New Zealanders will be able to travel to South America by cruise ship for the first time following the news that Princess Cruises will become the first company offering a circumnavigation of the region from Downunder in early 2017.
The 89-day round-trip on the Sea Princess starts in Brisbane and will visit 28 ports in 18 countries across the South Pacific, South America and the Caribbean, and includes overnight stays in Buenos Aires, Lima and Rio de Janeiro.
From Auckland, the journey takes 76 nights, with the first stop at Nuku'alofa, Tonga, before reaching Pago Pago in American Samoa.
The Sea Princess can carry up to 2000 passengers across its 14 decks and has three swimming pools, a walk-around promenade, basketball and tennis court.
The journey, which has been five years in the planning, will offer optional excursions to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands and the Iguazu Falls.
The cruise departs Brisbane on January 15, 2017 and tickets go on sale tomorrow.
At a staggering 348m long, with a capacity of 4900 passengers and 1300 crew, Ovation of the Seas, which is still being built at a shipyard in Germany at a cost of $1.25 billion, will be the newest and largest ship to ever visit these waters.
The ship's features will include a glass observation capsule that rises 91m above the deck, bumper cars, a circus school, a skydiving experience and 18 restaurants including a Jamie Oliver-branded one.
Gavin Smith, regional vice-president, Royal Caribbean, Asia Pacific told the Herald that the arrival of the ship was groundbreaking.
"Ovation of the Seas will completely redefine the idea of cruising in New Zealand, taking the industry to the next level," he said.
The ship will do three round trips from Sydney during the summer of 2016-17 for about a fortnight each, calling at around six New Zealand and Australian ports.
The New Zealand stops are yet to be confirmed. Tickets are expected to go on sale around June.
Family friendly cruising
The world's biggest cruises lines have spotted a gap in the market and are investing in facilities specifically for babies and young children with the aim of making a stay on the seas child-friendly. Many even provide family cruising guides offering advice.
British website cruise1st.co.uk, a cruise deal specialist, has come up with a list of tips for family friendly cruising.
• Make sure you do your homework to get the best deal.
• Remember shops on board may not have all the medicines you require so pack your own emergency kit.
• If your kids are impatient and restless, check how long journeys are when booking excursions.
• For fussy eaters, contemplate the food options before you book.
• A cabin with a balcony will allow you to enjoy the sea air while keeping an eye on your sleeping baby.
• Check carefully when choosing your cruise as some charge extra for babysitting facilities.
Family friendly ships
P&O Ventura: Offers a free night nursery where you can leave young ones between 6pm and 2am.
Norwegian Breakaway: Has a free kids' club that includes visits from Nickelodeon characters, workout sessions and crafts.
Disney Dream: You can benefit from childcare services both on port days and days at sea, allowing you to pursue your own interests without dragging reluctant youngsters along.
Allure of the Seas: Offers childcare services and a programme for babies as young as six months.
Queen Mary 2: Serves a special menu of children's favourite meals.