A major Dunedin tourism operator says it may be time to reconsider turning away public bookings in favour of cruise ship passengers after a string of cancellations.
The latest is tomorrow's first Dunedin visit by the $1.4 billion Ovation of the Seas, with 4905 passengers the biggest cruise ship to come to New Zealand but now cancelled because of forecast bad weather.
Dunedin Railways chief executive Murray Bond said his company had turned away hundreds of bookings throughout the year by members of the public wanting to travel tomorrow.
That opportunity was gone, and the railway had ended up with ''massive spare capacity''.
''We're left basically empty on Thursday, after looking like we were going to be full.
''That comes straight off the bottom line.
''It turns what was going to be a reasonable year into what is looking like a pretty poor year because we've turned away all these people that might have wanted to go on Thursday. It's very, very disappointing.''
Bond said there had been more than 20 cruise ship cancellations on the last five or six years, and three in the last few weeks.
He said he and other operators were asking whether they should turn away public bookings on cruise ship days.
''If the cruise ship arrival market is going to be erratic, then we should take every public booking we've got, perhaps.''
Cruise ships could take what was left.
Cruise line Royal Caribbean said in a statement to the Otago Daily Times yesterday it was sometimes necessary to make changes to itineraries because of severe weather warnings such as those that were in place for the coast of the South Island.
A storm system meant Ovation of the Seas' cruise from Sydney would not stop at Dunedin, a decision made ''to ensure the safety of our guests and crew, and in order to provide a comfortable cruise experience''.
Radiance of the Seas was expected to arrive in Dunedin tomorrow, though the company was ''closely monitoring the development of the storm, and should any itinerary changes be necessary, then guests will be informed as soon as practicable.''
Ovation of the Seas was due in Dunedin again on January 3, and the company said it would try to organise a ceremony similar to the one planned for tomorrow, when Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull would have welcomed the ship to Port Chalmers.
Port Otago commercial general manager Peter Brown said ''particularly bad'' weather was forecast for the southwest corner of the South Island, with high winds and large swells.
The ship would not come through Foveaux Strait, but would sail up the West Coast to Wellington.
Brown said Port Otago pilots would get to use the experience they had gained recently on simulators in Auckland on bringing the ship into local ports, as they would be used to take the ship into Milford Sound.
Radiance of the Seas was sailing down the east coast, and would not run into the same weather.
Dunedin i-Site visitor centre manager Louise van de Vlierd said the cancellation was ''very disappointing''.
''A lot of work has gone into preparing for it but the weather is something you can't control.''
She said tomorrow would still be a busy day in Dunedin, with Radiance of the Seas' 3000 passengers arriving on a busy Christmas shopping day.