Entry denied: Cruise ship that hoped to restart New Zealand cruises is now stuck at sea
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
The cruise industry just can’t seem to catch a break these days.
The 188-passenger Ponant ship, Le Laperouse, had been scheduled to be one of the first cruise vessels to restart operations in New Zealand. The ship had been granted conditional approval to begin cruises out of New Zealand just for New Zealanders on Feb. 8 by the country’s Ministry of Health.
For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s new cruise newsletter.
But on Friday, a second branch of the New Zealand government, its immigration service, denied the vessel entry to the country because not all of its crew had obtained visas to enter in advance.
As a result, the ship is now stuck in limbo in open waters off the coast of New Zealand.
Ponant had applied for visas for Le Laperouse’s 90 crew members in advance. But New Zealand’s immigration service, known as Immigration New Zealand, only granted visas to 29 of the crew members it deemed “essential for the operation of the ship to travel to New Zealand,” New Zealand Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi was quoted as saying in the New Zealand Herald.
Crew members who were deemed nonessential to the ship’s mechanical operation such as hairdressers, bartenders and masseuses were not granted visas.
That means they shouldn’t have come along on the voyage from Singapore to New Zealand.
Faafoi suggested the approval for the ship to cruise out of New Zealand was conditioned on the line getting visas approved for every crew member who came to New Zealand on the ship.
“I want to make it clear, our border is closed,” Faafoi said. “That was made clear to the ship’s agents at least twice.”
In a statement issued Friday, the New Zealand Cruise Association said it was “shocked and quite simply bewildered” by the immigration service’s decision to block the ship from landing in New Zealand.
“At the extremely last minute, Immigration New Zealand has now denied entry for some of the ship’s crew who they have deemed to be nonessential. [The association] believes that all the ship’s crew are essential to its operation and they cannot be replaced by New Zealanders in such a short time,” the association said.
The association added that it was “a case of one ministry giving and another taking away.”
Government departments “must begin to talk to each other, not take separate action which once again greatly harms the tourism industry,” the association said.
Le Laperouse had been chartered by a local New Zealand tour company, Wild Earth Travel, to operate expedition-style voyages out of Auckland. The fate of the trips is now in limbo.
Around 700 New Zealanders had been scheduled to sail on the ship in the coming weeks, according to the New Zealand Cruise Association.
The visa troubles for Ponant are just the latest evidence of how difficult it could be for cruise lines to resume sailings in the coming months after being shut down for nearly a year.
But a patchwork of travel restrictions in many of the countries where cruise ships operate is likely to make it difficult for voyages in some regions to restart too quickly.
In North America, for instance, cruises to Alaska that are scheduled to begin in May will require approval not just from U.S. authorities but also Canadian authorities, as most Alaska voyages must include a stop in Canada for regulatory reasons.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has yet to issue approval for any cruise line to operate in U.S. waters and is unlikely to do so for at least several months. The agency in October issued a “framework for conditional sailing” order that creates a series of hurdles cruise lines must overcome before restarting passenger operations in U.S. waters.
The hurdles include operating successful test cruises without paying passengers and applying for a conditional sailing certificate — steps that could take several months.
“This is a significant and devastating blow to the New Zealand tourism industry and to all those businesses that were relying on this one cruise ship to bring them some small glimmer of hope in the resurgence of regional cruise tourism,” said the statement from the New Zealand Cruise Association.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
- The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
- The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
- A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways cruisers waste money
- 12 best cruises for people who never want to grow up
- What to pack for your first cruise
Featured image of courtesy of Ponant.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees