Whether you live in a place where the snow leaves a powdery blanket on the ground or the sun shines bright, the winter holidays are a time of good tidings and yuletide cheer. From family gatherings and grand feasts to presents under the tree and a visit from Santa, Christmas is a special holiday for those who celebrate.
Have you ever thought about taking your holiday traditions on a Holland America Line cruise where you can have a magical holiday onboard? And without having to do the planning, preparing and cleaning up after, you actually get to relax and unwind during what can otherwise be a stressful time. Oh, and did we mention that you get to visit incredible destinations, too?
On a holiday cruise, the ships are decorated with all of the trimmings including festive trees, poinsettias, garland and stockings, turning them into a charming wonderland. An elaborate gingerbread village created by the ships’ talented culinary team is a feast for the eyes, while the tantalizing holiday menu is a feast for the palate. Santa also makes an appearance with his merry elves.
If you’re looking to combine the traditions of Christmas with a grand adventure, take a look at a cruise aboard Noordam Down Under to Australia and New Zealand. The kids are on school break and there’s more time to get away from home, making it the perfect multi-generational way to spend the holidays.
New to the Australia/New Zealand region this year, Noordam has four exciting departures in December that explore both New Zealand and Pacific Island jewels, all sailing roundtrip from Sydney.
But if it’s the Christmas and New Year’s holidays you’re looking to be onboard for, check out the Dec. 17 “16-Day New Zealand Holiday” voyage.
MILFORD SOUND & FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK
The ship departs Sydney and spends a leisurely day at sea, followed by glorious scenic cruising through Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park. Yes, there are fiords in the southern hemisphere! A fusion of spectacular natural features with amazing views around every corner, during the day of scenic cruising guests will see towering Mitre Peak, plunging waterfalls, bottlenose and dusky dolphins, fur seals, Fiordland crested penguins and so much more.
It’s then four consecutive days of port calls at Port Chalmers (Dunedin), Akaroa (Christchurch), Wellington and then Picton. Another day at sea is followed by calls at Napier, Tauranga (Rotorua), an overnight at Auckland and finally Waitangi (Bay of Islands).
Christmas Day and New Year’s Even and Day are sea days so guests can enjoy all of the holiday festivities without the rush of going ashore.
WHAT TO DO?
New Zealand is home to some wonderful creatures. From penguins and dolphins to seals and sheep, there are so many animals to see! These tours highlight the natural side of New Zealand, but don’t worry, if these tours aren’t for you there’s a wide variety of options that include historic sites, local wine and cuisine, city tours and walking excursions.
At Dunedin, one of the most popular tours includes yellow-eyed penguins. But with a name like Nature’s Wonders: Wildlife Cruise & Penguins, guests will see more than the cuddly creatures. Guests head out on a spectacular tour onboard an 8×8-wheel-drive Argo vehicle that heads out off-road over rolling farmland where you will approach a fur seal colony and a yellow-eyed penguin nesting area, then make way to a sheep farm.
The wildlife cruise was great. The captain pointed out all kinds of birds, seals, and the great albatross(es) … The nesting area for the rare yellow-eyed penguin was very interesting … The fur seal colony was most interesting – young seals frolicking in a small pond. Adult males were fighting. This sheep farm is privately owned by an environmentalist. May he be very successful in protecting the rare animal colonies on his vast property. — Guest NellyDee
At Akaroa, stick with the nature theme and take the Akaroa Nature Cruise. A highlight of this scenic cruise is Cathedral Cave, with its massive sea walls that are home to many sea birds, including the spotted shag and little blue penguin. While cruising toward the head of the harbor you may also see fur seals and the playful Hector’s dolphin — the smallest oceanic dolphin in the world.
I absolutely loved this excursion. We sailed right from the ship into Akaroa Harbor. Excellent narration. We saw cormorants, dolphins, penguins, seals, and an albatross. It was the perfect amount of time, dropping us off at Akaroa pier just in time to get lunch and explore the beautiful town. — Guest Nikjil
The Seal Coast Safari tour at Wellington offers a unique view of the rugged beauty of the South Coast where a seal colony is situated. Travel is by 4×4 vehicle, and you’ll traverse a large coastal ranch or station — keep an eye out for wild goats and horses as well as deer, ostriches and beef cattle. But the impressive coastline and the seals are, of course, the main attraction on this safari.
This safari is definitely worth doing if you like wildlife. We saw so many seals! … We were able to see an ostrich in the farmland that we were passing through. Then we headed down the coastline and learned about the faults that run to Wellington. You drive on the beach so be prepared for rough road, but it is all worth it when you see the seals. Don’t get too close and you will be rewarded with fabulous pictures. — Guest CruisinCrazy
With two days at Auckland, there’s plenty of time to explore the wildlife of the region. The Coast to Coast tour takes you by way of the wine growing areas of Kumeu and Huapai to Muriwai Beach on the rugged west coast. The gannet colony featured on the tour is one of only two mainland gannet colonies in the world. Then visit Haumoana Farm that runs 300 Romney sheep for prime lamb and wool production, 200 cattle, and a small fallow deer unit.
MORE NATURE TOURS ABOUND
The nature tours continue, with the High Country Safari at Picton, the Cape Kidnappers Station & Gannet Safari at Napier and Fascinating Rotorua at Tauranga where you’ll visit Rainbow Springs Wildlife Park to view huge trout and the national bird, the kiwi, at a nocturnal house.
Between eggnog and caroling, there are an abundance of tours that show why New Zealand is a spectacular place to spend the Christmas holiday.
If you want to celebrate the holidays onboard but prefer to stay closer to home, Holland America Line offers cruises to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and the Mexican Riviera. Not to mention other far-off places like the Far East, South America & Antarctica and more!
Will you be joining us for the holidays? We ho-ho-hope to see you onboard!