28 Nov 2023

Not so cruisy: Rough start to season for cruise ships

From Checkpoint, 5:19 pm on 28 November 2023

The start of the cruise season has been anything but cruisey.

For the second time in a fortnight high winds meant the Ovation of the Seas, which can carry almost 5000 passengers, has not come into port.  

Harbourmaster Grant Nalder said the Ovation of the Seas was preparing to berth, before the ship's captain decided it was not prepared to stay in the capital due to strong winds, and headed for Napier.

Earlier this month the Royal Caribbean ship chose not to dock in Dunedin due to blustery conditions, today it was Wellington's turn.

It has raised concerns new inter-island ferries being built in Korea, which are nearly double the size of the existing vessels, will face difficulties in Wellington's wind.

The cruise ship Ovation of the Seas.  Photo:

In a separate incident the P&O ship, Pacific Adventure was denied entry into Aotearoa due to biosecurity concerns over its dirty hull.

Cruise Ship Association chief executive Jacqui Lloyd told Checkpoint it was disappointing for passengers and regions that were expecting those ships.

"[It] comes down to good old changeable spring weather.

"Cruise ships the size of Ovation ... it's about 91 metres high, 350 metres long, so as soon as there's a high wind or gusty winds or anything over 25 knots, that's constant, it acts like a sail and pushes the ship around and really makes transit unsafe and also mooring really difficult ... it certainly makes it very, very difficult for a ship to get into port."

She said cancellations were expected in spring and autumn, but the weather was more likely to be settled in the summer months.

Dunedin had about 10 cancellations last year, and three this year, she said.

"They've still got 117 port visits to go. So, there's still a lot of days to come for good spend in the region and with the hospitality providers and tourism operators and vibrancy in the town."

Lloyd said the cruise industry was bouncing back fast after the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We're expecting 360,000 passengers, about 149,000 crew, and just over 1050 port visits coming into the country. That's the largest we've had ever or New Zealand.

"But 50 percent of our cruise arrivals that are coming in are under 1000 passengers. So we've got a nice mix between large ships, smaller ships that you get into smaller regions and and really give a wonderful experience."

Cruise liners were working towards reducing their carbon footprint, she said.

"The new cruise ships that are coming on board have got capability for better fuels when they're available. Obviously, we don't have biofuels and hydrogen as yet, but that's what the ships are being designed for.

"Waste treatment plants are second to none and often better than many of the ports that they're going into. So there's been a lot of work undertaken by the cruise industry."