December cruising Down Under in the southern hemisphere below many of the other countries on the globe is a complete escape from the chill of Winnipeg winter and a learning experience to discover and explore the natural beauty, history, culture, and traditions of Australia and New Zealand.
Our family tour (with our daughter Marie Anne and her husband Jerry and their daughter Cassy) began from Sydney, the largest city in Australia. Six days gave us enough time to visit the city’s icons and famous places – the iconic Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Tunnel, The Rocks and Circular Quay, Chinatown, the famous historical George Street, Manly and Bondi Beaches, and the Blue Mountains in the town of Katoomba.
On December 22, we left the picturesque Sydney Harbour on Diamond Princess and arrived the day before Christmas at the sprawling city of Melbourne. A half-day guided bus tour brought us to the Shrine of Remembrance, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Cook’s Cottage, the Federation Square, the Yarra River, the Queen Victoria Market, the Rod Laver Tennis Arena which is home to the Australian Open, and the Eureka Tower and its skydeck overlooking the whole city.
For the first time away from home we celebrated our Christmas at sea on our way to the port of Hobart in the island of Tasmania, once a British penal colony, with Mt. Wellington towering in the background. We visited the Rozny Point, Bonorong Wildlife Conservation Park and explored the Georgian town of historic Richmond, home of the first Catholic Church and the first stone bridge in Australia.
After a two-day voyage at the Tasman Sea the ship was sailing along the Fiordland World of southern New Zealand. Milford Sound, the most famous of the any majestic fiords, is simply stunning!
December 30 found us at the Port Chalmers – the gateway to Dunedin, a Kiwi city of New Zealand with a Scottish heart. We enjoyed the sights on a scenic drive and toured the Larnach Castle, Dunedin Train Station, Cadbury Chocolate Factory, and bustling Octagon Square at the city centre.
The next port of call is Lyttelton,the gateway to another famous city, Christchurch, New Zealand’s most English city. Places of interest that we visited include the tree-lined Avon River, Botanic Gardens, Worcester Boulevard, the Arts Centre/Christchurch Art Gallery, the Cathedral Square, and the Bridge of Remembrance.
On the early morning of January 2nd, the Princess docked in Tauranga situated in the Bay of Plenty, an area rich in Maori history. Adjacent to the pier is the town of Maunganui which we explored on foot after taking Tauranga’s highlights on a narrated tour along the busy bay.
We arrived in Auckland, the famous City of Sails, on January 3rd for a five-day visit-tour of the city’s must-sees – Mt. Eden (an extinct volcano), Piha Beach, Paihia and the beautiful Bay of Islands, Mission Bay, Auckland Sky Tower, Te Puia Thermal Reserve (Maori Arts and Agrodome), the world-famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves, the Queen Street, Auckland main avenue.
New Zealand Air flew us back to Vancouver on the 7th of January, 2011.