Going Our Way: Cruising Down Under in Australia and New Zealand

Princess Cruises offers a 17-night Tropical Highlights tour of Australia and New Zealand, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
Princess Cruises offers a 17-night Tropical Highlights tour of Australia and New Zealand, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef. (AP Photo)
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By Carol Sottili
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, September 14, 2010; 12:42 PM

Who: Jerry Weber, 71, and his wife, Lynn Weber, 58, of Norman, Okla.

Where: Australia and New Zealand

Why: To visit new lands

When: Whenever college is in recess. Would consider end of December/beginning of January or mid-May/beginning of June, as long as it's not too cold.

Budget: Up to $12,000

"We are faculty members who have never been to this part of the world. We don't want to engage in endless packing and unpacking, and think a cruise would be perfect. We'd like to visit the main cities, especially Cairns."

Jerry and Lynn Weber, a pair of University of Oklahoma profs, want to cruise Australia and New Zealand sometime when the school calendar frees them up, but they're not sure what time of year is best. They can stop worrying about whether it'll be too cold to cruise in May or June: It's not an option. Cruise ships head to warmer waters between April and September. (Remember, the seasons are reversed.) For these travelers, the semester break is the only time to cruise Down Under.

Just two traditional lines offer cruises that fit the Webers' bill: Holland America (877-932-4259, www.hollandamerica.com), which operates the MS Volendam, and Princess (800-774-6237, www.princess.com), which runs the Dawn Princess, Sun Princess and Diamond Princess. Other lines ply these waters, but some, such as Silversea, are too expensive, while others, such as Royal Caribbean, don't offer the Australia/New Zealand itinerary within the couple's time frame.

The personalities of the two lines are similar, although Holland America skews slightly more upscale and older. Cabins will be a bit larger on Holland America's Volendam, and the ship carries 1,432 passengers, which is at least 520 fewer than any of the Princess options.

Although Australia is the embarkation point, the most common cruise itinerary on both lines includes a whole lot of New Zealand and not much Australia. So the Webers will have to combine some sort of land visit with the cruise in order to see Cairns.

The pivotal decision is whether to go with a cruise-tour or to book separately.

Holland America doesn't offer a cruise-tour combo, but Princess has two that would probably work. Its 17-night Tropical Highlights package, departing Dec. 17, visits Sydney and Cairns, including the Great Barrier Reef and Kuranda, before starting a 12-day cruise aboard the 2,670-passenger Diamond Princess, which docks in Melbourne, Tasmania and four ports in New Zealand, ending in Auckland; the price, including domestic flights, land transport, tour guides, sightseeing, several tour meals, cruise and taxes, starts at $8,183 per couple, including taxes. The 18-night Australian Outback Adventure, which departs Dec. 16, additionally goes to Ayers Rock and Alice Springs; price starts at $9,194 per couple, including taxes.

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