If you’re bound for the South Pacific or New Zealand on a cruise this coming season, you may be aware of the wide selection of shore excursions at your disposal in practically every port on your itinerary.
Stepping off the ship in each port opens up each port for you to explore either at your own pace or on a guided tour. One of the world’s biggest land tour retailers, Viator, has released its list of the top eight excursions available to cruise travellers in these parts of the world. The TripAdvisor owned brand is an external retailer not aligned with any cruise company, so it’s important to consider the benefits and disadvantages of booking outside your cruise ship.
According to Viator, here are the most popular shore excursions being booked by Australians.
1. Tauranga: Rotorua Highlights
Ticket price: $138 per person.
Many cruise ships navigating their way up or down the eastern coast of New Zealand will usually include a stop in Tauranga, on the north-eastern coast. Boarding the bus from the port, this tour begins with a look at some local farms, which are widespread in this part of the country. From there, guests travel to the Whararewarewa thermal springs to check out one of the many geysers which are so popular in the area.
On the way back to the ship, the final stops are at Okere Falls at the Bay of Plenty and a visit to a traditional Maori village for a snapshot into the indigenous way of life.
This tour runs for seven hours so you’ll need to make sure you have enough time in port.
2. Napier: Half Day Ultimate Wine Tour
Ticket price: $115 per person.
A heavily art deco town just around the eastern-most tip of New Zealand, the town of Napier is also one of the country’s most recognised and celebrated wine producing towns, and it is this side of the town which is shown off during this tour.
The half-day tour also takes in some of the coastal landscapes, delivered in between visits to three different wineries, with a tasting opportunity directly from the barrel included at each. This tour offers a look into the wine making process from start to finish as well as a visit to New Zealand’s wine museum to learn about the art of pairing wines with appropriate food.
3. Picton: Highlights of Marlborough
Ticket price: $115 per person.
Probably one of the northern-most towns of the South Island, just across the Cook Strait, this port is also where you’d catch the Inter-Island Ferry if crossing with your car from one island to the next.
For cruise travellers, Picton is also the gateway to the Marlborough region of New Zealand, another region well-known for the production of wine, cheese, honey, fruits, preserves and other widely used condiments. Stepping off the ship, you’ll move onto a shuttle bus to look around some of the scenic history of the region. The town of Blenheim is rich in culture and history, with some interesting and well looked after estates and palaces worth viewing.
There are also some beautiful wineries to see, replete with stunningly manicured gardens and a cafe where you can enjoy some refreshments.
4. Dunedin: Taieri Gorge Railway and City Tour
Ticket price: $158 per person.
One of the most popular shore excursions available in New Zealand is the day-long journey exploring some of the picturesque sights in the southern end of the South Island.
The Taieri Gorge Railway is an iconic journey and takes guests through the gorge, moving over wrought-iron viaducts, some of which are centuries old but still working as they were the day they were made. Some great views of the Taieri River can be enjoyed during this trip. Lunch is then taken in Dunedin before a coach tour takes you through the history of the town, with some of its most popular sights at your disposal.
5. Noumea: Guided Country Tour
Ticket price: $110 per person.
For as much beautiful scenery as there is to enjoy in the South Pacific, there is also a rich and exotic history associated with New Caledonia, much of which will be offered for guests to immerse themselves in during this tour.
Nearly all cruises stop in Noumea – one of the most popular ports in the region. The tour takes travellers to the Tjibaou Cultural Centre where there are opportunities to learn more about this history and some ancient Melanesian customs observed for thousands of years. Some relics in the cultural centre date as far back as to prehistoric times.
On the way back to the ship, there’s a quick stop at ‘Plum Spring’ where you can drink some mineral water directly from the source, before it is bottled and shipped out to stores.
6. Port Vila: Zipline Canopy Tour in the Jungle
Ticket price: $110 per person.
Over in Vanuatu, one of the most popular excursions available in Port Vila takes guests deep into the jungle for an adventure soaring through the trees on a zipline course. A fleet of four-wheel drives will take guests from the ship, over some off-road tracks to the course’s start.
You’ll be fully fitted with a harness for safety and then sent one at a time across six thrilling lines, including one which takes you over an 80-metre canyon. There are some great views to enjoy as you fly through the jungle, checking out Port Vila down below and Mele Bay. Once you finish the course, you hop back into the cars and head back to your ship.
7. Port Denarau: Sigatoka River Jet Boat Safari
Ticket price: $159 per person.
If your cruise takes you to Fiji, another pulse-racing adventure you can enjoy off the ship in Port Denarau is the Sigatoka Jet Boat Safari. If you’ve ever been to Queenstown, it’s similar to the Shotover Jet, with the difference being your boat rocketing along the Fijian river, narrowly dodging the land banks on either side.
In between bursts of power and activity along the river, the tour also takes guests deep into Fijian culture, visiting an authentic village where you can enjoy a meal with villagers and learn about their local customs. From there, you’ll return to the boat for the journey back.
8. Papeete: Tahitian Helicopter Tour
Ticket price: $246 per person.
Cruises only stop in Tahiti if you’re on one of the international ships repositioning between the US West Coast and Australia. Alternatively, you can fly to Tahiti and join either a cruise from either Paul Gauguin Cruises or Windstar Cruises, which both sail regularly in the region.
If your itinerary does include a stop in Papeete, this helicopter tour will show off a side to the island that you’ve never seen before. After taking off, you’ll head to the south side of Tahiti to some natural wonders such as Mont Orohena and Fataua Waterfall, one of the highest waterfalls in the world. From high above, this also creates a perfect photograph of the blue lagoon below, offering a perfect view of the natural reef and the mountainous terrain.