Cruise ships to make a big splash in Dunedin

By Hamish McNeilly

The port company could easily handle the longest vessel expected this season. Photo / Martin Sykes
The port company could easily handle the longest vessel expected this season. Photo / Martin Sykes

Larger cruise ships will bring a record 230,000 passengers and crew into Dunedin this season.

The 2012-13 season, which begins with the arrival of the Sea Princess on October 14, is expected to bring 88 ships with up to 161,261 passengers and 69,631 crew on board.

Port Otago commercial manager Peter Brown said it would be another record season - up from 83 port visits last year, and ships were an estimated 23 per cent bigger and average passenger numbers up 36 per cent per vessel, when compared with the previous season.

The port company could easily handle the longest vessel (317m) expected this season, and conducted simulated trials to ensure large vessels could navigate safely through the channel.

This season would bring a dozen "double-up days", with one of those two cruise ship days bringing just over 7000 visitors to the city - the equivalent of 18 full Boeing 747-400s.

Mr Brown said this season a marquee would be sited on the wharf, offering Wi-Fi and visitor information, and "provide a slightly more upmarket waiting area for passengers".

Cruise ship visits was an increasingly valuable part of the port company's commercial operation, and for the greater Dunedin economy, he said.

"It is business as unusual for us, but it is business that we enjoy seeing at the port, and that is good for the whole region."

Tourism Dunedin chief executive Hamish Saxton said the city was geographically blessed to be either the first or last New Zealand stop for passengers, and was the second most visited centre after Auckland.

Craig Harris, of Cruise New Zealand, said one highlight of the 2012-13 season would be the arrival of largest ship in terms of passenger numbers - Voyager of the Seas.

The vessel, with 3100 passengers and 1100 crew, is scheduled to make its maiden voyage to Dunedin on November 17, and is due visit the city a further five times.

Another large vessel, Celebrity Solstice and its 2800 passengers and 1200 crew will make its maiden Dunedin voyage on December 15, and is expected to visit a further six times.

"You are getting in bigger ships, and some reasonably exciting things happening now."

Interest was growing in the Asia/Pacific region, with the next segment of growth expected with the widened Panama Canal expected to take larger vessels for the 2015 season.

"Expect more of these larger ships, the cruise lines are indicating to us we might get vessels of 3500 (passengers) in 2015-16; it is all starting to happen."

- Otago Daily Times

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