Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Blog


a boat is docked next to a body of water

Diamond Princess – Lyttleton Harbour 11th March 2006

Picture the scenario.

You’ve been planning a cruise to New Zealand for over a year.  All your hotels, flights and shore excursions were booked months in advance.  Your meticulous planning makes everything go smoothly.  Pre-tour excursions in Melbourne were amazing and boarding was hassle-free.  The cabin is perfect and the hospitality onboard is unbelievable.

Well-wishers you’ve never met before wave as you set sail for New Zealand on a trip of a life time.

Then, 50 km into your cruise your ship breaks down and you’re adrift at sea – the captain announces that you’ll need to get towed back to Australia.  This nightmare scenario is a true story.

As the cruise ship drifted at sea, we received several phone calls from clients onboard informing us they wouldn’t make it to New Zealand, and would have to cancel their excursions with us.

One lady sobbed as she described the feeling onboard the ship.  Another client was so upset I had to distance the phone from my ear to avoid tinnitus.  Some spoke fast because of the 20 USD per minute satellite phone tariff, so I was quick to let them know they’d be fully refunded.   This is what happens when a ship decides to cancel a port of call – all hell breaks loose.

I think it would be fair to say that most local tourism operators would plan for 3-5 cancellations per season.  During the 2013-14 season seven of the expected 85 ship visits were cancelled.  More recently, all hell broke loose with eight cancellations recorded during the 2016-17 season, when a total of 79 cruise ships arrived here.  There are about 90 cruise ships scheduled to arrive in Dunedin over the 2017-18 season.

There are several reasons why a cruise ship will cancel in Dunedin, the mechanical example at the start of the blog is pretty rare, most are due to the weather.  The most common cancellation is due to high winds at the entrance of the harbour.  Occasionally, a blanket of fog will roll in and prevent ships from berthing, sometimes just delaying them.

New Zealand is surrounded by potential rough seas – the Tasman Sea and Cook Strait are among the roughest in the world (The Yacht Market, The Stormiest Seas in the World).

The much vaunted El Nino and Southern Annular Mode weather phenomenon’s and the fact that we’re smack bang in the middle of the roaring forties means absolutely anything can happen here – a change to your itinerary is a real possibility.

Itinerary changes are a massive headache when you’re in the middle of the ocean with limited communication.  The last thing you need is to waste time calling tour agents and operators to cancel or re-book your tours.  Book a tour with Back to Nature Tours and you don’t need to worry.  We’ll

  • Cancel your shore excursion in all ports immediately
  • Refund the tour (s) you unable to make
  • Re-book the shore excursions you can make that match your revised itinerary
  • Send confirmation within 24 hours of the captain’s announcement



In some cases, we know before you do that your ship will change its itinerary.  If the unexpected happens, you don’t need to contact us…. Relax you mind and we’ll contact you!

  • Posted in: