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Le Laperouse: February 8 2021 Sub-Antarctic Islands from AKL, 14 days


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Ponant's "Le Bellot" has scheduled cruises in New Zealand waters from December 2020 until March 2021, but she will remain in Marseilles to cruise in northern waters once ports in the Mediterranean are re-opened.   "Le LaPerouse" has been anchored off Noumea, New Caledonia, for many months, and is currently in Singapore getting its electric engine system upgraded.  She will soon take on crew and head for Auckland, New Zealand, so that she can Quarantine for three weeks during December 2020 before commencing a re-organized schedule which will include a couple of trips lasting 14 days down to the Sub-Antarctic Islands.

Lorna and Donald Simpson (Masterton, New Zealand) have booked on the second expedition "down south" into the Roaring 40s, the Filthy 50s and the Abominable 60s to view the numerous islands with their bird life, seals, penguins, albatrosses, et cetera.   Most will be "visited" by Zodiac without landing to view seals frolicking in the kelp and seeing summer flowers on the grassland and in native forests.    The first expedition concludes in Dunedin, but ours disembarks on Monday 22nd February 2021 in Lyttleton, not far from Christchurch, so we will fly from there to Wellington/WGN and head home by afternoon train.

These cruises are for New Zealand citizens and residents only, as nobody from North America will be permitted to fly to Aotearoa/ New Zealand until 2023 or perhaps 2024, due to CoVid-19 restrictions.    Some Australians might be permitted, as flights from Melbourne (Victoria) are due to re-commence on Monday 9th November 2020 (but many parts of Australia are not yet CoVid-free).

Anybody else due to be on this expedition cruise can contact us on DANDLSIMPSON/ dandlsimpson at xtra dot co dot nz

We are experienced cruisers and worldwide travellers, having lived and taught in several countries, despite being native-born Kiwis.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am "booked" on the Bellot for January 30, 2021 to February 22nd or so, for two cruises. Ponant has said nothing as far as change, and cancellation for anyone in the US. My airline already cancelled, and obviously I will not be travelling to New Zealand... So, thank you for the information. The website for the US still has my cruises listed, it was never changed.

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On 11/14/2020 at 5:16 PM, seven1113 said:

I am "booked" on the Bellot for January 30, 2021 to February 22nd or so, for two cruises. Ponant has said nothing as far as change, and cancellation for anyone in the US. My airline already cancelled, and obviously I will not be travelling to New Zealand... So, thank you for the information. The website for the US still has my cruises listed, it was never changed.

 

The French website hasn't changed either.  Still shows Le Laperouse doing cruises well away from NZ, and all the Le Bellot NZ cruises are still listed.  [BTW, on November 19 Ponant cancelled 'all Northern Hemisphere cruises' through the end of 2020 – but no announcement of anything 'down under'...]

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  • 1 month later...

Hello, fellow expedition cruisers :     In early-2021 the latest information is that "Le LaPerouse" will dock in Auckland early on Monday 8th February (and presumably re-provision throughout the day), take passengers on board (following stringent medical checks) to depart on a modified schedule which now includes a couple of stops in the Chatham Islands, but she will not be permitted to visit Macquarie Island and the Australian Research Base (avoiding the need for a lengthy and costly Military Quarantine Isolation period on return to a port in New Zealand = Lyttleton, near Christchurch).

The schedule is potentially "open" with changes being made to accommodate the weather patterns.  We are hopeful that we might be permitted to stop at Ulva Island, a pest-free idyllic island near Stewart Island, on our way back north toward disembarkation in Lyttleton.

Lorna and I paid the remainder of our finances before Christmas, and we now await more information regarding kits for Coronavirus testing which needs to be done well before boarding.

Currently, the expedition ship is still anchored off Manila, so she will eventually re-provision and take on additional crew before heading for Auckland, New Zealand.

We are disappointed that Ponant has not yet upgraded their websites, as much of the information is more than a year out-of-date.   Yes, it has been a very difficult year for all potential cruisers.   Hopefully 2021 will see some improvements.

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  • 3 weeks later...

A new article on Cruise Critic states that Ponant has been granted conditional approval to send its small-scale luxury expedition vessel, Le Laperouse, to New Zealand to restart operations exclusively for New Zealanders beginning February 2021.  No details, but it could apply to this cruise.

Small Ship Cruise Lines Slowly Resume Operations in Australia, New Zealand

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It now appears unlikely this cruise will sail, as NZ has refused entry.

 

Covid 19 coronavirus: Cruise ship Le Lapérouse refused entry to NZ waters - NZ Herald

 

NZ say they approved entry for the ship - but said it was conditional on visas for the crew. Subsequently they did not issue visas for all 61 'non-essential' crew, and now say that means the ship cannot enter. 

 

This seems contradictory for NZ as giving permission for the ship is straightforward that that is for it to operate, not for other reasons. Thus, crew are all necessary as well, so it is odd they subsequently tried to classify some as non-essential, and then say all operations could not occur because some staff don't have visas. Obviously a secondary option would be for local hospitality crew but NZ do not say that is an option and only that the ship cannot enter, or it enters and 61 crew leave, and that customers should discuss with who they booked with, implying it will not sail. 

 

And the only justification is "safety" when nothing has been stated as unsafe. Poor form NZ immigration.

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Did you watch the Minister's press conference?  I don't think you are being entirely fair.  The ship was chartered by an independent company.  The company gained permission for crew to sail the ship to NZ and undertake maintenance.  They only applied for visas for the rest of the crew on the 21st of January and were subsequently denied but just kept coming.  Surely it is the responsibility of the company chartering the ship to organise the visas for all on board well before they are planning to bring those people in.  In what way is that administrative SNAFU the fault of the NZ government who have been very clear that our borders are closed.  The Heritage Expedition ship seemed to manage the process just fine.

 

 

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Yes, I watched the conference. I don't think you are being fair. It has been well publicised that the ship was to operate sailings, including with press releases so it was known it was not for maintenance. And this was not the reason given either i.e. he did not say they did not have permission to operate in NZ - only about the visas.

 

He actually said they applied for their initial visas on the 8th of January - this is a whole month before they were scheduled to operate, and 3 weeks ago now. The 21st was their 2nd application, after the first refusal. Of course if you were operating a business with the advice you were allowed to enter, you would retry to see if there is some mistake and not just give up. Why would they not keep coming? Yes, it is the responsibility but visas were not meant to be denied as a blanket ban as "non-essential" when you have been advised you can enter to operate sailings, so obviously are essential.

 

As for Heritage Expedition sailing from Russia to operate there, you just said "the NZ government who have been very clear that our borders are closed" as justification then said that Heritage Expedition entered - in breach of that. So yes, it's well worth asking what the difference is, but clearly it is not because of "borders being closed." So visas are not a reason.

 

How often does a politician/government admit a mistake? (The same is true for companies of course,) but the balance weighs against the government here, given he admitted they provided approval for the ship to enter, and it was declared all along it was to operate cruises, so this expectation was set by the government giving permission. Just like Heritage Expedition. Visas for individuals are also understood to be required as a given - but the expectation is declining would be only for individual issues e.g. certain citizenship, history, health issues - not as a blanket justification as "non-essential" when it has been known for months that the ship was intended to operate in NZ.

 

It's unlikely we'll actually find out the truth to this story, as the cruise line would burn bridges with the government if they say anything negative while they try to resolve this. But applying for visas a month early, and getting the majority of them blanket banned means that wasn't the issue and it wasn't the company's fault in that respect.

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So they applied for visas on the 8th of January but started selling cruises before that?  That doesn't seem very sensible to me.  

My point re Heritage was not that they were banned but that they managed to go through the application process and were approved.  Could that be because they got all their ducks in a line and all the paperwork completed before they started sailing to NZ.  Who starts sailing and then applies for the visas?  Particularly at a time like this.  That's not smart.

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It was obvious from the outset the ship would not get in to operate as a cruise ship, my understanding was they were given permission to enter NZ for maintenance and refit, spending over $50,000,  This is how the super yachts are getting in to watch the Americas cup, by bringing money and work into NZ for the benefit of NZ businesses, they do their 14 days quarantine off shore.  

 

The Ponant ship  got Visas for the 29 crew who were essential to maintain and sail the ship.  The 61 were hotel and kitchen staff, hairdressers and masseuse. These are not essential to the operating of the ship.  Yes it was promoted by some travel agencies, but it was impossible to find any confirmation in the press any where that this ship had approval.  I know all this as I was approached many months ago to buy tickets, indeed you will find me earlier in this thread!!

 

I will stand corrected, but believe there was a lot of trickery going on to get NZ'ers to part with their cash up front. 

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This is very odd - the Feb/March ? cruises have been charted by a NZ company https://www.wildearth-travel.com/cruise/new-zealand/ The only cruise line currently operating in NZ is Heritage Expeditions who successffully brought in a Russian crewed ship and its been running since Nov (I cruised with them in early Jan) https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/431087/nz-only-cruise-ship-arrives-with-exempted-russian-crew 

 

The weird thing is that Wild  Earth travel and heritage are run by the same family - Aaron Russ is the spokespereson and run out of the same offices in Christchurch see: 

https://www.heritage-expeditions.com/about/

https://www.wildearth-travel.com/about/ 

 

So you would think that they would know all about the crew visas because they have 22 Russian crew members on Spirit of Enterby (there were Russian cleaners, waitresses as well as technical crew and officers on that) 

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12 hours ago, onlyslightlymad said:

So they applied for visas on the 8th of January but started selling cruises before that?  That doesn't seem very sensible to me.  

My point re Heritage was not that they were banned but that they managed to go through the application process and were approved.  Could that be because they got all their ducks in a line and all the paperwork completed before they started sailing to NZ.  Who starts sailing and then applies for the visas?  Particularly at a time like this.  That's not smart.

 

Actually, at any time that's usually the way it's done.

 

Visas aren't applied for till a month or so out, as staff are not committed earlier. Nobody plans out where staff are 6 months out for general staff. Conversely nobody is going to start sales only a month out; that's way too late as most people make bookings further out than that.

 

You might want to check the next time sales open for a new flight route. You'll normally see that sales have opened before they even have regulatory approval! Because formalities and details take quite long to organise, whereas the general approach and plan is determined early. As the minister stated, he'd given the ship approval to enter for operations so everyone then starts their work sorting out all the other activities.

 

I'd love to hear the operator's side of the story here, but that's almost certainly not going to happen. It would be very different from the government's announcement.

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The russian ship only brought 22 crew and had to spend $50,000 minimum on refit and hire NZ staff for hospitality, the difference I expect is PONANT insisted on staffing it with low pay hospitality staff, to say what is normal re visas is ok in normal times, but there is a pandemic on you know!!  We are regular cruisers and in no way would we want to risk more money (having lost so much) on cruises that are unlikely to sail!  Stay safe everyone

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1 hour ago, wendy_woo said:

The russian ship only brought 22 crew and had to spend $50,000 minimum on refit and hire NZ staff for hospitality, the difference I expect is PONANT insisted on staffing it with low pay hospitality staff, to say what is normal re visas is ok in normal times, but there is a pandemic on you know!!  We are regular cruisers and in no way would we want to risk more money (having lost so much) on cruises that are unlikely to sail!  Stay safe everyone

You are right Wendy.  They applied for visas to transport, maintain and refit a ship.  Not the regular cruise ship visas.  I guess they got what they asked for.

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO2101/S00117/inz-statement-on-cruise-ship-le-laperouse.htm

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6 hours ago, wendy_woo said:

The russian ship only brought 22 crew and had to spend $50,000 minimum on refit and hire NZ staff for hospitality, the difference I expect is PONANT insisted on staffing it with low pay hospitality staff, to say what is normal re visas is ok in normal times, but there is a pandemic on you know!!  We are regular cruisers and in no way would we want to risk more money (having lost so much) on cruises that are unlikely to sail!  Stay safe everyone

I  have just did the Heritage cruise so I  can state  definitely that all waitresses/cleaners were Russian. The head chef was NZ - but there was a chef for the Russians too who was Russian. The expedition staff (all NZ) also did the bar - but I don't think that was unusual. The zodiac drivers were mainly expedition crew but sometimes a couple of Russians too.  One time I was in a zodiac with the captain at the helm - that was really special and he was having a ball.  There were no hairdressers or masseuses on board!

 

Heritage hired no unskilled staff.. Doubt they ever do - there are no unskilled jobs on a ship that size - not sure if the larger Ponant ship would be different.  The NZ staff was the expedition leader, the subject specialists  were lecturer who were also zodiac drivers (geologist, birder, conservationist ) and medical dr. From their literature this appears to be the normal split of responsibility. The cruise director and head of house keeping were also kiwis

 

Some of the heritage expedition staff  appeared to also have contracts on Ponant - so if the ship doesn't come in they will lose jobs.

Edited by lissie
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2 minutes ago, lissie said:

Heritage hired no unskilled staff.. Doubt they ever do - there are no unskilled jobs on a ship that size - not sure if the larger Ponant ship would be different.

 

Who cleaned the cabins and washed the pots?

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3 minutes ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

 

Who cleaned the cabins and washed the pots?

The Russian crew - they were also responsible for getting us into life boats during the muster drill. That wasn't part of the job description when I cleaned hotel rooms!

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Meanwhile, on February 1st when Le LaPerouse should have been arriving in Auckland harbour, the Minister of Immigration, Kris Faafoi, has required that the 61 "unnecessary staff" be sent to Noumea in New Caledonia.     Instead, the ship is cruising past Noumea --- but because of a cyclonic storm it is hovering off-shore, probably waiting until the eye of the storm nears Noumea on 3rd February and subsides.     My guess is that Ponant is planning to return the hired staff to Indonesia, allow them home leave, and in about a month re-hire these workers and then "Le LaPerouse" is likely to head off to Western Australia for pre-paid cruises between Darwin and Broome and return, for the scheduled season.

Agreed:   New Zealand workers would not work as hired staff under the same working conditions as the Indonesian staff (and certainly not for the same meager allowances/ pay) !      New Zealand's Minister of Immigration, Kris Faafoi, has no real understanding of how cruise ships operate when it comes to hiring of staff from such places as Indonesia.    This might be a human rights situation, but few people have stirred up that reality.

Meanwhile, we keep planning potential future cruises, including a replacement expedition cruise with Ponant Australia, perhaps in 2022 or 2023.         Cheers,   Lorna & Donald Simpson

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  • Host Jazzbeau changed the title to Le Laperouse: February 8 2021 Sub-Antarctic Islands from AKL, 14 days

OK, I know that CC guidelines don't allow comment on spelling errors, but my OCPD got to me and I had to fix the spelling in the title of this thread.  The ship's name is Le Laperouse [small p]. 

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