Luxury cruise ship unexpectedly pulls into Bluff

The Ship L'Austral berthed at Bluff Island Harbour
John Hawkins/Fairfax NZ

The Ship L'Austral berthed at Bluff Island Harbour

Passengers who were on board a troubled a French luxury liner are Doubtful Sound bound, after their cruise ship was forced to stop in Bluff.

One of luxury cruise company Ponant's yachts, L'Austral, is in port at Bluff after suffering "an issue" at sea, while on its way to the Sub Antarctic Islands.

But the vessel's misfortune has meant a bonus day for passengers, who will now experience the beautiful Doubtful Sound, thanks to a bit of Southland hospitality.

A cruise ship has made an unexpected stop in Bluff.

A cruise ship has made an unexpected stop in Bluff.

The travellers boarded buses bound for the Fiordland destination on Friday morning.

​Venture Southland tourism team leader Warrick Low said he found out about 4pm on Wednesday the ship would arrive on Thursday afternoon, where the 200 passengers would spend the night on the ship and disembark on Friday morning.

The cruise is expected to resume its normal plan of passage to the islands on Saturday morning.

"They're coming back to sort the issue ... ​All of these high-end passengers are looking for something to do," he said.

While the passengers, who Low thought to be mostly French-speakers, would only be in Southland for one day, he and his team at Venture were doing their best to put an itinerary together on the fly to showcase the Southland region to the unexpected visitors.

"We're working with the tourism operators and some local parts of our region to create some opportunities," he said.

Tour guides, food and beverage businesses and other parties had been contacted, asking what could be put together in terms of a Southland experience, including businesses based in Gore, Lumsden, Western Southland and the Catlins.

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"It's not something where you can turn up to a cafe and say 'Hey, I would like 200 steak and cheese pies'," he said.

"The feedback we've had from the tourism sector has been really positive ... we're doing as much as we can."

Given the passengers were of the luxury cruise market, Low thought a lot of the passengers experiences would be based around "natural estates" around the region.

Recently, there had been a lot of emphasis with the cruise companies around "shore experience", Low said.

While Southland did not boast an international airport, there was a possibility the region could have an international port, tapping into the cruise ship industry, in the future, he said.

"It brings in quite a different opportunity to out community," he said.

According to Ponant's website, L'Austral is a mega-yacht with 132 cabins and two restaurants and was added to the company's fleet in 2011.

"This superb mega-yacht with 132 cabins is the result of the expertise of the Italian Fincantieri shipyard and French sophistication, as interpreted by designer Jean-Philippe Nuel," it says.

"L'Austral remains faithful to our philosophy - to create a unique atmosphere, a subtle blend of luxury, intimacy and well-being."

 - Stuff


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