Caledonian Sky cruise ship's arrival could open way for more to return to Kaikoura
Kaikoura tourism has been given a much needed boost with the arrival of the first cruise ship since the November earthquake.
Mayor Winston Gray met a group of tourists on Tuesday as they used dinghies to disembark the Caledonian Sky and visit the damaged town.
"It was so good to see that boat there . . . We're not up and running fully, of course, but we can do business so it's good news," he said.
About 90 passengers, mostly British tourists, got to see the town, go hiking and bird watching or head out on Encounter Kaikoura's dolphin cruises.
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Co-owner Lynette Buurman said the visit had gone "really well", especially considering all the extra planning needed with the marina out of action.
"They've been so excited to be here and been quite taken aback by the beauty of this place . . . It's been so good to have their support.
"Gradually there's been a recommencement to business. These are normally our busiest days of the whole year and it's certainly not that busy, but it's just great to have the customers here that we have got."
Destination Kaikoura general manager Glenn Ormsby said all the other cruise ships that planned to visit this season, usually booked well in advance, could still be on the agenda.
That included a first-timer expected on March 13, the Azamara Journey, which carried up to 694 passengers and more than 400 crew, for an estimated one-day spend of almost $70,000.
"At this stage they're still all coming," Ormsby said.
"Hopefully by the time Azamara gets here there may be enough work done [dredging the raised seabed] that they'll be able to bring their tender straight into dock and go out on the likes of Whale Watch or Encounter Kaikoura."
Gray said business had been challenging for many, "particularly for the food industry" to plan for each day, but people were also returning to the town on the recently reopened roads.
"Today has been a marked turn around . . . I was talking to Winton Dalley, the mayor of Hurunui, and he said the road [on Tuesday] morning was really busy, so that tells me people are starting to move around and we'll get some of them."
He said work on dredging the harbour would begin again on Wednesday, and likely take up to six months to be completed.
"It's vital for safety, it was all about safety, even before the seabed came up there were a couple of rocks out there ready to be removed.
"Now the scenario's changed because we've got more rocks to get rid of, but it's full steam ahead to get rid of them."