The West

See the land of wide blue ocean
Milford Sound is a favourite destination. Supplied picture

Cruises which circumnavigate New Zealand are much easier to access since the number of seats on direct flights from Perth to Auckland with Air New Zealand and alliance partner Virgin Australia increased last month.

West Australians look on New Zealand as a top destination due to its Maori culture, rugged coastline, scenic landscapes, and the locations for such films as The Lord of the Rings and Avatar.

There is no shortage of choices with many ships cruising New Zealand waters as the number of Kiwis taking a cruise holiday has soared. Last year the International Cruise Council Australasia reported that New Zealand had one of the world's strongest passenger growth rates, up 32 per cent to almost 56,500.

A decade ago Auckland's cruise terminal, conveniently close to the heart of the city, hosted one cruise ship but last year 30 cruise ships made 97 visits to the port from the Pacific islands, from Australia, or from North America or Europe.

• The newest addition to P&O's fleet, the 1800-passenger Pacific Pearl, has nine-night round-trip cruises from Auckland to the Pacific islands of New Caledonia and Vanuatu in April, May and June from $812 per person quad share. A three-night Food and Wine round cruise on Pacific Pearl from Auckland on May 18 is a chance to "taste" life at sea from $507 per person twin share.

• Celebrity Solstice sails an 18-night cruise from Auckland to Fremantle on January 28, cruising the north and south islands and visiting scenic Milford, Doubtful and Dusky sounds, before crossing the Tasman to cruise the southern coastline to WA from $2976 per person twin share.

• The biggest ship in Australian waters this summer, Voyager of the Seas - with onboard amenities including an ice-skating rink, rock-climbing wall and nine-hole miniature golf course - has an 18-night cruise between Fremantle and Sydney on November 5, taking in Adelaide, Melbourne and Hobart before cruising across the Tasman to Milford Sound and other New Zealand ports, from $2903 per person twin share. A similar 18-night cruise, also taking in New Zealand's scenic highlights, leaves Sydney for Fremantle on February 13.

• Diamond Princess' 14-night cruise from Auckland to Sydney on January 25 calls into the New Zealand ports of Tauranga, Wellington, Picton, Lyttelton (Christchurch), Dunedin and Fiordland National Park, before Hobart and Melbourne from $1699 per person twin share.

• Seven Seas Voyager's 15-night cruise from Auckland to Sydney on January 9 rounds New Zealand's east coast, then crosses the Tasman to Hobart and Melbourne before ending the voyage in Sydney on January 24. It includes 32 free land excursions from $10,199 per person twin share.

• An 18-night circumnavigation of Australia and New Zealand on Radiance of the Seas leaves Fremantle on March 22 - cruising to Albany, Esperance, Adelaide, Melbourne and Hobart before crossing to New Zealand, and ending in Sydney on May 7. It is from $2235 per person twin share.

• World Expeditions' 31-day Antarctic voyage on Ortelius leaves Invercargill on New Zealand's South Island on February 14 to follow the path of early explorers through the Amundsen Sea. The cruise ends in Ushuaia (Argentina) after participants sail the Ross Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula with Greg Mortimer who led the Australian Bicentennial Antarctic Expedition in 1988. An on-board helicopter gives guests a bird's eye view of the remarkable wildlife and icy terrain, from $US23,990 ($23,265) per person quad share, excluding airfares.

• Queen Mary 2's 12-night circumnavigation of New Zealand in March was sold out within days of going on sale.

The West Australian

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