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After an 11-year hiatus, passenger cruises are returning to Christchurch. This represents an exciting development as New Zealand‘s largest southern city gets set to welcome back cruise visitors – with 170,00- expected to dock between October 2022 and April 2023.

This is a significant milestone, and the new purpose-built Lyttelton cruise terminal means more to the region than just a rebuild. Following the devastating Canterbury and Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, Akaroa Pier had taken the load. But with Christchurch’s new infrastructure in place, the city can manage visitation in a way that provides a better outcome for residents, businesses and the environment.

And importantly for Christchurch local tourism and hospitality industries that have faced challenging times, there will be a spending boost with a steady schedule of 85 cruise ship visits to Lyttelton and another 17 to Akaroa.

The Celebrity Eclipse was the first large cruise ship to berth at Lyttelton Port since 2011 (Photo:

Lyttelton will welcome the largest cruise of the season, Ovation of the Seas, which will dock six times carrying over 4,000 passengers and 1300 crew each time. And their spend is significant, which means city resources will be heavily in demand. There are flow-on impacts of this spend to all sectors from supply of raw goods to transport, hospitality, retail and more. Additionally, as a city of small business owners, this money then gets spent locally, which is good for all of the inhabitants.

With the return of international cruises, Christchurch had to get ready for this influx of international visitors. ChristchurchNZ, the city’s Regional Tourism Organisation, recruited 59 volunteers to serve as City Champions. They are cruise ambassadors who serve as greeters, navigators and fonts of information for the thousands of cruise passengers who arrive in the central city from the cruise berth at Lyttelton Port. More volunteers from the Lyttelton Harbour Information Centre serve as guides at the port and in Lyttelton.

Historically, about a third of cruise passengers pre-book tourism experiences, which range from attractions such as Waka On Avon and the International Antarctic Centre, to tours of the Waipara wine region or a wildlife spotting excursion on Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour, or Akaroa Harbour. Another third tend to stay on the cruise ship enjoying on board experiences, and the remaining third choose to wander around, enjoying the local hospitality and retail offerings. Early indications are that as Christchurch experiences a true renaissance, passengers are keen to get off, explore and (re)discover a truly revitalised city.