Santana Adventures’ New Zealand Cycling Cruise has revolutionized the idea of a New Zealand Bike Tour.
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 convenient ZQN airport is where we’ll meet you for our included embark shuttle to Milford Sound.
Embark Day: Our charter of the 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.
Day 2: Coming ashore at Riverton, an original landing site for British Colonists, our choice of routes to the southern tip of New Zealand (and the signposts at Mile Zero) pause for lunch at Invercargill’s famous automotive museum, and end at the settlement of Bluff; where the sacred Maori viewpoint marked the edge of their realm.
Day 3: A day that starts in the coastal city of Dunedin, offers penguin viewing and a visit to Orokonui Wildlife Park and Kiwi Sanctuary.
A ride through coastal stands of Eucalyptus ends at Moeraki, a lobster fishing village famous for its smooth beach and mysterious six-foot spherical boulders.
Day 4: A favorite destination for South Island cyclists is the Banks Peninsula, where earthquakes allowed the sea to reclaim the centers of a pair of ancient volcanoes. Our ride from the old whaling village of Akaroa to the modern Port of Christchurch is, quite literally, a ride that links two flooded calderas.
For those who don’t want the bragging rights of conquering two volcanoes in a single day, our pair of summit shuttles can get you to the top of both rims.
Although most South Island bike tours start or end in Christchurch, the superior sights and cycling of the Banks Peninsula are 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 better cycling, and a wider range of diverse sights.
Day 5: Described as “a ride through God’s photo album,” New Zealand’s most celebrated annual cycling event is the GrapeRide. A metric century that attracts thousands, the best part of this circular course that starts and ends in the Marlborough Wine Valley is the scenic roadway along the edge of the Queen Charlotte Sound.
Santana’s use of a small expedition ship allows us to add a second (and nicer) fjord ride before we reach the vineyards. Moreover, our non-circular route is a bit shorter, avoids the nasty climb on a very busy highway, and finishes with the GrapeRide’s best segment.
Day 6: A morning without cycling? One of the world’s most famous hikes is a 4-day “tramp” along the Queen Charlotte Track. Our ship allows us to sample the prime portion of this trail linking Furneaux Lodge with Ship Cove. If 10.6 miles seems too far for a morning hike, a start from Resolution Bay trims the distance and provides more time to explore a waterfall and the Cook Monument.
Our post-hike 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’s departure from Ship Cove occurred in 1775, the obliging troupe of dolphins is still here.
Day 7: Our first day of North Island Cycling loops through Hawke’s Bay Vineyards and pauses for wine tasting before returning to Napier, where the world’s finest collection of Art Deco architecture is the result of a San Francisco scale 1931 earthquake that leveled the town. Our guided walking tours allow you to appreciate the harmonized result of an amazing civic rebirth that remains an intense source of local pride.
Day 8: A day that starts in Gisborne explores the East Cape region, a friendly corner of New Zealand that remained a Maori stronghold.
As with all days of Santana’s New Zealand Cycling Cruise, we’ll begin our day with a choice of routes that allow participants to explore at their own pace. Today our choice of routes include an inland loop through Maori farmlands to reach village stores and bakeries where English is a foreign language.
This afternoon we’ll pedal shoreline miles along a forested coast to end at Tolaga Bay’s historic wharf.
Day 9: Another highlight of this tour is the tropical Coromandel Peninsula. Rated #1 by North Island cyclists, the Coromandel is a relaxing place where our coastal route skirts a volcano cone and passes through a towering fern forest.
This carefree day includes opportunities to explore Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove, and Shakespeare Cliff.
Our tour’s final ride ends at a river inlet, where we’ll use a small ferry to reach Whitianga, the resort town where we’ll repack our bikes.
Disembark Day: We disembark the M.S. Caledonian Sky at the center of Auckland, where our tour concludes with a 15-minute shuttle to AKL International Airport. Since most flights leave in the late afternoon or evening, it’s easy to check bikes and luggage before spending the day exploring a beautiful city that reminds many of San Diego. Due to the international date line, most will arrive home before their flight departs.
MS Caledonian Sky
New Zealand Cycling Cruise 2022
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, the combination of this capable ship and the itinerary for Santana’s New Zealand Cycling Cruise solve 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
New Zealand Cycling Cruise 2022
Q: What are the exact dates?
A: The best season for a New Zealand Cycling Cruise is during their summer, which aligns with winter in North America. 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 9-18, 2022. You’ll have two full seasons 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 its 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 $6,099 per-person. 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 of both islands is less than what the leading US and Canadian Cycle Tour Providers currently charge for van supported inn-to-inn tours that include one island and sample less than a quarter 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 $675 per person includes cycling-specific extras, support teams, admissions, guides, and Sergio’s Coach (our non-rider coach bus). Government mandated Port Fees are $350 per-person. 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. Deck plans and floor plans can be found on the reservations page.
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: Santana designed this event from scratch, and tested it with the same ship in December of 2019 and 2020. Our pair of premier events sold out within a few minutes, and received glowing reviews from those who were lucky enough to secure space. Due to the unrivaled success of our cycling-specific itinerary that utilized the Caledonian Sky’s expeditionary capabilities, we waited 3 years for this ship’s return to New Zealand. Unfortunately, this time we were only able to arrange one cruise instead of two.
Q: How do we get to and from the tour?
A: Detailed info will be emailed a year in advance. Those who arrive and leave on the embark and disembark 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. Lightweight road bike rentals are about $450 per-person for the duration of the cruise, and E-Bike rentals are about $200 more. Rentals include delivery in Queenstown and retrieval at the end of the final ride. More info on our “Welcome Aboard” page.
Q: How many miles each day?
A: In addition to our daily pair of zero-mile options (remaining on the ship or reaching prime attractions via Santana’s non-rider touring coach), every day has multiple cycling routes. Anyone who can ride 30 flat miles will be able to enjoy multiple days of cycling. Longer routes are available, and often provide 60 or more miles. 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 attractions. Santana’s vets have learned to love and rely on their handlebar-mounted gps units. Available for less than $170, 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. More info on our “Welcome Aboard” page.
Q: What’s the next step?
A: A near-immediate sell-out of this event is anticipated. 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 timestamp 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 Cancellations@SantanaAdventures.com within two weeks to cancel the PayPal transaction and obtain a full refund. Here is a full listing of Santana Adventures’ Terms & Conditions.
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 charter will be our 68th!). 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 25 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. Here is a full listing of Santana Adventures’ Terms & Conditions.
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 $1,000 per stateroom—which is waived when vacating participants 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 $500,000 in otherwise non-refundable and non-transferable cruise fares. Here is a full listing of Santana Adventures’ Terms & Conditions.
Q: How are staterooms assigned?
A: In any sub-category all rooms are identical. Using the PayPal timestamp, those who reserve earliest get the conveniently-located staterooms closest to centrally-located stairwell. If friends desire a pair of adjacent staterooms the timestamp of the first reservation determines the location of both rooms. In short, out of fairness to all our guests, we will not take requests for specific room numbers. Those who book early obtain prime positioning.
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 support includes two pro bike mechanics and a trio of ride support vehicles. When you phone one of our drivers with the coordinates from your GPS, they’ll arrive in a flash to take care of problems and 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: Are beverages included?
A: Beer & Wine are included at dinner. Other alcohol is not included but can be charged to your room. Soft Drinks, Coffee, Espresso Drinks, and Juice are all complimentary at meal times.
Q: Which meals are included?
A: During Santana’s earlier New Zealand Cycling Cruise from Noble Caledonia the culinary staff appreciated our appetites as much as we appreciated their multi-course gourmet meals. Noble Caledonia’s 5-star chef will curate a new menu for each meal, and will always include a surprising selection of local fruits and produce, regional specialties, the freshest-possible seafood, vegetarian options, and grilled-to-order meats. A changing assortment of desserts and pastries are produced aboard each day. Breakfast and Lunch are served buffet style, perfect for active cyclists. Dinner is a plated multi-course menu with plenty of gourmet options for all of our participants.
Q: Does the Caledonian Sky offer 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 Matt, who is happy to answer your questions.
+1 (949) 677-7896 Matt@SantanaAdventures.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