Orion cruise in NZ

This item appears on page 26 of the August 2010 issue.

To see various regions of New Zealand without the hassles of driving, my husband, Keith, and I decided that the expedition-style ship of the Australian company Orion Expedition Cruises (New York, NY; 877/674-6687) was what we were looking for.

We sailed aboard the Orion on the 10-night “New Zealand Highlights” cruise, Feb. 3-13, 2010, departing from Bluff, on the tip of the South Island, and stopping in Milford Sound, Dusky Sound, Dunedin, Akaroa, Kaikoura, Wellington, Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park, Napier, White Island and, finally, Auckland. The cruise was billed as a “luxury expedition” and it was exactly that.

Our large junior suite (US$13,712 per cabin, double) had a queen bed, love seat, desk, TV, plenty of closet space, a large picture window and, in the bathroom, a nice-size shower. Everything was kept spotless and there was evening turndown service.

The food on board was excellent, using many local ingredients. All meals were open seating. If the weather permitted (and it often did), meals were served in the outdoor dining area.

Dinners had four courses, with several choices for each course. During our cruise, no menu items were repeated. Alcoholic beverages were the only extra charge. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style, and tea was served every afternoon.

Covered in the price were many excursions, including Zodiac trips (both wet and dry landings) and hikes led by naturalists. When the port was not within town, the ship offered free shuttle service.

We purchased several optional tours, including the Tairi Gorge rail trip from Dunedin (US$180 per person) and a whale-watching expedition from Kaikoura. We thought these were very well organized.

The ship holds 106 passengers, though there were only 75 on our cruise. Passengers were mostly Australians, with some South Africans, Americans and British. The superb, 75-man crew included four naturalists, whose daily lectures were very informative. Entertainment on board was a husband-and-wife team of musicians.

We purchased our own airfare through Air New Zealand, and the extra for premium economy was well worth the cost. We paid US$3,605 per person for the round trip from Kentucky to Auckland and an internal flight from Auckland to Invercargill.

We cannot say enough nice things about our experience with Orion. Currently, they also focus on cruises around Australia, Papua New Guinea and Antarctica.


Lexington, KY