Aoraki Tourism ready for return of cruise ships to Timaru
MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFF
The cruise ship Seabourn Encore berths at the Main Wharf at Port Nelson on January 2, 2020, ahead of its arrival in Timaru on January 14.
Timaru is ready for the return of cruise ships and passengers will be greeted with a gift that symbolises Timaru.
Tuesday brings an end to a three-year absence of cruise ships in the region with the arrival of the Seabourn Encore for 13 hours from 9am.
The Seabourn Encore is the last cruise ship to have visited port when in February 2017 its moorings in high winds and collided with the Milburn Carrier II, causing damage to the hull.
The cruise ship Seabourn Encore broke free from its moorings in high winds at the Port of Timaru and hit another vessel in February 2017.
The incident copped criticism of the port from the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and sparked a substantial investment by PrimePort into purpose built storm bollards and other upgrades on the number one wharf facility.
Seabourn Encore, which can carry 604 passengers will return on February 14, while Silver Muse (596 capacity) arrives on February 7 and Europa 2 (516) is in port on February 15.
More cruise ships are pencilled in for the following season with Aoraki Development saying cruise industry indications are that Timaru “could host anywhere from 12 cruise ships upwards per season.”
PrimePort has also advised cruise companies that it is available to take vessels at short notice if they are forced to make amendments to their intended itineraries which could mean 12 hours notice of a vessel arriving.
Those passengers coming ashore on Tuesday will be welcomed with a unique gift, a woven harakeke (flax) rose according to Aoraki Tourism visitor promotions specialist Kate O’Connell.
“It’s symbolic of two important aspects of our unique heritage: our ancient Maori rock art, and the Trevor Griffiths Rose Garden,” Aoraki Tourism visitor promotions specialist Kate O’Connell said.
“These were made recently at a fun community workshop run by Aoraki Development, Aoraki Tourism and PrimePort. It was a great event and we plan on doing another one soon.”
O’Connell said they had a great team of people ready to meet and greet cruise ship visitors and help with local advice and inside information.
“We’re all looking forward to it and ready to go, it’s hard to predict the exact numbers we’ll have through the CBD but we’re expecting to be busy.
“Most of our team have been involved with cruise ship arrivals in the past, and have prepped the rest of us on what to expect.”
She said there was no official booking information as yet, but there are many “fantastic places” the tourists could visit while in South Canterbury.
“Tours on offer include activities in Geraldine, Mesopotamia, Te Ana Rock art sites, and Aoraki Mt Cook. We’re a great destination for cruise passengers as we’re centrally located in the South Island, and there are heaps of amazing day trips to take in.
“PrimePort’s location right in Timaru is perfect for passengers that want to stay in town too, they can literally walk off the ship and start exploring.”
The Timaru Information Centre’s team leader, Patricia Jenney has previously said the centre was always busy during cruise ship visits.
“You get a lot of people purchasing authentic pounamu and there is also interest in the Te Ana Maori Rock Art tours in the district.”
PrimePort Timaru chief executive Phil Melhopt said the port was delighted to welcome back cruise ships, especially that the first ship due in on Tuesday is the Seabourn Encore.
“It’s a great mark of confidence in our port that Seabourn Encore is the first ship in this season for Timaru and is booked for two visits.
“The cruise industry business is important to PrimePort and one that we’ve identified as a growth area for us. There is significant potential for PrimePort to grow this part of our operation and our discussions within the cruise industry show definite interest in this region.”
Most of the ships expect about two thirds of their passengers to go on pre-arranged excursions, leaving as soon as possible after the ships have berthed and often away for most of the day, Melhopt said.
“The remaining passengers are free to wander at leisure around Timaru and usually enjoy spending time in the main street shopping area, the Caroline Bay area, Trevor Griffiths Rose Garden, coastal walking tracks and viewing our historic buildings..”
Aoraki Development operations manager Di Hay said local people seem excited about the Seabourn Encore’s imminent arrival.
“We’ve helped the Timaru CBD Group get information out to the CBD retailers to let them know when the vessels are coming and a little about the plans for passengers and the nationalities of passengers too.
“Feedback from the retailers and hospitality businesses is that they’re really pleased to have the information so they can be ready to welcome the passengers and be ready for a potential influx of customers.”