A NEW cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT

Immerse yourself in the natural majesty of New Zealand’s South Island, sailing from the rich waters of Kaikoura and Akaroa—home to whales, seals, and dolphins—to the magnificent waterways of Fiordland National Park.

Starting at: $6,120 Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 A moody Milford Sound
 Rugged coastline of Kaikoura
 Fur Seals near Kaikoura
 Dolphins at play in bay near Kaikoura
 Sperm whale in the bay near Kaikoura
 Albatross flying near Kaikoura
 Blue Whale in bay near Kaikoura
 Landscape of lupines and mountains on the South Island
 Landscape around Christchurch
 The Rose Garden at the Botanical Gardens, Christchurch
 Doubtful Sound
 Doubtful Sound on a cloudy day
 Milford Sound
 Waterfalls in Fiordland National Park
 Beach on Stewart Island
 The Fiordland crested penguin
 The New Zealand Yellowhead songbird
 The New Zealand Bellbird, with its distinctive call
 The beautiful New Zealand Tui
 The endangered South Island Saddleback
 The common New Zealand Kea

New Zealand's South Island by Sea

A Voyage to the Fiordland

8 days from $6,120

A NEW cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT

Immerse yourself in the natural majesty of New Zealand’s South Island, sailing from the rich waters of Kaikoura and Akaroa—home to whales, seals, and dolphins—to the magnificent waterways of Fiordland National Park.

or Call 855-330-1542


New Zealand’s South Island is edged with spectacular coastlines, where mountains rise dramatically just beyond the shore; pristine fjords cut between towering cliffs; and whales, fur seals, and penguins are drawn by unspoiled marine habitats. Sail from Wellington to the World Heritage-listed Fiordland National Park, stopping to discover captivating Christchurch and watch sperm whales in seaside Kaikoura. Then venture to the glacier-carved waterways of the Fiordland, exploring four glorious sounds: Dusky, Doubtful, Thomson, and the extraordinary Milford Sound.

The Smithsonian Journeys / PONANT Experience: Each cruise will be accompanied by two Smithsonian Journeys Experts. An excursion or activity is included in each port of call. You may have a choice of excursions in many ports, so that you can delve more deeply into subjects that interest you.

Highlights Include:

  • Kaikoura: Explore this attractive small town, poised on a narrow peninsula between dramatic mountains and the sea. Then set out on a wildlife tour to observe the diverse creatures drawn here by nutrient-rich waters: sea lions, dolphins, and several species of whales—including sperm whales, which can be found off Kaikoura year-round.
  • Akaroa and Christchurch: Dock in the lovely Akaroa and travel inland to Christchurch, New Zealand’s “garden city.” Discover the creative ways that Christchurch has rebounded following the earthquake of 2011, from the Cardboard Cathedral to a thriving community arts scene. Ride the Christchurch gondola for an aerial city view or stroll through the Botanic Garden to see native flora. Or set off on a harbor cruise in Akaroa, on the lookout for Hector’s dolphin and seabirds.
  • Dusky and Doubtful Sounds: In remote Dusky Sound, encounter rich wildlife such as New Zealand fur seals and Fiordland crested penguins. Glide into the narrow Doubtful Sound—named by Captain James Cook, who was unsure it was navigable—and discover spectacular waterfalls.
  • Milford Sound: Experience the majesty of the Milford Sound, taking in a cathedral of vertical cliffs and peaks that tower above the serene waters. Ride Zodiacs for a closer view of wildlife and scenery along the shores.
  • Ulva Island: Take a guided walking tour on Ulva Island, a predator-free haven for bird and plant species that are rarely found on New Zealand’s main islands. Watch for the flightless Stewart Island weka and the South Island saddleback, and meander through an unspoiled podocarp forest.


Day 1 — Wellington, New Zealand

Arrive in Wellington, New Zealand’s vibrant capital city, situated on a picturesque bay on the southern tip of the North Island. Board the ship this afternoon and set sail for the South Island tonight. (D)

Day 2 — Kaikoura

Your first port of call is the lovely town of Kaikoura, nestled along a beautiful beach at the foot of the snowcapped Kaikoura Mountains.  Discover the unique cultural history of the region, from its original Maori inhabitants to the whaling communities that developed here beginning in the 18th century. Set off on a wildlife cruise to discover the many marine creatures drawn to the deep, nutrient-rich waters off the coast. Watch for sperm whales, which reside here year-round, as well as dusky dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, and some of the migratory cetaceans that pass through, including pilot, blue and southern right whales. (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Akaroa and Christchurch

Dock at Akaroa and travel inland to Christchurch, New Zealand’s “garden city.” See the creative ways Christchurch has rebuilt since the devastating earthquake of 2011, and visit some of the innovative buildings erected in its wake including the “Cardboard Cathedral,” and a shopping mall built entirely of shipping containers. Ride the Christchurch gondola for an aerial city view or stroll through the Botanic Garden. Alternatively, stay in Akaroa and embark on a wildlife cruise, on the lookout for Hector’s dolphins, the smallest dolphin species in the world, as well as the prolific birdlife that comes to roost on the towering sea walls known as Cathedral Cave. (B,L,D)

Day 4 — At Sea

As you sail south along the coast, enjoy a leisurely day on board, taking advantage of the ship’s many amenities and joining your Smithsonian Journeys Experts for informative presentations. You might choose to indulge in a massage at the spa or meet the PONANT photographers to see images of the voyage so far. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Dusky Sound and Doubtful Sound

Enter the stunning, glacier-carved waterways of Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage site known for its narrow fjords, vertical cliffs, and old-growth forests. Sail first into remote Dusky Sound and ride Zodiacs to get an up-close look at wildlife including endemic species such as the Fiordland crested penguin.  Continue north to the long and narrow Doubtful Sound, so named by Captain Cook, who questioned whether it was navigable when he arrived here in 1770. The ship will navigate Secretary Island as well as the adjacent Thompson Sound, and you’ll have the chance to explore by Zodiac, discovering spectacular waterfalls along the shores. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Milford Sound

Your final stop in the Fiordlands is the incomparable Milford Sound, which meanders inland between the steep slopes of the Southern Alps, offering breathtaking vistas at every turn. Spend the morning immersed in the sound’s natural majesty, taking in the views from on deck and setting out by Zodiac to spot fur seals and an array of birdlife native to New Zealand. This afternoon, the ship begins the voyage south to Ulva Island. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Ulva Island

Awaken on Paterson Inlet, a haven of marine life that reaches deep into Stewart Island—New Zealand’s third largest island. Go ashore at Ulva Island, a predator-free wildlife sanctuary that is home to an unspoiled podocarp forest as well as an array of flora and fauna that are rare or no longer exist on the North and South Islands. A guided walk with naturalists brings you through pristine forests, where you’ll discover unusual plant species and an array of native and endemic birdlife, including the flightless Stewart Island weka, South Island saddlebacks, yellowheads, and more. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Dunedin / Return Home

Drop anchor in Dunedin, at the base of the beautiful Otago Peninsula. Disembark after breakfast and transfer to the airport or extend your stay. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)