NEW Zealand’s maritime border will re-open on 31 July, allowing cruise ships, recreational craft and specialist vessels to enter the country’s ports.
Cruise Lines International Association Australasia welcomed the announcement.
“Today’s announcement is a huge breakthrough for the many New Zealanders who depend on cruise tourism, including travel agents, tour operators, food and produce providers, port workers and many other industry suppliers,” CLIA managing director Australasia Joel Katz said.
“The suspension of international cruising over the past two years has had a huge impact on the New Zealand travel industry and we now have an opportunity to work on a revival.”
Mr Katz said millions of people had already sailed in more than 90 other countries where cruising had resumed, with stringent new health measures in place.
“The cruise industry has done an enormous amount of work with medical experts internationally which has resulted in health protocols that are among the most extensive to be found anywhere in world tourism,” Mr Katz said.
“These protocols span the entirety of the cruise experience and provide some of the highest possible levels of prevention, detection, and mitigation against COVID-19 – including vaccination and testing requirements for all passengers and crew before boarding.
“The cruise industry has worked closely with the New Zealand government to develop plans for a responsible return of international cruise ships and we look forward to reviving the economic opportunities that come with cruise tourism in communities around New Zealand,” Mr Katz said.
Port Taranaki, on the west coast of the North Island had a vibrant cruise industry prior to the pandemic. The port’s head of commercial Ross Dingle said the opening of the maritime borders is exciting for business throughout Taranaki region.
“Taranaki is a great destination with many wonderful experiences to offer our cruise passengers. We’ll now work closely with the New Zealand Cruise Association and the cruise industry to support the sector to transition safely back into business,” he said.
According to the port, three vessels are tentatively scheduled to dock at the port in the 2022-23 summer – the Europa 2 at the end of January, Island Princess in mid-February, and Seabourn Odyssey in early March.
“It’s still early days, and the schedule is not yet confirmed. However, should Island Princess visit, at 294 metres long and with capacity for more than 2200 passengers, she would be the largest cruise ship to have ever visited Port Taranaki,” Mr Dingle said.
“She would certainly look sensational coming into port.
At this stage, eight cruise ships, some on multiple visits, have signalled their interest in visiting Taranaki during the next two summers, according to the port. These vessels include the Queen Elizabeth, another 294-metre vessel that holds more than 2500 passengers. It had been scheduled to visit Taranaki in the 2020-21 summer, before the COVID-19 pandemic brought an abrupt halt to the industry.
The last cruise ship to stop at Port Taranaki was the Azamara Journey in February 2020.
“It has been an extremely tough period for the cruise industry and the wider tourism sector. At the time COVID-19 hit, as a port and a region we were gaining momentum and building a reputation as a necessary stop on the cruise ship itinerary,” Mr Dingle said.