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Sea Princess in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand, a UNESCO World Heritage site (Photo: Princess Cruises)

10 Reasons to Cruise Across the Ditch With Princess Cruises’ Overland Tours

Australians heading to New Zealand with Princess Cruises can now take advantage of its expanded shore excursion program of overland journeys, including the opportunity to spend a night off the ship. With so many new land and sea tours of Australia and New Zealand available, the cruise line’s Across the Ditch program has exclusive Princess land tours such as an industry-first trip from Tauranga to Great Barrier Island.

Princess Cruises off-the-beaten-path excursions give passengers the chance to stargaze while listening to Māori legends, to learn about sustainable living at a farming co-operative or to visit heritage sites with a local expert. Here are 10 reasons why Princess Cruises could be the right choice for you in New Zealand.

1. You have been to New Zealand before

It is no surprise many Australians have already been to New Zealand. A thriving culinary scene, beautiful scenery, world-famous wines, and loads to see and do provide plenty of reasons to visit this welcoming destination. However, that doesn't mean you want to keep doing the same things over and over again. If you love New Zealand but have already visited most well-known tourist attractions, a Local Connections tour could be just what you're looking for. With itineraries that venture off the beaten path, and tours led by specialist guides, you're sure to find something new to do on your next New Zealand cruise.

2. Getting off the ship overnight appeals

While it's true that cruising provides an impressive overview of New Zealand, you will need to venture beyond the regular itinerary to see iconic destinations like Queenstown. On the Fiordland, Queenstown & Dunedin Overland Excursion you'll get to tick plenty of must-sees off your bucket list, such as The Remarkables mountain range, a cruise on Lake Wakatipu, a sheep shearing demonstration (you are in New Zealand, after all), and a trip to the historic mining towns of Arrowtown and Clyde. If you would prefer to go beyond the country's greatest hits, the Great Barrier Island overnight adventure offers the chance to explore National Maritime Park's stunning forests, wetlands and wildlife and enjoy a stargazing talk under the Barrier’s pollution-free night sky to see the Milky Way Galaxy. This excursion includes return flights over the spectacular Hauraki Gulf, accommodation, guided tours, meals and free time the next morning to go on a bushwalk or fishing expedition. Keep an eye out for lizards, dolphins, whales and birdlife such as oystercatchers, kaka, blue penguins and the threatened pateke.

3. Sipping and learning about wine is your passion

New Zealand is famous for its wine and its friendly locals so what could be better than putting both these things together? Raise a glass to Princess Cruises' new wine-themed Local Connections shore tours with a look at New Zealand's wine making history and wine pairing at Hunting Lodge Winery just outside Auckland. If you have already seen the sights of Akaroa, take a scenic trip to Melton Estate Winery to taste their award-winning wines while enjoying lunch surrounded by pretty vineyards.

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4. Local stories interest you more than fancy museums

Princess Cruises shore excursion at Larnach Castle in Dunedin, New Zealand (Photo: Princess Cruises)

If it's the local stories that bring a place to life for you, the Local Connections program offers many tours with a tale to tell. Join the Akaroa History Safari, which includes a visit to your guide's village and family home, or discover why Dunedin is known as the 'Edinburgh of the South'. A unique Scottish Dunedin tour explores the city's Scottish connections and explains why many locals still speak with a slight Scottish burr. If your ship is stopping at Auckland, local expert Karen Thompson Smith is on hand to share only-a-local-would-know locations where sailors jumped through hidden doors to avoid their captain's wrath, and how a little lane from the old barracks became one of the most famous in the city.

5. You're an art lover and enjoy buying unique works

Little River, pretty town between Akaroa and Christchurch, is home to a thriving community of artists and painters. Here you can chat with the artists themselves as you browse their work and explore a historic railway station that has been converted into an artisan market. Nearby, the Little River Gallery and Café showcases original artwork from New Zealand's most famous artists. At the port of Tauranga, Te Puia's Māori Arts & Crafts Institute helps young apprentices learn ancient crafting skills. There are multiple opportunities to purchase traditional carvings and exquisite New Zealand greenstone jewelry and works of art, often from the people who made them.

6. Māori culture and legends fascinate you

Maori Village in Tauranga, New Zealand (Photo: Princess Cruises)

Māori culture, myths and legends connect the indigenous people of New Zealand to their surroundings and continue to inform everyday life. If you would like to learn more about why the Māori believed kauri trees were the kings of the forest, how aramoana (ocean paths) are still used by those who live inland or how New Zealand's thermal activity sustains an entire village, there are more ways than ever before to learn about Māori heritage with Princess Cruises tours that provide an in-depth look at Māori spiritual beliefs.

7. Food is one of the reasons you travel

New Zealand has some of the best food on the planet, too. If you would like to gain a better understanding of the local culinary scene, try the Craft Beer, Chocolate & Coffee Tour, which brings together three of life's great pleasures in Wellington, one of the world's great coffee cities. A Gourmet's World includes a lunch featuring produce collected from within a 10 km radius or, if your ship is visiting Napier, you could pick apples at a 100-year-old orchard and visit a chocolate museum.

8. Choosing which tour to do is too hard

Can't decide whether to do a tour that explores Māori culture or a food outing? Do both. During the Tawera Tapoi tour with award-winning Māori chef, Eru Tutaki, you can join him in a forest near the port of Tauranga to harvest bush food, which will be turned into a three-course degustation. Chef Tutaki also tells stories of his Māori heritage using the flavours of the surrounding bushland.

9. You aren't a fan of crowds at museums

If you've ever wished a museum would open early so you enjoy it minus the crowds, the City Drive & Auckland Museum tour is your dream come true. On this Local Connections trip, the grand neo-classically designed building overlooking Waitemata Harbour opens early for Princess Cruises passengers who have booked this exclusive tour. It is a joy to wander the displays with a knowledgeable guide and explore the many Māori artefacts in peace.

10. Honouring indigenous history is important to you

Māori first came to New Zealand via Polynesia almost 800 years ago and their social, cultural and spiritual traditions continue to shape New Zealand's national identity. At the Bay of Islands, you can gain a deeper understanding of the Māori legacy with a full-day excursion to Waitangi. It was here that the British Crown recognised Māori ownership of their lands in 1840 and gave them rights as British subjects. During the Ancient Village Traverse Tour, which departs from Napier, you can visit the Otatara Pa Historic Reserve and learn about the ancient Māori occupation of the area and lively community that once inhabited Otatara.

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