Cruise ships will be able to return to New Zealand for the first time in more than two years with the country’s international border set to fully reopen by midnight 31 July.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Wednesday a major package of reforms, which include an early opening of New Zealand’s border and a simplification of immigration settings, to address the immediate skill shortages in New Zealand and speed up the economic recovery from COVID-19.
“New Zealand is in demand and now fully open for business,” Jacinda Ardern said.
“New Zealand’s international border will reopen to all tourists and visa holders two months earlier than planned on 31 July.”
Ardern said the announcement gave a good amount of preparation time for airlines and cruise ship companies to return to New Zealand for the peak spring and summer seasons.
According to Tourism Minister Stuart Nash, New Zealand’s wider tourism sector is on the way to recovery.
Nash said opening during the mid-winter, traditionally a quiet period for tourism in the country, also allows travellers time to apply for visitor visas before booking a flight or a cruise.
“Approximately 90 per cent of cruise visits are during the warmer months of October to April, and summer is our bumper tourism season overall,” he added.
“Today’s announcement means it’s full steam ahead for the industry who can plan with certainty for the rest of the year and beyond.”
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia has welcomed the announcement and said it will provide a welcome boost for tourism operators in communities around the country, while also bringing clarity for the many thousands of Kiwis who love to holiday at sea.
“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,” said CLIA’s managing director for Australasia, Joel Katz.
“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.”
Katz said millions of people had already sailed in more than 90 other countries where cruising had resumed.
“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,” 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.”
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has welcomed the decision, as the line prepares for its inaugural Australasian season for the newly-refurbished Norwegian Spirit, set to offer four sailings from Auckland between January and March 2023.
“As we mark our full fleet now back in the water, doing what we do best – delivering exceptional holidays at sea – we are delighted by this announcement which paves the way for our return to New Zealand waters after three years,” said Ben Angell, Norwegian Cruise Line’s vice president and managing director, APAC.
“Our commitment to New Zealand both as a guest source market and as one of the most highly sought-after destinations on our global cruise map is steadfast and we can’t wait to resume our operations Down Under for the benefit of guests, our crew and the New Zealand economy.”
Norwegian Spirit’s upcoming Australasian deployment will see Auckland become a seasonal homeport with four turnarounds providing an additional economic boost through pre and post-cruise international visitor stays, as well as 45 visits to eight different New Zealand ports throughout the 2022/23 season: Auckland, Dunedin, Lyttleton, Wellington, Napier, Tauranga, Bay of Islands and Akaroa.
The NCL team held a Great Cruise comeback event on Tuesday 10 May 2022 at Brew on Quay in Auckland to celebrate, thank the trade for their steadfast support and provide an update on NCL developments.
Celebrity Cruises has also chimed in, confirming it is “more than ready” to welcome back guests, with Celebrity Eclipse setting sail from Sydney on 22 October for the 2022-23 season with a series of three to 13 night itineraries across Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.
“We always knew that someday we would showcase the wonders of this region from our luxury ships once more,” said Celebrity Cruises’ regional vice president and managing director, Tim Jones.
“We’re thrilled that ‘someday’ has arrived – and soon, so will Celebrity Eclipse. We can’t wait to welcome everyone on board again come October,”
“People are ready to cruise again, with pent up demand reflected in the high volume of enquiries and bookings we’ve been taking in anticipation of the recent green light from the Government.
“We are also ready to cruise again, having successfully delivered cruise holidays around the world for almost a year.
“We look forward to doing our part in contributing to the nation’s economic future, with the long-awaited return of international travel and tourism.”
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