Cruise package – Australia & New Zealand with NCL

Everyone should experience Australia at least once. And one of the best ways to do this is with a cruise package in Australia and New Zealand.

So what is it about this country that draws millions of visitors each year? Some say it’s the feeling, the color, the light, the people, the stories. Or you could say it’s spirit. 

Whatever it is, you need to discover it for yourself. We have created a favorite package amongst cruise travelers that offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Cruise package Australia & New Zealand – Sydney to Auckland with Norwegian Cruise Line

Starting in Sydney and finishing in Auckland, your other destinations are:

  • Sydney, Australia
  • Eden, Australia
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • Burnie (Tasmania), Australia
  • Day at Sea cruising on board Norwegian Spirit
  • Day at Sea cruising on board Norwegian Spirit
  • New Zealand’s fjord landscape and the famous fjords of Dusky, Doubtful, and Milford Sound. 
  • Dunedin (Port Chalmers), New Zealand
  • Akaroa, New Zealand
  • Marlborough (Picton), New Zealand
  • Napier, New Zealand
  • Tauranga, New Zealand
  • Auckland, New Zealand

In this article, you will find a suggestion for a 21-night cruise package to Australia and New Zealand including:

  • 5 hotel nights in Sydney before your cruise
  • 12-night luxury cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line
  • 4 hotel nights in Auckland after your cruise

That’s a three-week holiday to look forward to and an adventure you won’t want to miss. Best of all, booking yourself is easy, so you have complete control over your vacation.

Flights: Tips for flights to Sydney and home from Auckland

When looking for flights, remember that flying to Australia and New Zealand takes a long time, and there can be a big time difference depending on where you fly from. 

Check the dates and times of arrival and departure so that you book the correct dates with your hotel. If the time given for your flight arrival includes "+1"  this means that you are arriving at the stated time on the following day after the departure date. This happens with eastbound flights. 
  • You must book a flight to Sydney but home from Auckland for this cruise. This type of ticket is called an “open-jaw” ticket.
  • We recommend booking flights around 4-6 months before your travel date. But keep an eye on availability and special offers from large international airlines such as Qantas, British Airways, Emirates, and Singapore Airlines. 

    The earliest you will be able to book your flight ticket is around 11 months before your planned departure date when seats and prices are released by the airline.
  • Book a ticket with as few stops as possible unless you want a stopover on the way to Australia (for example, overnight in a city such as Singapore to break up the long journey). 
    There are two main benefits to doing this, and it is often worth paying more for this option:
  1. It will shorten your overall journey time there, minimizing the risk of lengthy jetlag
  2. There will be fewer opportunities for your baggage to be lost by the airline
  • As with all cruise bookings, we recommend booking a changeable and refundable flight ticket. Just in case! Cruise lines can change their itineraries or cancel sailings; you may need to amend your flight ticket accordingly.
Check the terms and conditions that apply to your flight ticket before you purchase. Remember that tickets offering the lowest price can often be inflexible. Avoid tickets that are non-refundable and non-changeable.

Transport: Tips for arrival transfer from airport to hotel

If your flight arrives in the middle of the night, you will need to book that night’s accommodation too so that you have a room to check into directly upon arrival. Just inform your hotel of your estimated check-in time. This will prevent your room from being released if they think you will not show up.

You will most likely be jet-lagged when you arrive. Each of the hotels we recommend offers a transfer service from the airport to your hotel (for a fee). 

Start your holiday off hassle-free by pre-booking your arrival transport directly with the hotel when you make your accommodation reservation.

Where to stay: 5 nights pre-cruise in Sydney

Five nights in Sydney is the perfect way to kick-start your cruise package for your Australia and New Zealand vacation. 

We have a list of tried and tested hotels that we have used many times in the past for cruise customers. The cruise port is close to the city center and easy to get to.

Sydney is made up of many different suburbs (regions). The hotels we recommend are located  in the suburbs of Darling Harbour, The Rocks, Central Business District and in Bondi Junction

They are all within easy reach of all the touristy things you will want to do and see, and at the same time have some great options for nearby local restaurants and easy access to local transport.

Your itinerary: 5 nights Sydney + 12 nights Australia & New Zealand Cruise +  4 nights Auckland

Day 1: Arrive in Sydney

Arrive at Sydney Airport, having booked your flight with your favorite airline. The airport’s name is Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, located about 8km south of Sydney. (Tip! Read our advice about booking your flights online before you book!) 

Transfer to your hotel in Sydney using the hotel’s transfer service. Alternatively, there is an official taxi rank right outside your arrival terminal.

Relax, sleep and try to shake off your jetlag, and enjoy your first of 5 nights in Sydney.

Days 2-5: Exploring Sydney

Follow our four-day sightseeing tips on our Sydney page before you start your cruise. Click here for detailed itineraries, travel tips, and must-see sights, including:

  • See the city: Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, Botanical Gardens, Sydney Sky Tower, Sydney Opera House, and Sydney Bridge
  • Boat tour around Sydney Harbour: Discover tiny coves, hidden beaches, snorkeling, and wildlife. See the city from the water and, if you are lucky, catch a colorful yacht race. Sailing under the famed Sydney Bridge is a great experience!
  • North Sydney and wildlife experience: Hop on a local ferry at Circular Quay and travel to Taronga Zoo and the beaches of north Sydney. Tip! Book a motorcycle tour and experience this area on the back of a magnificent Harley Davidsson motorbike.
  • Shopping, markets, and beach day: Spend time visiting The Rocks and the beaches of Bondi Beach and Coogee.

Day 6: Check-in for your Australia & New Zealand cruise from Sydney

Check-in day for your cruise has arrived! Ask your hotel for help booking a taxi from your hotel to the cruise port if your hotel is not within walking distance. All of our recommended hotels are pretty close to the port, and a taxi journey should not take more than 20 minutes, depending on traffic in the city.

We have detailed information on how to get to the port on our Cruise from Sydney information page here.

Your port check-in time is on your cruise ticket. Make sure you get there in time!

  • Cruise Line: Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Name of Ship: NCL Spirit – read more about NCL’s colorful fleet of ships here!
  • Start Date: December 2022 + January to March 2023 (Tip! Cruise dates and itineraries are subject to change at any time check with NCL at the time of booking)
  • Cruise Port: From Sydney, Australia, to Auckland, New Zealand

Days 6 to 18: Cruise Australia & New Zealand (12 nights/13 days)

Cruise Day 1: Sydney

Check in for your cruise at Sydney Harbour Cruise Port. Check your cruise ticket to be sure you are at the correct port for your ship! Climb aboard NCL Spirit and discover all the amenities you would want or need on vacation.

Settle into your cabin, unpack your suitcase, and head to the buffet restaurant for lunch. Or grab your favorite glass of bubble and relax on deck for the sail-away party!

Before you leave home, we recommend that you download the Norwegian Cruise Line app onto your mobile telephone. It’s a great way to easily check in for your cruise, stay connected with family and friends in your party on the ship, plan your activities, make reservations and see all that’s happening on board. And you do not need wifi to use it!

Cruise Day 2: Eden, Australia

On day two of your cruise, your cruise ship docks in Eden, on the most southerly coastal point of New South Wales. Eden is equal distance from Sydney and Melbourne. This charming area is known as the Sapphire Coast and is famous for whale-watching, National Parks, a beautiful harbor, and fresh seafood.

This small town is just a joy to visit. The locals are friendly, and if you want to explore yourself, they will be more than happy to point you in the right direction or stop for a chat. 

Try and use your time here to explore the coastal wilderness and the forests. The paths are excellent, and the views are spectacular. You almost won’t want to leave.

Cruise Day 3: Melbourne

The 12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, South Australia
The 12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, South Australia

Melbourne, in South Australia, offers not only art, architecture, museums, and music but also an extraordinary opportunity to witness mother nature as you have never seen her before.

The famous Great Ocean Road, with its proud 12 apostles standing to attention in the ocean, is possibly one of the most fantastic road trips we have ever done. This is a full day out, so book a guided bus tour or an excursion with your cruise company.

If you love wildlife, then Philip Island, about 90 minutes from Melbourne, will undoubtedly be your excursion. Here you can see koalas and penguins, and wallabies up close. You may even squeeze in lunch at one of the island’s many good wineries. If you can, and the cruise ships stay late in the harbor, catch the Philip Island Penguin Parade at dusk.

It’ll be challenging to choose how to spend your day during your stop in Melbourne. Whatever you choose will be unique, but don’t stay on the ship. Get out and see Melbourne and the beautiful surrounding landscapes.

Cruise Day 4: Burnie, Tasmania

Burnie is a small but busy city on the northwest coast of Tasmania. There is a free shuttle bus from the cruise port to the visitors center. Here you can pick up maps and speak to the staff if you want to explore yourself. 

There are easy coastal walks, but if you want a longer hike, head for Fernglade Reserve, along the Emu river. Wear good walking shoes. Here you have a good chance of seeing platypus in the wild. 

We would, however, recommend getting further afield from the cruise port. Join an organized excursion by bus to either Stanley or Cradle Mountain. Both are fabulous. 

Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain is located in Lake St. Clair National Park. Here you stand on the roof of Tasmania, and the views are fantastic. This day promises a true Tasmanian alpine wilderness adventure. 

Stanley

Another excellent excursion is further afield to the historical peninsula of Stanley on Tasmania’s northwest coast. For the best view of the northern coastline, take the cable car ride to The Nut – a massive volcanic rock 150 meters above sea level. The center of Stanley is full of cozy streets and colonial houses with plenty of good shopping and lunch venues.

Cruise Day 5 and 6: At Sea

This is your chance to relax on board NCL Spirit. Having undergone one of NCL’s most extensive renovations, NCL Spirit is not the ship of old we knew and loved. It just got better. After all, they did spend 100 million dollars on the renovation.

NCL Spirit may not have all the bells and whistles and activities that the very big ships offer, but use the facilities on board for the next two days and experience the luxury of cruising on this beautiful ship.

There are six new restaurants and new spaces for adults only. Every bar and lounge has been redesigned, and seven new ones have been added. The spa has been expanded, but the high standard of service and friendly staff are still in place.

Cruise Day 7: Milford Sounds, Doubtful Sound, and Dusky Sound.

It’s important to know that on day 7 of your cruise, you do not stop in a port when you get your first glimpse of New Zealand. Day 7 is about cruising through New Zealand’s beautiful fjord landscape, and you will stay on board your cruise ship.

A New Zealand landscape
A New Zealand landscape

If you did not book a balcony cabin, you will begin to wish you had on this particular day.

You get a fantastic view of the fjords – Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, and Dusky Sound from your balcony, especially if you don’t feel like joining the rest of the guests on the top deck.

And don’t worry about not seeing everything on both sides. At some point, your captain must turn the ship around when you get the 360 degrees view.

Let’s talk a bit about the weather here. Unpredictable is a good word. It is not unusual that you will sail through the mist, but in our opinion, the fjord landscape becomes even more magical at these times. There can be rain, too; New Zealand weather can generally be a little obstinate. So pack a lightweight rain jacket, just in case.

Cruise Day 8: Dunedin (Port Chalmers), New Zealand

The harborside township of Port Chalmers is a weekend getaway for the Dunedin locals and a bustling artist colony.

Famous for being the spot where Captain Cook left for his Antarctic expeditions, you will be able to take the cruise ship shuttle bus to the Octagon, the center of Port Chalmers. And you can certainly have a great day here without going too far from your ship.

If you want to go further afield, a short 20-minute drive along the coast either by taxi (share the cost if there are 4 of you) or by bus from the Octagon, and you arrive in Dunedin.

With a Scottish heritage, Dunedin is a lively and liveable town with gorgeous Victorian and Edward architecture. It’s easy to walk the town. Don’t miss the spectacular views across the ragged peninsula, the unique wildlife, exceedingly friendly locals, and a wonderful mix of cafes, restaurants, and eateries. It is well worth a visit.

Cruise Day 9: Akaroa, New Zealand

Action, adventure, nature, and wildlife best describe the day you will have in this sheltered volcanic harbor, home to blue penguins, dolphins, and fur seals. Try kayaking, biking, or trekking. There’s scenic walking or a guided bus tour for a slower pace.

If you are looking for a great New Zealand wine to bring home with you, take a relaxing wine tour from Akaroa and discover vineyards with a distinct hint of the French heritage of this township. You will be spoilt for choice.

And remember to leave enough time to shop in the unusual and quaint boutiques.

Cruise Day 10: Marlborough (Picton), New Zealand

Picton is a small coastal town at the northeastern tip of the south island, with a palm-tree fringed harborside, surrounded by hills and mountains in the distance. Downtown is sleepy, but there are quaint shopping and some great cycle paths if you want to rent a bike.

And no trip to Picton is complete without walking the scenic routes of Queen Charlotte Sound or a visit to the famous Marlborough wine district.

Cruise Day 11: Napier, New Zealand

Walking down Marine Parade in Napier after your ship has docked, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in South Beach, Miami. Napier is a fantastic example of the art deco style. The town was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1931 destroyed the city. Enjoy the architecture, the wide boulevard, and the charismatic locals running trendy boutiques and cafés.

We recommend that you combine a trip to the town with a bus excursion to one of Napier’s beautiful wine districts. If joining a group tour isn’t your thing, then the best way to experience the landscape is by renting a bike and cycling through wine country, following the Tukituki River.

Cruise Day 12: Tauranga, New Zealand

Choosing how to spend your day in Tauranga will be a challenge. There isn’t time to do it all. However, everything is worth seeing. It is quite simply a great stop on your itinerary.

A favorite way to spend a day is to discover the Maori culture and the stunning landscape – nature and culture all day. To do this, we recommend a tour that takes you to Rotorua, where you can take in the sights of Mount Maunganui and the Sulphur Bay Hot Springs on lake Rotorua.

Tauranga is also famous for being one of the locations where Lord of the Rings was filmed. You can immerse yourself in the mythical world that is Middle Earth and visit the set of Hobbiton, which has become a busy hit with tourists.

Visiting this small city, you will feel how liveable it is. With a wide, sandy beach, plenty of shopping, and an abundance of sunshine, you could enjoy a day at the beach if you become restless, rent a kayak or stroll the boardwalk into town for lunch at one of the local eateries.

Cruise Day 13: Arrival in Auckland, New Zealand

Last, by no means least, your cruise ship with a dock in Auckland. What a way to finish off your vacation. We love this city.

After disembarking, head for the taxi area, clearly signposted by the dock. The port is located quite close to the city center, and if you have booked one of our recommended hotels, the journey will not take more than 20 minutes.

You may not be able to check into your hotel room immediately (often check-in is around 2 pm) but ask reception if your room is ready. If not, leave your luggage in the care of the concierge and head out for a town tour on foot.

We have excellent tips on how to spend your post-cruise days in Auckland on our Auckland page, including:

  • Auckland Waitemata Harbour, Mount Eden, Auckland waterfront, Sky Tower
  • Discover Auckland coastline and Piha Beach; Waitakere Ranges rainforest
  • Day trip to Tiritiri Matangi Island
  • Wine and food downtown walking tour, shopping and night markets

Live, breathe and enjoy this wonderful city for four days before heading to the airport. Your hotel can pre-book a taxi for you for your transfer to the airport; just let them know what time you must check-in.

Need more tips on cruising? We’re here to help!

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Meet the author: With more than 20 years experience from the travel industry, Mattias offers tips, expert advice and a unique perspective anchored in having worked with market leading cruise lines, tour operators, consolidators, airlines and hospitality suppliers. Read more..