Govt 'fully expects' cruise ships to return by October

In a boost to the struggling industry, the Government expects cruise ships to return to New Zealand by October.

A cruise ship in Auckland (file image).

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash made the admission in an interview in Sydney on Tuesday while meeting with representatives in the tourism sector.

"I fully expect that crews will be back and operating up and down the coast to all the magic spots that they used to call in to by October," he said.

Australia has been ahead of New Zealand in welcoming back cruise ships, with the first one docking in New South Wales three weeks ago.

Nash said the reason for the holdup is ensuring that proper Covid-19 measures have be taken at the ports around New Zealand.

He said this was more challenging than airports, due to the larger number of locations ships can dock around the country.

"The cruise sector needs to prove to health authorities that they've got everything absolutely nailed and my understanding is that it's just that little bit for health to be confident and sign off that the crews have done everything they say they have."

While he couldn't be more specific, Nash said an announcement on the plan was "imminent".

Kevin O'Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand Cruise Association, said the wait for clarity has been excruciating.

"The announcement of a date is as important as a date itself," he said.

He said the clock was ticking, and warned that operators would need three to four months notice in order to make the summer season work.

"The official announcement gives certainty to the cruise lines."

He said the industry had brought in protocols and done extensive work to make travelling on a cruise ship during the pandemic safer.