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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Cruise: New Zealand, the Tasman Sea and Australia

An Antipodean Adventure

Tour Information

Note: The information presented below has been extracted from our formal General Information for this tour.  It covers topics we feel potential registrants may wish to consider before booking space. The complete General Information for this tour will be sent to all tour registrants and of course supplemental information, if needed, is available from the WINGS office.

Booking your place on our Cruise: New Zealand, the Tasman Sea and Australia should be done in two steps:

1. Participants should book on-board birding time, the land excursions, and the pre-and post-cruise extensions directly with WINGS.  Please do this first to insure there’s space on our tour. Details follow.

2. Participants should book their ship berth directly with Princess Cruises. Details follow.

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BOOKING WITH WINGS: WINGS space should be booked through the WINGS on-line booking system or directly through the WINGS office. The all-inclusive per person cost for the land excursions plus the leaders’ on-board services is $3,650 in 2019 (2021 Not yet priced). Our standard 4% discount applies to invoice balance if payment is by cash, check or wire. Applicants will be sent registration and release forms, deposit, payment and cancellation schedules and related information. The deposit for this tour’s WINGS services is $350 per person ($200 non-refundable) with the balance of payments due mid-October 2020 (or perhaps earlier if the tour fills quickly). Please wait for confirmation of space from WINGS before booking your berth with Princess. Note: You will have a seven-day window from the date of your WINGS booking to cancel without a WINGS penalty should Princess not have the berth accommodation you require.

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RESERVING YOUR CABIN WITH PRINCESS CRUISES: Your berth on this cruise should be booked over the phone with Princess Cruises to make sure your booking is added to our group number (see details below). All cabins will work equally well with the planned activities. Price depends largely on cabin class. See Princess’ website for details on their deposit and payment policies.

Note: Because we’re a group, all bookings from North America should go through our group organizer with Princess Cruises, Melissa Mesker at 1-800-901-1172 ext. 21678 or mmesker@princesscruises.com. Her hours are 7:00 am-3:45 pm Pacific Time, Monday – Friday. It’s best to book your cabin through the number above and not through a standard travel agency or website such as Kayak, Expedia, or Travelocity (or over the Princess website). If you get her voicemail leave a message with the following information (or dial 0 during the message for one of her support team):

      1. I’m booking into a group.

      2. Our agent is Melissa Mesker.

      3. Cruise information:
           a.   27 January-9 February 2021 (round trip Melbourne to Melbourne)
                   i.    Wings Group: WINGS BIRDING
                   ii.    Group “number”: TPN
                   iii.   Our cruise number or voyage code: H105
                   iv.   Ship: Sapphire Princess
                   v.   Cruise Route: Australia & New Zealand (round trip Melbourne to Melbourne, Australia)

You can also book through the standard Princess Reservation Telephone at 1-800-774-6237 (From the US and Canada) and 0-843-373-0333 (UK). When you connect with a Princess reservations agent, begin by telling them the above (including our agent’s name) before booking your cabin.

Choosing a cabin on the Sapphire Princess (Open Bow): The closest interior (non-view) cabins to the birding spot are on Deck 5, in the front of the ship, between the elevator and the laundry. If you are worried about the movement of the ship then more stable interior cabins are on Deck 5 near the Art Gallery, though these are also near the Casino and may be noisy. There are also interior cabins mid-ship on Deck 10.

If you prefer a more expensive cabin with an ocean view the closest cabins to the birding location are on Deck 8, in the bow of the ship. Cabins on deck 8 mid-ship are also close to the birding location and more stable than in the front.

Additional information to have at hand before calling to make your booking:

• Your name(s) as they appear on your passports (first, middle and last)

• Your date(s) of birth

• Captain’s Circle Member numbers (for past Princess Cruises passengers) for all persons who may have them

• Phone numbers, mailing addresses, and email addresses for all persons who do not have Captain’s Circle member numbers

• Preferred bed configuration (queen vs. twin) for all staterooms – please note for cabins of 3 or more bed configuration may not allow a queen bed. Princess can provide specific bedding configuration details for each cabin as needed.

• Family stateroom configurations planned in advance (i.e., for families exceeding 4 persons; maximum stateroom occupancy is 4) or ask about Family Suite accommodations for up to 8 passengers.

• Dining selections (early, first, or late Traditional Dining, or Anytime dining) WINGS Note: Select “Anytime” dining.

• Any Special Requirements, including but not limited to: special dietary requests like food allergies and dietary restrictions (i.e., vegetarian, kosher, vegan, etc), or medical considerations.

• Any birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions that you would like celebrated while onboard

SUPPLEMENTAL NOTES

1. Our cruise is limited to 14 birders due to the difficulty in showing seabirds to a larger group and to limits with certain of our land based services. Non-birding companions are permitted, and no WINGS deposit or payment is required, but such companions should not expect to join the daytime birding activities on board ship or on land. Non-birding companions should of course book their cruise berth with Princess. If you’re planning to travel with a non-birding companion, we suggest you contact the WINGS office for a review of the limitations of such a booking.

2. Shortly after you’ve booked your berth, you’ll get an e-mail booking confirmation from Princess.  Please forward a copy of that e-mail to the WINGS office and we’ll make sure all your data is transferred to our group.

3.  Cruise Itinerary:  Princess tells us that there is no direct web link to our cruise.  To view the itinerary one has to enter the main website, http://www.princess.com/ , and go through the “Plan a Cruise” link. Select “South America” as a destination, the proper cruise ship as above as a vessel, and month/year as a date. Click on “View Details” to see cabin prices, itinerary, and other details. Note: even though it’s possible to book the cruise through the website, we recommend doing so over the phone. On the website there’s no place to add your booking to our group block and you’ll have to call them anyway.

4.  Anyone who is unable to make a booking through Princess can request assistance from the WINGS office.

ARRIVALS: We strongly advise that participants arrive in Melbourne at least a day before the tour starts. This will allow you time to rest and to start to acclimate.

ENTERING AUSTRALIA: U.S. and Canadian citizens may travel to Australia on a passport valid at the time of entry with an Australian visa or, if eligible, on a valid passport and an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which replaces a visa and allows a stay of up to three months. The ETA costs $20 USD and is easily obtained online at https://www.eta.immi.gov.au/ETA/etas.jsp.

More information about the ETA and entry requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of Australia at 1601 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, telephone (202) 797-3000, via the Australian Embassy home page on the Internet at http://www.austemb.org/, or from the Australian Consulate General in Los Angeles, tel (310) 229-4840.

ENTERING NEW ZEALAND: United States citizens need a passport that is valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay; at the time of writing, no visa is required. Non-US citizens need a valid passport, and may need a tourist visa. Consult your nearest New Zealand Embassy, High Commission, or Consulate to determine whether you need a visa.     

Note: Starting October 2019 all travellers from 60 visa waiver countries (including E.U. countries plus the US and Canada) will need to hold an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) before entering New Zealand. This waiver costs NZD$9-12 and can be applied for online at https://www.etanewzealand.com/. This is best done after you purchase your flights. This applies to travellers arriving by air or sea, as well as passengers simply transiting through New Zealand. Additionally, a fee called ‘The International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy’ may also be assessed at the same time as the ETA and will cost NZD$35.

Upon entry into New Zealand, Biosecurity New Zealand is very strict. Please make sure all footwear, tripod legs, camping gear etc are spotless, free from any dirt or foreign material. Find specific information, including a video here: http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/enter/personal.

It is always a good idea to take a photocopy of your passport and air ticket with you. They can prove invaluable in helping you get replacements if your originals are lost or stolen. Keep the photocopies in a separate bag from the originals.

TRANSFER BETWEEN AIRPORT AND HARBOR: If you participate in the pre-cruise extension around Melbourne, you will travel with the group and your leader to the ship and board together. If you don’t participate in the extension, you will have to arrange your transfer from the Melbourne airport to the harbor, and we highly recommend you to do that through Princess Cruises.

At the end of the cruise the transfer to the Melbourne airport is not included in the WINGS quote. If you fly directly home after the cruise trip, we highly recommend you organize your transfer to the airport through Princess Cruises. It is cheaper and easier to do it this way.

If you participate in the Tasmania post-tour extension, a transfer to the Hobart airport at the end of the extension is included in the package price.

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html

HEALTH: The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the Centers for Disease Control’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list. Specific vaccinations and proof thereof may be required to enter the country.For entry and exit information please visit the U.S. State Department’s website at http://travel.state.gov/travel/. We strongly recommend contacting your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure.

There are no major health risks in New Zealand or Australia. No immunizations are required for visitors unless they have visited other countries en route. It is recommended, though, that you have up-to-date tetanus and polio immunizations. Other recommended vaccinations include hepatitis A, typhoid, and rabies. You should also be sure that routine vaccinations for measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT), etc., are up to date. As some of these inoculations cannot be given concurrently please contact your doctor well in advance of the tour to start your course of treatment.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

Tap water is safe to drink in New Zealand and Australia and can be used to fill water bottles for daytime use. Immodium or Pepto Bismol in tablet form can be recommended as the best treatment for occasional traveler’s diarrhea.

Insects: Bring a strong repellent for protection against mosquitoes, sand flies and leeches. Many residents of New Zealand recommend citronella oil as a deterrent against sand flies, while any DEET-based repellent should suffice against mosquitoes. However, care must be taken to avoid getting the DEET repellent on optical equipment, as DEET dissolves rubber and plastic and can damage coated lenses. Camping supply stores and outfitters carry some reasonably effective alternatives that contain natural products and aren’t corrosive. New Zealand has no snakes, and poisonous spiders are very rare and almost never encountered.

Since it may be impossible to obtain personal medications while on tour, please bring what you will need.

Princess emphasizes keeping healthy while cruising and many Purell hand disinfectant are provided throughout the ship. Unfortunately, having 2,000+ customers on the ship plus a crew of over 1,000 means it’s always possible to catch something, and we recommend to bring cough and cold medications.

SMOKING: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc.  While in the field or traveling, use of a smokeless alternative such as nicotine gum is requested. Please do not smoke at short stops while traveling. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group and leave ample time between smoking and getting back into the vehicle. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If any lodge, accommodation or location where the group is staying or is gathered has a more restrictive smoking policy than WINGS’ policy, the more restrictive policy will prevail. The leader reserves the right to modify this policy if the situation warrants it.

ALTITUDE: We’ll spend most of our time at sea level and at altitudes below approximately 3,000 feet, so altitude sickness will not be a concern during the tour and extensions.

SEASICKNESS: Princess ships are extremely stable, and seasickness is very rarely an issue during these cruises. Even people very sensitive to seasickness are rarely sick on Princess cruises. If you know you get seasick, or if you haven’t been on a pelagic for some time and suspect there is a chance of getting seasick, you should consider some sort of medication. It is best to avoid alcohol the night before a pelagic, and you should eat at least a light breakfast that morning, as it often seems better to have a little something in your stomach. Many medications suggest taking a dose the night before the trip. Ginger snaps or ginger ale often work, as ginger itself has anti-nausea properties. Coca Cola or other caffeinated drinks can help fight the drowsiness that often accompanies some seasickness remedies.

PACE OF THE TOUR: The tour starts after meeting on the cruise ship in the Melbourne harbor. The tour is divided into two different types of birding: the sailing days and the land excursions days. The location of the group for birding while on board the ship will depend on the weather conditions and time of the day. This will be explained by your leader during the first meeting. When sailing, the leader will indicate exactly where and when he will be birding, and you can join for him as long as you want: for just a couple of hours if you also want to enjoy some of the activities offered by the cruise line, or full day if you don’t want to miss any seabirding action.

Because of the high latitude there is plenty of daylight, and because of the nature of the birding being out at the crack of dawn is not as much a prerequisite as on “hot tropical” tours (e.g., Belize, Ecuador). During the sailing days, one or both leaders are usually on deck birding from dawn to 6:00 p.m. and you can join them when and as long as you want. There may of course be special areas during which we’ll want to be on deck regardless of the time. The leaders will brief you on these well in advance.

For the land excursions, the whole group will meet half an hour before the official landing time to be able to leave the ship quickly as a group and have as much as possible on our land excursions. We usually leave just after breakfast and depart for a day of birding and/or travel with box lunches and a supply of snacks (fruit, cookies, etc.) and drinks to keep us going. Most of the walking is on level to gently sloping terrain, and there are no long hikes; we do a lot of birding from in or near the vehicle.

Note: on occasion weather (or other uncontrollable circumstances) may force the last-minute cancellation of a land excursion. In most of these cases a refund won’t be available. This happens rarely but is worth mentioning.

MELBOURNE EXTENSION: the general pace of the Melbourne extension will be easy to moderate. Most of our walks will last no more than a hour, in easy to moderate conditions; some trails will be wet if there has been rain recently. Our days will often last from early morning (typically leaving the motel around 0730 each morning) until late afternoon or early evening; our lunches will typically be picnics or in local cafes or bakeries.

TASMANIA EXTENSIONThe Tasmania extension will likewise be easy to moderate in intensity, with the longest walks being no more than a mile. Most birding will be done from country roadsides, or wide trails and there should be no steep or difficult hikes.  As it will be summer we will have some early mornings so as to be in place shortly after dawn, with picnic or local café lunches.

MELALEUCA EXTENSION:  This one-day extension is quite easy from a physicality standpoint.  We will head in the morning to the airport to board a scenic prop plane that will take us out to the field station at Melaleuca.  Once there we will have a few hours to explore the immediate environs, walking on marked trails and old roadbeds.  We’ll board the plane in the late afternoon and return to Hobart by dinnertime.

CURRENCY: In Australia the currency is the Australian dollar. ATMs (automatic cash dispensing machines) are the easiest and cheapest way of obtaining cash. All you will need is your bank card and PIN number. Payment by credit card is widely accepted in Australia, with Visa and MasterCard being preferred over American Express. Note that many vendors in Australia may not accept credit cards lacking a chip and pin (common everywhere except the US).

The currency of New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar. Credit cards (Mastercard, American Express, Visa) are accepted by many businesses throughout New Zealand, with Visa the most widely accepted. Most gas stations, cafés, and restaurants accept credit cards, but cash is useful for smaller items such as snacks or drinks in some of our more remote destinations. Cash can easily be withdrawn at banks or ATMs. Most retail outlets do not accept overseas currency or travelers checks; most banks can change foreign currency and travelers checks, but the best rates are often those at exchange centers in airports.

Our tour price includes all travel, hotel, and main meal costs, so you need to bring only enough money to cover items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks, postcards, souvenirs, etc.

CLIMATE: Australia’s climate in January generally involves daytime highs around 80-84 degrees F, although in Tasmania it will likely be roughly 10 degrees cooler.  Rain is generally unlikely in January, but occasionally the temperatures can soar to the low 90’s in the day.

The weather in New Zealand can change rapidly, particularly at sites near the coast. Generally, we should experience mild to warm weather, but at times it can be cold, wet, and windy, especially on the pelagic trips. Summer (December to February) is generally warm (68-86°F); spring (September to November) is cooler but changeable (50-77°F). At any season, even mid-summer, the weather can be cool, especially in the South and Stewart Islands, and rain is possible at any time.

ACCOMMODATIONS: During the cruise, you can choose between several levels of accommodations aboard the ship: see http://www.princess.com/learn/ships/np/staterooms/index.jsp to learn more.

During the Melbourne pre-cruise, we use comfortable hotels and accommodation, all offering large rooms, wi-fi, tv, and the usual services provided by modern hotels.

The post tour extension in Tasmania will utilize an array of hotels. From large and modern airport hotels to more rural but still well-appointed sites all our lodgings will be comfortable and will include ensuite bathrooms and wi-fi.

FOOD: An impressive variety of food is served on board ship. Food is served 24 hours a day, and there is no obligation to eat all meals with the group. For lunch, the easiest option is usually to eat at one of the buffets or have a pizza or sandwich. The buffet option is available for dinner as well, though some participants may opt to have a more formal dining experience at one of the ship’s restaurants. Each day the leader will let you know where and when the group will meet for the daily list round-up, and at which restaurant the group will take dinner.

Note: Be sure to select “Anytime dining” when registering for your cabin booking with Princess Cruises.

The food in Australia and New Zealand is of a very good to excellent standard. Local dairy products and organic produce are known for their freshness and taste, while the humble fish-and-chip shop is the typical fast food outlet. Regional treats include Gingernuts and ANZAC biscuits, meat and veggie pies, and pavlova (“pav”) for dessert. Whitebait, the translucent sprat or fingerlings of native freshwater fish, is a sought-after delicacy in November and December. New Zealand is celebrated around the world for its wonderful cheeses and wines.

On most on-shore days during the cruise picnic lunches will consist of make-your-own sandwich fare.

WINGS tours are all-inclusive, and no refunds can be issued for any tour meals participants choose to skip. While our restaurants and ground agents make every effort to insure the comfort of all participants, we cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Many restaurants offer set menus and are unable to accommodate all special requests within a group. Thus, participants with significant food allergies or special dietary needs should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot, regretfully, be accommodated. Our tours are carefully scheduled to insure the best possible birding experience. Meal times generally cannot be adjusted; any participant who needs to eat earlier or later than the times scheduled for the group should bring supplemental food with them. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.

DRINKS ON BOARD: Princess offers at no charge water, ice tea, or lemonade. When on board, WINGS doesn’t cover other drinks. Therefore, any other drinks such soft drinks, mineral water, or any kind of alcoholic beverage will be charged to you. Luggage is scanned every time we go on board, and only one bottle of wine, for the entire cruise, is accepted per passenger. If you bring more than one bottle (or another bottle at another landing) Princess will charge you a corkage fee (approximately 15 US$ per bottle).

TRANSPORTATION: Most of our land transportation will be in minibuses. A rotational system will be used so that all participants have opportunities to sit near the front of the bus.

Updated: 06 November 2019