Sydney is a definite stop for any cruise traveling Down Under, and often serves as a departure or arrival point for ships that also travel to New Zealand. Australia's largest city, Sydney is one of the world's most intriguing ports of call, with its appeal stretching from a sophisticated and vibrant urban metropolis to breathtaking natural wonders. Although a modern city heavily influenced by its British roots and current American popular culture, Sydney's true character comes from its exotic location and brash beauty.

Walking through the glass-and-concrete center known as the Central Business District (CBD), you could be in any other metropolis of Western culture - until a fluorescent red and green parrot of lorikeet swoops overhead or an unexpected flash of the bright blue harbor appears among the skyscrapers. Any proper visit to Sydney must begin in the harbor, which is the city's birthplace and its current iconic centerpiece. The area is called Circular Quay (pronounced "key" by locals). It's hard to imagine a more picturesque setting for the heart of a city, with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, exposed against the bright water of the bay. Sydney spans a wide geographic area, but most of its most interesting areas can be found near the ocean coast in the area known as the Eastern Suburbs, as well as in its lovely city neighborhoods, each of which possesses a distinct atmosphere.

Oxford Street, the main thoroughfare running east from downtown to the ocean beaches is home to Sydney's famous Mardi Gras parade and lesbians, held each year in February, thanks to its bars and cafes. Sydney is a well-balanced blend of a great city lifestyle and laid-back Australian mentality. Although Australians from other cities often despise Sydney for its flashiness and hectic pace, the urban inconveniences seem minor here compared to places like New York and London (although the rush-hour traffic and public transport system are really bad). Tourism is a huge industry around Sydney, and locals are used to providing visitors with service, helpful directions, and a warm welcome to the beautiful city they call home.