Luxury cat to offer Bay of Islands cruises

A new $10 million ship based at Opua is expected to be offering tourists and visitors upmarket overnight cruises in the Bay of Islands from late 2009.

The venture, using a 46m catamaran carrying up to 70 passengers, has the potential to boost tourism spending in Northland by at least $8000 a day, says economic development agency Enterprise Northland chief executive Brian Roberts.

Transport and tourism operator InterCity Group, through its subsidiary Kings Dolphin Cruises & Eco Tours, is behind the initiative which was announced in Rotorua yesterday.

The ship will cruise at 12 knots with maximum stability and will depart from Opua every afternoon in summer and return the following day.

InterCity Group chief executive Malcolm Johns said yesterday the vessel would take 18 months to build but no firm decision had been made on where it would be constructed.

"Our preference, though, would be to build in New Zealand."

The ship would have four decks, with two housing 30 queen state rooms with ensuites and sea views.

Small boats would ferry passengers from the ship for beach walks, swimming and kayaking activities around islands in the bay.

The vessel would also be available to sail to other parts of New Zealand and could be used as a self-contained marine conference centre for up to 70 people.

Overnight cruise rates start from $349 a person for a twin cabin.

Mr Roberts said the cruises would encourage visitors to spend more time in Northland, increase job opportunities and seal the region's international reputation as a world-class cruising ground.

He believes the venture will become an alternative to other Pacific destinations for short cruises.

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