When 311 metre long, 138,194 tonne Voyager of the Seas cruised into New Zealand’s Salisbury Wharf, Kiwi’s thought they had seen the crème de la crème of contemporary cruising. They were wrong! Yes, Voyager of the Seas is a sight to behold yet when fellow fleet member Ovation of the Seas cruises into Tauranga, standards are set to soar.
Worth an estimated $1.25 billion, Royal Caribbean’s latest mega-liner is capable of carrying almost 5000 passengers, not to mention the 1500 crew members who keep operations running like clockwork. Next year, the super-sized ship will cruise into New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty as part of its upcoming summer 2016-17 itinerary. When she arrives, Ovation of the Seas will make history as the largest cruise ship to sail New Zealand waters.
Kiwis go crazy for cruising
As well as breaking records, Ovation of the Seas will play a hugely important role in helping New Zealand hit the 23% projected growth estimate that cruise industry analysts have predicted for next summer. If the nation pulls it off, approximately 246,000 passengers will head to the Land of the Long White Cloud.
Tauranga for tourists
As a destination, Tauranga is brimming with activities and attractions that are guaranteed to delight New Zealanders, Australians and international tourists alike. The region was settled by Māori people late in the 13th century, then commandeered by Europeans in the early 19th century. The result is a fascinating mix of local culture and Western world influence, not to mention the breath-taking beauty of the natural landscape. Adventure tourism is sure to captivate cruisers in search of adrenalin pumping experiences, while culture, art and heritage tours will give high-brow travellers a taste of the real Tauranga.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Asia Pacific vice-president Gavin Smith is a huge fan of the destination, explaining that “Tauranga rates time and time again as one of our most popular New Zealand destinations. We look forward to sharing this beautiful destination with our guests from around the world.”
A boost for the Bay of Plenty
As well as giving passengers a chance to explore New Zealand’s beautiful Bay of Plenty, each call will also channel an estimated $780,000 into the local economy. Smith explains that the move is part of the line’s dedication to supporting the growth of New Zealand’s cruise economy, as well as its status as a world class cruise destination.
“Confirming Tauranga as a port of call for the region’s very first new-build cruise ship demonstrates our commitment to and belief in the New Zealand cruising market,” he says. Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns agrees, stating that “the introduction of bigger vessels shows the confidence that cruise companies have in New Zealand as a destination.”
Despite all the buzz, Ovation of the Seas is still under construction in Meyer Werft German shipyard. When she’s completed she’ll measure it at an impressive 348 metres long and over 50 metres high. On-board passengers will find all the trademark Quantum class features, including a skydiving simulator, glass observatory and robotic bartenders.
The countdown is on
While Ovation of the Seas will eventually cruise effortlessly into the Bay of Plenty, her visit requires plenty of planning. The Port of Tauranga is currently in the process or dredging the harbour, with work set to be completed by August 2016. It’s a big project but the payoff will be worth it, with Cairns maintaining that he is “delighted to be able to accommodate larger ships such as the Ovation of the Seas.”
Images sourced via Meyer Werft and Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: Meyer Werft, Jeff Hitchcock, Sid Mosdell