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Clear Water and Tropical Island

Under the Southern Cross: New Zealand to Melanesia

Example 16 Day Cruise aboard National Geographic Orion
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Uncover the tropical beauty and important cultural history of the South Seas. Following in the wake of Captain Cook, we will journey from New Zealand’s North Island to the Solomon Sea. Delve into a fascinating history of intrepid explorers, convicts, and traders, and learn about the rich cultures of the Maori and the Melanesians. Examine traditional carved houses and ancient caves and meet villagers on some of the most remote islands of the South Pacific. Along the way, don your snorkel and fins to discover incredible coral reefs and lagoons.
Snorkel the sunwashed shores of the Great Barrier ReefAdmire the coral reef as you sail the South PacificMountain Island in the South PacificSouth Pacific islandsDancers of VanuatuChildren of the Solomon Islands greet your zodiacEncounter the locals of Santa Ana on your South Pacific cruiseExperience the mystical South Pacific culturesSnorkel with the exceptional sealife of the South PacificClear Water and Tropical Island
  • Experience an impressive diversity of cultures from the Maori of the Bay of Islands to the spear dancers of the Solomons
  • Venture to the former penal colony of Norfolk Island
  • See the stunning limestone geology of New Caledonia at Isle of Pines
  • See the fantastic fishing canoes of the people of Utupua
Places Visited
  • New Zealand
  • South Pacific
  • Auckland
  • Solomon Islands
  • Ambrym Island
  • Honiara
  • Isle of Pines
  • Luganville, Espiritu Santo
  • Melanesia
  • New Caledonia
  • Norfolk Island
  • Oceania
  • Port Vila, Efate
  • Russell, Bay of Islands
  • Santa Ana Island
  • Tikopia Island, Santa Cruz
  • Utupua Island
  • Vanuatu
Activity Level: Relaxed

Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Auckland, New Zealand

Arrive in Auckland, New Zealand, where we check into our hotel. Join us for a welcome briefing this evening to meet your fellow travelers.

Day 2: Auckland | Embark

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Have breakfast at the hotel before joining a tour of this vibrant city center. We’ll stop for lunch midday before embarking on National Geographic Orion in the late afternoon.

Day 3: Bay of Islands

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The Bay of Islands is an area encompassing more than 140 subtropical islands, boasting an abundance of wildlife and fascinating history. Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, a place of immeasurable cultural, spiritual, and historical significance, and learn of the historical events for which these grounds are remembered.

Day 4: At Sea

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Take advantage of a full day at sea to settle into the relaxed pace of life on board. Watch for marine life from the deck, study our route on the navigational charts, and attend talks by our experts.

Day 5: Norfolk Island, Australia

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Explore Norfolk Island, discovered by Captain Cook in 1774. Covered in dense forests of pines, it was initially valued as a ready source of shipbuilding lumber. Later, it became a British penal colony and then a settlement for Pitcairn Islanders, who themselves were descendants of the mutineers from the famous Bounty. Explore the ruins of the prison and enjoy walking around the main settlement at Burnt Pine. Later, take a long nature hike in Norfolk National Park to look for the endemic tree ferns and land birds. As we depart, look for large groups of seabirds alongside the dramatic island scenery.

Day 6: At Sea

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Relax on deck as we make our passage to Melanesia or attend talks by our expert expedition and photo teams.

Day 7: Isle of Pines, New Caledonia

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Swim or snorkel in the beautiful Oro Natural Pool or walk through the beautiful rainforest to the site of Queen Hortense’s Cave, filled with limestone features and a variety of tropical vegetation. Alternatively, take a hike to the summit of N’Ga Peak to see incredible views over the island and the surrounding sea, or join our naturalists for a birding walk through the dense canopy of the forest.

Day 8: Port Vila | Lelepa, Vanuatu

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Clear into Vanuatu at Port Vila. Later, go ashore at Lelepa to visit Vanuatu’s first and only UNESCO World Heritage site, the final residence and burial site of 17th-century Chief Roi Mata. Here, we’ll be welcomed with traditional songs and dance, and enter the impressive Fels Cave.

Day 9: Ambrym

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Ambyrm is known for its active volcanoes, black sand beaches, and mystery and magic. Arrive ashore to witness the striking Rom dance, traditionally a secret event. Involving incredible masks and elaborate outfits that represent spirits, this is a cultural experience specific only to this island. (

Day 10: Espiritu Santo

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Captain James Cook named the islands of Vanuatu the “New Hebrides” because they reminded him of the rugged isles off Scotland’s coast. On the main island of Espiritu Santo, experienced one of the best wreck dives in the world: the S.S. President Coolidge, a luxury cruise liner used as a troop carrier during World War II, or enjoy a serene canoe paddle to the Riri Blue Hole, a jewel-blue freshwater source surrounded by jungle.

Day 11: Loh Island, Torres Group

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Arrive in the small village of Loh Island by Zodiac, meandering along a beautiful mangrove lagoon. Meet the lovely villagers and experience some of the local kastom dances. Hike across the island to a cave and look for wildlife along the way. If conditions permit, snorkel in along the beautiful fringing reef of the island.

Day 12: Tikopia, Solomon Islands

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Tikopia is an unusual island. Just under 2 miles square, it is the caldera of an extinct volcano and boasts dramatic scenery. Officially a part of the Solomon Islands of Melanesia, it was settled by Polynesian people, whose descendants still reside there today. Made up of several villages led by different chiefs, the island retains many of its traditional practices. We will visit one of the villages to meet the local people and learn about the unique culture of the island. Afterward, take a hike along the ridgeline of the caldera to see an aerial view of the island and its lagoon.

Day 13: Utupua

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Located in the Santa Cruz Island group, Utupua is a high volcanic island surrounded by a lagoon and a fringing coral reef. Zodiac to the village of Nimbau for a welcome song and dance performance. Take a walk through the village with the locals and see a display of their fantastic fishing canoes. Take a Zodiac ride along the shores, lined with dense mangroves and boasting a variety of wildlife.

Day 14: Owaraha Island

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
On the tiny isle of Owaraha (formerly known as Santa Ana), we’re greeted with a traditional dance performed by villagers in elaborate costumes, body paint, and masks. Walk across the small island to Nafinotoga to see Spirit Houses containing the skulls and bones of ancient chiefs of the Snake Clan and the Turtle Clan

Day 15: Honiara | Disembark | Brisbane

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch
Our expedition concludes in Honiara, a former U.S. supply depot and a strategic WWII battleground. Tour around the outskirts of the city to see sites well known from the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942–43. See the shores of Red Beach and the vital airbase at Henderson Field. Visit the hills above Honiara, where some of the fiercest battles took place. Then transfer to the airport for our flight to Brisbane, where we will overnight at a local hotel.

Day 16: Brisbane

  • 1 Breakfast
Depart this morning for your flight home.


National Geographic Orion

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The lovely National Geographic Orion

Dates & Prices

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National Geographic Orion's Category 1 Cabin.
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Category 1
Cat 1 #316, 318-321. Cabins feature a luminous oval window and configurable beds: two single beds, two beds converted to a queen-size bed, or a queen size bed. An armchair, reading lamps, a flat screen TV, and climate controls complete the amenities. Marble bathrooms are generously sized and include a spacious shower stall with a glass door.
Your  Category B Stateroom on the National Geographic Orion
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Category 1 Single
Cat 1S #301, 322, 323. These solo cabins feature a window or two portholes, a queen-size bed, except for #301 which has a double bed, writing desk and chair, climate controls, reading lamps, and a TV. Marble bathrooms are generously sized and include a roomy shower stall with a glass door.
A Category A Stateroom on the National Geographic Orion
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Category 2
Cat 2 #302-312, 314, 315, 317. Cabins feature a luminous oval window and configurable beds: two single beds, two beds converted to a queen-size bed, or a queen size bed. An armchair, reading lamps, a flat screen TV, and climate controls complete the amenities. Marble bathrooms are generously sized, and include a spacious shower stall with a glass door.
A lovely category 3 suite on the National Geographic Oion
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Category 3
Cat 3 Suite with Window #401-412, 414-419. These suites feature a sitting area with a large window, a sofa–except slightly smaller #401 & #402–an armchair or two, writing/laptop desk, reading lamps, flat screen TV, & climate controls. Beds are configurable (call for details). Marble bathrooms include a spacious shower stall with a glass door.
National Geographic Orion's Category 3 Cabin.
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Category 3 Single
Cat 3S Suite with Window #512. This solo suite features two beds and two large windows, plus two armchairs and small table, reading lamps, a flat screen TV, and climate controls. The marble bathroom is generously sized and includes a spacious shower stall with a glass door.
National Geographic Orion's Category 4 Cabin.
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Category 4
Cat 4 Deluxe Suite with Window #511, 515. These two suites feature separate sleeping and sitting areas, with a chair and armchair and a two-cushion sofa facing an expansive window. Beds are configurable (call for details). Ample storage, reading lamps, a flat screen TV, and climate controls complete the amenities.
National Geographic Orion's Category 5 Cabin.
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Category 5
Cat 5 Suite with French Balcony #501, 503-506, 508. These spacious suites feature open living areas and sliding glass doors opening to a shared French balcony. Beds are configurable (call for details.) A sitting area with arm chairs and a sofa, a writing/laptop desk, well-placed reading lamps, a flat screen TV, and climate controls complete the decor.
National Geographic Orion's Category 6 Cabin.
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Category 6
Cat 6 Owner’s Suite with French Balcony #502, 507, 509*, 510. These large, elegant suites feature a French balcony, with the exception of #509 which has double windows. Each provides a separate living area with a sofa and two arm chairs, except for #502, which uniquely offers a 'soaking tub with a view' in addition to a shower stall and expansive vanity.
  • 15 Breakfasts, 14 Lunches, 13 Dinners
  • 8 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • The Guidance and Company of the Expedition Staff
  • Hotels Ashore as Indicated in the Itinerary
  • Sightseeing & Entrance Fees
  • Special Access Permits, Park Fees, Port Taxes
  • Zodiac & Kayak Explorations
  • Snorkeling, Including Wetsuits, Masks, Fins & Snorkel Where Relevant
  • Presentations and Guest Speakers in the Lounge
  • Gratuities to the Ship Crew
  • Complimentary Parka - available only for the duration of the voyage.
  • Alcohol (except premium brands) 
  • Non-Alcoholic Beverages
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Scuba Diving
  • Passport and Applicable Visa Expenses
  • Additional Hotel Nights 
  • Private Transfers
  • Expedition Extensions 
  • Laundry 
  • Internet & Phone Charges
  • Regional charter flight fees not included, pricing varies by departure



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Everything was amazing! The planning with Adventure Life went smoothly. The actual trip was fantastic! One of the best trips I have experienced. The cruise staff members were knowledgeable and attentive. I will be writing more about this on the blog!
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