(11:40 p.m. NZST) -- After more than two years of closed maritime borders, today’s news that cruise ships can return without restrictions from 31 July has been greeted with a sense of cautious optimism and relief, says the New Zealand Cruise Association.
The Prime Minister's announcement that the maritime border will reopen without added restrictions means cruise lines can start confirming port calls and preparing ships with certainty said chair Debbie Summers.
Ms Summers said: "New Zealand is an important destination for cruise lines and with worldwide demand for cruising strong again, combined with excellent regional dispersal, this sector ticks every box for value.
"After [more than] two years of hardship, hundreds of Kiwi ship suppliers and tourism operators can start rebuilding their businesses back, helping communities that have suffered during our pandemic years and begin preparing with confidence to provide our top service to cruise visitors."
Celebrity Cruises immediately confirmed Celebrity Eclipse will call in at the islands as part of a series of three to 13-night cruises from Sydney, from October.
"People are ready to cruise again, with pent up demand reflected in the high volume of enquiries and bookings we’ve been taking in anticipation of the recent green light from the Government," said Celebrity Cruises Vice President and Managing Director of Australia, New Zealand and APAC, Tim Jones.
"We are also ready to cruise again, having successfully delivered cruise holidays around the world for almost a year. We look forward to doing our part in contributing to the nation’s economic future, with the long-awaited return of international travel and tourism."
The restart will come two months to the day after Australia's cruise ban lifts -- at the end of this month.
The question of New Zealand re-opening to cruise was also addressed by Royal Caribbean, onboard its latest ship, Wonder of the Seas, last week in Barcelona, ahead of today's announcement:
"We’re very optimistic," said Sean Treacy, SVP of International Sales. "There's a lot of dialogue between us and the NZ Government and I'd say we're quite positive about the opportunity to operate at this time, based on where we are today."
Ms Summers says after such a long absence of cruise ships from our shores, opening the maritime border is only the beginning.
"The return of cruise will be welcomed by many communities around the country, especially those regions where cruise makes up a large part of their tourism like Northland, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Picton, Timaru and Rakiura Stewart Island," she added.