Bay of Plenty’s tourism sector has suffered a severe blow with hopes of a return in early 2022 for cruise ships to Tauranga suffering a significant loss.
Norwegian Cruise Lines has pushed back plans for potential trans-Tasman travel in February and March until later in 2022.
A summer staple, worth more than $ 70 million to the local economy in 2019-2020, cruise ships and their passengers have disappeared from Tauranga since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, with the intention of the government to start opening the borders in the first quarter of 2022 on a risk-based system involving vaccination status and country of origin, Norwegian Cruise Lines had taken reservations for possible excursions. trans-Tasman.
The Norwegian Spirit was originally scheduled for a 12-day cruise starting in February next year which would have taken Tauranga as the penultimate location after Sydney, Eden, Tasmania, Timaru, Lyttelton, Marlborough, Wellington and Gisborne, before the stop final and disembarkation. in Auckland.
In March, another cruise was scheduled in which Tauranga was also on an itinerary that included Sydney, Melbourne, Dunedin, Akaroa and Napier.
These travel dates have now been removed.
“Due to continued uncertainty regarding the resumption of cruises to Australia and New Zealand and in support of a phased redeployment of our fleet, we have postponed the debut of Norwegian Spirit in Australia until March 27, 2022 and in New Zealand until December 2022, when Norwegian Spirit returns. in the region for a full season, ”said a spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line.
“We appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers and travel partners with affected bookings and apologize for any inconvenience caused.”
A 10-location cruise departing Sydney on December 22 is now NCL’s next trip that will stop in New Zealand, including Tauranga on January 2, 2023.
This period, according to Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Oscar Nathan, now looks like an increasingly likely period for the return of international cruise operations to the region.
“This move is unfortunate but not surprising, given the uncertainty created by the current Delta epidemic in New Zealand,” Oscar said.
“It’s unclear when the government intends to ease the strict restrictions on our international border, and this is the key factor that will determine when cruise ships can actually return to our ports. The 2022/2023 summer season is likely to be a more realistic timeline. ”
NCL says all guests and travel partners will be contacted and will receive a full refund, as well as a discount on any future cruises, due to the postponement.
At present, the maritime border remains closed to foreign ships, with a few exceptions, although fully domestic cruises are currently permitted.
Other operators, such as Carnival and P&O, still have travel listings that will include Tauranga for the first quarter of 2022.
Viking Ocean Cruises has a 119-day trip scheduled to embark from Los Angeles on January 10, 2022, with Tauranga one of its scheduled stops in February and trips to Rotorua scheduled, on the round-the-world tour that ends in London. .
A spokesperson for the Port of Tauranga recently told SunLive that it does not budget for cruise tours until the end of the current fiscal year on March 31.