Anyone looking to cruise to New Zealand this season is out of luck – there are no plans to resume cruising into New Zealand until late next year at the earliest.
Cruising will not resume into New Zealand until the nation has achieved its 90 per cent vaccination rate, which is well above Australia’s target of 80 per cent before international borders re-open.
The New Zealand Cruise Association Chief Executive Officer Kevin O’Sullivan told Cruise Passenger that cruising will not return to New Zealand until 90 per cent of New Zealanders have rolled up their sleeves and had their vaccination.
“90 per cent of cruises are cancelled. The cruise lines are still booking but the cruises are being cancelled,” he said.
Mr O’Sullivan said that the New Zealand cruise industry had not yet spoken to the Health Minister Chris Hipkins, and that talks were unlikely until the government’s desired vaccination rate was achieved – a mirror of the treatment being metered our to the industry body in Australia.
“We’ll have to discuss a phased re-entry. That could be smaller ships. It’s hard to say. NZ will follow what Australia does,” said Mr O’Sullivan. “Fifty per cent of those cruising into New Zealand are Australian.”
He said that before Delta there was talk of a cruise bubble. “We looked at cruising New Zealand only, or Australia and New Zealand cruising.”
“We were looking at 60 per cent capacity but at the moment it’s hard to say. There are some countries with a higher vaccination rate and there are pre-travel COVID tests so there’s no reason we wouldn’t accept vaccinated passengers”.
“At the moment we can’t discuss cruising. It will depend on other countries.”
The impact of no cruising in New Zealand has been widely felt – and the ripples will hit Australia.
Lines like Princess relied on trips to Milford Sound as a draw card. Without visits to New Zealand and with Pacific nations still to reach vaccination targets, itinerary planning is difficult.
The New Zealand economy has also taken a hit.
“It was worth $600 million and it was on its way to $1 billion,” said Mr O’Sullivan. “All international tourism has ground to a halt.”
An attempt by Ponant to restart cruising in New Zealand in January was rebuffed at the last minute when the Immigration Department tried to insist some crew members should be replaced by New Zealanders.
The Le Laperouse was turned away at enormous cost to the line – a full season had been booked by New Zealander passengers – because of the 11th hour intervention.