Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 13 November 2009 Contents LOCAL NEWS
13 November, 2009 | Page 11
The annual reappearance of
cruise ships in Fiordland waters
marks the start of a busy but
interesting season for Te Anau’s
John von Tunzelman.
For the past six years Mr von
Tunzelman has been providing
commentary aboard many of the
cruise ships to visit Fiordland. He’s
already filled the role three times
this season and will have done so
18 times by the time the last ship
leaves in April.
His accommodation varies
depending on what is available
and he has enjoyed everything
from bunk-style crew quarters
to “quite salubrious” passenger
cabins complete with balcony.
During his stints on board, Mr von
Tunzelman has marvelled at the
infrastructure on the ships, their
ornate fittings – and the fact they
are always full.
It was a popular misconception
that those on board the floating
hotels were somewhat indifferent
to their surroundings. Mr von
Tunzelman said nothing could be
further from the truth.
Most ships usually travel from
Port Chalmers, through Fiordland
and on to Australia or vice versa.
Depending on the direction of
travel, Mr von Tunzelman will join
the ship in Dunedin or Fiordland,
providing commentary from the
bridge about the history of the
area and the wildlife. He also
presents an illustrated talk in
the theatre at which it was not
uncommon to have 800 people
turn up to hear. Interest was
such that question time would
frequently go on for at least half
an hour and once passengers
had put a face to the voice Mr von
Tunzelman was often stopped in
corridors, lifts or the dinner table
by people hungry to learn more.
People were amazed to see
such a large tract of land devoid
of human habitation and were
extremely interested to learn
about what was being done to
counter the devastation wreaked
on native birdlife by introduced
pests, he said.
However, he did still get his fair
share of absurd questions, such
as: How high above sea level is
Milford Sound? or How many
overnight cruises do those boats
do each day? Being able to
diplomatically phrase the answers
so as not to ridicule or cause
offence was an art.
That aside, the vast majority of
cruise passengers would never
have visited New Zealand were it
not for the voyage yet, as a result,
many often talked about a desire
to return and hire a car and see
the area a lot closer, he said.
In onboard surveys passengers
consistently rated Fiordland the
highlight of their trip.
“It’s a wonderful way of promoting
Fiordland,” he said. “It whets their
appetite for further visits to New
The cruise ship season has
started and, despite recession
worries, promises to exceed
Environment Southland maritime
manager Kevin O’Sullivan said
52 visits would be made to
Fiordland by cruise ships ranging
in passenger numbers from
76 to 2670.
This is down on last year’s 67
visits but the tally was much
higher than what was expected at
the beginning of the year.
“One of the reasons is one of the
largest ships that we expected, the
Millennium that made 12 visits
last year, is not coming,” he said.
“My understanding is if the ship is
not back next year it definitely will
be the year after.”
Only a few years ago the Fiordland
area only attracted 30 visits from
cruise ships and despite the
downturn it was anticipated the
numbers would climb again.
Many of the ships make several
visits to the area during the
season with the 2760 passenger
capacity Diamond Princess
expected six times during the
The popularity of Fiordland as a
cruise destination could not be
put down to extensive marketing
Despite Mr O’Sullivan travelling to
Miami to educate companies
on the responsibilities of visiting
the area, the increased desire
for cruise companies to make
Fiordland a calling point on
its trips were simply customer
demand, he said.
“Cruise ships do a lot of work
on passengers and get them to
“The highlight invariably comes
back as Fiordland.”
Although only passengers on
smaller cruises would normally
come ashore, sometimes
passengers opted to transfer off
the boat to visit other areas such
as Queenstown – then rejoin the
Each cruise company is charged
35 cents per gross tonne for each
ship that visits.
“We put that money
back into the marine
Great lengths were taken to
ensure the environmental impact
on the Fiordland area was also
kept to a minimum. Ships were
monitored and companies had to
provide all relevant paper work
to prove ships met the required
standards, he said.
“We’re lucky here though as what
we generally get are the newer
built cruise ships.”
Strategies also had to be put in
place to deal with emergencies.
A meeting with all emergency
support crews was being held this
month and for safety reasons only
two cruise ships were allowed in
the area at any one time during
The first ship visited Fiordland on
October 21 with the last vessel to
visit coming on April 6.
Cruise season under way
The Sapphire Princess pictured in Milford Sound last year. Mr von Tunzelman
can just be made out at the left of the bridge (wearing a blue top) from where
he presents a running commentary for passengers.
By Karen Pasco
John von Tunzelman
The huge Sapphire Princess cruise ship is dwarfed by the magnificent terrain of
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