2020 Down Under-Australia/New Zealand

PARTICIPANTS: Laurence BarkerMel Cohen, Rosaland Zager, Cindy Abbott, Xavier & Polly Peña, Sara & Charlie Lewis, Carrol Smith & Rebecca Marti, Jim Ernest & Sue Edwards, Sally & Roger Pearson, Robert & Luisa Price, Greg & Judy Parks, Beverly Baucum and La Rue Atterbury, John (JP) & Sara Patterson, Robert & Karen Moody, Tom & Melissa Mieras, Doug Plummer & Scott Plummer, Ben & Gail Plummer, Suzanne Plummer & James Clark

10 Feb 2020 (Day 1) – International Flight, Los Angeles to Auckland

Air New Zealand NZ 001, 9:05 pm departure,

Allow plenty of time for checkin. Let’s plan to meet at the gate at 8:00 pm.

Shortly after departing Los Angeles we will be served dinner and given breakfast before landing in Auckland. Relax, watch some movies, and try to get some sleep!
Please confirm with the airline at check-in that they have your Frequent Flyer information on record. 

12 Feb (Day 2) (Vouchers 1, 2, & 3) – Auckland Airport Transfer to Hotel 

Upon arrival at 7:00 am, we will pick up our luggage, clear customs and meet our 3 drivers who  will be holding up a signboard in the arrivals area of the airport. Transfer to Aukland Pullman Hotel. 

Since our rooms will probably not be ready, we will take the Soaring Kiwi 24-Hour Auckland Hop-On Hop-Off bus. We will need to make our own way to the Sky Tower (Victoria Street West). This is a 16-min walk or a 7-min, own expense, taxi ride from our hotel). Buses depart every 30-min with the first tour departing at 9:00am. The last tour will depart at 4:00pm. Each tour is 60-min long.  As we circumnavigate the city, visiting historic landmarks and all the ‘must see’ attractions, we can hop on and off at your leisure.

Return to the hotel on your own. Our rooms will be ready by 2:00pm, dinner at the hotel at 6:00. Overnight in the Aukland Pullman Hotel.

13 Feb (Day 3) (Vouchers 4 – 5) – Day Tour, Deluxe Coach to Rotorua with Caves, Agrodome & Te Puia

Checkout and be packed in time for a 6:50 am departure. On our way from Auckland to Rotorua we will have a full-day of excursion with stops at Waitomo Caves, Agrodome, & Te Puia. A morning snack and a picnic lunch will be served on board the coach. We should arrive at the Novotel Rotorua Lakeside (Tutanekai Street) around 5:00pm. 

Our hotel is located on the shores of picturesque Lake Rotorua with commanding views over the lake and surrounding hinterland and features the best of everything in Rotorua! The spa and fitness club have combined the benefits of the areas geothermal waters, culture and relaxation to enhance a holistic sense of wellbeing. Take some time to experience the Matariki Cultural Centre and encounter the warmth and spirit of the Maori people. Lunch was provided so dinner is on our own. Overnight in the Novotel Rotorua Lakeside.

14 Feb (Day 4) (Voucher 6- 7) – Morning Day Tour, Hobbiton Movie Set Tour, Evening Te Po Tour w/dinner 

Today we have a morning Tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set. We will meet our Ritchies driver in front of the hotel at 7:45 am. Upon arriving at Hobbiton, check-in and collect our tickets from the Tour Coordinator station at The Shire’s Rest. The tour will depart promptly at 9:20am. Please note this is a walking tour and sensible footwear is recommended. We will return to Rotorua at approximately 1:00pm. Lunch independent. 

Afternoon free before meeting our tour guide at the front of the hotel reception at 5:30pm for pick-up. We will experience a Te Po tour, an authentic, one-of-a-kind event. It is a feast of storytelling, entertainment and Maori cuisine like no other,. with Lifting of the Hangi, Traditional Welcome, Exclusive Cultural Performance an authentic Maori Feast and the Valley Under Lights. After the dinner and performance, we will return to the Novotel Rotorua Lakeside 

15 Feb (Day 5) (Voucher 8 – 11) – Transfer from Rotorua to Queenstown via Christchurch

Checkout and packed and be ready for 6:00am transfer to the Rotorua Airport. 

Air New Zealand NZ 5781, Departure at 07:15 am, arrive at Christchurch at 09:10 am. Change planes. 
Air New Zealand NZ 647, Departure from Christchurch at 10:05 am, arrive in Queenstown at 11:05 am 

Upon arrival in Queenstown, we will be picked up and transferred to the Novotel Queenstown Lakeside (Ph: 64 (03) 442 7750

This evening looks spectacular with a Scenic Gondola Ride up 430m and a Taste of New Zealand Buffet Dinner.  We will need to make our way to the gondola base at the Skyline Complex (Brecon Street). This involves a 16-min walk or a 7-min, own expense, taxi ride from the hotel. Since our dinner is scheduled for 4:30pm, and the  tables need to be vacated by 6:00pm, let’s plan to leave the hotel by 3:00pm since we need to allow 45 minutes for the gondola ride. The Skyline Queenstown Gondola  is the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere climbing 450 metres above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu to the top of Bob’s Peak. En route we will view a spectacular 220 degree panorama, with breath taking views of Coronet Peak, the Remarkables, Walter Peak, Cecil Peak and over Queenstown. 

After the Gondola ride, we will set foot in one of the best restaurants with a spectacular lake and mountain view. The famous Taste of New Zealand buffet offers delectable fresh seafood, salads, roast meats and delicious desserts. The panoramic view from the windows are an ideal place to watch the sun go down! Return on your own, overnight in the Novotel Queenstown Lakeside.

16 Feb (Day 6) (Voucher 12) – Full Day Tour, Discover Milford Sound Scenic Cruise. 

Unfortunately, Milford Sound was impossible due to a landslide. Instead, we visited a Bungy Jump Site, a cheese shop, and a winery.

17 Feb (Day 7) (Voucher 13) – Evening Cruise Aboard TSS Earnslaw and Walter Peak Evening Dinner 

Free morning and afternoon today!  After sleeping in, catching up on email, whatever, you need to make your own way to the Real Journeys Visitor Center on Steamer Wharf (88 Beach Street) at least 25-min prior to our departure time.of 6:00 pm, so let’s plan on leaving the hotel by 5:00 pm, since there is a 15-min walk or 7-min, own expense, taxi ride, from our hotel. Our tour will depart promptly at 6:00 pm. Bring Comfortable Shoes, a Warm Sweater/Fleece Jacket, a Waterproof Jacket, Sunscreen, Sunglasses, a Sun Hat and a Camera. 

Steeped in Queenstown’s pioneering history, our adventure starts with a cruise across Lake Wakatipu in the 100 year old steamship, the TSS Earnslaw. Then disembark at Walter Peak High Country Farm, one of the first farms set up in the region. 

Relax in the unique ambience of the Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant, the heart of the stately homestead at Walter Peak. Here, you’ll enjoy a Gourmet BBQ dinner which our chef will prepare in front of you. 

The new menu includes an expansive array of New Zealand and local produce, from succulent meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie or grill, a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Then finish your meal with our irresistible desserts, New Zealand cheeses and freshly brewed tea & coffee. 

After dinner, an entertaining and informative demonstration gives you a glimpse of life in the high country. 

On the magical night-time cruise home, you can enjoy the camaraderie of a sing-a-long with the ship’s pianist or breathe in the fresh night air on the moonlit decks as you watch the lights of Queenstown draw nearer. 

After dinner, an entertaining and informative demonstration gives you a glimpse of life in the high country. 

On the magical night-time cruise home, you can enjoy the camaraderie of a sing-a-long with the ship’s pianist or breathe in the fresh night air on the moonlit decks as you watch the lights of Queenstown draw nearer. 

18th Feb (Day 8) (Voucher 14) – International flight, Carmen,

Morning free. Checkout and be ready for 1:00 pm pickup for transfer  to the Queenstown Airport.  Remember—what you are wearing now is what you will be wearing at the opera.

Air New Zealand NZ 831, Departure from Queenstown at 03:30 pm, arrival in Sydney at 04:50  pm  

Upon arrival at the airport, we will be taken directly to the Sydney Opera House. Our luggage will continue on to our hotel.  At the Sydney Opera House, we will go  to the Opera Bar for our dinner starting promptly at 6:00pm. Our performance tickets will be available for pick-up from the Box Office at 6:30 pm. Dress is smart casual. The performance of Carmen will be in the Joan Sutherland Theatre and will start at 7:30 pm. At the conclusion of the performance, we will make our own way to the Rydges Sydney Harbour Hotel(55 George Street). This is an approximate 17-min walk or a 7-min, own expense taxi ride.  Overnight at the Rydges Sydney Harbour Hotell

19th Feb (Day 9) (Voucher 18) – Morning Tour, Sydney Panoramic City Sights, Afternoon tour of Opera House, Sunset Dinner Harbour Cruise

9:00 am departure from hotel for a half day city tour. We will see The Rocks, Opera House, Sydney business & shopping districts, historic homes, Tamarama, Bronte & Bondi Beaches (stroll the beachfront at Bondi), Dover Heights, Watsons Bay, Rose Bay, Kings Cross, Mrs Macquaries Point. Visit Sydney’s trendy new district Oxford Street. Travel through elegant Paddington with its terrace houses before arriving at the Pacific Ocean. See the superb coast cliff walk around Tamarama and Bronte. Our Sydney Opera House tour will depart from the Tours Meeting Point promptly at 1:15pm. 

After a bit of free time, we need to make our way to Commissioners Steps, Circular Quay, located in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art. This is a short 5-min walk from the hotel. Our cruise departs at 5:00 pm sharp, and we need to arrive 10-min prior to check-in. The four hour cruise includes a 3-course bbq dinner with beverages. (We will need to split into two groups using two boats. We will tie the two boats together for dinner. After the cruise, return to the Rydges Sydney Harbour for overnight.

20 Feb (Day 10) (Voucher 21) – Day Tour, Blue Mountains and Wildlife Tour 

8:00 am departure for full-day excursion. The Blue Mountains Deluxe Day is a real journey into the heart of a unique World Heritage Region. From temperate rainforests to towering sandstone escarpments, you’ll see and experience it all. We will take a deluxe coach ride through the mountains with stops at amazing lookout and lunch served at the Hydro Majestic Hotel. After the tour, return to the Rydges Sydney Harbour for overnight.

21 Feb (Day 11) (Voucher 22-24) – Sydney to Cairns

Be packed and ready for a 6:30 am pick up for a transfer to the Sydney Airport.

Virgin Australia VA 1413, depart Sydney at 8:50, arrive Cairn at 10:55,  Evening Event, Aquarium by Night

Upon arrival we will be met at the baggage carousel by our chauffeur who will take us to our hotel, the Pacific Hotel Cairns. Note: this hotel has laundry facilities and it looks like the afternoon is free to put these coin operated machines to work.

After a bit of free time, we need to be at the main entrance of Cairns Aquarium by 6:00 pm to check-in . Our tour will start promptly at 6:20 pm. This is a 15-min walk or a 6-min, own expense, taxi ride from the hotel  Experiencing the Cairns Aquarium by Night gives us a glimpse into the unique world of the region’s nocturnal creatures and their behaviors as they move about in the darkness. We will have exclusive after hours Aquarium entry. Our 1.5 hour tour is led by an ecologist who guides you on a night tour through 10 tropical ecosystems from the rivers to the reef. After our tour, we will have 3-course dinner at Dundee’s Restaurant at the Aquarium. Return to the Pacific Hotel Cairns for overnight stay.

22 Feb (Day 12) (Voucher 26) – Great Barrier Reef Cruise

Leave the hotel by 7:50 am to be at the Reef Magic Cruises counter, located inside the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal (1 Spence Street) by 8:00 am for check-in. (5-min walk from hotel)  Our tour will depart promptly at 9:00am. 

This Great Barrier Reef experience is perfect for swimmers with all levels of confidence! This all-weather platform offers a plethora of options to see the amazing under water wonderland that is the Great Barrier Reef!  Snorkel in the sheltered coral lagoon, join a Marine Biologist on a Guided Snorkel safari, or go scuba diving (no experience necessary)  For those not confident in swimming, stay dry and view the reef from the semi-submersible reef viewer, glass bottom boat or underwater observatory or try a Helmet Dive for a scuba-style experience without getting your hair wet. If simply relaxing & soaking up the tropical warmth is more your style then take time out on the spacious sundeck where you will also find the regions only reef-based massage therapist. You’ll have plenty of time to do it all! 

Inclusions: 90 minute return cruise transfer to reef platform on fast, stable catamaran; 5 Hours at the Marine World reef activity platform; All snorkeling equipment including personal flotation devices in many sizes; FREE Wet suit and lycra suit use for year round comfort and in-water safety. Wet suits are 5mm with short arms/legs. Lycra suits provide fantastic sun protection and in season are useful in reducing the risk of jelly fish stings; Semi-Submersible tours with interactive commentary; Glass Bottom Boat tours with interactive commentary; Fish feeding and identification session with our Marine Biologist; Underwater Observatory; Use of Sundeck, Fresh Water Showers and Changing Rooms; Morning/Afternoon Tea plus a full hot/cold buffet lunch with vegetarian options; Tea/Coffee and drinking water is available free of charge throughout the day; There is access to reference materials on the reef. 

Return to the Pacific Hotel Cairns for overnight stay

23 Feb (Day 13) (Voucher 27) – Day Tour, Kuranda Rainforest Gold Service with Lunch 

8:25 am departure for full day excursion of the  Kuranda Rainforest. We travel on board the Kuranda Scenic Rail in Gold Class tWe will travel one of the world’s most scenic rail routes, through hand-hewn tunnels and over bridges spanning spectacular gorges. Once you arrive at beautiful Kuranda Station, you have approximatley 1 hour of free time to explore the many and varied shops, as well as the Heritage Markets which operate daily. Return with an amazing journey over and through the World Heritage Rainforest on board the Skyrail. 

Gold Class Service Includes Dedicated host service. Individual seating, lounge-style chairs. Quality refreshments including sparkling Australian wine, beer, orange juice, soft drink, ice water, mocktails, tea, coffee and appetizers and a chilled refresher towel during the journey. Ambient, historical décor, including timber look flooring, historical photographs and cedar interior. Kuranda Scenic Railway gift pack including Kuranda Scenic Railway badge, pen, postcard and postage, and souvenir trip guide.

At the specified time, our shuttle coach will transfer us to Rainforestation, set in 40 hectares of lush gardens and tropical rainforest. Board the amphibious Army Duck for a different look at the rainforest. An experienced guide will show us unique tropical fruits, ancient rainforest plants and point out a number of our native animals as you meander through the rainforest. Visit the Koala & Wildlife Park. Cuddle a koala (own expense), smile at a crocodile and hand feed the kangaroos and wallabies before returning to Kuranda.

Join the Dreamtime Walk for an insight into ancient Aboriginal Culture. The Pamagirri Dancers perform a range of native dances in the Rainforest Amphitheatre reflecting their culture. A delicious BBQ lunch is also included. 

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway: Board Skyrail, an experience which takes you over the rainforest canopy with stops along the way allowing you to take a stroll or visit the CSIRO Interpretive Centre. Our hostess will meet you on completion of Skyrail and will assist with your return transfer to the Pacific Hotel Cairns for overnight stay

24th Feb (Day 14) (Voucher 28) – Transfer to Cairns Airport, flights to Ayers Rock, 

Be packed and ready for 4:30 am (not a typo) departure from the hotel for transfer to the Cairns airport

Virgin Australia VA1408, depart Cairns at 5:15 am, arrive Sydney at 9:15 am, change planes.
Virgin Australia VA1627, depart Sydney at 9:55 am, arrive Ayers Rock at 12:00 pm

Upon arrival, we will be picked up and transferred by shuttle bus to the Desert Gardens Hotel ( Ph: 61 (08) 8957 7714. Our daily breakfast and buffet lunch will be at the Ilkari Restaurant. 

Afternoon free before our evening on the Field of Light. This art installation, designed by critically acclaimed artist Bruce Munro, invites guests to let their inner wonder take over and immerse in the stunning lights twinkling before this outback icon. 

One hour before sunset, travel into the desert where this magical landscape awaits you. Uluru and its surrounds will be transformed into a sparkling dream. 

Experience Field of Light from the dune top viewing area with a dedicated Tour Leader. A delicious Australian buffet dinner will be served in this twinkling outdoor setting.
Operates: Daily. Departs 1 hour before sunset (seasonal) and lasts approximately 4.5 hours.
Need to Know: Long pants and closed shoes are recommended for touring Field of Light.
Inclusions: Buffet dinner served on site. Self-guided walk through Field of Light. Program guide per family/couple. Return transfers from accommodation. 

25 Feb (Day 15) (Voucher 31) – Tours, Sunrise & Sunset Pass at Uluru and Kata Tjuta 

We need to meet our sunrise tour guide in front of the hotel at 5:30 am for our Uluru Sunrise & Kata Tjuta Tour (Y14). After the sunrise tour, we will be taken back to our hotel to relax and enjoy a buffet lunch at Ilkari Restaurant (Voucher 29). At 3:30 pm we will meet your sunset tour guide in front of the hotel for the Uluru Base & Sunset Tour. 

Sunrise/Morning  Enjoy tea or coffee and be inspired by an incredible view through stunning desert landscape as the sun rises over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. From the viewing platform it is possible to see way into the distance, providing an ideal photo opportunity. 

After the amazing sunrise and a relaxing morning tea, we will join a tour around the base of Uluru learning details on its geology and incredible history. Last on the morning tour is a visit to the Mutitjulu Waterhole and the Uluru – Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre. 

Sunset/Afternoon  Our experienced driver guide will give us an overview of the fascinating history of Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park as we make our way to Walpa Gorge, a lush desert haven for plants and animals. The gentle but rocky track will lead us into a world of rare plant species and lush evergreen shrubs known as Spearwood. 

Time to head off to the Uluru sunset viewing area. On arrival we’ll be served from a selection of Australian wines and nibbles. 

You can just sit and relax or stroll around the area to find your own personal space to watch an amazing outback sunset. 

The tours operate Daily . Morning tour pick ups are 1.5 hours before sunrise and returns approximately 11:00 – 11:30am, lasting approximately 5 hours (seasonal). Afternoon tour pick ups are 2:30pm – 3:00pm and returns half an hour after sunset, lasting approximately 5 hours (seasonal). 

Need to Know: Full breakfast is not provided. Bringing snacks for breakfast is recommended. Please wear closed walking shoes, sunglasses, hat and sunscreen. Bring your own water bottle. Wear warm layers in cooler months. 

Inclusions: Morning tour: Tea, coffee and cookies at sunrise and snacks; Afternoon tour: Wine and canapes at sunset. 

26 Feb (Day 16) – Australian Domestic Flight, Ayers Rock to Melbourne, Transfer to Hotel

Morning transfer to Ayers Rock Airport in time for our 11:00 am flight

Quantas Airways QF 5665. Depart Ayers Rock at 11:00 am, arrive Melbourne 3:10pm

Upon arrival, we will meet our chauffeur inside the arrival’s hall at your designated luggage carousel.  Transfer to the City Tempo Southbank Hotel Breakfasts will be served at the Left Bank Melbourne Restaurant (1 Southbank Boulevard) on the Yarra River. This is a short 10-min walk or a 4-min, own expense, taxi ride from the hotel 

After some free time we need to be in front of the hotel at 6:00 pm for transfer to the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel.  We will take the Fly and Dine Tour with a Scenic Flight on the Melbourne Star in 2 Private Cabins, complete with 2 Savoury Pilot Boxes per Cabin & a Glass of Sparkling Wine or Soft Drink, followed by a 2-Course Meal & Beverage served at Urban Alley Brewery.We need to check-in at the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel ticketing booth to collect our flight and dining tickets by 7:00 pm. Our tour will start boarding promptly at 7:45 pm.  After dinner, take the Free Tram from the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel to Flinders Street & Queens Bridge Stop 1. Our hotel is a 10-min walk from Bus Stop 1. Please refer to your Melbourne Free Tram Zone PDF for tram stop locations. Overnight in the City Tempo Southbank Hotel

27 Feb (Day 17) (Voucher 36) – Phillip Island & Penguin Parade Tour w/Exclusive Viewing Area 

Assuming no changes in schedule, we will meet our tour guide in front of the hotel at 8:00 am for pick-up. 

This looks like a fun day as we get up close and personal with the friendly residents of Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park, where we will learn about the conservation of these loveable native animals. The eco certified sanctuary also showcases some lesser known but equally adorable endangered species including the Southern Bettong, Eastern Quolls and rare Fluffy Gliders. From there travel to Phillip Island where you see the Nobbies, and Seal Rocks before travelling on to Summerland beach for the nightly penguin parade. Home to Victoria’s largest colony of little penguins, Summerland beach provides a spectacular backdrop to the world famous penguin parade. Watch as hundreds of little penguins make their way across the beach and go home for the night. Tour conclusion depends on time of year and ranges from 10:00pm during the winter months to midnight during summer as the penguins arrive at sunset. 

We have reserved an exclusive viewing area and private boardwalk situated next to the main path of penguins and limited visitor numbers, offering fantastic close viewing of penguins with rangers on hand to answer questions. Transfer back and overnight in the City Tempo Southbank Hotel. Lunch is included so dinner is on your own.

28 Feb (Day 18) (Voucher 37) – The Melbourne Foodie Walking Tour with Dinner 

Free day to pack and prepare for our long flight tomorrow. At 4:00 pm we need to be in front of the hotel to meet our driver to take us to our drop off location for the Foodie Walking Tour. Apparently, Melbourne is a mecca for food with an eating culture bordering on the obsessive. At the conclusion of our walking tour, we will be led to the Imperial Hotel for dinner. Enjoy this iconic spot where you can take in the incredible views overlooking the city skyline. Return for overnight in the City Tempo Southbank Hotel.

29 Feb (Day 19) (Voucher 38) – Transfer to Melbourne Airport for  International Flights—Melbourne to Auckland, and Aukland to Los Angeles 

Pack and checkout and be ready to meet our driver at the hotel concierge desk at 5:30 am for pick-up and transfer to the airport. 

Air New Zealand NZ 722, Depart Melbourne at 8:50 am, arrive Aukland at 2:35 pm, change planes.
Air New Zealand NZ 006, Depart Aukland at 7:30 pm, arrive Los Angeles at 10:35 am

Yes, we are arriving back earlier than when we left since we are traveling back across the International Date Line, thus gaining back the day we lost on the way over,