New Zealand tragedy: Royal Caribbean issues hotline numbers

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The death toll from the White Island volcanic eruption in New Zealand rose overnight while two British women are among the injured.

As many as 13 people are presumed to have died, including eight still missing on White Island.

Thirty-eight of the tourists visiting the island when disaster struck at 2.11pm local time on Monday were reported to be passengers and crew from Royal Caribbean International ship Ovation of the Seas.

Police said a total of 47 people had been on the island – a popular tourist attraction – at the time.

There were 24 visitors from Australia, nine from the US, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two from China and one person from Malaysia.

A total of 27 people were taken to hospital with burns to a third of their bodies. Others are also suffering from inhalation burns.

Two British women were among those receiving treatment, according to Laura Clarke, the UK High Commissioner to New Zealand.

Royal Caribbean set up hotlines, including 0800-014-8339 in the UK, for those concerned about relatives travelling onboard Ovation of the Seas.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he “feared” three of the five confirmed dead were from Australia.

He said that 24 Australians were from a cruise ship exploring the island in the Bay of Plenty when the volcano erupted. Of those, 13 people had been hospitalised and 11 were unaccounted for, he added.

There were two groups on the island at the time, “those who were able to be evacuated and those who were close to the eruption,” according to New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

Some survivors were rescued by boat in the immediate aftermath, but police said it was too dangerous to mount a rescue operation.

Helicopter rescue flights later picked up several people from the privately-owned island, 30 miles off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

Ovation of the Seas had been docked at Tauranga, a coastal city near White Island.

Royal Caribbean said: “The news from White Island is devastating. The details that are emerging are heartbreaking.

“We are working to help our guests and the authorities in the aftermath of this tragedy in any way we can.

“We are communicating with our guests and their families. We’re making sure they are taken care of in terms of medical help, counselling, accommodations, and transport. Our hearts go out to them, and we want to be as supportive as we can.

“Staff from our Sydney and Auckland offices office are already on-site, and we’re going to be offering all our resources while this terrible tragedy sorts out.

“We are grateful for the work of all the first responders and medical personnel. We also thank the prime minister and her team, the local authorities and everyone who has reached out to help with their kind thoughts and prayers.”

Ovation of the Seas was on a 12-day itinerary which left Sydney last Wednesday.

White Island or Whakaari is one of New Zealand’s most active volcanoes yet attracts frequent day trips and scenic flights.

In updated travel advice, the FCO said: “The Whakaari/White Island volcano erupted on 9 December. Emergency response is underway. If you are travelling in the area, you should follow the advice of the local authorities and/or your tour operator.

“If you’ve been affected by the incident and need urgent consular assistance, you should contact the British High Commission in Wellington on +64 (0) 4 924 2888.

“If you are in the UK and you’re concerned about friends or relatives in the area, you should contact the FCO in London on 020 7008 1500.”

Around 200,000 British nationals visit New Zealand every year.

Norwegian Jewel to Return to Australia

Norwegian Jewel

Norwegian Cruise Line has opened bookings for the line’s 2018/2019 Australia and New Zealand cruises aboard Norwegian Jewel, the ship’s second season in Australia and New Zealand.

Following an expansive refurbishment, the Norwegian Jewel will spend a second season down under cruising a set of itineraries taking in the “best of Australia” including Melbourne, Cairns, Hobart; and New Zealand including Milford Sound, Wellington and Tauranga, as well as itineraries to the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, and a transpacific voyage from Vancouver to Tokyo (Yokohama).

In late October 2018, Norwegian Jewel will undergo a three-week dry dock in Singapore, as part of the Norwegian Edge multi-million-dollar revitalization program.

“Norwegian Jewel’s Australia and New Zealand sailings have received a great deal of anticipation and excitement from guests both locally and internationally,” said Andy Stuart president and chief executive officer for Norwegian Cruise Line. “The region is a bucket-list destination for many of our guests with a warm culture, lush lands, sandy beaches, action-packed adventure and more. We are thrilled to be returning to this dream destination with the iconic Norwegian Jewel looking as if she were a brand new ship.”

New Zealand chalks up ‘phenomenal’ 2015-16 cruise season

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Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

A record number of more than 254,000 passengers and almost 92,000 crew visited New Zealand between August 2015 and June 2016.

‘This represents a phenomenal growth of 26% which translates to an injection of NZ$484m into the economy,’ the outgoing chairman of Cruise New Zealand, Kevin O’Sullivan, told delegates at this year’s annual conference in Wellington.

O’Sullivan, who has been appointed CNZ’s executive officer, said the country welcomed nine new ships during the 2015-16 season and that the annual Cruise New Zealand Economic Impact Report forecasts even stronger growth for the future.

‘The 2016-17 cruise season starts again at the end of this month and we expect to welcome 11 ships new to New Zealand and another three new ships are scheduled for the following season,’ he said.

‘Although we are expecting to experience a slight dip in passenger numbers despite this new capacity in 2016-17, it will rise by 11% to a new record in the 2017-18 season.’

He said the dip in the coming season is almost entirely due to the exit of P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Pearl which had previously operated during the winter months.

‘What is exciting about the 2016-17 cruise season is that the ships will make 791 port visits, an increase of 13% on 2015-16,’ he said.

He said the cruise sector will not only inject a projected NZ$490m into New Zealand’s GDP and support 8,878 jobs in the coming season, it will also spread the tourism dollar to regions less frequented by international travellers.

It is predicted that the total number of passengers will be 282,538 in 2017-18, injecting NZ$536m into the economy.