forests. It’s a place so different, so unique, that it has served as the backdrop for the Lord of the Rings fantasy films.
New Zealand is small but mighty. In size, it’s a bit bigger than Great Britain and a bit smaller than Japan. Its neighbor, Australia, is approximately 29 times larger. But New Zealand’s two islands pack a punch, and one can easily devote an entire vacation (or several vacations, for that matter) to exploring them. There’s simply so much to do and see.
That’s why we offer country-intensive voyages to New Zealand. These unique cruises offer guests the chance to visit many ports in one country and truly immerse themselves in the culture. We’re offering a 13-night New Zealand voyage in 2018, and a 16-night New Zealand voyage in 2019. Here are seven things to do during your trip to New Zealand.
1. Go on an outdoor adventure.
One of the most alluring things about New Zealand is the country’s stunning natural landscape. If you love to explore the great outdoors, New Zealand is for you. It just might be the greatest outdoors.
Bay of Islands is one of the top destinations in New Zealand for just this reason. Here, over one hundred pristine islands are scattered across beautiful azure waters, just waiting to be explored. You can hike, kayak, or even skydive here. It’s a great place for sailing – keep your eyes peeled for whales, dolphins, penguins, and other marine life. Then there’s the extraordinary Puketi State Forest, where ancient Kauri trees tower above and the mysterious Kawiti Caves are illuminated by thousands of glowworms.
In places like Tauranga and Napier, you can take one of our Cruise Global, Bike Local tours for a spin. The easy trails along Tauranga’s Mount Maunganui will take you past stunning ocean viewpoints and the remains of ancient volcanoes. We can’t imagine a better way to explore the area!
If you prefer four wheels to two, try a four-wheel drive wildlife safari. Cruise the cliffs of Cape Kidnappers and spot the area’s famous gannet birds, or explore Wellington’s rugged coastline and observe a colony of seals.
Whether you traverse New Zealand by bike, boat, or bus, you’re bound to be amazed by the country’s breathtaking natural beauty.
2. Learn about Māori culture.
Māori culture is a vital part of New Zealand’s identity and no trip to the country would be complete without learning about it. Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand and make up 14% of the country’s population. The Māori first came to the islands of New Zealand from Polynesia more than a thousand years ago.
In Bay of Islands, Azamara guests can spend a full day learning about the history and culture of the Māori people at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Guests can attend a handicrafts workshop to learn the art of flax weaving or make a traditional Māori flute, watching dance and weaponry performances, and tour the Museum of Waitangi.
Tauranga, New Zealand, will be a true highlight of the cruise for those interested in Māori culture. Mount Maunganui, also known by the Māori name Mauao, is considered sacred in Māori culture. This area is also home to ancient Māori rock art, and there are several Māori villages surrounding the nearby geothermal area and town of Rotorua. A visit to the Māori Arts and Crafts Institute to watch expert wood carvers at work won’t disappoint.
In Wellington, Azamara guests can join a small-group tour of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa for a deeper look at Māori artifacts, history, and customs. Many of the artifacts are not on display to the general public, and the insights from a Māori guide during the tour offer invaluable enlightenment.
3. Discover the incredible flavors of New Zealand.
What is the cuisine of New Zealand? The best way to find out, of course, is by tasting it.
New Zealand’s cuisine has strong similarities to British food, with roots in indigenous Māori culture and modern global influences. Hāngī is a traditional Māori cooking method still used today, mostly for special occasions. Hāngī food – often mutton, chicken, or pork along with root vegetables – is placed in a wire basket and cooked underground over hot stones for several hours.
As an island nation, seafood is plentiful in New Zealand. Look for scallops, oysters, mussels, crayfish, king salmon, snapper, and pāua fritters. New Zealand lamb is world-renowned, and a popular local menu item.
From touring a local sheep farm to authentic Kiwi cooking lessons, there are plenty of New Zealand shore excursions for foodie travelers. Wellington is particularly acclaimed for having incredible food, making the “Flavors of Wellington” shore excursion a great pick for anyone with an interest in gastronomy. Seafood lovers will enjoy a trip aboard the fishing vessel Odyssea, where they can learn all about New Zealand’s local salmon and Greenshell mussels.
4. Play a few rounds of golf.
Our 2018 country-intensive voyage to New Zealand is also a PerryGolf voyage. That means Azamara guests will have the opportunity to play golf at some of New Zealand’s best courses throughout their cruise, and PerryGolf staff will be onboard to oversee every aspect of the experience.
It’s no surprise that the rugged coastal cliffs and lush, rolling hills of New Zealand make for some incredible golf. Golf has the highest participation rates of any sport among Kiwis, and New Zealand is considered a bucket list destination among globetrotting golfers.
One of the great joys of an Azamara cruise is that you can visit many destinations, but only unpack once. Getting from Point A to Point B is a joy, not a hassle. For golfers, this voyage offers the opportunity to effortlessly include playing golf in your travel plans.
The golf package includes five rounds of golf, with the option to add a sixth round at Jack’s Point in Queenstown, New Zealand. Highlights include the Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers courses, respectively ranked 39th and 40th worldwide.
5. Admire unique architecture.
For architecture buffs, there’s a lot to love about New Zealand. Napier, New Zealand is particularly renowned for its Art Deco architecture. The Hawkes Bay Earthquake devastated the city in 1931. The quake lasted only a few minutes, but registered a 7.8 on the Richter scale and took at least 250 lives. Most buildings were destroyed.
What followed was a building boom. In the next two years over 100 new buildings were erected, mostly in the popular and inexpensive Art Deco style. The style is known for pastel colors, boxy, linear structure, and geometric embellishments. Today, Napier is famous for its Art Deco architecture and the buildings are protected under the Art Deco Trust. Thousands of people visit every year for the Tremains Art Deco Festival. Azamara guests can partake in Art Deco tours on foot or by vintage car in Napier, during which local experts offer insightful commentary.
Dunedin, New Zealand, is also home to a few architectural gems. Larnach Castle is notable for being New Zealand’s only castle and is well worth a visit. The tower, ballroom, and impeccable surrounding gardens make it one of Dunedin’s top landmarks. Azamara guests can enjoy a traditional New Zealand morning tea during their visit. On the same shore excursion, guests will visit Olveston House, a lavish villa built by a wealthy family in the early 20th century.
Other landmarks include the beautiful University of Otago and the Dunedin Railway Station, pictured above. The station was constructed in the Flemish renaissance style and opened in 1906. Its similarities to an intricate gingerbread house earned its architect, George Troup, the nickname “Gingerbread George”. Be sure to venture inside when you visit, as the ornate interior features a gorgeous mosaic floor and porcelain frieze.
6. Sample the country’s renowned wines.
New Zealand’s wine industry is relatively new, but robust. For wine aficionados, visiting a few wineries while traveling the country is a must.
New Zealand has been producing wine since colonial times, though wine consumption in New Zealand didn’t truly take off until the 1960s. However, the New Zealand wine industry truly kicked into high gear around 1990, as began to gain a reputation for crisp, fresh Sauvignon Blanc wines. In the past fifteen years or so, both the number of wineries in New Zealand and the value of New Zealand wine exports have skyrocketed.
In fact, Sauvignon Blanc makes up over 70% of wine production in New Zealand. The grape can be found on both the North and South islands of New Zealand but is particularly prominent in the famous Marlborough wine region. Marlborough is easily accessed via the port of Picton and Azamara guests have several wine-related shore excursions to choose when visiting. Although Marlborough is small in area, it is one of New Zealand’s premier wine regions. Over 100 wineries are located here, many of them small, family-owned operations.
New Zealand’s oldest and second-largest wine region is Hawke’s Bay, which can be explored during shore excursions from Napier. Hawke’s Bay is known for producing Chardonnay, Syrah, and red blends.
7. Explore “The Thermal Wonderland of New Zealand”.
The city of Rotorua, near Tauranga, is famous for its geothermal activity. If New Zealand is otherworldly, Rotorua is in another universe. Here’s a quick guide to the sights:
Te Puia and the Pohutu Geyser
Te Puia is a thermal reserve just 3km south of Rotorua’s city center. It boasts over 500 hot springs and at least 65 geysers. The most famous is Pohutu Geyser, which erupts up to 20 times a day, to heights of 30 meters.
The thermal reserve is famous for its bubbling mud pools, erupting geysers, and Māori cultural significance.
Whakarewarewa Thermal Village
The Māori people have lived at Whakarewarewa for centuries. The name is abbreviated from “Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao”, which translates to “the gathering place for the war parties of Wahiao” – though it’s often further abbreviated to “whaka” by locals. It was the site of the fortress of Ta Puia, known for being impenetrable.
The Whakarewarewa Thermal Village is where locals reside. Here, you can learn about the Māori way of life and their traditions of woodcarving and flax weaving, buy authentic arts and crafts, and partake in a Hāngī feast. The Pohutu Geyser is visible from several vantage points in the village.
Wai-O-Tapu and the Champagne Pool
Wai-O-Tapu is another thermal reserve, found 27km south of Rotorua. The name Wai-O-Tapu means “sacred waters”. Geothermal activity here causes the hot springs to have colorful, multihued appearances. The most famous of the springs is the Champagne Pool, which bubbles like a glass of champagne thanks to an abundance of carbon dioxide.
Rotorua’s Blue Baths are a museum and swimming pool. Opened in 1933, the Blue Baths are known for the building’s historic Spanish-inspired Art Deco architecture, geothermally heated swimming pools, and classic tearoom.
Sitting atop the Rotorua Caldera is Lake Rotorua, largest of sixteen lakes in the area. The volcano has not erupted for over 240,000 years. In the middle of the lake is Mokoia Island, a rhyolite lava dome. We think the best way to explore the lake is by boat – aboard the Lakeland Queen, while dining on a delicious buffet lunch.
With our shore excursions from Tauranga, you’ll experience the best of New Zealand’s thermal wonderland. And on our 2018 and 2019 country-intensive voyages, you’ll experience the best of New Zealand itself.
Are you excited for your next Azamara voyage?
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