Cruise passengers bemoan shuttle costs

Cruise ship passengers avoiding what they say are overpriced shuttles to Dunedin city visited Port Chalmers instead yesterday, despite suggestions from cruise ship staff to bypass the town.

Cruise ship passenger Sue Hansen, of Queensland, said she had visited ''quaint'' Port Chalmers 20 times - many of them as a cruise ship staff member but yesterday as a passenger on Celebrity Solstice with six other Australians.

The group decided to spend the day in Port Chalmers yesterday because the shuttle bus to Dunedin, which the ship had contracted, cost $18.40 return.

''They charge too much.''

She wanted the group to go on a private tour but as no-one was waiting on the wharf, they stayed in Port Chalmers.

Tour operators were banned from the wharf at Port Chalmers this cruise season because of the behaviour of some operators last season.

Private tours were preferable because passengers could see more attractions and they were cheaper than a tour organised from the ship, she said.

''It's ridiculous the prices they charge. Passengers are getting ripped off.''

Tall Poppy Cafe waiter Marcus Adams (26) said many passengers visited the Port Chalmers cafe because of the ''ridiculous'' shuttle costs to Dunedin.

Magpies owner Christine Robinson said some Australian passengers shopping in her retro secondhand store in Port Chalmers had been told by cruise ship staff there was ''nothing worth seeing'' in Port Chalmers, just a grocery shop and a few houses.

The staff recommended they board a bus to Dunedin and miss Port Chalmers completely.

''I don't think we should be dismissed or bypassed.''

Cruise ship passengers Mike Daly (66), of Ireland, Joy Sinclair (62), of England, and Dorothy (70) and Alfons van Bakel (75), of Tauranga, said they would have got a minivan taxi or a private tour of Dunedin if there were vans waiting in Port Chalmers.

Mrs van Bakel said overpriced buses for passengers was not peculiar to Dunedin.

Cruise ship staff told passengers in Mount Maunganui to board a bus to Rotorua because there was nothing to see in the town.

''They do it in every port.''

Ritchies Bus and Coach Otago regional manager Malcolm Budd said Ritchies had the contract from the cruise ship to shuttle passengers from Port Chalmers to Dunedin yesterday.

Ritchies charged the cruise ships a lump sum to transport passengers between 9am and 6pm on 10 buses, he said.

''We are averaging between 245km to 300km a day per bus.''

The Dunedin City Council had no involvement except being paid by Ritchies for traffic management costs, such as road closures, he said.

''We have to wear that ourselves and we charge the ship.''

Ideally, the council should pay the shuttle costs and the passengers would not be charged, to ensure greater economic benefit to Dunedin, he said.

''It should come out of the ratepayers' pocket and that would get people into town to spend their money.''

Each ship charged its passengers a different fare for the shuttle to Dunedin.

He was surprised some passengers were left wanting private tours because they could have organised a tour at the i-SITE marquee on the wharf.

Banning tour operators from the wharf was ''working reasonably well''.

However, he was aware cruise ship staff were advising passengers to not bother visiting Port Chalmers and giving them outdated information.

''They are even telling people the shops aren't open in Dunedin on a Sunday.''

Good thinking, 999

Maybe I'm amazed: A world cruise for $999 and all the tack you can eat. A mere 160 years back, that was Steerage.

Just cruising along,,,,not

Why is there always some issue cropping up about cruise ships and their passengers?

It would seem by now that every possible hiccup would have been ironed out since the ships have been coming for years.

Money, how much, how little appears to be at the nub of many of these trivial 'breaking news' items.

How come all the organisations involved can't set the unbreakable rules of charging and ferrying for each new season?

The 'invisible' wealth generated into the local economy by the visitors should also make the endless problems invisible also.

Why not use rail?

There is a perfectly good train track from Port Chalmers to Dunedin, and it runs along side our beautiful harbour. I would really like to see it used more.

What nicer way to arrive in Dunedin, than at, one of the most photographed railway stations in the world. Visitors would no doubt enjoy something different, and would be willing to pay too.

Passengers from the cruise ships (hundreds that I have seen over the years) are more than capable of walking, they walk all over town. They don't need dropped at the shop door. 

Buses are boring, they are everywhere, they have limited space, and  they visually pollute the Octagon, every time the ships are in port. I also think $18.50 return fare is a little expensive, for such a short trip on a bus. Do we want people to spend their money here or not?

Cheap round trip

If a passenger can't afford an $18.00 round trip from Port Chalmers, I venture to suggest Dunedin would be lucky getting any economic benefit from them. Many are just $999 all you can eat cheap cruisers who spend nothing anyway. Come on people, rate payers can't be expected to pick up the tab so a few passengers can buy a cheap momento from the Octagon markets.

Cruise shuttle prices

''It should come out of the ratepayers' pocket and that would get people into town to spend their money.''

Come on now, it's the 1st of January tomorrow, not the 1st of April.

Get it together

No doubt they do, already but it sounds to me that the City Council and Information centre need to do some liaising with cruise ship staff and share information about what there really is to see and what passengers want to see, both in Port Chalmers and beyond. We may not be be the Vegas/Disneyland/Hollywood of the South Pacific but let's have objective information so that passengers may decide for themselves what there is, worth seeing. Sounds like we could do with alternative transport services too. The shuttle does seem to be relatively priced to other services around the world. Try getting to Dunedin from Momona, thinking on it.

Reality check please!

I too have travelled around the world and have caught tourist shuttles including Auckland, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Honolulu. I don't think $18 return is actually expensive at all. And why should I, as a rate payer, be contributing to their holiday? I am already paying for the expensive white elephant thanks to the DCC in the form of the stadium that I get zero benefit from (I mean where are the concerts?????) why should I pay for something like a shuttle?

If the tourists tried to get a taxi from Port Chalmers it would be a horrific fare - this seems economical to me. How much is a standard bus fare from there? There could be a liaison on the wharf for the tourists to guide them to avoid the cowboys surely? Maybe that could be the role of the DCC Tourism arm?

There is nothing wrong with Port Chalmers as a destination - do they have markets still? That could be a local attraction as long as it isn't cheap crappy things.

Paying may not indicate value for money

"The Cruise Ship shuttles are used by a vast number of Cruise Ship passengers on most days, which would tend to indicate that they are supporting a service which is priced relatively appropriately," writes Ralph Davies of Headfirst Travel.  

Alternatively it could mean that it did not occur to them that they needed to do extensive research, so they believed what they were told, i.e. that Port Chalmers has nothing of interest, and that these are The Shuttles [implication: "only transport available"] for getting to anywhere else.  Where there is no alternative (perceived) the price is the price, end-of.  The traveller is faced with the apparent choice, having "been told by cruise ship staff there was 'nothing worth seeing' in Port Chalmers, just a grocery shop and a few houses", and paying the shuttle price to see the "real attractions".

It wouldn't surprise me if cruise passengers and Dunedin travel and other businesses started looking online for the forums where tips and info on best/worst value are shared. 

Living In a bubble

$30 per head for hop on hop off return is a ridiculous and off-putting price.

As Dunedin builds its tourist industry, locals who come increasingly into contact with the rest of the world are going to be in for a surprise - shuttle and cabbie operators here are out of their minds as far as their pricing goes, in comparison to how the rest of theworld operates.  This is also true of most of Dunedin's pricing on local tours and attractions as well, and it extends to other areas of the South Island.  The Stewart Island ferry is the most expensive ferry service in the entire world - look it up!  While a few lucky ones who own rights to lucrative routes overcharge, they do so at the expense of the wider community.  The prices charged to tourists in New Zealand are off-putting, and discourage repeat tourism.  

Those businesses dependant on tourism like any other business are going have to adjust their pricing to market conditions and demand.  They have to tighten up their operations in order to make themselves profitable.  It is their job to do so, not the locals' job to keep them "in the style to which they've become accustomed." 

"Ritchies Bus and Coach Otago regional manager Malcolm Budd" has the temerity to suggest that ratepayers need to subsidise his private for-profit business.  If Budd is ready to draw a DCC bus driver's salary and turn all profits of "Ritchies" over to the DCC, that
is the day the ratepayers will subsidise his business, and not before. 

Until then, just like any other business, he'll have to adjust to market conditions.  Operating a tourist-based business is not a welfare cause.

Cruise Ships

The Cruise Ship shuttles are used by a vast number of Cruise Ship passengers on most days, which would tend to indicate that they are supporting a service which is priced relatively appropriately.

As a Tour Operator we offer tours which can be booked by the Dunedin i-SITE on the day on Port for as little as $30 per person with return shuttle and our Hop On Hop Off tour and other reputable local operators are offering other great value options for Cruise visitors to our city.

There may be some mis-information from the Cruise ships but they also are keen to see their passengers utilise their own services which includes shuttles which they go to some effort and expense to set up. They do want their passengers to enjoy each and every stop and it is most pertinent to note that Dunedin still ranks highly as a destination within NZ.

It is vital for our City in regard to Cruise Passengers that we work together and a good example of this has been the restructuring and conduct of Tour Operators on Port Chalmers. The Cruise Market will be different again in five years and we do need to ensure that the Cruise Lines keep Dunedin on their radar.

Ralph Davies

Headfirst Travel

Not the DCC's job

farsighted is right - there's no reason the ratepayers should be taxed to pay for a service that brings money to local retailers - if you want to tax anyone then tax the retailers who are going to benefit directly. Or better yet why get the council or the ratepayers involved at all? This sounds like the perfect thing for Mr Christie of the Chamber of Commerce to organise himself.

An idea

Simple really,

Have 3 areas for transport at the terminal.

1) buses , paid for by the brand shops, you know the ones that are in every city in NZ and the visitors who think that's what's NZ is about will be happy walking up and down the main streets.

2) buses that will take people to our sites and places of interest. Paid for by the owners of these places, including the DCC.

3) an area for private operators, pre-booked or, as some people do while on holiday do something spontaneous.

If all three are done now, then let the number 1's moan.

Or maybe I'm missing the point of cruise ship stopovers.


Fare seems reasonable

$18 seems pretty reasonable to me. From memory a one-way trip from Sydney Airport to the city costs that much, despite taking a fraction of the time and being a far busier route allowing economies of scale. 

Better idea

Here's a better idea. Allow private operators back. This will ensure those who wish to come to town will do so without being ripped off and the city will benefit.

Many ratepayers are already struggling to pay the rates accounts as it is without adding any extra. Many here also cannot afford to go on holiday at all, so why should we be lumbered with costs to subsidise those that can afford a cruise?

Ritchies, like any company without competition, will always use their monopoly to their own best advantage. And now that you have priced yourselves out of the market, you expect the ratepayers to foot the bill? I don't think so. [Abridged]


What is this land called?

"Ideally, the council should pay the shuttle costs and the passengers would not be charged, to ensure greater economic benefit to Dunedin, he said."

Cloud-cuckoo land, that's what it's called. The ratepayer has nothing whatsoever to do with the arrangements of a private company. And we know what "greater economic benefit to Dunedin" implies. We've been down that garden path several times.

ODT/directory - Local Businesses

CompanyLocationBusiness Type
Free Flow Plastering ServicesQueenstownSpecialist Trades
Coats & CuddlesMosgielPets & Pet Accessories
Heartland Hotel Croydon, GoreGoreHotels
Bob Wyber Contemporary JewelleryDunedinJewellers