Cyclone Hale, which has already affected at least one cruise ship’s itinerary, continues to have impacts in the South Pacific at the height of the summer sailing season.
Now, Azamara Quest is diverting away from the storm, significantly changing its route and itinerary to ensure all guests and crew members remain safe in the severe weather.
Azamara Quest Changes Itinerary
Currently sailing a 17-night, one-way voyage between Melbourne, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand, Azamara Quest has altered its itinerary due to Cyclone Hale, adding an unscheduled stop to Timaru in lieu of more northern ports that are currently threatened by the storm, making those previously scheduled docks and port communities unsafe.
Timaru is located 95 miles (153 kilometers) southwest of Christchurch on South Island, well out of the storm’s most dramatic impact.
According to the Timaru Herald, Azamara Quest will spend Thursday, January 11, docked in Timaru, moving on to Lyttelton on Friday and ports further north as permitted after the storm leaves the area and potential damage is assessed.
Timaru is not a very common port of call for cruise ships in New Zealand, and prior to the pandemic, the city might see just 3-4 ships each summer. Now, because of increased cruise interest as the region has loosened travel restrictions as well as weather diverting ships, Timaru will see at least three vessels just in January.
Azamara Quest‘s schedule change was planned several days in advance, in order to give port authorities adequate time to plan for the ship’s arrival and arrange staffing and shore tours to welcome guests.
“We got notice of the visit on Saturday [January 7], so have been working with PrimePort to organise things for the passengers,” said Di Hay, Venture Timaru operations and destination manager.
“There will be some tours running for passengers. Some of which are booked as ship excursions, and also a couple of independent tours. As its short notice for this visit, some tours are not available this week due to staffing shortages and holidays.”
These types of diversions are not unheard of, and port officials have contingency plans in place to work with ships arriving unexpectedly due to poor weather, mechanical issues, or other reasons.
In addition to Azamara Quest, Seabourn Cruises’ Seabourn Odyssey and Holland America Line‘s Noordam will visit Timaru on Monday, January 16 and Sunday, January 22 respectively.
The 30,277-gross-ton Azamara Quest can welcome as many as 686 passengers, with 400 crew members providing service onboard. Combined with Seabourn Odyssey and Noordam, Timaru may entertain as many as 3,000 cruise ship passengers in the next two weeks, plus crew members taking time onshore while their ships are docked.
Other Ships Likely to Be Impacted
Cyclone Hale has already had a significant impact on Noordam‘s current itinerary, and other cruise ships in the region may also be affected by the storm with cancelled, delayed, or changed ports of call.
Princess Cruises‘ Majestic Princess and Coral Princess, Silversea Cruises’ Silver Whisper, and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Eclipse are all in the region, while additional ships have popular New Zealand ports of call on upcoming itineraries.
Any cruise travelers with sailings planned near Australia and New Zealand should stay in close contact with their cruise line and travel agent as their departure date approaches to stay informed of potential delays or itinerary changes.
South Pacific Cyclone Season
The South Pacific cyclone season runs annually from November 1 through April 30, though like with the Atlantic hurricane season, storms can occasionally form outside that window if conditions are right.
Local government and meteorological agencies continually monitor storm development and issue watches and warnings as necessary not only for port communities, but for all vessels in the region. Cruise lines, in the meantime, take those reports and local port conditions into account to safeguard ships and will adjust itineraries as needed.
Every storm should be taken seriously with all appropriate precautions, and travelers should be flexible with their travel expectations during any storm season.