Welcome to Banks Peninsula, home of The Hector’s dolphins and eco-tourism pioneers Black Cat Cruises

Category Archives: Black Cat News


Have you ever seen a cruise ship up close?  We see about 50 cruise ships a year docking in Lyttleton Harbour, and the sheer size of these ships never stops impressing us!  When we witness just how large these ships can be, we have to take a moment to consider what a feat of human ingenuity they are.

Cruise ships in Lyttelton


The Queen Mary 2

In January, the massive Diamond Princess Cruise Ship docked in Lyttelton and Black Cat was given the privilege of escorting the ship out of the harbour.  We gave our guests a very special two-hour ride alongside the Diamond Princess as she left Lyttelton for open sea.  A unique and memorable experience for everyone!

We had such a great time with the Diamond Princess that when we heard about the iconic Queen Mary 2 (QM2) docking in Lyttelton on the 26th of February, we jumped at the chance to escort this impressive ocean liner.

Once again, Black Cat will be offering cruise escort tours to our guests.  Join us for a two-hour tour on the 26th Feb 2011 (5:30pm to 7:30pm) as we accompany the Queen Mary 2 out of Lyttelton Harbour.

QM2’s classic design

We can’t wait for the chance to see this impressive liner up close and personal.  Unlike typical cruise ships, the QM2 was designed in the style of vintage ocean liners like the Queen Elizabeth 2 (built in 1967) and the original Queen Mary (built in 1936).

Her classic style lends her a very distinct look.  The design of the ship is so iconic that she’s even been the inspiration for cruise ships in movies like A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Poseidon and 2012.

Facts and figures

Be sure to head down to Lyttelton on February 26 to glimpse the ship from the public jetty.  Here are a few things to know about Lyttelton Harbour’s honoured guest for the day:


    • The QM2 was built in 2003 and was, at the time, the largest passenger ship ever built.  She has since been surpassed by a few cruise ships, but remains the largest ocean liner in the world.


    • To get a feel for the size of the ship, imagine Westminster Tower (Big Ben) in London.  Now imagine 3 and a half Big Bens stacked on top of each other…  That’s about the length of the QM 2.


    • The QM 2 has a passenger capacity of 2,620.


    • How do you keep 2,620 people entertained?  Well, the QM2 has an on-board cinema, shopping arcade, planetarium (the first planetarium at sea!), ten restaurants, spa, 8,000 volume library, five swimming pools, gym, basketball court, kennels and childcare facilities.  Not to mention the 300+ works of museum-quality art on display throughout the ship.


    • The QM2’s whistle is audible for 16 km.


Our captain is well-versed on the liner and will be entertaining guests of our tour with facts and anecdotes about the QM2.  And, of course, nothing beats an evening cruise of beautiful Lyttelton Harbour.  Keep your fingers crossed for the possibility of dolphin sightings!  Contact us for more information on our cruise ship escort tour.

Black Cat Leads the Pack in Eco-tourism

Black Cat may be well known as a tourism operator, but did you know that we’re also a leader in environmental management?  From reducing energy consumption to donating a portion of every passenger fare to dolphin conservation, Black Cat takes extra measures to ensure the preservation of our environment.

New Zealand’s first eco-tourism operator

Established in 1985 as Akaroa Harbour Cruises, we can claim to be New Zealand’s first eco-tourism enterprise.  We launched with the intention of showing off Hector’s dolphins as well as the other creatures and scenery of Banks Peninsula.  Naturally, such a reliance on the natural environment encouraged Black Cat to foster a keen interest in maintaining the health and beauty of Akaroa Harbour right from the start.

Actions to protect the environment

Black Cat works hard to protect the environment.  First, we reduce our energy consumption (we aim for an annual reduction of 1% per person) through actions such as:


    • Maintaining our vessels for maximum efficiency


    • Encouraging our staff to walk or bike to work


    • Monitoring fuel usage


    • Using energy saving light bulbs and efficient heating


We also take care to minimise the by-products from the energy we do use.  By recycling and using biodegradable cleaning products, Black Cat is able to reduce the amount of waste resulting from our operation.

Education and advocacy

Black Cat takes pride in giving back to the environment and the community through advocacy, education and sponsorship.  Each year we donate at least $70,000 to programmes that support causes like marine mammal research and education, Quail Island restoration and penguin predator trapping.

We also provide sponsorship to projects that raise awareness of issues important to the community and the environment.  For instance, early in 2010 Black Cat supported Christchurch teenager Aescleah Hawkins undertake a 42km walk to raise funds for the endangered Hector’s dolphins, an event that gained national media attention.

Positive Feedback

Black Cat’s efforts to protect and preserve the natural environment have been recognised with a number of international eco-tourism awards including a Green Globe 21 Award and a Skal International Eco-Tourism Award.  With such positive response from the local and international community, we are confident that Black Cat will continue to set the standard for responsible engagement with the environment.

Book a place on a Black Cat cruise and see why we are one of top Christchurch attractions.

A Unique Venue for your Function!

Did you know that you can charter Black Cat boats for private events?  Our Canterbury Cat and Black Cat catamarans comfortably hold up to 80 people, providing the perfect venue for a unique and enjoyable function.

A smooth evening

From entertaining clients and staff to celebrating with friends and family, chartered cruises are a memorable choice.  Our experienced staff will make sure the evening runs smoothly, and the natural beauty of Banks Peninsula guarantees an unforgettable event.

For any occasion

One of our most popular charters, the dinner cruise, begins with an hour-long tour, offering guests the opportunity to scan the harbour for Hector’s dolphins and native sea birds.  Then we anchor for a two-course buffet, catered by spitroast.com.  For a more casual event, our catamarans can also be chartered for two to three hour cruises with access to a full bar service and the option of light snacks.

An unparalleled backdrop

We’ve hosted a variety of events, from end-of-year office parties to weddings, and each one has found the Black Cat charter to be an unforgettable event.  With an abundance of natural beauty and the chance to spy some of New Zealand’s extraordinary wildlife, it’s impossible to beat a venue like Akaroa or Lyttelton Harbours.  Holiday event planners take note: there is no better time to charter than the summertime, as your guests are treated to the stunning view of the sun setting over the water.

Checkout Black Cat Cruises as a function venue today.

Christmas Cruising 2010 Schedule & Prices

Our Christmas day schedule is as follows:

Akaroa Harbour Cruises

Dolphin swimming
9am, 12noon
$174/$144 (watching $144/$44).

Christchurch Wildlife Cruise (Lyttelton)
$85/$35 (includes free shuttle)

Diamond Harbour Ferry is a normal Saturday timetable with nothing after 6pm.


First Black Cat Cruise Customer comes Forward

After an exhaustive search we have found one of the very first passengers from the first cruise in 1985. Brian Woods took part in the inaugural service and we have presented Brian with free cruises for the rest of his life. Brian joined former and current Black Cat staff members, customers and the original skipper on a harbour cruise of Akaroa exactly 25 years to the day later. It was a celebration of the journey and included reliving some of the most memorable moments on the harbour since 1985.

25 Year Anniversary for Black Cat Cruises

On October 20th 1985, the Charmaine set out on her first Akaroa Harbour Cruise. At the helm was Captain Ron Bingham and on board were two paying passengers. Total revenue $16. The business was partly inspired by the Hutchens family who started Fiordland Travel (now Real Journeys). Living in Te Anau we had seen what could be done and it’s ironic that Real Journeys now own 50% of Black Cat.

Inspiration is one thing and making a business work is quite another. While others had failed to make a go of it in Akaroa this one worked. Why? It used the owner operator model and everything was put on the line! There was some luck too with Hector’s dolphins receiving national recognition when the sanctuary was put in place in 1988 and international tourism grew. So from a total of 16 passengers in that first week, we now carry on average 2000 a week across Akaroa and Lyttelton.

We are on Facebook

Yes we know that everyone has a Facebook page now but we’d love you to follow us on Facebook. We have all the latest pictures, news and offers on line plus we are going to be giving away tons of prizes over the next 3 months to our Facebook fans who will be picked at random. Join up by clicking here 


The BBC produced reality show ‘Wanted Down Under’ was filming in Akaroa recently. With a massive audience of over 2 million viewers per episode the show is sure to raise the profile of New Zealand. This is the second time the show has featured Akaroa and Black Cat Cruises. The series is about British families, keen to trade in the British weather for the down-under lifestyle, who are given the chance to sample what life would be like if they moved to the other side of the world.