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As Ports Increasingly Ban 'Mega' Cruise Ships, So What Is the Future of the Largest Vessels?

2nd November 2021
A cruiseship in Tahitian waters, however in 2022 cruise visitors won’t be calling on board some of the industry’s largest mega cruise ships. A cruiseship in Tahitian waters, however in 2022 cruise visitors won’t be calling on board some of the industry’s largest mega cruise ships. Credit: Tahiti Tourisme -twitter

Cruise passengers to Tahiti account for more than a third of visitors, but next year, they won’t be arriving on board some of the industry’s largest mega cruise ships, reports Condé Nast Traveler.

In late September, French Polynesia's government announced that cruise ships with a capacity greater than 3,500 passengers will be banned from making port calls in the country as of January 1, 2022.

Ships with capacity of more than 2,500 passengers will be limited to calls at Tahiti and two other ports with sufficient infrastructure to accommodate them. Bora Bora, the country’s top tourist draw, will further limit daily cruise passengers to 1,200—effectively barring most large cruise ships from docking.

The country’s leaders are concerned that larger ships would not only tax local infrastructure, but also impact the experience for non-cruise visitors. Local officials on Bora Bora had requested the limits as early as 2019 to “preserve the beauty of its lagoon as well as the quality of service which has made it famous,” according to a government release.

Today, most cruise passengers in Tahiti sail onboard small ships nowhere near the caps imposed by the new ban. The luxury cruise liner Paul Gauguin and the combination cargo/cruise ship Aranui 5—both based in Tahiti with local crews—embark fewer than 350 passengers each.

While port calls by the largest ships are infrequent, the measure is intended to be proactive, recognizing the steady growth of cruise traffic in the region. The government’s statement regarding larger cruise ships does not mince words: “Both in terms of capacity and size, [very large ships] are not suited for our destination.”

The news is likely to upend some travel plans. Ships from major cruise lines call at ports in French Polynesia on repositioning voyages in the Pacific. Royal Princess and sister ship Majestic Princess, with capacity for 3,600 passengers, currently plan to call at Tahiti while repositioning to Australia in September 2022. Royal Princess has also scheduled a port call at Bora Bora. 

Repositioning cruises also dock at Tahiti for technical reasons—it’s one of a few large ports across the vast expanse of the Pacific. Without a port call, the voyage from Hawaii to New Zealand takes well over a week. The president of French Polynesia, Édouard Fritch, acknowledges this, saying in a statement that exceptional circumstances will be considered for transpacific voyages. A spokesperson for Princess Cruises confirmed they “are in dialogue with port officials” and that they “hope not to cancel any planned calls.”

Further reading here on are the bans on mega ships a growing trend?

Published in Cruise Liners
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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