When Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and little Prince George, arrive in New Zealand on 7 April, the Royal family will be ticking off a series of firsts - their first official visit as a family, and the first visit to New Zealand for both the Duchess of Cambridge and eight-month-old Prince George.
On the other hand, this will be the fourth visit for the Duke of Cambridge who first came to New Zealand in 1983. He was just nine months old when he accompanied the Prince and Princess of Wales on a 13-day official tour. Later visits were in 2005 (a private holiday supporting the British Lions rugby tour), and official visits in 2010 and 2011.
Nine days - eight regions
Nine days in New Zealand (7 - 16 April) will see the Duke and Duchess visit eight regions with numerous opportunities to meet and mingle with New Zealanders. The schedule also allows for some private family time with Prince George.
As guests of the New Zealand Government, the Royal family will be based at Government House in Wellington. From there, they will mostly make day trips to other parts of the country - Auckland, Hamilton, Cambridge, Blenheim, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown - returning to be with Prince George in the evenings.
"We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for them to have regular family time with their son, while acknowledging thousands of New Zealanders will want to take the opportunity to meet them," Prime Minister John Key said. "It’s a pretty good geographic spread, with four South Island and four North Island centres included in the itinerary."
Maori culture will play a role in many of the official welcomes that the Duke and Duchess are set to receive in different parts of New Zealand. These will variously include Maori protocols with korero / speeches, waiata / songs, karakia / prayers and haka / performance dance.
The Duke and Duchess will arrive at Wellington Airport on Monday 7 April then travel directly to Government House - the official residence of the New Zealand Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae and his wife Lady Janine - to be met by their hosts and receive a Maori powhiri / ceremonial welcome. The formal ceremony, which will take place on the lawn in front of the house, will conclude with the Duke inspecting a guard of honour, and the firing of a 21 gun salute.
Government House will also set the scene for the couple’s first official engagement on Wednesday (9 April) where they will meet a group of new mums and their babies. This event will recognise the work of the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society - named for its founding patron and otherwise known simply as 'Plunket' - providing health care and support to new mothers, fathers and their babies. It is too early to know whether Prince George will be present at this occasion but it is a possibility.
Celebrating New Zealand success
Specific events will celebrate New Zealand's success in the fields of technology, tourism, sports and the creative arts.
In keeping with the title of ‘City of Sails’, Auckland - New Zealand’s biggest city - will see the royal couple square off against each other, taking to the sea in two of Team New Zealand’s successful America’s Cup yachts. The informal match race outing will take place on the Waitemata Harbour in the same waters that hosted two America’s Cup campaigns (1995 and 2000) and within sight of downtown Auckland.
The Auckland visit will also include another on-water experience with the Royals making their way across the harbour on ‘Sealegs’ - a New Zealand invention that travels over dry land and water.
In Queenstown, they will follow in the wake of more than a million thrill-seeking visitors who have experienced one of the region’s iconic adventure activities - the Shotover Jet takes a spectacular high-speed jet boat tour down a rocky ravine and over rapidly flowing white water. The jet boat is a New Zealand invention, designed as a means of transport for remote high country farms that has become a key tourism engine taking visitors to remote scenic spots that would be otherwise inaccessible.
Queenstown - in the heart of the Central Otago wine region which has earned international recognition for its outstanding pinot noir wine - will also have the opportunity to showcase New Zealand food and wine. The royals will visit Amisfield winery on the slopes of a rocky alpine valley near Queenstown.
In the picturesque Waikato countryside just outside the town of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess will formally open New Zealand’s new national velodrome - the Avantidrome, and meet some of New Zealand’s recent Olympic medalist cyclists. The town is also a centre for high performance rowing, race horse breeding and training, and has a series of popular off-road cycling tracks.
Cricket will be on the royal agenda in Christchurch which, along with seven other New Zealand centres, is enthusiastically preparing to co-host Cricket World Cup 2015 in February next year. The royal couple will attend a celebratory event in Hagley Park marking this major sports event which will play out before a massive global audience.
In the southern city of Dunedin, Their Royal Highnesses will visit the covered rugby stadium to participate in a festival of Rippa Rugby - a non-contact version of rugby for youngsters.
Other more solemn occasions will commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War and the contribution made by New Zealanders during this and later international conflicts.
At Blenheim - in the Marlborough wine region - the Duke and Duchess will mark the WWI centenary with a wreath-laying at the town’s war memorial. They will also visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre to meet celebrated Kiwi film director Sir Peter Jackson for a guided tour of the 'Knights of The Sky' exhibition (featuring his personal collection of WWI aircraft) and a fly past of classic aircraft.
In Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess will pay their respects at the local war memorial. Cambridge is twinned with the French town of Le Quesnoy, where the New Zealand Army saw its last major WWI action in November 1918.
In Christchurch, Their Royal Highnesses will stop to remember the victims of the tragic 2011 earthquake, view progress and learn about plans for the future city centre rebuild.
In brief - New Zealand visit of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge:
Wellington - 7 to 9 April
Blenheim - 10 April
Auckland - 11 April
Hamilton & Cambridge - 12 April
Dunedin - 13 April
Queenstown - 13 April
Christchurch - 14 April
Wellington - 16 April