This article first appeared on stuff.co.nz on January 4, 2018. Read it here.
Northland’s Bay of Islands about to reach peak cruise ship season.
The month of February will bring more cruise ships to the area than any other month – in what is already New Zealand’s biggest cruise season ever.
By the end of the cruise season, which runs from July 2017 to July 2018, the dazzling blue waters between Pihia and Russell will have provided safe anchorage to ocean liners 67 times over.
Their presence is estimated to bring a whopping $19 million to the Northland region in that time, according to the NZ Cruise Association. That’s up more than 20 per cent on last year.
Fourteen floating hotels are expected to come in February alone, including appearances from one of the biggest cruise ships in the world, to the smallest one on the schedule.
The Ovation of the Seas, sporting 4905 passengers, is due on February 7, followed soon after by Caledonian Sky, with just 140 passengers, on February 12.
Russell’s the Duke of Marlborough hotel and restaurant knows exactly how February’s bumper cruise ship crop will affect them.
“We generally pick up 5 per cent of any cruise ship,” said co-owner and manager Anton Haagh.
“So if there is 2000 people, we’ll get 100. If there 1000 people we get 50. If there is 5000 people we’ll be completely inundated.”
To put that into perspective, Haagh said the restaurant has been serving about 400 dinners, and 600 lunches a day during most of January.
He said February will be a huge month, but he’s prepared for it.
“Each cruise ship is different, whether it’s from Europe, Australia or the UK, and the diners have different expectations. So we’ve started rostering different for different types of customers.”
Another big profiter from tourism, Fullers GreatSights, were also enjoying increased demand for their trips around the islands and dolphin spotting packages.
Bay of Islands general manager Charles Parker said both their charter cruises and seated vessel packages, have experienced about a 20 per cent increase in demand, to mimic the 20 per cent rise in cruise ship numbers on last year.
“We’ve put on more capacity this year so we’re able to satisfy that increase in demand, which means more employment for people here in the Bay of Islands.”
“The Bay of Islands communities do a lot of work to cater to cruise ship passengers and make sure their experience there is enjoyable and memorable.
“It consistently ranks in New Zealand as one of the top ports of call from a consumer satisfaction point of view.”
He said the cruise sector was growing both world-wide and within New Zealand.
There were 138 cruise voyages to the land of the long white cloud in 2016, 162 in 2017 and an expected 191 in 2018.
“Cruise ship numbers are on the increase, the size of the cruise ships are increasing, and the number of ports that they go to are also starting to increase.”
He said most of the passengers to New Zealand waters would be coming from Australia (48 per cent), followed closely by the United States (21per cent), Europe (13 per cent): “then there is quite a mix after that, of other countries”.
Ten per cent of passengers aboard these ships would actually be from New Zealand.
“It’s interesting to see that many more New Zealanders are taking cruises as well both to other countries and increasingly to New Zealand ports of call,” Davis said.