New Zealand Welcomes Cruise Ships Back as Borders Fully Reopen

Cruise ships can return to New Zealand after more than 2 years.

Aerial of the Majestic Princess sailing through a water fiord in Milford Sound, New Zealand
Photo: Courtesy of Princess Cruises

New Zealand dropped restrictions on cruise ships over the weekend, more than two years after the start of the pandemic and just months after the country started welcoming international travelers.

The decision to once again allow cruise ships, which the government outlined on Sunday, comes as part of a larger easing of border restrictions in which the country will welcome travelers from non-visa waiver countries. New Zealand first reopened to vaccinated tourists in May, including from the United States, before dropping pre-arrival testing rules for those vaccinated visitors in June.

New Zealand will continue to require that all tourists be fully vaccinated to enter.

"Today's change in border settings marks the final milestone for our reconnecting strategy," the government said in a statement. "This is great news to the tourism industry and economy as we approach spring and summer with people from the Northern hemisphere booking their winter holidays. We have heard optimistic messages from tourism operators who are ready to welcome back international visitors from all over the world."

The return of cruise ships, which comes ahead of New Zealand's popular summer tourist season of October to April, is expected to be a boost to the economy. Pre-pandemic, cruise travelers spent more than $500 million per year, the government noted.

Travelers who arrive in the country by ship will be subject to the same vaccination rules as those arriving by air, according to the government. Children 16 years old and younger are exempt.

Travelers will have to provide proof of their vaccination status to their booking agent or the operator as well as "comply with New Zealand's domestic COVID-19 requirements around mask-wearing, and testing."

The decision to ease border restrictions comes weeks after neighboring Australia dropped all pandemic-related border rules. It also follows Australia's move in April to eliminate restrictions on cruise ships into and within Australian territory.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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