January 2024 – Australia and New Zealand

When we talked about places to travel when we retire, the very first destination on both our minds was Australia and New Zealand.  So when the opportunity arose on deciding where to go, it was a simple click and pay for what we feel is our priority bucket list destination.  I logged into Viking Cruises, looked up the various itinenaries, and quickly spotted that they had a 16 day Australia and New Zealand cruise embarking in Sydney and disembarking in Auckland.

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Did someone say birthday?

I must admit, I got excited in the moment as this is going to be Gina’s Birthday celebration albeit a few months after her major milestone. However, here was the clincher – the ship embarks on January 2, 2024.  Which means that if we arrive early, then celebrating News Year Eve in Sydney Harbor is definately a possiblity. 

sydney, new year's eve, fireworks-2148908.jpgSeeing the Sydney Harbor bridge ablaze in fireworks on New Years with the Opera House in the background was always the picture we want to see in real life.  Considering last year, Zachary was able to witness NYE at the Eifel tower in Paris, after this trip the only major NYE firtwork extraviganza not to be seen in this family is those along the Hudson River in New York. (in all my years of being just being 90 miles away too).

So I made the choices that needed to be made without consulting Gina in order to surprise her – 17 hour flight – booked buisness class air, so while at it, picked a junior suite, add a 2 day pre-cruise hotel in Sydney, then added a 4 day post cruise in Auckland and topped it all off with adding travel insurance – I mean, it may be the only time we get to do this, right? On top of this, January is summer down under making it even better.  I was on a roll and the computer keyboard was clicking away. Oh what the heck, throw in the all inclusive beverage package as well (we saw the perks of that on our recent Viking cruise).  Okay, at this point we are all set, we paid for everything before Norway trip – just needed to wait in eager anticipation.

koala, nature, koala bear-7830706.jpgWe just hit the 85 day mark until the trip and that means we get to chose shore excursions – the ship if fairly full, the benefit of a junior suite is we get early access to excursion reservations – weeks ahead of some 840 others on the 930 person ship – that is how Viking entices you to book higher class cabins, if you want the reservation perk, then you need to pay for and get a higher class of cabin.  We are planning to catch a few excursions that seem interesting and exciting. I will have more information on those once we confirm them. We have not gained the confidence in third party excursions as it does not come with assuance of the boat not leaving without you…. but from what we saw, with some exceptions, the private tours pretty much run parallel with the Viking tours but a slightly less cost.

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So look for some posts around the New Year Eve time frame – hopefully arriving in Sydney after a 17 hour flight the morning of News Year Eve (going over the International date line to boot) will not be too trecherous for us, but the hotel Viking has us booked (Marriott at Circular Quay) is right in the heart of the downtown walking distance from the cruise pier, the Opera House and the Sydney Bridge – I guess we are very fortunate to get a room there on such a night.

We got a airline booking a few months ago – Ft. Lauderdale to Houston then Houston to Sydney (that rates in the top list of longest flights in the world). We did use Viking Air + service to  get those flights otherwise we would have multiple stops in colder climates. We arrive in Sydney the morning of 12/31/23 which is 2 days after we leave.  The return is Auckland to Houston and Houston to Fort Lauderdale.   Notably when we come back, our flight arrive in Ft Lauderdale within an hour or two from the time we leave Auckland – since we are flying west to east, over the date line.  

Bottom line of all this – Still getting our head around all this – just trying to image what it will be like make my head spin, it is all too crazy to think about. More to follow. 

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