2013 Australia and New Zealand cruise tour

We truly experienced the lands down under!

New Zealand’s awesome landscapes, lush forests, amazing wildlife and pleasant climate make it one of the top dream come true destinations in the world. Nowhere else in the world can a traveler experience such diversity in landscape and beauty - so close together.

Flying Wheels Travel hosted our first 15-night cruise tour on the Celebrity Solstice, which was an experience of a lifetime for our guests. The cruise tour was Nov. 4 until 19 and we began our experience in Sydney.

The whole world is in love with Sydney. It is stylish; it has sophistication; its home to some of the friendliest people on the planet and yes, a few koalas, if you know where to look. This gateway to Australia has it all.

We toured the lovely harbor of Sydney and viewed the highlights on a beautiful panoramic tour of the city. A favorite time for our guests was a morning spent at the Taronga Park Zoo.
This accessible park zoo features 74 acres of lush gardens and is one of the world’s great zoos. It has Australia’s largest collection of exotic animals in addition to the unique native animals. This experience provided our guests with an easy opportunity to view koalas, kangaroos, dingoes, wombats, Tasmanian devils and platypus in natural environments. Not to mention the spectacular views of Sydney’s harbor.

After time spent in Sydney, we sailed to Melbourne – Australia’s second largest city. Melbourne retains a Victorian air and a European feel. Many Victorian bluestone buildings may be found amongst new high-rise blocks and English-style parks and gardens.
We enjoyed an accessible tour of Melbourne with time spent at the Royal Botanic Gardens, which are one the most outstanding public gardens anywhere in the world. The nearly 88 acres boast a living exhibition of some 60,000 species of plant life and houses memorials to those who have fought in the world wars.

After leaving Australia, we sailed through some of the most beautiful sounds and fjords the world has to offer. We enjoyed the spectacular beauty and majesty of the Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound. These amazing fjords carved by glaciers in the Southern Alps were truly remarkable sights.

Our first stop in New Zealand after sailing around the fjords was Dunedin. This bustling University City near the tip of the south island is located at the head of the long, narrow and wonderfully picturesque Otago Harbor. Originally, a Presbyterian Scottish settlement, the city retains a distinct Scottish ambience. It is famous for its grand 19th century public buildings and homes reflecting the wealth derived from the goldfields in the 1860s.

After a lovely tour of Dunedin, our group enjoyed a wonderful afternoon at the Royal Albatross Colony at the end of the peninsula. This colony on Taiaroa Head is the only colony that is accessible to humans. We were all delighted by the opportunity to see the birds gliding overhead, as sightings are not guaranteed.

Our next stop was Akaroa. This small town is truly surrounded by incredible natural beauty and abundance of birds and wildlife. Bounded by green rolling hills, the deep blue waters of the large natural harbor are filled with dolphins, penguins and sea otters.
We enjoyed a casual stroll tour of this wonderful little town with plenty of time to enjoy some local fish and chips along with browsing the local craft shops.

It was then on to the capital of New Zealand, Wellington. The city’s focal point is undoubtedly the harbor, one of the worlds best protected and most beautiful. Flooding of a very large, long extinct volcano crater formed Wellington’s harbor. The city bends gracefully around the port and the houses seem to flow out of the hills right down to the sea. The Edwardian buildings and narrow streets contrast sharply with the modern skyscrapers.

After a tour of the city, our group spent a wonderful afternoon at nature reserve that has eliminated any predator plants or plants brought to the island by European settlers. Only native plants and birds of New Zealand are allowed in this eco-fenced preserve. We had an amazing experience view the plants and the many birds in the sanctuary.

Our next stop was Tauranga with its majestic Mount Maunganui marking the harbor entrance to the Bay of Plenty. The bay is aptly names – it has a wide range of recreational activities, a mild climate, New Zealand’s most popular beaches and the world’s first kiwifruit orchards.
From Tauranga, we traveled to Rotorua, best known for its geothermal activity and Maori history. For nearly 150 years, the thermal wonders of this region have lured visitors. Bubbling mud pools, silicone terraces and other earthly forces captured our imagination as we toured this beautiful area.

There is no better place in New Zealand for people to experience firsthand the arts and crafts of the Maori people. From carving and weaving to song and dance, there are endless opportunities to experience the warmth and friendliness of the Maori in Rotorua.

Our group had the wonderful experience of this wonderful culture at the Te Puia Cultural Center where we were able to view the geysers, enjoy a traditional Maori cultural show and learn about the traditions and crafts of the Maori people.

After time spent at the cultural center, we experienced another long standing New Zealand culture, that of sheep farming. We visited the Agrodome sheep farm for a live sheep show at which champion rams are introduced on stage along with sheep shearing and sheep dog demonstrations.

Our last destination city on this amazing cruise tour was Auckland. This beautiful city is the largest in New Zealand and one the most culturally diverse in the southern Hemisphere.
After visiting many interesting sights in city, we had a delicious dinner at the Orbit Revolving Restaurant on top of the Sky Tower. The 1,076-foot tower provided an excellent vantage point to enjoy a 360-degree view of Auckland, the harbor and surroundings.

On our second day in Auckland, our group enjoyed a quite Sunday at the Victoria Park Market, a drive to Mission Bay and an extremely entertaining production of the musical Wicked.

Our last day in Auckland included a beautiful and relaxing harbor cruise tour and a delightful afternoon in the botanical gardens. Our group just good not get enough of the amazing native plants, flowers and wildlife of this truly amazing place called New Zealand.

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