Although Australia and New Zealand lie literally on the other side of the world from home, tourists from North America find that they feel wonderfully at home in these two nations. A shared language--English is also the dominant language "down under"--and a host of other similarities in national character and style allay the strangeness of the striking landscapes, unique wildlife and distinctive cultural traditions of these two nations.

A continent as well as a nation, Australia encompasses vast areas of wild country known as the outback, superb beaches and surfing grounds, a vast coral reef teeming with marine life, and an incredible array of wildlife that includes kangaroos, koala bears, wombats and the unique platypus. But there is another side of Australia embodied in Sydney, one of the world's great cities.

Southeast of Australia in the South Pacific, New Zealand comprises two main islands - known simply as South Island and North Island - and numerous small islets. Though tiny compared to its neighbor, New Zealand boasts a variety of natural features and recreational opportunities to rival any place in the world. The North Island features the bustling metropolis and world yacht racing capital of Auckland, exotic black sand beaches and lush green hills. The South Island's mountainous terrain and glaciers have earned it the title of "Switzerland of the South Pacific."

Cruises that call at ports in Australia and New Zealand include longer Pacific voyages and world-circling itineraries. Some lines, however, schedule cruise programs focusing on these two destinations, either together or separately. Because they are located in the Southern Hemisphere, summer arrives in December there, but their mild climates make these two destinations attractive cruise venues any time of the year.*