Port Otago welcomes return of cruise business

Media release - 12 May 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the borders will re-open to cruise ships again on 31 July – two years and three months after Covid-19 abruptly stopped New Zealand’s cruise business. This is exciting news for our Cruise team – Cruise Manager Carolyn Bennett (left) and Cruise Operations Lead Michelle Simpson.

Two years ago - when the ban was announced - Port Otago Chief Executive Kevin Winders immediately recognised the importance of retaining the company’s three key cruise staff: Cruise Manager Carolyn Bennett, Cruise Operations Lead Michelle Simpson and Cruise Ship Coordinator Allison Rendell. “I thought ‘we can’t let this team go. At some point, we will need to hit the ground again – and probably relatively quickly. We’ll need that experience and knowledge on hand’. I didn’t expect that day would be more than two years away, but the length of time that’s passed doesn’t alter the rationale. I’m just very pleased that we did manage to hold onto our talented team.”

What have they been doing in the meantime? Carolyn was appointed to a new position of Sustainability Manager and also become a mother over the two-year period. She is back at work four days a week now and – while she enjoys the sustainability role – she loves cruise. “Cruise brings a vibrancy to the port. I really enjoy working alongside local tourism operators to ensure every cruise passenger enjoys their Dunedin experience. I can’t wait to get back into it.”

Michelle jumped into a position coordinating Port Otago’s Covid response strategy. She then moved into an administrative support role at D Shed and is currently Facilities Coordinator for the company. “I’ve valued seeing firsthand how other departments operate. I thrive on people contact, so it’s been great to move around the company. In my facilities role, I’m a Mrs Fix It for the port’s properties. It uses the same skill set at cruise operations; it’s just a different application.”

Michelle is also looking forward to the physical aspect of her old cruise job. “We clock up about 18,000 steps on two-ship days. It’s an unexpected bonus of the job that I get my exercise done and dusted during work time!”

Allison was also quickly deployed into Covid response activities, before being appointed Warehouse Administrator at Sawyers Bay depot, then cold store supervisor at Dunedin Bulk Port and finally back out to Port Chalmers as Supply Chain Scheduler and Planner. Allison will remain in her current role – because they won’t let her go! – but the deal is that she can be part of the Cruise team on super busy cruise days. “I’m so grateful to still have a job and feel very lucky to still be with the team at Port Otago. I’m loving life at D Shed.” 

[The entry of cruise ships into New Zealand is subject to all crew and passengers being vaccinated. The first visits by cruise ships to Dunedin would not be until late October 2022, reflecting the lead-in time for bookings and logistics. Prior to the ban, the annual economic contribution of cruise to Otago was $50 million.]