Whangārei welcomes first cruise visit; more on the way

February 4, 2024

The first scheduled cruise ship to call at Whangārei berthed at Northport at 0700hrs today (Sunday 4 February), helping to cement the 2023/2024 cruise season as New Zealand’s biggest to date. Oceania Cruises’ MS Regatta, with about 650 passengers aboard, was the first of three cruise calls scheduled for the region this summer, with five more due over the 2024/2025 season and a further three in early 2026.

Regatta was welcomed to Whangārei-te-rerenga-parāoa (Whangārei harbour) with a pōwhiri conducted by hapū Patuharakeke as about 580 passengers disembarked. The visitors were taken by coach from Northport to their chosen activities or attractions, or into Whangārei where they visited local attractions and the Sunday markets.

Whangārei District Council’s cruise ambassadors and its i-Site team were present at the Town Basin to guide and support the visitors.

Northport has worked with Northland’s regional tourism organisation Northland Inc, the Northland Chamber of Commerce, Whangārei District Council, cruise lines, the New Zealand Cruise Association and other stakeholders since 2018 to bring cruise ships to the city.

Several cruise ships had been booked to call at Northport in the summer of 2021/2022 for what might be termed ‘exploratory’ visits to the Whangārei region but the onset of the global COVID pandemic saw these visits cancelled.

Whangārei mayor Vince Cocurullo said there was a strong focus on how Whangārei could make the most of the economic opportunities presented by cruise ship visits in a safe and sustainable way.

“Welcoming cruise ships to the district provides an opportunity for Whangārei to share its history and culture with international and domestic visitors through visitor experiences, great products and services, and local food and beverage,” Mayor Cocurullo said.

He said the economic benefits would be limited at first but would grow as the number of ships increased.

“Cruise contributes to keeping visitor attractions in operation, with economic benefits having positive flow-on effects to the wider community.”

Northport chief executive Jon Moore says being able to start small, and build to manageable levels in years to come, was a great option for Whangārei.

“There are several different organisations working together to make this happen for the benefit of our district. If, collectively, we get things right for 2024 it will help Whangārei carve out a place for itself on some cruise itineraries.”

“From Northport’s perspective, this first season is about finding our feet and getting great systems and processes in place.”

The organisations promoting Whangārei as a cruise destination say that it complements Northland’s other cruise destination, the Bay of Islands, rather than competing with it.

“It gives cruise lines even more Northland product options to consider when they are building their itineraries – there are products and destinations available here that can’t be replicated elsewhere,” Mr Moore said.

Cruise lines currently offering Whangārei on their itineraries include Azamara Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSS Cruises), Silversea and Viking Cruises.

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