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We are thinking of doing a cruise tour ( Princess Diamond ) in Jan/Feb of 2015. The tour portion is of AUS and has us going from Sydney to Ayers Rock to Darwin to Kakadu Natl Park to Cairns/Port Douglas back to Sydney for the cruise portion of NZ. The cruise portion ends in Auckland. Has anyone done this trip? Recommendations/disappointments? We were also looking to add a stopover in either Tahiti or Fiji for a few days prior to or following the trip. We are flying from the east coast of the US and are thinking of doing a stopover in LA to avoid a really really long flight. Thoughts/ opinions on this. Preferences of Fiji over Tahiti? Thanks in advance.
What are the details for the land portion of this tour? Awhile back, somebody asked for comments on their cruisetour and the land portion had them going all over Australia (similar to your itinerary) in a week or less. That was utter madness and I recommended they skip it because they'd see more of Australian airports than of Australia. A tour from Sydney to Uluru (Ayers Rock) to Darwin to Kakadu to Cairns/PD and back to Sydney should not be attempted in fewer than 12 - 14 days.
Now, having said that, January and February are probably the worst months of the year to visit those locations. Uluru is going to be beastly hot (100+ Fahrenheit); Darwin and Kakadu are in the midst of "The Wet" in Jan/Feb so it will be hot, humid and rainy; it's hot and humid in Cairns/PD and it's also cyclone season and stinger (deadly jellyfish) season.
If I were traveling in Australia at that time of year (which I have), I would stay south of Sydney, e.g. Canberra, Melbourne, or Tasmania.
Finally,we have made the flight to Australia many times and the worst one was when I had the "bright idea" of overnighting in L.A. after our flight from the U.S. East Coast. It only complicated everything by having to schlep everything from the airport, pay for a hotel for one night and then schlep everything back to the airport and deal with TSA yet one more time. I felt no more refreshed when we arrived in Sydney than I had when I made that long trip in one go. Unless you are spending 2 -3 days in L.A., skip the stopover.
Thanks for the replies so far. We are very flexible in time to go, what months would you recommend to visit this area? Would a March/April/May be better? Or Sept/Oct/Nov? The land portion of the trip is 12 days, so this part seems to be in agreement with what you recommend. This will be the once in a lifetime trip, so we want to get it right and see as much as we can!
September or October would be a good time of year to visit the Australian portion of your trip. (November would be a less-optimal time.) Uluru will still be warm, but not beastly hot like in Jan/Feb. "The Dry" will be in effect in Darwin and Kakadu and cyclone season and stinger season will not yet have begun in Cairns.
However, those months could be a bit chilly for New Zealand as it is further south of Australia.
We took two weeks just to see Sydney, Cairns and Uluru. You could not see more than that properly. September was ideal weather-wise.
September was also fine for New Zealand.
I do not think a cruise is the ideal way to see either country. This is particularly so for New Zealand where much of the spectacular scenery is inland.
2014 Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam (land and Halong Bay Cruise on Dragon Pearl)
2016 Antartica on the Expedition
Sailed: Azamara Quest Far East, March 5, 2011 Victoria Empress, Yangtze River, March 25, 2011 Azamara Quest Ancient Empires, Nov. 14, 2009
Independent land tours:
New Zealand and Australia 2013
Argentina and Peru, 2007
Europe, 1985, 91-92, 95, 2001, 2003, 2008, 2011
numerous in US and Canada
Guatemala and Mexico 1971, 1972