Fewer cruise ships expected next season

Two cruise ships docked at Port Chalmers in January. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
By Penny Miles

New Zealand may be pricing itself out of cruise ship visits.

The season was coming to an end with about 1000 port visits in the past few months bringing around 350,000 visitors to the country with an estimated economic value of $540 million.

But the signs were that fewer ships will travel to Aotearoa next season, with around 200 port visits set be stripped from the calendar.

Cruise Association chief executive Jacqui Lloyd was attending the world's largest cruising industry conference to promote New Zealand as a destination.

Speaking from Seatrade in Miami, she said rising costs are starting to bite with a projected 20 percent fall in port visits.

"It's a very price-driven market so they look at the cost to operate in each port and New Zealand costs have gone up," Lloyd said.

"That's port fees, regulatory fees, fees from bunkering which is around fuel, and the cost of vegetables, wine and other food and beverage costs."

The New Zealand industry experienced a bonanza this summer with around 350,000 passengers spending more than $565m across the regions.

"It's looking lower [for next season]. We are probably around 150-200 port calls lower than we are for this season," she said.

"We are concerned and we're hoping this won't become a continual trend.

"Some of it is deployment, world cruises tend to move to different parts of the world and some ships will come for one or two seasons and then deploy elsewhere, and then come back."

Lloyd said the Red Sea shipping disruptions and drought in the Panama Canal were forcing operators to make alternative plans for next season.

She expected some of the cruise liners will return to our shores, but others were yet to make a firm commitment.

Aotearoa's reputation still holding firm

New Zealand's reputation as a a tourist-friendly destination remained strong according to the latest reports from the conference in Miami.

"The diversity of New Zealand is always a positive, we've got 17 ports and anchorages and every one is completely different," Lloyd said..

"There's the opportunity for a passenger to travel the country and experience new and diverse tourism attractions and hospitality.

"Also the shopping and retail throughout the country is a real positive to the cruise lines and they think New Zealand does that really well."

While New Zealand was often high on people's bucket lists, strong growth was not expected to be forthcoming.

"If we can retain what we have we'll be very happy," she said.

"We're also talking to new lines to engage with them to send ships here in future years.

"We're here to capture interest and get the right ships here to our ports in New Zealand."

Big and small vessels part of the tourism picture

Some of the mega luxury liners to visit our shores this summer were the Ovation of the Seas (4180 guests), Royal Princess (3650 guests), Majestic Princess (3560), Celebrity Solstice (2852 guests), Queen Elizabeth (2100 guests), and Norwegian Spirit (2018 guests).

Smaller ships like National Geographic Orion (106 guests) and Coral Geographer (120 guests) were also visitors to New Zealand waters.