The first superyacht to dock at a new quarantine berth on Auckland's Queens Wharf will today arrive in the City of Sails - and the crew on board will be granted an exclusive form of isolation.
The 81-metre AIR superyacht from Malta - which charters for NZ$1.6 million per week - set off from its last port in the capital of Tahiti, Papeete, on September 25.
A Ministry of Health border exemption means the crew's nine days at sea can count as part of their 14-day Covid-19 isolation.
Superyacht crew are among the few exempted foreign citizens able to enter the New Zealand border provided the boat they steer spends millions in refit and repair work in a Kiwi marine outfitter.
The wealthy owners of these water palaces are persisting in sending them down to Auckland. There is a waiting list of yachts floating off Tahiti trying to sail here.
Many had planned the sailing schedule years ahead, and despite the owners being ineligible for a Government exemption to enter New Zealand, they are still sending the boats Downunder to get refit work done.
NZ Marine Industry Association director Peter Busfield says some owners also hope there will be a change of policy before the America's Cup begins in earnest in March next year and they will be able to join their boats in Auckland.
A customs spokesperson said part of Queens Wharf usually used for processing cruise ships was now a temporary Customs Controlled Area for "pleasure craft, such as superyachts" that will be "secured from the public".
"Any arriving international craft will undergo isolation requirements in accordance with the Maritime Border Order until they are cleared by health officials," the spokesperson said.
Ports of Auckland will oversee the logistical requirements of the berth such as lines and tugs.
On October 15, the 57-metre Senses superyacht will also be docking at Queens Wharf quarantine after sailing from Fiji.
Given that superyacht crew are among the very few international border arrivals who get to quarantine in a private setting rather than a Ministry of Health-overseen hotel, it seems reasonable to compare the quality of accommodations.
How does the AIR superyacht and Auckland's Jet Park Hotel stack up for quarantine conditions?
Superyachts have a chef on board and it's not unheard of for requests such as fresh bagels from New York to be flown 2500km to St Baths to sate the owner's breakfast tastes. Obviously, there will be no equivalent food courier right now for crew, but kitchens typically stock a heavy seafood menu of sea bass, scallops, salmon, squid and an assortment of tropical fruit and fresh vegetables.
Australian stewardess aboard a 164ft Trinity yacht, Sarah Begbie, said a professional chef "cooked for both guests and crew, and food was of the highest standard. We once had a guest import organic Japanese Kobe beef for US$11,000 [$16,000] and bring Louis Roederer Cristal champagne".
Reports of the food at the Jet Park Inn have also been very positive by quarantine guests. A day's food there consists of such menus as Weet-Bix for breakfast, pumpkin, kumara and feta salad, or bangers and mash, for lunch and lamb curry with basmati rice for dinner.
"All the food comes in fresh and hot. They always ask if we want a juice or soda with our meal," Christchurch Jet Park guest Monique Bensemann said.
Sunlight is not a quarantine hotel room's strong suit.
The standard Jet Park hotel room is 30 square metres.
A negative Covid test is also required before you get a wristband that allows you to stroll the hotel's grounds alone.
The AIR superyacht has enough deck space for its up to 24 crew to well and truly practise social distancing while sunbathing.
It spans 972sq m, and there's four levels of that!
You can also land a helicopter on it.
AIR superyacht: Jacuzzi, observation deck, a large foldable swimming platform with bar, 102" pop-up television screen for outdoor movie viewing, jet skis, kayaks, gymnasium, massage room, steam room, and a yacht slide.
Jet Park: TV, walk in garden alone.
The AIR superyacht which sailed from Tahiti has somewhere between 10 and 20 crew, who began their quarantine the moment they set off for New Zealand and can mingle and bunk together as they wish.
The most human contact you're going to get at the Jet Park Hotel is a PPE-draped nurse sticking a six-inch swab up your sinus.
As if hotel isolation facilities weren't repressive enough, alcohol is not available at the Jet Park Hotel.
In contrast, that saying "drink like a sailor" must have some truth. The AIR has a bar, presumably well stocked via Tahiti.
You can also smoke a cigarette on deck, which at the Jet Park is difficult because most rooms don't have a balcony.
This is one category where the Jet Park Inn has the upper hand.
Yes, the 14 days quarantine in your hotel room is highly regulated, with mandatory morning visits from a nurse and the Army manning the gates. But once you have delivered a day-14 negative test for Covid-19 you are free in your home country.
Superyacht crew that have docked in New Zealand, remain in a real state of limbo. Some crew have been stranded in New Zealand since before the March 25 lockdown - with the owners at a loss where to send their boat next.
But superyacht agent Duthie Lidgard says many are taking advantage of the paycheque and free time.
"The crew that are stuck here, they don't mind it. They're touring New Zealand because the boat's not leaving so they can take weekends off and do whatever," Lidgard said.
Auckland Council pushes for private quarantine
The tourism branch of Auckland Council wants a way for people to quarantine in a private setting, outside of managed hotel isolation.
Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) is forming working groups to plan private quarantine options, for when international citizens can visit New Zealand.
"ATEED is part of broader conversations around Managed Isolation Quarantine, and not specific to the America's Cup," ATEED chief executive Nick Hill said.
"The business community wants to collaborate with the public sector to find shared, smart and responsive solutions to living, working and doing business in a Covid-19 world that do not compromise our people's safety."
This private quarantine option would be suited to wealthy visitors who can pay for their own more convenient form of quarantine.