More cruise ships; call for city to lift game (+ video)

A fine Dunedin farewell . . . With bagpipes blaring and shirts waving the Scott and Wilden families farewell the cruise ship Dawn Princess at the gun emplacements near Taiaroa Head last night. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
A fine Dunedin farewell . . . With bagpipes blaring and shirts waving the Scott and Wilden families farewell the cruise ship Dawn Princess at the gun emplacements near Taiaroa Head last night. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Dunedin is gearing up to deal with an unprecedented 96 cruise ship visits next season, with the industry hitting a new level locally.

The last cruise ship for this season, Dawn Princess, sailed last night. Bookings for next season have jumped from an expected 82, with bigger vessels such as the $1.3 billion mega-cruise ship Ovation of the Seas pushing passenger figures to new levels.

Port Otago chief executive Geoff Plunket said the company had known the bigger numbers were coming, but Dunedin had to do some serious planning to make sure it was prepared.

The city had hosted 80 cruise ship visits in the past, and about 70 this year, although passenger numbers were up on the year before because ships were bigger.

‘‘From the port's point of view, the vessels book well in advance, so we know they're coming, and we can plan around that.

‘‘As a city, we've got things to think about, because the passengers and cruise companies are always looking for new products, for new and better ways of doing things.

‘‘As a city, we need to keep focused on that and keep lifting our performance.''

The main issue to consider for next season was when there were two cruise ships on the same day, particularly when one was Ovation of the Seas, Mr Plunket said.

That would be 5000 to 8000 passengers and the city needed plans in place to manage infrastructure, buses to Dunedin and how tourist operators would deal with ‘‘very big demand''.

‘‘We don't want disappointed passengers, people who want to book a tour but can't get on it.

‘‘As a team, we'll need to think about these issues.‘‘Everyone else is; it's competitive.''

The cruise ship industry was still growing globally, as was tourism generally, helped by lower fuel prices, Mr Plunket said.

Dunedin iSITE visitor centre manager Louise van de Vlierd said the forecast for the year had been 82 ship visits with 167,900 visitors.

That number would be revised upward.

‘‘There's more bigger ships taking over from slightly smaller ones, so it's growing massively.‘‘We'll cope,'' she said.

While one very big ship at a time was not a logistical exercise, two large ones were, Ms van de Vlierd said.

‘‘Once this ship [Dawn Princess] goes, it's straight into planning for next season.

‘‘We practically start immediately.‘‘It just is all in the planning.''

The cruise season just ended had been ‘‘great''.

While numbers for the season were not yet in, she felt passengers had ‘‘starting to spend a bit better this season than they have been''.

‘‘It's starting to lift a little bit, just by the volume of sales going through on the day, by the number of pre-books we see being picked up on the wharf.

‘‘I've got no hard evidence to prove it, but it just looks and feels like it's been a busier season.''

The council would have a de-brief in about a month, and a Cruise New Zealand report with a breakdown of the numbers for the season was expected about August.

Dunedin bus tour operator BookaTour's Bex Hill, whose company offers tours of the city and its sights, said her business had tripled this year, and gone from a ‘‘one-man band'' to employing seven tour guides.

Cruise ship passengers were ‘‘becoming more savvy'', not paying cruise ship prices for tickets but booking them once they arrived.

‘‘People are doing their homework.''

Larnach Castle sales and marketing manager Deborah Price said the year had been good, with ‘‘quite a different mix''.

The castle did not get as many pre-bookings from inbound agents, but did pick up business from local operators.

The passengers this year were ‘‘a little more savvy'', she said, booking when they got to Dunedin rather than on the ship.

For bigger numbers next season, the castle was ‘‘making changes so that everybody has a good time''.

That meant possibly staggering cruise ship tour times.

Olveston manager Jeremy Smith said tourism on all levels was growing, from campervan tourism to coach tourism, and Olveston was seeing gains from all those markets.

Cruise ship visitors were ‘‘a significant part of our business''.

Olveston managed numbers to make sure there was not overcrowding.

Numbers in the city on any day next season would be ‘‘a significant challenge across the board'' for the city.

‘‘We're quite excited about the prospect.''


Nautical numbers
•2016-17 season: 96 cruise ship visits booked between October 8 this year and May 5 next year.

•Total visitors in ships could be close to 190,000.

•First big day: December 22, Ovation of the Seas, with almost 6500 passengers and crew, and Radiance of the Seas, with more than 4000 passengers and crew booked to arrive in Port Chalmers on the same day.

•Two ships will arrive in the city on the same day on 14 occasions.

•2015-16 season: 70 ships scheduled with an estimated 154,000 passengers.

•Three ships cancelled this season due to weather.



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