The ocean-going expedition ship Spirit of Enderby has been granted entry to New Zealand waters ahead of the summer season. This will allow Kiwi cruise operators Heritage Expeditions to resume domestic sailings, opening up exotic parts of the country like New Zealand's subantarctic islands to tourists.
"This decision allows us to continue doing what we love," said commercial director Aaron Russ. "Sharing the furthest reaches of New Zealand's spectacular backyard with inquisitive Kiwis."
The 50-passenger pack-ice rated vessel had been quarantining near Finland, along with its Russian crew members. The ex-research vessel also known by its Russian name the Professor Khromov - had been in limbo since the end of the northern season and New Zealand's cruise ban.
"For the voyages we do there's no NZ vessels that are capable," Aaron told the Herald, so this is welcome news.
On Friday, Ross told the New Zealand Cruise Association that the ship had received clearance and exemption requirements, including those from the Ministry of Health, and the Spirit of Enderby could begin sailing south.
All going to plan, the ship will be taking its first passengers on sailings to Fiordland and Antarctic claims from November 24 according to a TRAVELinc memo. The company says it aims to take Kiwi passengers as far Antarctica for January.
Aaron said the proposal to the New Zealand government was based on a "Kiwis-only season within New Zealand waters including the Ross Sea Dependency - New Zealand's claim on Antarctica."
"It's great to see that government has given the go ahead to begin domestic cruising, something that New Zealand Cruise Association has been pushing for many months," says Kevin O'Sullivan, NZCA Chief Executive.
Heritage Expeditions, which is operated by Aaron and his brother Nathan was founded when their parents left the New Zealand Wildlife Service.
"We're a proudly New Zealand owned and operated company and we've been operating in the Southern sea for over 30 years," said Aaron.
Now given the go ahead, Aaron says these southern itineraries will appeal to Kiwis who have "had their wings clipped by Covid", looking to "tick off that bucket list adventure and explore the furthest reaches of our amazing backyard."
After a 14-day quarantine period, the 22 Russian crew members will now commence their 29 days sailing to Bluff.
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