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Cruise turns dreams of 'the land down under' into amazing reality

(BPT) - When you think of the 'land down under,' does your mind conjure images of rumbling through the Outback in a dusty four-wheel drive vehicle? Or maybe you envision...

(BPT) - When you think of the 'land down under,' does your mind conjure images of rumbling through the Outback in a dusty four-wheel drive vehicle? Or maybe you envision flying over the iconic Sydney Opera House on your way to touching down at the Sydney Airport. While both are fantastic ways to experience two signature Australian experiences, there are certainly other options. For the perfect blend of adventure and luxury, why not try an Australia tour paired with a New Zealand cruise?

A 21-day Australia and New Zealand tour-cruise combination allows you to visit renowned cities, including Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland. You'll be able to take in traditional sights and experiences, and savor the allure of some of the most beautiful seas in the world. Tauck, a world-leader in guided travel, is introducing a new journey combining an Australia tour (with hotel stays in Sydney, Cairns and Melbourne) with a 12-night New Zealand cruise aboard the luxury yacht L'Austral that allows you to visit top destinations in both countries, rather than limiting your trip to just one.

Included on the Australia leg of the tour are the following must-see destinations and experiences:

* A private, guided tour of the famed Sydney Opera House.

* A Sydney city tour and visit to the hilltop Taronga Zoo to see indigenous wildlife.

* A trip to the Great Barrier Reef, where you'll have your choice of experiencing this natural wonder while snorkeling or from aboard a glass-bottomed boat. This natural wonder, which is comprised of more than 2,900 individual reefs, serves as home to more than 1,500 species of tropical fish.

* A visit to a wildlife park and a special Aboriginal cultural performance in the Shangri-La Hotel.

* A gondola ride through the canopy of a rainforest, where travelers enjoy a bird's-eye view of the flora, fauna and landscape of Queensland, including Barron's Falls.

* A tour of Melbourne's Fitzroy Gardens, which evoke the seafaring exploits of Captain Cook, and St. Patrick's Cathedral and Parliament House (also must-see landmarks).

Tauck guests will enjoy on-board pampering and luxury accommodations during their 12-night cruise aboard the yacht L'Austral, which transports guests in style across the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand, and then travels along the New Zealand coast. Swim or sun by the outdoor pool, dine on meals lovingly prepared and presented by French chefs, relax in the spa or library, or expand your knowledge of the region's history and culture with an onboard lecture.

In New Zealand, more wonders await including:

* A drive to the top of Mt. Nelson in the capital city of Hobart, where travelers have access to panoramic views. Or, they can stroll across the oldest bridge still in use in the southern hemisphere, and visit the stomping grounds of the Tasmanian devil in Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.

* A visit to beautiful Fiordland National Park.

* Shopping and sight-seeing in the culturally rich city of Nelson, where guests will visit Nelson's Cathedral, stroll through Queens Gardens and visit an artisan's workshop in Mapua. An after-hours reception at the renowned 'World of Wearable Art' caps the day.

* Exploring farm country from the port city of Picton, where guests will learn the finer points of shepherding with a demonstration by a master and his well-trained dogs, followed by a lesson in sheep shearing.

* An afternoon of wine tasting reveals why New Zealand wines are quickly securing their place of honor in world viticulture.

* Chilling out in Wellington, the 'Capitol of cool' and the seat of New Zealand's government. A guided tour includes a visit to the five-story Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum, a virtual chronicle of the country's natural history and heritage.

* Discovering the North Island with a visit to Tauranga and the Whakarewarewa Reserve, where mud pools and geysers dot the landscape. Guests will also visit an active Maori village and glimpse the past at the Elms Mission House.

Tauck's Australia and New Zealand Cruise concludes with a wine tasting event and luncheon on Waiheke Island near Auckland, as well as a tour of the city. The city tour includes a private tour of the Auckland Museum, which was built on the rim of an ancient volcano. To learn more about Tauck's new 21-day cruise, visit www.tauck.com.

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