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Cruising Article –07/06/2011

Maori culture and history comes alive in Tauranga, New Zealand

New Zealand

Exploring foreign lands on a cruise vacation is the ultimate opportunity for individuals to learn about a new culture and country. Recent years have seen New Zealand emerge as one of the world's premiere destinations for cultural discovery and natural beauty, and few cities in the region are as accommodating and fun as the North Island metropolis of Tauranga.

As the most heavily populated city in the Bay of Plenty Region, Tauranga is a modern destination with classic appeal. The city is located at the head of its eponymous harbor, meaning that the presence of the sea can be felt throughout. This harbor is also protected by Matakana Island, explaining how Tauranga earned its name, which is Maori for "a sheltered anchorage."

While the city is the sixth largest urban center in the country, most of the area surrounding Tauranga is horticultural land that is used to grow much of the produce sold in and exported from the country. This includes the popular tangelos and kiwifruit that the region is known for.

It is in these outskirts where vacationers on New Zealand cruises can explore the history of the country's native Maori people – the best place from which to launch this exploratory journey at the Tamaki Maori Village. The winner of New Zealand's Supreme Tourism Award, the Tamaki village is a great way to see how the island's endemic population lived before European settlers came to the country. Travelers can sample authentic Maori dishes, listen to some traditional songs and take in performance of native dances like the haka.

Taraunga is also a great launching point for an exploratory trip through the natural wonders of the Rotorua area and it's many geothermal spas. At the Te Puia Therma Reserve, vacationers can spend some time studying up on the Maori way of life, then witness the majestic eruptions of the Pohutu geyser. There is also a national carving and weaving school that displays the work of local craftsmen.

The natural beauty abounds at Rainbow Springs, a 22-acre preserve that is a "must-see" for nature travelers. From the trout pools and native birds to the 135 different species of tree, this is a great destination for hikers and natural tourists.

Of course, natural relaxation is easy to find in the area as well. Particularly at the Polynesian Day Spa, a facility that features spa and massage therapies, and offers dips in the natural hot spring pools found in the region.