Until you’ve visited the “Adventure Capital of the World,” we don’t blame you for wondering if Queenstown can live up to the hype. It does. Although this Aspen-like resort town is too far inland to appear on any cruise ship itinerary, its ZQN airport is where we’ll meet you for our included embark shuttle to Milford Sound.
Our charter of the M.S. Caledonian Sky embarks at Milford Sound, TripAdvisor’s #1 rated destination in the world. One of the most scenic spots on Earth (on par with the Grand Canyon or Yosemite Valley), normal cruise ships can’t dock in Milford Sound, or anywhere else in New Zealand’s Fiordlands National Park. There’s no way for a normal cruise to start or end here—or to access a thousand other places available to an expedition ship like the Caledonian Sky.
New Zealand’s Banks Peninsula is a favorite place for South Island cyclists. We’ll start this day in Akaroa and end near Christchurch, a great place to explore after our rides. Although most South Island bike tours start or end in Christchurch, the superior sights and cycling of the Banks Peninsula is forgotten in their headlong rush to reach Queenstown. And that’s why this tour of New Zealand is delectably different.
Instead of rides linking hotels that are up to 100 miles apart, a ship that relocates up to 180 miles while we sleep allows a less-frantic way to enjoy a wider range of diverse sights and cycling. New Zealand’s most spectacular day of scenic cycling links the Marlborough Wine Valley with the Queen Charlotte Sound and its National Park. This is yet another day where a choice of routes link our morning and afternoon ports.
Our post-ride cruise traverses Cook Strait, a place named for the South Pacific explorer who witnessed a spectacular wildlife show staged by resident dolphins. Although Captain James Cook departed in 1775, the obliging troupe of dolphins is still here.
Cruising towards the tropics, another highlight is Cook’s “Bay of Plenty”—a place the Captain named for it’s bounty of fresh stores. Our day’s array of rides pass through tropical orchards overflowing with citrus, avocado, and kiwi-fruit.
Another highlight of this tour is the Coromandel Peninsula. Rated #1 by North Island cyclists, the Coromandel is a relaxing place where our coastal rides pass volcano cones, tall fern forests and white sand beaches. To help us understand and appreciate our surroundings Santana has again retained the services of New Zealand’s leading naturalist to provide an insightful pair of mid-ride hikes.
We disembark the M.S. Caledonian Sky at the center of Auckland, a 15 minute shuttle from AKL International Airport. Due to the international date line, you’ll arrive home before your flight departs.
MS Caledonian Sky
The M.S. Caledonian Sky is an all-suites expedition-rated cruiser. In addition to 7-seas worthiness and advanced stabilization, an expedition ship is designed to put teams of explorers ashore in places like the Galapagos or the Antarctic. To get scientists and their delicate equipment ashore an expedition ship uses landers instead of tenders. The Caledonian Sky has six large landers to allow dry-foot landings at a boat ramp or protected cove. A normal cruise ship requires ports the same way airliners need airports. Caledonian Sky, however, provides helicopter-like flexibility. With this unique ship we have a newfound freedom to design rides that aren’t dictated by the location of airports, harbors or hotels.
Unlike the research vessels used by biologists, the all-suites Caledonian Sky is a luxurious expedition ship that provides fine dining, relaxing amenities and restful sleep. Moreover, this capable ship solves the common failure of New Zealand bike tours, where a week or two of van-supported cycling won’t allow you to experience a quarter of New Zealand’s prime diversity. While Santana’s previous format with a chartered airliner was a substantial improvement, the Caledonian Sky allows an optimal cycling vacation by transporting cyclists up to 180 miles while they sleep. Imagine a cycling tour that explores 10 regions in 10 days—without a transfer or change of hotels.
The dining room is large enough to seat everyone at once. Our five-star chef will create a regionally inspired menu for each meal with multiple choices for each course. The sommelier will provide wine pairings. Beer and wine are included at dinner. The ship serves three meals a day, and on certain days a mid-ride lunch is provided. When all day rides move in different directions, most cyclists will snack at local bakeries and cafes before returning to a welcoming buffet that will tide you over until dinner.
Another place with seating for all is the ship’s Main Lounge where we bring aboard local entertainers and naturalists. The smaller Panorama Lounge is a great place to read a book, catch up on email, or enjoy a cocktail at sunset.
It’s okay to feel sorry for your friends back home while dining in December on the Lido Deck. What will the weather be like? Imagine Father’s Day on the California Coast. Feel free to send selfies to your friends shoveling snow. If you want to take lounging to a new level the beautiful Sun Deck is a great place to work on your Christmas tan.
Videos of the MS Caledonian Sky
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the exact dates?
A: The best season for cycling in New Zealand is during their summer, which aligns with our winter. The best time for North Americans to enjoy challenging days of riding is the pre-holiday time of year when you’re still in great shape. After testing New Zealand’s late summer cycling, we realized it was tough to tackle long rides in February. This cycling cruise will take place in New Zealand’s early summer, when daily highs are in the mid-70s, coastal lows are in the mid-60s, and the landscape is every shade of green. Our carefully selected dates are December 3-12, 2019. You’ll have over a year to get in shape, and plenty of time to make it home for Christmas.
Q: Will I get seasick?
A: The MS Caledonian Sky was built to stabilize itself during expedition cruises to the extremely rough waters of Antarctica, the waters of New Zealand won’t even challenge the stabilizers. Compared to other vessels of it’s size, this ship is like riding in a Cadillac. The South Seas are famous for being calm — much smoother than the Caribbean.
Q: What’s the cost?
A: Due to Santana’s friendship with Noble Caledonia, our per-person first-in pricing for this 10-day event in New Zealand starts at $5899. Premium stateroom categories cost more. Lowest pricing in every category is limited to the first few rooms. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE. Our reservations page shows pricing of available staterooms.
Q: Is this a good deal?
A: It’s an incredible deal. Imagine the luxury of a cruise ship for the same price as an inn-to-inn tour. The starting price for Santana’s 10-day New Zealand Cycling Cruise is less than what the leading US and Canadian Cycle Tour Providers currently charge for van supported inn-to-inn tours that sample less than a third of New Zealand’s diversity.
Q: What’s “Early-In” Pricing?
A: To manage the risk of chartering entire cruise ships, couples who commit early are rewarded with discounts of up to $2,000 per stateroom. Lowest pricing in every category is limited to the first few rooms. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE.
Q: What about tipping?
A: Santana’s cruise hosts don’t accept tips. Santana’s comprehensive “cruise extras” fee of $500 per person includes port fees, cycling-specific extras, support teams, admissions, guides, and Sergio’s Coach (our non-rider coach bus). Shipboard gratuities, collected at the event, are $180 per person, and go to the ship’s crew.
Q: Are some staterooms better than others?
A: Certainly. The MS Caledonian Sky features deluxe bedding and spacious floor plans. The rooms have a private bath with shower, air-conditioning with adjustable thermostat, and are soundproofed. All Caledonian Sky staterooms are located on the exterior, and offer South Sea views or balconies.
A: Every stateroom is a suite. About 40% have balconies. Pricing varies by location and floor plan (see the Stateroom Reservations section below for pricing details).
Q: Has anyone done this before?
A: We will be the first group of cyclists to experience a New Zealand Cycling Cruise. The entire ship is ours, which allows a cycling specific itinerary that makes use of the Caledonian Sky‘s expeditionary capabilities.
Q: What’s the next step?
A: A near-immediate sell-out of this event is anticipated. Early-in pricing is limited to the first few rooms in each category. Pricing listed on the Stateroom Reservations section is the current pricing. Refresh your browser to see any changes that may have occurred if you delay booking after loading this page. To lock-in availability and the lowest pricing on a RISK-FREE basis, reserve your space through our PayPal portal. PayPal’s secure website is open 24 hours per day, accepts all major credit cards, and automatically adjusts for remaining stateroom availability. Reserving your spot is RISK-FREE. In each category the prime location staterooms will be assigned in the same order as the time stamp of your booking.
Q: What do you mean by RISK-FREE?
A: When you use your credit card and book through PayPal, we’ll give you 14 risk-free days to think it over and clear your schedule. If you change your mind, send an email to Matt@SantanaAdventures.com within two weeks to cancel the PayPal transaction and obtain a full refund.
Q: What if we change our minds after 14 days?
A: Because full-boat charters are binding, non-cancelable contracts, Jan and I will only enter into this charter based on your confirmed-through-PayPal commitment. In effect, we undertake a huge risk by guaranteeing full payment on your behalf. After entering into this obligation, we cannot afford for you to back out—for any reason. This is no different than the clear written policy that existed for all except one of Santana’s prior chartered-ship cruises (this New Zealand charter will be our 40th!). While preparing for our 2009 Danube event I neglected to include the following proviso. That’s the year a group of friends, after verbally agreeing to pay in full and then stringing Jan along for many months, decided to cancel their plans. Lesson learned! Here it is (again) in writing:
Santana’s acceptance of your registration and non-refundable deposit for this event is subsequent to your agreement to pay the remaining balance in full. While Santana allows limited refunds on rallies and tours, Santana’s cruises are non-cancelable and non-transferable. When the possibility of paying yet not attending is unacceptable, Jan and I recommend Travel Guard trip insurance. For the past 20 years hundreds of our clients have relied on Travel Guard coverage without complaint. An informative application will be mailed with your invoice; and further information is available online.
Q: Have you ever relaxed your refund policy?
A: Jan and I have willingly resold a number of fully prepaid staterooms for a fee of $500 per person—which was waived when a vacating couple found someone to take their place. When there has been more than one pending resell request, those who paid-in-full earliest had their space resold next. Using this non-guaranteed method (which is grossly inferior to trip insurance) Jan and I have cheerfully refunded over $250,000 in otherwise non-refundable and non-transferable cruise fares.
Q: How are staterooms assigned?
A: In any category all rooms are identical. Using the PayPal timestamp, those who reserve earliest get staterooms closest to the prime areas of the ship, which Bill and Jan both prefer. If friends desire a pair of adjacent staterooms the timestamp of the first reservation determines the location of both rooms. In short, we will not take requests for specific room numbers. Those who book early obtain prime positioning.
Q: How do we get to and from the tour?
A: Detailed info by January ’19. Those who arrive and leave on the embark and debark days will receive FREE Airport transfers.
Q: Are rental bikes available?
A: Yes. If you own a nice bike that fits, however, bringing it with you is relatively easy and inexpensive. More info on this in Bill’s Travel Tips. Single bike rental rates are $550 per person for the event, includes delivery to Queenstown and retrieval from Auckland.
Q: How many miles each day?
A: In addition to our daily pair of zero-mile options (remaining on the ship or exploring the islands via Sergio’s Coach), every day has multiple cycling routes. Anyone who can ride 40 flat miles will be able to enjoy cycling on both islands. If you prefer hills or want to spend additional hours in the saddle, we’ve got you covered. At each morning’s breakfast you’ll get a map charting the day’s cycling routes and recommended stops. During a brief route talk you’ll hear about each route’s grades and difficulty. Santana’s vets have learned to love and rely on their handlebar-mounted gps units. Available for less than $200, these touch-screen marvels prevent the age-old problem of getting lost or riding unplanned miles. Santana supplies free electronic mapping and route files. Simply select the route and follow the highlighted map.
Q: What’s the difference between a SAG-wagon and Santana’s SOS/treasure vans?
A: Most tour companies use SAG-wagons that haul luggage and “sweep” the route between overnight stops. The drivers refill water-bottles, fix flat tires, and retrieve riders who can’t manage the easiest route between the widely spaced hotels. The problem, of course, is that the roving vans tend to be annoying until you actually need help. At that point it’s common to wait for two or more hours until one shows up. Although SAG drivers can fix a flat, they don’t have the tools or know-how to handle serious mechanical problems. Instead, they drive you to a bike shop (which explains why SAG-wagons disappear for hours at a time). This tour’s SOS van is driven by a pro bike mechanic who brings tools and spares. When you phone him with the coordinates from your GPS, he’ll arrive in a flash to get you back in the saddle. Because Santana expects participants to fill their own bottles, fix their own flats, and choose a ride they can finish, our SOS drivers are underworked, and have time to retrieve your shopping treasures.
Q: Does the Caledonian Sky have WiFi? Does the ship have an elevator?
Will there be menu selections for vegetarians, vegans and picky eaters?
A: Yes to all of the above.
Q: What if we have more questions?
A: The easiest way to get any further info is by phoning or emailing Jan, who is happy to answer your questions.
1 (800) 334-6136 x116 Jan@SantanaTandem.com
Q: What if I run into problems with Reservations or PayPal?
A: The easiest way to get help is by phoning or emailing Matt, who is happy to help guide you.
+1 (949) 677-7896 Matt@SantanaAdventures.com
New Zealand Cycling Cruise 2019
December 3 to 12, 2019
Full Cancellation policy appears below. Your deposit signifies an acceptance of those terms.
|* Fares are Per-Person & Double-Occupancy|
|* Fares are set at time of purchase, and are otherwise subject to change based on availability.|
|* Please note that the number of rooms in each category is limited and unchangeable.|
Stateroom Prices are per person, double occupancy
Deposits listed below are per stateroom, and are for two participants
|Our comprehensive “cruise extras” fee of $500 per person covers a long list of port fees, off-ship activities, admissions, and guides.
Crew Gratuities of $180 per person will be collected at the event.
|Your initial Stateroon-Holding-Fee is an escrow-like payment which remains fully refundable for 14 days. After 14 days, your Stateroom-Holding-Fee will be converted to an Event Deposit. At that point a dated invoice will be issued. To get pre-existing coverage you’ll want to purchase Travel Insurance within 14 days of your invoiced date (or within 28 days of placing your Holding Fee). Unless you cancel in writing within that 14 day period, the following Scary Cancellation Policy applies to Santana’s chartered cruise events:|
|Because cruise ship charters are binding, non-cancelable contracts, Jan and I will only enter into this charter based on your confirmed-with-a-deposit commitment. In effect, we undertake a huge risk by guaranteeing full payment on your behalf. After entering into this obligation, we cannot afford for you to back out, for any reason. This is the same policy that existed on all but 1 of Santana’s 40 previous cruises. While preparing for our 2009 Danube event, I neglected to include the following provision (shown below). That’s the year a group of friends, after verbally agreeing to pay in full and then stringing Jan along for many months, decided to cancel their plans. Lesson learned!|
|Santana’s acceptance of your registration and non-refundable deposit for this event is subsequent to your agreement to pay the remaining balance in full. While Santana allows limited refunds on Rallies and Tours, Santana’s Cruises are non-cancelable, non-transferable, and non-refundable. When the possibility of paying yet not attending is unacceptable, Jan and I recommend Travel Guard Trip Insurance. For the past 20 years hundreds of our clients have relied on Travel Guard coverage without a single complaint. An informative application is available upon request; and further information is available online.|