The New Zealand government has banned cruise ship calls to its ports and vessels from its territorial waters for more than three months in one of the toughest moves yet over the global coronavirus pandemic.
The surprise move starts at midnight tonight – affecting Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas itinerary to Milford Sound.
Two other Royal Caribbean ships, Azamara Journey and Celebrity Solstice, are believed to be in the Milford Sound vicinity. However, the restrictions are not believed to include vessels already in New Zealand waters.
The move came on an extraordinary day which saw almost every cruise line sailing Australian waters announce a pause in itineraries, varying from eight weeks to one month.
The New Zealand decision follows a difficult few weeks in which many Pacific nations have unilaterally refused to allow vessels to dock, making normal services for cruise passengers almost impossible.
It has been a major reason many lines have decided they cannot continue to cruise. They have been forced to disappoint thousands of passengers and refund tens of thousands of dollars.
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also announced that all travellers arriving in New Zealand except from Pacific nations will be forced to quarantine for 14 days, starting at midnight Sunday. It includes any New Zealand citizens or residents returning to the country.
A shocked New Zealand Cruise Association put out a statement saying the move would affect 45 voyages and 141 ship visits to ports, costing the country’s tourism industry huge sums and severely impacting industry members.
The Association said it would be lobbying to change the restrictions or at least ensure they are not extended. “We are deeply saddened for our industry,” said chair Debi Summers.
As well as the cruise industry, the restrictions will impact many sporting and other events, and bring tourism to a virtual halt.