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: $7,200 Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 A moody Milford Sound
 Rugged coastline of Kaikoura
 Fur Seals
 Dolphins at play
 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
 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 aboard the 184-guest Le Lapérouse

8 days from $7,200

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 Pre-Cruise Program - 5 days, 4 nights

Your upcoming expedition along the eastern and southern coasts of New Zealand's South Island will be an experience of rugged fjords and unparalleled biodiversity—of wilderness and untamed nature. This pre-cruise program on the North Island offers a view of entirely different New Zealand—one of rolling hills and green pastures, of dairy farms and berry orchards. As you drive from Auckland to Wellington, roughly the distance from New York to Cleveland, you will enjoy the pastoral world of New Zealand farming, witness the geothermal fields around Rotorua, and participate in some of the cultural traditions of the indigenous Maori. This pre-trip extension is a perfect land-based complement to what awaits you aboard your ship in the south.

Day 1 – Auckland

Arrive at Auckland International Airport, where you will be met and transferred to the Park Hyatt Auckland hotel in the city's Wynyard Quarter, your home for the night. Relax and enjoy the amenities of the hotel before joining fellow travelers for a welcome cocktail reception in The Boathouse this evening. Dinner and the remainder of the day are at leisure.

Park Hyatt Auckland

Day 2 – Auckland | Rotorua

After breakfast at the hotel and check-out, board a luxury coach to begin your drive southward to Rotorua. After about two hours of travel through scenic rolling green hills and dense forests, pause for a tour of a working dairy farm, one of New Zealand's most important industries, and enjoy a typical country-style lunch of local produce. Following lunch, continue to Rotorua, a "Thermal Wonderland" of geysers, bubbling mud pools, and soothing hot springs, where you explore Waimangu Volcanic Valley, home to the intriguing Inferno Crater which rises and falls as it heats and cools.

Pullman Rotorua Hotel

Day 3 – Rotorua | New Plymouth

Today, your coach heads toward the west coast of North Island, stopping about mid-morning at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Here a boat specially designed for the purpose will take you deep into the caves where tiny worms, unique to New Zealand, radiate a fluorescent blue-green glow that illuminates the caves and underground streams that are their home.

A short drive brings you to nearby Crosshills Homestead, where the owners will serve a lunch made entirely on the premises from produce grown on local farms, including their own. After lunch and a stop for dessert at a berry orchard, drive through the Taranaki region of the country to the coastal city of New Plymouth, where you check-in to the King and Queen Hotel Suites in late afternoon. The balance of the day is at leisure for you to explore New Plymouth's waterfront and enjoy dinner on your own.

King and Queen Hotel Suites

Day 4 - New Plymouth | Wellington

Breakfast is followed by a walk across the street to the permanent exhibit of the works of Len Lye in the Govett-Brewster Gallery, where one of the gallery's curators will introduce you to the work of this famed New Zealand artist. After the gallery tour, board your coach for the drive to Whanganui, pausing along the way at Pukekura park and at Parihaka, where the early Taranaki Maori Wars took place. In Whanganui, explore the Museum, famous for its Taonga Maori Collection, and enjoy lunch.

Continue your drive to Paekākāriki, where a guide will lead you on a tour of the wetlands and Kahikatea remnant forest of Queen Elizabeth Park, before a stroll along the beach. A final 45-minute drive along the coast overlooking the Cook Strait ends in Wellington, where you check in to the Sofitel for the night. Dinner is in the hotel and the evening is at leisure.

Sofitel Wellington

Day 5 - Wellington | Embark

Enjoy a morning at leisure before setting off on a 'foodie' tour of Wellington, during which you visit a craft brewery, sample good coffee and the best chocolates available in New Zealand's capital city. In the afternoon, transfer to the pier to embark Le Lapérouse.

Your hotels:

Auckland’s new Park Hyatt, located in Wynyard Quarter and overlooking Waitemata Harbor, is a 5-star luxury hotel on the waterfront, just a short stroll from the city center. Its amenities include four restaurants and bars, elegant public spaces, a day spa, an infinity pool, and a fitness center. 

The Pullman Rotorua Hotel, also a 5-star property, is located in the center of the city. With 130 rooms, a gym, restaurant and bar, it is the perfect base for exploring the geothermal phenomena of the region.

King and Queen Hotel Suites in New Plymouth is a 4-star hotel in the cultural center of the city. It is adjacent to the Len Lye Gallery and within a stone's throw of the city's finest restaurants, bars, cafes, and retail spots.

The Sofitel Wellington, located in the Parliament precinct of the capital city, is a 5-star hotel with an award-winning restaurant and La Serre Bar. Its luxury rooms and suites feature Sofitel MyBed and modern bathrooms with refined French amenities.

Your program includes:

  • 1 night each in the Park Hyatt Auckland, the Pullman Rotorua, the King and Queen Suites Hotel (New Plymouth), and the Sofitel Wellington
  • Transfer and luggage handling from the airport to the hotel on the scheduled program arrival day
  • Welcome Reception on Day 1
  • Breakfast on Days 2, 3, 4, and 5
  • Lunch on Days 2, 3, and 4
  • Dinner on Days 2 and 4
  • Transfer and luggage handling from the hotel to the ship on embarkation day
  • Sightseeing and programming as noted in the itinerary
  • Local English-speaking guide
  • Gratuities for the drivers and local guides

Your program does not include:

  • Transfer from the airport to the hotel on any day other than the scheduled program arrival day
  • Personal expenses and other services and meals not mentioned as included in the program

Please note:

  • It is imperative that your flight arrival details are communicated at least 30 days prior to the beginning of your cruise in order to secure your transfer from the airport to the hotel.
  • Early check-in and/or late check-out are available depending on availability and at a supplement. Please, contact reservations or your travel agent for further details.
  • The official currency is the New Zealand dollar (NZD$). Credit cards are widely accepted.
  • This pre-cruise program is offered as a package. There will be no refunds for unused accommodations, meals, or excursions.
  • Program is offered on a space available basis.
  • Program is subject to change without notice.


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 Māori 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

Dock at Akaroa and 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)

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