Cruise ships in Akaroa
Just a few years ago it would be hard to imagine a summer where 86 cruise ships would visit Akaroa Harbour. Akaroa always had a handful of small ships anchor in the bay and shuttle customers into the township.
The big quake of February 2011 was centred not too far from Lyttelton port and it’s remarkable the port has stayed open for its core shipping business, but the Cruise ships have been forced elsewhere so step up Akaroa!
Lyttelton will probably again be Canterbury’s main port of call for Cruise ships one day, but the port has already announced they can’t welcome ships in 2013/14 and its hoped that even when the port reopens that some ships will retain Akaroa as a Canterbury stopover.
One major difference between the two ports is that in Akaroa there is no berthing facility and ships need to tender customers to shore 100 at a time so logistically it’s a bit harder for the ships themselves.
Its estimated Canterbury will receive $35M in direct spend and that it will support 655 jobs. Not bad when you consider the total population of Akaroa is only 800, however many of the cruise ship passengers will find their way to Christchurch and other parts of the region.
Depending on which cruise ship company you talk to Akaroa is either the most popular or 2nd most popular port of call in New Zealand according to passenger research. Customers rate the little town for its atmosphere and beauty and is quite different from the other city ports such as Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland.
Many of the cruise ship passengers are from Australia; in fact over half of the 200,000 passengers in 2012/13 are expected to be Australian, followed by Americans, British and Europeans.
So what is there to do in Akaroa? According to one of the big shore excursion companies this is what cruise ship customers are doing with their day in Akaroa.
- Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruises (Black Cat Cruises)
- Swimming with Dolphins (Black Cat Cruises)
- Tranz Alpine train journey
- Christchurch on your own
- Banks Peninsula and city drive
- Antarctic Centre and city drive
- Walking tour of Akaroa
- Jet Boat of Waimakariri River
- High country tours and Lord of the Rings
- Paua Bay Farm tour
And of course over and above the excursions bought on the ship many cruise ship passengers take the time to explore beautiful Akaroa including walking the township, discovering the many shops, cafes and signs of its fascinating past.
It is a huge benefit for Akaroa to have the cruise ships visit the town. Over half of the town’s population are employed in the tourism sector and it’s the lifeblood of the local economy. With the downstream impacts of the Feb 2011 quakes still being felt in Akaroa it’s provided a silver lining to a dark cloud. Previously many visitors to Akaroa would spend the night in Christchurch and with many hotels out of action for some years yet then that market base has reduced.
The other huge benefit is that many cruise ship customers are talking about Akaroa with their friends, they blog, take photos and provide massive profile for the township which otherwise would not be gained. And finally many cruise ship passengers will come back again as self-drive tourists and we hope will once again visit Akaroa on a land based tour around the South Island probably staying longer and fully immersing themselves in the Akaroa experience.
Akaroa was and always will be a great place for visitors. The community has been hard hit by the loss of tourism business from Christchurch because of the quakes. However it has geared itself up to welcome cruise ship passengers.