The arrival of P&O’s Pacific Explorer in Auckland Harbour has been celebrated by businesses across New Zealand, which are expecting the return of cruising to be among desperately needed key steps helping to pave the way for the country’s beleaguered tourism sector to recover.
Interestingly among those welcoming the ship into Queens Wharf was Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who put a brave face on the fact that New Zealand is one of the last countries to reopen to cruise. However with the country’s Government facing an imminent election amid plummeting approval ratings, it was also interesting to note the presence in the harbour of a protest boat carrying a “Cruising 2 Extinction” banner, confirming the fine line that politicians are walking in NZ after some years of an anti-growth agenda.
Carnival Australia President Marguerite Fitzgerald was also on the dock, and thanked the Ardern Government for “enabling cruising to be a part of New Zealand’s move to reconnect with the world following the challenges of the pandemic”.
“Pacific Explorer’s arrival in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland today is a signal that cruise tourism is poised to make a significant contribution to the restoration of the tourism economy,” she said. “Looking further afield to the reopening of maritime borders in other parts of the Pacific, it is entirely appropriate that Pacific Explorer is on an itinerary that includes calls in Fiji,” Fitzgerald added.
At this stage ships are still not permitted to enter New Caledonia or Vanuatu, but Carnival is hoping its various brands will be able to undertake full South Pacific itineraries in the not-too-distant future.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia MD Joel Katz also hailed the reopening of the NZ maritime border, saying “we now have an opportunity to revive a sector that previously supported many thousands of jobs in communities right around the New Zealand coast”.