Weather not enough to dampen cruise ship visit

By Victoria White -
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Despite bad weather, the Ovation of the Seas is expected to arrive in Napier this morning. PHOTO/FILE
Despite bad weather, the Ovation of the Seas is expected to arrive in Napier this morning. PHOTO/FILE

Even a gale-force warning and expected heavy swells will not be enough to deter the world's fourth-largest cruise ship, Ovation of the Seas, from arriving in Napier today.

After visiting the ports of Auckland, Tauranga and Dunedin, the Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas today will make its first and only stop in Napier this season.

Eighteen decks high, weighing 168,666 tonnes, with capacity for 6500 guests and crew, the ship is the fourth-largest cruise ship in the world. At 348m long, it is said to be longer than Auckland's Sky Tower is tall.

The vessel - the largest cruise ship to sail Australasian waters - is expected to arrive in Napier before 8am this morning, after travelling up the coast overnight.

However, an unsettled southwesterly flow building across the North Island caused MetService to issue a gale warning, as winds were expected to reach southerly 35 knots yesterday, with the sea becoming rough and swells rising to 5m offshore.

This was expected to ease today and MetService meteorologist Tuporo Marsters said it appeared the Ovation of the Seas would miss the worst of the weather.

While heavy swells were anticipated along the coast from Wellington, the peak of 7m waves was expected at about 10am tomorrow - hours after the cruise ship had arrived in Napier.

"They'll be riding ahead of the big swells," Mr Marsters said. "They should get into Napier ahead [of the peak].

"And once it's in the Bay area, it will be sheltered."

A Royal Caribbean spokesperson said despite heavy swells being predicted, the ship would arrive this morning as scheduled.

This will be good news for the local economy - with capacity for 6500 guests and crew, the ship is said to deliver significant economic benefits at each of her ports of call.

Her visit to Napier was expected to inject more than half-a-million dollars in passenger spending alone, while her maiden New Zealand season was expected to inject more than $9.5 million into the national economy.

Despite some showers early this morning, today was expected to be fine with a high of 22C.

However, while Mr Marsters said the ship would have "no problem" getting into Napier, rising gales in the evening could make its departure more difficult.

Winds are expected to be about southwest 25 knots this afternoon, easing to 15 knots late evening.

Mr Marsters said they were also expecting big swells offshore to peak about 5.30pm - the same time as the Ovation of the Seas was expected to depart.

Last month the vessel's first scheduled port of call in Dunedin, on December 22, was cancelled due to bad weather. Earlier this week a successful second attempt was made to visit the city.

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