Christchurch welcomes first cruise ship in 11 years
Christchurch mayor Phil Mauger heralded the arrival of the first large cruise ship in more than a decade as a “turning point” for the city and its businesses.
The Celebrity Eclipse arrived at Lyttelton’s new $67 million berth with 2700 passengers aboard early on Thursday.
The influx of tourists from the first major cruise liner in the city since before the earthquakes is expected to bring a major boost to the local economy.
“Everyone that walks off there is going to buy a coffee, or a pie, or a beer,” Mauger said following a ceremony to welcome the ship to the port, adding that he was “over the moon” at its arrival.
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“More people in town, that’s what we desperately need.”
The Celebrity Eclipse left Sydney on Saturday and took three days to sail to Milford Sound, before making its way to Dunedin and sailing up to Lyttelton.
The ship docked at the redeveloped port at about 7am on Thursday, before passengers disembarked about 8.30am to leave on buses for a day of visiting the sights and attractions of Lyttelton and Christchurch.
Among the passengers was Stephanie Moss, from Spain, who described Lyttelton as a “quirky little town” with an “old west” vibe.
The crowds filtered from the Lyttelton Harbour Information Centre away to different parts of the region to soak up its sights and sounds.
About 60 volunteers were chosen by regional development agency ChristchurchNZ as ambassadors in the city, helping passengers find their way around.
Karen Colyer was handing out city maps highlighting points of interest such as the Arts Centre and the tram, “the very best thing to do”.
She said she had been suggesting visitors go first to the city centre before coming back to “enjoy the sights of Lyttelton”, and said the first people at the info centre were meeting friends in Christchurch.
A wine tour was on the cards for Barbara Clements and Alan Maginn, from Essex in the UK.
As they looked down the main street of Lyttelton, Clements said she was “just waiting for the cowboys to come”, referencing the old style store facades.
Passengers are looking to spend New Zealand dollars as they disembark the Majestic Princess which arrived at 5.30am September 15, kicking off Aotearoa’s summer cruise season.
“People have been so lovely,” she said, though the welcome in Christchurch paled in comparison to the “amazing” fanfare the passengers received in Dunedin, where dockers clapped, cheered and waved banners as they disembarked.
A number of activities had been planned for the passengers, ChristchurchNZ said, many of which had been booked out.
Shortly after the liner docked there was a plaque exchange ceremony, a maritime tradition when ships make their first call into port, which Mauger said they were “keen to introduce our beautiful city to the world”.
Lyttelton Port chief executive Kirsty Gardener said it was a “big day” for Lyttelton and Christchurch and a “milestone” for the “port’s development and Canterbury’s growth”.
The cruise berth development was purpose-built to accommodate thousands of passengers and crew, and was finally serving its purpose, welcoming an “influx” of tourists into the port.
Celebrity Cruises’ vice president and regional managing director Tim Jones said it had been 955 days since a Celebrity cruise ship had been to this part of the world, and for Celebrity Eclipse it was its first time ever.
Christchurch is expected to welcome more than 200,000 cruise ship tourists and staff over the coming season, who will give the local economy a $260m boost.
Riverside Market general manager Rachel Gould said she was expecting the cruise ship days to be extremely busy ones for the market.
“We’re very excited and looking forward to welcoming the cruise ship passengers. It will see us having a very busy summer.”
All the market tenants had been given the cruise ship schedule for the season, so they could plan their rosters and staffing.
Christchurch Attractions chief executive Sue Sullivan said she was expecting a busier day than normal on the company’s inner city tram network, gondola and Avon River punting.
“It’s tremendous. It means the city will be alive, with a lot of people walking around. The city will benefit.”
But the return of cruise ships to New Zealand waters has brought with it the prospect of new Covid-19 cases into communities.
Health authorities won’t be drawn on whether the ship has Covid-19 cases onboard, as a passenger reports the ship may not have been following correct isolation rules.
Health officials intervened on Wednesday, after it was revealed Covid-infected cruise ship passengers on Ovation of the Seas – which docked in Picton – had reportedly breached the rules by isolating for just five days instead of the required seven.
The ship, which had just departed Wellington, is carrying 4500 crew and passengers, including 129 passengers and two crew members who have Covid-19. One Picton pharmacist said passengers had been coming in with coughs and cold symptoms.
The Ministry of Health had since clarified with Royal Caribbean, the Ovation’s owner, travellers who test positive for Covid-19 needed to isolate for seven days.