The Cruise That Takes You Over the Top While You're Down Under
Even on its own, Australia makes for extraordinary cruising. With its wealth of coastal riches—from the Sydney Opera House to the ancient rain forests of North Queensland to the Great Barrier Reef—this nation-continent hybrid checks more bucket-list boxes than you could reasonably expect from any one place. But when you travel on an Australia cruise voyage with Regent Seven Seas Cruises, you’ll find bonus stops in other countries that truly tip the scales: the kinds of ports that—in some cases—only expedition vessels tend to go. Think Papua New Guinea, for starters.
And yet, you’ll be traveling in consummate luxury: After jetting to the Southern Hemisphere in your business class seat (that, p.s., is covered by the cruise line), you’ll settle into your generously appointed oceanview suite (read: private balconies, massive walk-in closets and complimentary top-shelf mini bars)—or perhaps you’ll duck into the spa for a post-flight treatment (deftly coordinated by the attentive crew).
Put otherwise: For all the remote wildernesses and ancient cultures you’ll have the incredible privilege of visiting, you’ll return from each excursion (the vast majority of them included in the price of your cruise) to the equivalent of a floating five-star hotel, minus the service fees. Read on for seven standout stops.
You’ll begin or end in always-buzzing Sydney, where the free, three-night land program will introduce you to icons both urban (the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, for starters) and wild: In the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains, for example, you'll take a glass-roofed train—the steepest passenger railway on earth, in fact—through a lush rain forest with hallucinatory views.
When your cruise docks in Cairns, several amazing excursions await—but one of the most dazzling is the Great Barrier Reef Adventure. A 90-minute catamaran ride will get you to a pontoon on the Outer Great Barrier Reef, where the visibility and biodiversity are amazing. From there, you hop aboard a glass bottom boat or jump right in for a snorkel through the kaleidoscopic scenery. (Scuba trips can be arranged for an additional fee.) Back aboard the pontoon, you can refresh (there are showers), check out the underwater observatory and enjoy lunch or tea.
Another favorite stop in Oz is Perth, where the Discover Rottenest Island excursion introduces you to not only a beloved nature preserve 12 miles off the coast, but Australia's latest celebrity creature: the Quokka, the so-called happiest animal on earth and newfound star of Instagram (every publication from The New York Times to The Atlantic has covered the ascendant #quokkaselfie this year). Beyond spotting these preternaturally adorable marsupials, which fall somewhere between kangaroo and Teddy bear, you'll walk through the island's stunning landscapes—all turquoise waters and hidden-away coves—and if you want the cockatoo's eye view, you can climb to the top of the historic stone Wadjemup Lighthouse.
Back on board, you'll be treated to not just the aforementioned luxuries of the ship, but lectures that help put everything you're seeing in context: Regent Seven Seas Cruises enlists a seriously esteemed lineup of speakers to help round out your experience. So, you may hear Adam Tanner—writer-in-residence at the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science—speak on the topics of colonialism, empire and globalization. Or perhaps you'll meet Daniel Ostler, a veteran of the biophysics and radiation physics realm, who makes the natural history of this part of the world a crowd-favorite topic. And this list goes on—but whichever talks you attend, the hand-picked speakers make the experience particularly enriching.
The famed backdrop of the Lord of the Rings, New Zealand's epic and otherworldly landscapes are the nation’s stock in trade, as you’ll experience on a Regent Seven Seas Cruises Sydney-to-Auckland itinerary.
One of the best gateways to that gorgeousness: Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula, where craggy volcanic rock formations surround the sparkling harbor. To take a deep dive into the local landscapes, opt for the nine-hour High Country Explorer outing, complete with a jet boat and purpose-built tussock buggy. The adventure begins with a trip to Canterbury Plains—a stunning patchwork of fields (agricultural, floral and herbal) between the mountains and the sea. You’ll then move up through the high country to Rubicon Station, a farm on the banks of the Waimakariri river, where you’ll set off by 4x4 to explore this terrain of Southern Alpine peaks and dramatic gorges.
But your next mode of transport—a jet boat—may be the even bigger adventure. It’ll propel you up a steep-walled gorge to the Stair Case Viaduct, where 360-degree spins and gorgeous views await.
Later in the cruise, in the Bay of Islands—so named by Captain Cook more than two centuries ago—you’ll have the chance to explore on of the country’s most spectacular marine parks, home to 144 islands and plenty of secluded coves. Take everything in from sea level on a three-and-a-half-hour kayaking excursion along the Waitangi Estuary—or join a local Maori leader aboard a 50-foot canoe for a group paddle during the Waks Taia-Mai Exploration excursion.
But you’ll find the most surreal local nature on the Glow Worm Cave & Puketi Kauri Forest excursion (picture elaborate stalactites and stalagmites lit up by thousands of shimmering glowworms, plus a walk through an ancient forest for good measure).
Papua New Guinea
Stretching from hallucinatory coral reefs to active inland volcanoes, with lush rain forests, and traditional tribal villages in between, Papua New Guinea is one of the holy grails of adventure and cultural travel, as you’ll see on a Regent Seven Seas Cruises voyage from Sydney to Bali.
Head ashore at Alotau, where you can choose between adventures above and below the surface. Lovers of the life aquatic should head to the Tawali Resort—which is perched on a volcanic bluff and accessible only by boat—for the Tawali Snorkel & Skull Cave excursion, where you’ll snorkel the house reef and immediately get why Papua New Guinea’s called the Coral Triangle. Beyond the Technicolor and wildly shaped coral species, there may well be octopus, sea horses, Epaulet sharks, ghost pipe fish, and other local greeters.
Then, get ready to go deeper: Following a short boat ride and walk, you’ll arrive at a series of limestone caves, where you’ll follow in the footsteps of ancient villagers. Evidence of those long-ago residents soon become clear in the form of the hundreds of human skulls that adorn the caves.
Another excursion in Alotau highlights the local culture as well—albeit more recent versions: The Village Experience is particularly interesting, as it takes you on a coastal drive along Milne Bay, past historic missionary outposts and colorful villages, to the Hagita Estate, where you’ll learn all about palm oil fruit (a major economic driver here). Then it’s on to Gabugabuna village to experience local methods of cooking and gardening. And for the excursion’s grand finale, there’s a trip to the beach, where you’ll see a reenactment of the local warriors’ return to shore, complete with traditional canoe.
One of the planet's lushest islands—think misty, palm-filled river valleys and undulating, emerald green rice terraces—Bali harbors bountiful hidden treasure, and you'll find it on Sydney-to-Bali voyages aboard Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
On an island of world-renowned artisans—where practically every village is famous for something unique—the Balinese Arts & Crafts excursion is the ultimate sampler platter. Stops include Tohpati (known for its batik designs and printing), Celuk (famous for gold and silver work in both ancient and modern designs), Bona (bamboo furniture central) and Peliatan (home to many master painters).
Explore other fascinating (and beautiful) aspects of traditional Balinese life on the Bali Terraces and Ulun Danu Temple excursion, which whisks you up to the lush, photo-ready rice terraces that carpet the mid-western part of the island. In the village of Baha, learn about the unique farming and irrigation systems of the region. Then continue up to Bedugul—4,900-feet above sea level—to be awed by the local water temples, which also play a part in the fertility of the region.