With Pacific Explorer to be auctioned off and the P&O Australia brand disappearing, the few New Zealand cruises left will have limited capacity to pick up passengers, it can be revealed.

Most New Zealand passengers will need to fly to Sydney as cruise lines use the country as a destination but not as a turn-around port where local passengers can embark.

Pacific Explorer will commence its last scheduled round-trip out of Auckland on October 29, 2024. After this, there isn’t a single scheduled homeported cruise out of New Zealand across Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises or Carnival Cruises.

Carnival Corporation, the operator of Princess and Carnival Cruises, and previously P&O, has remained coy on whether this situation may change.

The company shared a statement Cruise Passenger: “The exit of Pacific Explorer from the fleet in February 2025 means cruises planned beyond this date will be cancelled. Future itineraries for Adventure and Encounter are already published out to 30 June 2026.

“As deployments beyond those published are planned, itineraries in all markets are reviewed which will include exploring possibilities in New Zealand.”

Cruise Passenger has started a petition to lobby the government to relax regulations and high fees to encourage more international cruise lines to homeport in Australia.

Sign our petition here.

Cruisers wishing to sail on one of the major cruise lines out of Auckland will be limited to the choice of just cruise line, Princess Cruises. Even then, it’ll be slim pickings.

Princess Cruises have two scheduled round-trips out of Auckland across their entire cruise schedule, two itineraries on Royal Princess in January 2025. With such limited availability, these cabins won’t last for long and don’t come cheap. An interior cabin starts from $3409 for the 14-day round-trip, balcony’s are already sold out on the first voyage and min-suites begin $5016 per person.

However, these cruises don’t represent much hope, as Royal Princess already has her 2025/2026 season released, and there are no further round-trips from Auckland, signifying Princess’s intention to withdraw from the itinerary.

Of non-world cruises, there are 11 further scheduled Princess itineraries out of Auckland, but they aren’t very local friendly, with many being repositioning cruises.

A cruise ship leaving the country New Zealand cruises
Is the future of NZ cruise looking bleak?

Remaining New Zealand cruises (all Princess)

  • The two noted above itineraries, 14-day roundtrips starting from $3409
  • Six different repositioning cruises, which end in Hawaii or Los Angeles
  • A 21-day Northern Explorer Cruise that ends in Perth starting from $12,213
  • A 22-day Asia & Australia sailing, ending in Singapore, starting from $4659
  • A 13-day Australia and New Zealand itinerary, ending in Sydney, starting from $3544
  • An 8-day Australia & New Zealand sailing, ending in Sydney, starting from $1699
  • A four-day Australia Seacation, ending in Sydney, starting $1279
  • A six-day Australia and New Zealand itinerary, visiting one port (Picton) and ending in Sydney, from $1183

The predicament of New Zealand cruises

  • Across all major cruise lines there are only TWO roundtrips out of New Zealand schedule, and none after January 2025. Of the major lines, only Princess still have scheduled sailings out of Auckland.
  • Essentially always, from now, people sailing on New Zealand cruises will need to book at least one flight if they wish to cruise with a major line.
  • As seen above, aside from repositioning cruises that will result in cruisers having to fly home from Los Angeles or Hawaii, all remaining itineraries out of New Zealand are to primarily to visit Australian ports. However, this isn’t a priority for Kiwis, in 2023 only 12.8% of people on New Zealand cruises went to Australia, preferring the Pacific and local cruises.
  • New Zealand Cruise Association chief executive Jacqui Lloyd has previously stated that she estimates a reduced 150 – 200 port calls over the coming season, a 15% decrease on the previous year
  • A flight from Sydney to Auckland generally runs about $300 – 400 per person, a night in a four-star for two is generally around $250.
  • 86,300 New Zealanders took a cruise last year and that number looks like it could be set to take a hit.
Pacific Explorer sailing in the ocean
Pacific Explorer will not become a part of the Carnival fleet.

Potential contributing factors

  • A cruise executive told Cruise Passenger that port prices have been soaring in New Zealand.
  • Increased environmental regulations have led to several ships being turned away from entering New Zealand’s national parks, or incurring extra costs for hull cleaning before entering.
  • The distance between Sydney and New Zealand is around 1300 nautical miles, leading to increased fuel costs for ships wishing to go between the two.
  • CLIA President Joel Katz has said: “New Zealand is moving backward in terms of deployment. And that is driven by high port costs and the regulatory complexity of operating in the region.”

What are people saying?

Facebook comments on New Zealand cruise groups have revealed the distress of NZ cruise faithfuls.

Victoria Norris wrote: “It was a cheap way to have a holiday and now it’s going to cost heaps to have a holiday as no cruise ship will be leaving from Auckland after P&O leave.”

Carla Day reminisced: “I saw in the new millennium on her when I was crew, and she was Dawn Princess. So sad to see Pacific Explorer go.”

Anne Gibbins wrote: “

And I believe for the time being at least Carnival will not be doing any turnarounds in Auckland. Which means if your on a Carnival cruise that has Auckland as a port call, you can’t end your cruise there.

“Future itineraries include a NZ cruise Sydney to Sydney and even though one of the Ports is Auckland, you can’t disembark the cruise in Auckland, you have to go back to Sydney. With P&0 going and a family booking being cancelled, an alternative was this Carnival cruise, provided cruise could end in Auckland but agent said no.”