Pacific Explorer, the Australian fleet’s flagship vessel, has once again pioneered the return of cruising – this time in Auckland, where New Zealanders welcomed back a big boost to its tourism industry.

She sailed into Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland as first cruise ship back to Aotearoa New Zealand in two years to be greeted by a water cannon from the world’s first electric tug and local business owners.

President of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia Marguerite Fitzgerald thanked the government of Jacinda Ardern for allowing the return.

“Pacific Explorer’s arrival in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland today is a signal that cruise tourism is poised to make a significant contribution to the restoration of the tourism economy,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“Looking further afield to the reopening of maritime borders in other parts of the Pacific, it is entirely appropriate that Pacific Explorer is on an itinerary that includes calls in Fiji.

“We are looking forward to our ships also being able to return to beautiful destinations in New Caledonia and Vanuatu and to the progressive return to New Zealand ports of ships from our other cruise lines as the tourism sector continues to rebuild.”

A spokesperson from the Auckland Business Chamber said the return of cruise ships is “good news for all”, benefiting Auckland and other regions. Cruising boosted the NZ economy by $500 million a year before the pandemic brought it all to a stop.

Now 907 port calls from 42 vessels are scheduled for New Zealand ports during 2022-23 season.

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited said at least 20 ships carrying around 45,000 passengers will be arriving in Auckland’s port before Christmas 2022.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz said: “New Zealand has now joined the rest of the world in a careful resumption of cruise operations.

“We now have an opportunity to revive a sector that previously supported many thousands of jobs in communities right around the New Zealand coast.”