Travellers wanting to cruise to New Zealand will soon be able to do so, with the New Zealand government announcing that the maritime border will reopen after July 31. 

The announcement has been welcomed by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia, whose Managing Director Joel Katz said: “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.

“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 that millions of people had already sailed in more than 90 other countries when cruising had resumed, with stringent new health measures in place.

He said that the cruise industry had done a huge amount of work with medical experts around the world and the New Zealand government which has led to health protocols that are amongst the most extensive found anywhere in international tourism.

Mr Katz added: “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.”

The protocols provide some of the highest levels of prevention, detection and mitigation against COVID-19 including vaccination and testing requirements for all passengers and crew before boarding.

The first major ship scheduled for the next cruise season, which begins in October, was Majestic Princess, which departs Auckland on October 16 on a four trip itinerary to Sydney via the Bay of Islands.

House of Travel chief operating officer, Brent Thomas told that customers had been eagerly anticipating the return of cruise ships to New Zealand waters. He said: “We’ve had a significant number of people going, ‘when is cruising coming back’. They want to do it. It’s very popular.”

The announcement from the New Zealand government comes after Australia reopened its maritime border on April 18, with the first departure being P&O’s Pacific Explorer on May 31 from Sydney to Brisbane return.

The announcement also gives cruise lines certainty after months of scheduling and cancelling cruise itineraries. 

The first ship to return will be Majestic Princess, scheduled to arrive in Auckland on October 16.

‘It’s a really big deal for Princess. We couldn’t be more happy,’ John Padgett, Princess President was reported as saying.

He told Seatrade Cruise News: “It’s an iconic opening. It does signal a major shift in the overall opening of [cruising]. Specifically to Princess, a large portion of our itineraries in Australia include New Zealand so we very much appreciate, value and look forward to serving that destination.”

Celebrity Eclipse will make her debut in Australasia for a 12-night sailing from Sydney to New Zealand return on October 22, 2022. The ship will visit Milford Sound for scenic cruising before sailing to Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Napier, Auckland and the Bay of Islands before returning to Sydney.

The sailing is proving very popular with travellers. Only limited inside, veranda and concierge class staterooms available. Inside staterooms start from $3,400 per person.

Celebrity Eclipse will sail a number of other three to 13-night itineraries across Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Celebrity Cruises vice president and managing director of Australia, New Zealand and APAC, Tim Jones said the New Zealand government’s announcement was significant and signalled a return to normality for the cruise industry, travel and tourism and New Zealanders who have waited for this announcement for two years.

He said: “We always knew that someday we would showcase the wonders of this region from our luxury ships once more. 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.”

Mr Jones said that after two years of not being able to cruise people know exactly what they want and Celebrity delivers on multiple desires in one holiday. Luxury and wellness offerings are in exceptionally high demand and bookings for The Retreat, which offers more luxurious accommodations more than doubling over the last 12 months. Meanwhile demand for the wellness-inspired suites in AquaClass has tripled.

Guests can expect new onboard and onshore experiences that focus on luxury, relaxation, destination immersion and culinary exploration. Guests will experience some of the country’s most popular wines and have the opportunity to talk to winemakers themselves with the first ever Australian food and winery itinerary to Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart.

Princess Cruises said in a newsletter to clients: “We are overjoyed that we can once again sail together to the beautiful islands in New Zealand. Sample world-famous wines in the Marlborough region from Picton. Explore the dramatic landscapes of the Bay of Islands.”