A leading proponent of expedition cruising says he is already hearing from cruise lines that the PONANT debacle this week may put them off visiting New Zealand in the future.
Aaron Russ, general manager Wild Earth Travel, says the PONANT cancellation had the feel of ‘pure politics’ and that contrary to some claims Immigration New Zealand was fully consulted while the cruise line went through the protracted and drawn out process of gaining health clearance and maritime exemption to operate here.
PONANT has 'regretfully advised' that its small expedition ship Le Lapérouse has been forced to cancel her season of seven fully booked expedition voyages in New Zealand for New Zealanders.
The full statement from PONANT reads:
'The New Zealand Department of Immigration has declined to approve visas for 61 of the ship’s 90 crew. Visas were issued for 29 technical crew however INZ was not prepared to issue visas to the 61 hotel staff.
Travel trade and tourism operators were last night clinging to at least some hope that PONANT’s domestic cruising season around New Zealand will take shape in one form or another.
Yesterday the cruise line was continuing to talk to Immigration NZ after its shock last minute decision to prevent Le Laperouse from coming to New Zealand – despite having the green light from the Ministry of Health. At the time of going to press it was believed a final decision would be made today.
Optimism is growing around the resumption of New Zealand based cruising, with PONANT releasing details of three cruises early next year.
The company says it is ‘working with authorities for a potential restart and looks forward to a positive result.’ PONANT adds that the objective is to ‘provide locals with a fabulous luxury expedition programme at the same time as giving economic benefits to
Wild Earth Travel has a limited, two cabins only offer for a Sub Antarctic Islands cruise on board PONANT’s Le Bellot.
Departing 29 December 2020 and 8 February 2021, the 15-day cruise is priced at $13,495pp (down from $18,205).
Departing Auckland, Le Bellot sails to the Bounty Islands, Antipodes Islands, Campbell Island, Auckland Islands, Macquarie Island and The Snares before passengers disembark in Dunedin.
Amy Forsyth, communications and sales specialist at Wild Earth Travel, recently returned from a luxury cruising expedition with PONANT in Norway.