City copes well with record cruise-ship visit

Voyager of the Seas prepares to dock at Port Chalmers on Saturday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Voyager of the Seas prepares to dock at Port Chalmers on Saturday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Dunedin's tourism sector coped well with the biggest cruise ship to visit New Zealand, when Voyager of the Seas docked at Port Chalmers on Saturday.

About 3100 passengers and 1200 crew were on board the ship, which was the biggest in the world when it was launched in 1999.

Slideshow: Voyager of the Seas 

Dunedin Visitor Centre manager Louise van de Vlierd said the influx of passengers to Dunedin attractions posed no problems, and transporting them was smooth. The wet day was unfortunate, but everyone seemed happy with their visit, she said.

Port Otago commercial manager Peter Brown said extra staff were rostered on for the visit, and he was pleased with the day.

There was no evidence poor weather deterred passengers leaving the ship, he said.

The Otago Daily Times was shown around the Royal Caribbean International mega-ship on Saturday, and spoke to some crew members.

Captain Charles Teige, of Norway, who likens his role to that of a town mayor, said he was constantly aware of the huge responsibility of running the huge vessel.

Dunedin was the first of six New Zealand ports of call. It sailed around Milford Sound on its way to Dunedin, which reminded Capt Teige of the fiords in his home country - although without the human settlement.

Features on the ship, which is 311m at its highest point, include an ice-skating rink, shopping boulevard, three-level dining room, and a rock-climbing wall.

Hotel director, former Dunedin resident Colin Clarke, said Saturday's weather was "very reminiscent" of his childhood in the city about 40 years ago.

His job was ensuring the ship's passengers were cared for, which was little different from the many years he spent in the hotel trade before joining the cruise-ship industry five years ago.

If the ship was a hotel, it would be the largest in Australasia, he said.

Crew members came from more than 50 countries, and their diversity was an asset because of the many cultures on board the ship.

A seven-strong medical team assisted passengers with ailments, and could perform minor surgery and X-rays.

Food and beverage director Tusitala Sola said provisioning the ship was a major challenge, but he worked out amounts of food and drink by studying the demographics of passengers before a cruise.

The kitchen had to deal with many requests, and demand for gluten and lactose-free food was increasing, particularly from Australian passengers.

Mr Sola said the crew particularly enjoyed serving Australian and New Zealand passengers, as they were the most friendly.

Originally from Auckland, now resident in Adelaide, Mr Sola said he looked forward to disembarking to find some "decent fish and chips" in Dunedin.

Voyager of the Seas visits Dunedin several times this season, including three stops next month.

-eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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