October 24th 2017

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Round the world? Round the world? Round the world? Round the world? Round the world? Round the world? Round the world?

 

Continent: Oceana. Country: Australia. City: Sydney.

Round the world?

By Howard James, Cruise Holidays UK

Having been on quite a few cruises over the past few years; the Med, Northern Europe, Alaska and the Caribbean included, my wife and I decided that we would like to do something a little different, that was further afield and take a little longer to do.  A round the world cruise would have been a nice option but work commitments, not to mention finances, have a tendency to get in the way of such grand ideas. An extended Christmas break however gave us the month of January to play with and we opted to combine a couple of ‘I’ve always wanted to’ ideas into a travel itinerary.

As a result we flew from Heathrow to Hong Kong on Boxing Day and spent three days taking in the sights there before flying down to Sydney on New Year’s Eve; just in time to catch the spectacular fireworks display. That allowed us to spend three more days in Sydney, including a visit to Bondi Beach on New Year’s Day – sure beats New Year’s Day in the depths of a UK winter. For events, attractions and things to do in Bondi Beach, click here to visit Sydney's Tourism Website

To be honest, Bondi was a bit of a surprise to us. We actually live in St. Ives in Cornwall and for some reason had always assumed that Bondi would be big and spectacular but what we found was not dissimilar to our nearby home beaches! Maybe we are biased?

We enjoyed Sydney, brief visit that it was, for its generous mix of history and modern living. As we have done in several other cities we made full use of the Open Top Bus tour and would recommend it as a means of gaining an overview of the main sights when you have a limited timescale.

So, with Trains and Boats and Planes mentality our next leg of the journey would be a Cruise.  Cue Diamond Princess and Sydney harbour. Our cruise would take in Melbourne and then Hobart in Tasmania before crossing the Tasman Sea to the Fjords of the South Island of New Zealand and then visiting Dunedin, Christchurch and Tauranga before disembarking in Auckland.  

A cruise through New Zealand's  Fiordland National Park is thoroughly recommended for its spectacular scenery; formed by massive glacial flows that carved deep fiords into the coast, at the heart of it lies Milford Sound, lined by cliffs that soar nearly a mile high with rainforest clinging to the cliffs and graceful waterfalls aplenty.

Dunedin proved to have what we thought was a very Scottish ambience and it was from here that we took an excursion on the Taieri Gorge Railway. The route of pioneers & prospectors through a spectacular River Gorge dating from the 1870s, with wrought iron viaducts, tunnels viewed from modern or vintage carriages. 

Our next port of call was for Christchurch, with the ship docking at Lyttleton Harbour.  It was here that we found one of those ‘hidden gems’ to visit - for 135 years Lyttleton residents and visitors to the port settlement have looked up to the spur above Officers Point and marvelled at the Time Ball Station. 

Sadly the reality of seismic activity later in the year of our trip is now plain to see.  Not only was Christchurch devastated by the earthquakes but the Time Ball Station is no more too. Some of this landmark’s heritage fabric has been removed and put into storage but there is now apparently little in the way of recognisable features of what previously stood.

Our final port prior to Auckland was Tauranga and no trip could be complete without a bit of Maori culture. So a visit to the Tamaki Maori Village, proud winner of New Zealand's Supreme Tourism Award, is a fun way to learn about the heritage and cultural legacy of the Maori. Rub noses with locals and watch your own personal Haka challenge.

Our cruise ended at Auckland where we had allowed ourselves a few more days in order to see the sights and to catch up with ‘Vern’ an old work colleague who emigrated to NZ some thirty years ago. He and I in previous life worked in Construction Management but Vern had the good sense to change career direction when he arrived in Auckland and now works for Mount Riley, one of the leading NZ wine producers. Indeed, last year my wife and I did a transatlantic cruise that called in at Qaqortoq in Greenland and in local store there found bottles of the very same Mount Riley wine. We tried to work out if this wine could be anywhere further away from its point of origin? Tasted OK so it must travel well.

To end our itinerary we had chosen to fulfil the ‘round the world’ requirement by flying back to the UK via Los Angeles rather than the reverse of our outbound trip. In all, a very worthwhile experience, not just a holiday but more of a fun educational trip – and Diamond Princess proved to be an excellent floating hotel that transported us around these diverse locations - you are never too old to learn and it’s perhaps worth remembering that, as in Lyttleton Harbours’ Time Ball case, if you don’t see it now you might not see it at all. Just go and do it!

Howard James
Cruise Holidays UK
hjames@cruiseholidaysuk.co.uk

Keywords: Hong Kong, Sydney, Diamond Princess, Melbourne, Tasmania, New Zealand, Lyttleton Harbour, Auckland