Skip to content

Entry denied: Cruise ship that hoped to restart New Zealand cruises is now stuck at sea

Jan. 29, 2021
5 min read
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.

An upscale cruise vessel that sailed from Singapore to New Zealand this week to finally restart cruise operations is now stuck at sea due to a visa controversy.

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.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

Le Laperouse is one of a series of Ponant vessels that carry 184 passengers. (Photo courtesy of Ponant).

Crew members who were deemed nonessential to the ship's mechanical operation such as hairdressers, bartenders and masseuses were not granted visas.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

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."

Related: The launch of Ritz-Carlton's new cruise line is delayed yet again

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.

While most lines around the world have canceled all sailings into May, many are hoping to resume at least a few voyages in the late spring or summer.

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:

Featured image by ©PONANT/Olivier Anrigo
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023