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Cooks welcomes second cruise ship this year

Thursday 1 September 2022 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in National, Travel


Cooks welcomes second cruise ship this year
The single port of entry requirement for maritime vessels entering the Cook Islands has now been amended to include the ports of Aitutaki, Atiu, Tongareva and Pukapuka in addition to Rarotonga. Pictured is a cruise ship that visited Rarotonga late last month. 22083105

The Cook Islands has welcomed the second cruise ship of the year when the Paul Gauguin arrived in Aitutaki on Tuesday from Huahine, French Polynesia.

The ship, with around 200 passengers, then sailed overnight to Rarotonga, arriving yesterday morning.

The Paul Gauguin cruise ship was also the first to visit the Cook Islands since the borders reopened – visiting Rarotonga on June 28.

Cruise Cook Islands managing director Stuart Henry said the ship was at 80 percent of its capacity and continued building back numbers to pre-pandemic levels on each trip. 

“Slowly it's getting back to a bit more of a normal tourist operation,” Henry said.

“It's only a small part of the tourist business here but it's a bonus part, more tourism avenues for us helps.

“Putting us back on the maps with the ships is good.”

Cruise Cook Islands managing director Stuart Henry (centre) with cruise ship workers on either side of him after the first ship arrived in June. Photo: Caleb Fotheringham/22062828

Prior to Cook Islands borders shutting, the Paul Gauguin would visit Rarotonga an average of six times a year and eight in Aitutaki. 

“It's only a small ship but she's a regular ship,” Henry said.

Visitors of the cruise flew into Tahiti and left the main port to Huahine before sailing to Aitutaki. Henry said the majority of travellers on board were American and French.

He said the marine border entry regulations have been amended which allows Aitutaki to become a first port of call, which means the ship does not have to first sail to Rarotonga. 

He said in Aitutaki visitors went on lagoon cruises and island tours. On Rarotonga he said around 100 people were doing various activities while the other half were “cruising through” the market and town.

The ship is also visiting Aitutaki again later this month on the way to Fiji from Tahiti, and in October on the return. Another smaller vessel, the Silver Explorer, will visit Rarotonga then Aitutaki in October. In December the Paul Gauguin will visit both Aitutaki and Rarotonga again.

In June Cook Islands Tourism Corporation’s destination and marketing manager Christian Mani said based on previous research, passenger daily spend on Rarotonga was around $91 and Aitutaki was around $76.

“The breakdown of the costs included are land/water excursion, food and beverages, crafts, retail, transport,” Mani said.

Caleb Fotheringham