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The arrival of Majestic Princess opens a new chapter for Australia’s favourite premium cruise line – and New Zealand is where she will excel, reports Peter Lynch.

She’s big, bold and not called Majestic for nothing.

Princess Cruises’ largest and newest entrant to the burgeoning Australian market will turn this wave season into a game-changer.

This magnificent ship – a $825 million one-year-old 19-deck mega-liner with room for 3,560 guests – will be sailing 16 cruises to popular holiday destinations including Fiji, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tasmania.

But it will be New Zealand where Princess Cruises plans to make its biggest play for dominance.

New Zealand has overtaken Europe as the Australia’s third favourite ocean cruise destination, attracting more than 100,000 passengers last year. Princess Cruises already carries two thirds of them.

Milford Sound, friendly locals and rolling lush countryside are obvious drawcards. But the line’s Across the Ditch program – a brilliant way of turning a port call into a real cultural experience – has already proved enormously popular.

Now, it is being enhanced with some industry firsts – including a truly star-studded visit to Great Barrier Island, one of only four Dark Sky sanctuaries in the world.

Only 1,000 people live on the island, 100 kilometres from Auckland. Its night sky, unpolluted by electric light, has become part of its culture and now attracts astrotourists from all over the world.

Another highlight is a journey off the beaten track with award-winning Māori Chef, Eru Tutaki. Guests will join Chef Eru Tutaki in a forest near the port of Tauranga to harvest bush food which will then be created into a three-course degustation. Chef Eru Tutaki is renowned for illustrating the stories of his Māori heritage through the flavours of the bush.

“To tell the legends of New Zealand’s origins through taste is not only a wonderful excursion for the guests of our country, it’s an investment in the preservation of our history,” said Chef Eru Tutaki.

Other Across the Ditch programs include a series of immersive shore excursions and onboard experiences such as Kiwi wine tasting, poi dancing, haka lessons and talks by park rangers.

Majestic Princess is the largest Princess ship ever to sail Australian waters – and the most luxurious.

Princess Cruises’ Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific, Stuart Allison said that Princess will be carrying more passengers to New Zealand than any other line and the Across the Ditch program will give guests the full immersive experience.

“Princess Cruises Local Connections Program will deliver meaningful and bespoke experiences across the country to our guests through the eyes of a local expert. It is these local chefs, beverage-makers and artisans, as recommended by our local expert partners, who will bring a destination to life in their own unique way’,” he said.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Harmony by Richard Chen, a Michelin-starred chef who also runs a lobster bar on the pool deck
  • La Mer by Emmanuel Renaut – another Michelin-starred chef – for escargots and mushroom ragout 1,000 metres of shopping, featuring top brands – Cartier, Chopard, Bulgari, Prada, Coach, Gucci, Burberry and more
  • An amazing spa and perfumed steam rooms
  • Private karaoke
  • Three-tiered casino
  • More than 80 per cent of the ship’s 1,780 staterooms have balconies: 36 suites with private balconies, 374 mini suites with private verandas, 312 deluxe balcony cabins, 716 balcony cabins and just 342 inside cabins.
  • Chef’s Table Lumiere ($165 pp) – a fascinating light-infused curtain surrounds guests as they feast on a special menu
  • Perennial Princess favourite Crown Grill and Bar, home to one of the best steaks at sea
  • Buffet areas have been transformed into The World Fresh Marketplace – a series of food stalls serving a huge variety of dishes prepared from fresh produce in the Majestic’s prodigious kitchens.
  • Two main dining rooms.
  • The Enclave, with a pool, perfumed steam rooms and heated sunbeds. Just 50 guests get unlimited access for an additional charge
  • The Hollywood Conservatory is a completely new design: a sanctuary for adults in private cabanas by day, it turns into the Hollywood Pool Club, a rocking night venue, once the sun goes down