This spectacular 15-day journey captures the essence of Australia and New Zealand and features an exclusive four-night Great Barrier Reef cruise aboard the intimate Coral Princess II. Accompanied by a marine biologist, observe the wondrous underwater world from a glass-bottom boat or while snorkeling. On land, experience the magnificent natural wonders and dynamic cultures Down Under with stays in Queenstown, Te Anau, Sydney and Cairns. Enjoy a scenic cruise on Milford Sound, see the stunning vistas of New Zealand’s Southern Alps and learn about the rich heritage of the Aborigines. Auckland Pre-Program and Ayers Rock Post-Program Options are offered.
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Days 1-3 — U.S., Queenstown, New Zealand
Depart for New Zealand. Cross the International Date Line. Arrive in Queenstown. Check into the Novotel Lakeside Hotel, located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu in the heart of this quintessential New Zealand city. Attend the Welcome Reception this evening.
Day 4 — Queenstown
The morning tour reveals the charm and treasures of Queenstown and its environs. Step back into the pioneering days of the 1860s gold rush during a visit to the historic mining settlement of Arrowtown, where traditional pubs and shops are reminiscent of America’s Old West. In the Lakes District Museum, fascinating exhibits paint a vivid and authentic portrait of 19th-century life in New Zealand’s frontier country. Stop at the historic Kawarau (suspension) Bridge, constructed in the 1880s and made famous by bungee jumpers diving into the spectacular Kawarau Gorge. The remainder of the day is at leisure; you can ascend Bob’s Peak by cable car for breathtaking views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps.
Day 5 — Queenstown
Late this morning, board a classic turn-of-the-century, coal-powered steamship, the legendary T.S.S. Earnslaw, fondly referred to as the “Lady of the Lake,” and cruise Lake Wakatipu while admiring its stunning mountain setting. Visit the Walter Peak Sheep Station to learn more about New Zealand’s rich tradition of sheep ranching and savor a barbecue lunch. The afternoon is at leisure in Queenstown. This evening, experience traditional Kiwi hospitality and cuisine, and gain personal insight into the lives of typical New Zealanders during a specially arranged dinner in a private home.
Day 6 — Queenstown, Milford Sound, Te Anau
Transfer to Te Anau for lunch. Visit Te Wahipounamu (a World Heritage Site) where, according to Maori legend, the demigod Tu Te Raki Whanoa created what is today, New Zealand’s stunning Fjordland. Enjoy a cruise of the sublimely beautiful Milford Sound, where mountains plunge into the sea and waterfalls cascade down verdant slopes, misting into a vast sequence of rainbows. Return to Te Anau and check into the Distinction Luxmore Hotel.
Day 7 — Te Anau, Queenstown, Sydney, Australia
Following a scenic mid‑morning transfer to Queenstown, fly to Sydney, Australia. On arrival, check into the Grace Hotel, located in the heart of the city. The evening is at leisure.
Days 8-9 — Sydney
Sydney’s stunning skyline, magnificent harbor and multicultural residents distinguish it as one of the world’s truly great cities. The guided city tour showcases Sydney’s lively Circular Quay; bustling Chinatown; The Rocks, Australia’s historic first British penal colony and early settlers’ homes; and Bondi Beach, where master surfers come to ride breakers the size of small mountains. Tour Sydney’s premier Opera House (a World Heritage site) and a masterpiece of architecture and engineering developed by Danish architect, Jorn Utzon. Then, view Sydney’s spectacular skyline during a cruise of one the world’s most beautiful harbors.
Days 10-13 — Sydney, Cairns, Great Barrier Reef Cruise
Fly to Cairns to embark the Coral Princess II. Throughout your cruise, the expedition cruiser will stop to experience the breathtaking tapestry of marine life, from brightly colored starfish and sea cucumbers to hundreds of types of coral, plants and fish of the Great Barrier Reef (a World Heritage site), as conditions permit. Cruise to Cooktown, where Captain Cook took refuge during his voyage of discovery in 1770, when he claimed Australia as a British colony. Discover the rich biodiversity of the area’s flora and fauna, including many rare and unusual species, due to the region’s proximity to three major ecozones. Visit a remote, uninhabited island this afternoon for your first up-close exploration of the reef. Snorkel amid a vast array of colorful coral and exotic sea life, including green sea turtles, dolphins, dugongs and more than 1500 species of tropical fish as we stop at scenic Lizard Island, Ribbon Reef No. 9 and No. 3, and Rachel Carson Reef, named for the marine biologist and Silent Spring author. Lizard Island and these reefs are known for their excellent snorkeling, where you can see rays and gardens of giant clams just a short swim from the beach. Also look for land creatures on Lizard Island, including its namesake iguanas that can be found almost everywhere and prolific bird species. En route, enjoy nature treks, glass-bottom boat excursions, and snorkeling accompanied by the Coral Princess’ marine biologist, who will talk about the Great Barrier Reef’s complex ecosystem. Attend the onboard Farewell Reception.
Please note that the Coral Princess II’s specific itinerary and cruise pattern is dependent on weather, sea conditions and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority regulations.
Day 14 — Great Barrier Reef Cruise, Cairns
Following breakfast, disembark in Cairns and visit Tjapukai Cultural Park, a showcase of thousands-of-years-old Aboriginal culture. Enjoy a performance of Aboriginal music and dance, admire traditional artwork, listen to the tales of ancient legends, participate in demonstrations of boomerangs and musical didgeridoos or “drone pipes,” and sample typical bush cuisine. Overnight in the Deluxe Shangri-La Hotel, located in the heart of Cairns, overlooking the marina. The afternoon and evening are at leisure.
Day 15 — Cairns, U.S.
Transfer to the airport and continue on the Ayers Rock Post-Program Option with an overnight stay in Ayers Rock, or return to the U.S.
*An exclusive two-night Auckland Pre-Program Option and a one-night Ayers Rock Post-Program Option are offered. Optional excursions are available at additional cost. Details will be provided with your reservation confirmation.