Australia and New Zealand
The lands down under are famous for beaches, cosmopolitan cities, local wines, spectacular scenery, and some really weird wildlife — we're talking platypus, kangaroos, and kiwis. Some itineraries include stops in the South Pacific islands, while others circumnavigate Australia, or anchor in both Australia and New Zealand. Since you've made the long-haul flight, you may also want to explore by land, embarking on a wine tour or trek to Uluru (Ayers Rock).
Cruises operate year-round here, but spring through fall — October to April in the southern hemisphere — is the peak period. That coincides with cyclone season, though ships' itineraries are rarely impacted.
What We Love
Indigenous Cultures: Attend a traditional dance performance at a wharenui Maori meeting house in New Zealand or buy Aboriginal dot paintings in Australia — they make authentic souvenirs.
Wine Tasting: Both countries are paradises for wine lovers, with vineyards and tasting rooms galore. New Zealand is known for its Sauvignon Blanc, while Australia's most famous varietal is Shiraz (Syrah).
Best Known For
Great Barrier Reef: Australia's endangered 1,400-mile-long reef shelters an impressive 600 types of coral and 1,600 species of fish, among other marine creatures such as the dugong (sea cow).
Fiordland: Glacier-carved fjords and tussock grasslands are part of the landscapes of this pristine UNESCO World Heritage area on New Zealand's South Island, and also home to Milford, Doubtful, and Dusky Sounds.
Shop for Cruises
Sydney, Australia: There's tons to do in this cosmopolitan city: Tour the iconic sail-shaped opera house, catch a wave at Bondi Beach, or browse around the historic Queen Victoria Building's upscale shops.
Cairns, Australia: Stroll the seaside Esplanade or snap selfies with koalas at the Wildlife Dome. Outside of Cairns, snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef or visit a rainforest by train, duck boat, raft, or cableway.
Auckland, New Zealand: Here, you can marvel at the Auckland Museum's Maori artifacts, take a wild ride on an America's Cup boat, or go vineyard-hopping on Waiheke Island, which you can access by ferry.
Napier, New Zealand: Taste reds and whites in New Zealand's oldest winemaking region, view the world’s largest gannet bird colonies on the mainland, wander Napier's Art Deco district, or visit the National Aquarium where tanks of native species are on display.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
English May Seem Like a Foreign Language: Yes, residents are speaking the same language as you, but you may have a hard time understanding what they're saying because of their accents and different lingo. In Australia, locals also love nicknames ("Brissy" for Brisbane, "Melbs" for Melbourne,"Aussies" for Australians).
Gayle Keck is a San Francisco-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.