A man whose company has invested more than $ 1 million in booking two flights on Le Laperouse for clients hosting 200 has criticized the government’s decision not to allow the ship to enter.
The luxury expedition cruise ship was “hovering” out of New Zealand waters and was held up at the border because most of the crew had been refused visas.
According to tour operators, Le Laperouse’s crew has obtained prior approval from the Ministry of Health to enter New Zealand.
Le Laperouse is a 264-passenger ship operated by the cruise company Ponant.
Immigration Minister Chris Favoy said that if the ship arrived in New Zealand, 61 people would be quarantined on the ship until they were repatriated or “detained”.
“We put five months of hard work on this and everything was ready, and dealing with the government circus was a joke,” said the man, who asked not to be named.
The visas of more than 60 crew members were refused as they were not considered essential for the purpose of the ship’s travel here.
The staff included hairdressers, waiters and masseuses.
The man said: “There is a lack of understanding that the staff working on the ship have multiple roles, and they may have to arrange a family, but the same person may be a singer and waiter.”
“To say locals can do the job, well that’s fox bulls ***.”
Helen Wilkins, from Queenstown, is also upset by the news.
I booked a two-week cruise departing from Auckland on February 8th for the islands of Subarctica, and disembarking in Lyleton on February 22nd.
“Obviously, I am extremely concerned to hear today’s news that the ship is not permitted to enter New Zealand waters … it is all very worrying,” Wilkins said.
Wild Earth Travel Director Aaron Ross chartered the ship from operator Ponant. Seven expeditions have been planned around New Zealand, the first of which was scheduled to begin in Auckland on February 8.
Plans to travel for up to 700 kiwis are now a mess.
The ship has 92 passenger cabins.
The New Zealand Cruise Association said it was “extremely shocked and astonished” to see that the New Zealand Immigration Service had prevented the ship from arriving at the last minute, despite getting the green light from the Ministry of Health.
The ministry granted an exemption last December to allow the ship to operate domestically in New Zealand, with a maximum of 100 passengers on board.
“The New Zealand agency believes that all crew members are essential to its operation and cannot be replaced by New Zealanders in such a short time,” said New Zealand CEO Kevin O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan said the ship followed procedures and did everything the government required in order to provide safe domestic sailing in New Zealand.
“To comply with Covid-19 requirements for crew isolation, the vessel has been slow to evaporate from its last port, regularly testing everyone on board,” he said.
Le Laperouse was scheduled to arrive in Auckland tomorrow to refuel, maintain and test New Zealand Covid-19. It will begin its maiden flight on February 8.
“This is a big and devastating blow to the New Zealand tourism industry and to all those companies that were relying on this cruise ship to bring them a small ray of hope for the return of regional cruise tourism,” O’Sullivan said.
“Of course, the 700 Kiwi guests who planned to enjoy a trip would also be very upset.”
The association said the decision tarnished New Zealand’s image as a friendly cruise destination, putting back years of hard work.
It’s simply not good enough, O’Sullivan said.
Tour operators say the ship is currently located less than 300 miles from Auckland, after sailing from Asia.
“All crew members were isolated for 27 days, underwent four negative PCR tests and were fully trained in the company’s Covid-safe protocols, safety and emergency operations.”