Celebrity Eclipse visits Milford Sound, Christchurch, Dunedin, marking major cruise ship return to South Island

The Celebrity Eclipse sailing through Milford Sound, Fiordland on October 25, 2022.
The Celebrity Eclipse sailing on Milford Sound, Fiordland on October 25, 2022. Photo credit: supplied/Celebrity Cruises

The seas around the South Island have been sailed this week by major cruise ships for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic brought the industry to a halt.

The Celebrity Eclipse is carrying nearly 3000 passengers and on Thursday morning docked at Lyttelton's newly built Cruise Wharf in Christchurch.

Earlier in the week it visited Milford Sound and on Wednesday docked in Dunedin, marking the return of cruising in the city.

There it was greeted with a traditional Māori welcome followed by a plaque exchange to commemorate the occasion, with Celebrity Cruises vice president and managing director of APAC Tim Jones among those present.

Another major cruise ship, the Ovation of the Seas, sailed into Picton on Wednesday.

The Celebrity Eclipse set sail from Sydney on October 22 on a 12-night round trip of New Zealand.

It's the first Celebrity ship to sail in this part of the world in 930 days. 

"Returning to this region is another significant milestone in the industry's global recovery, as we sail forward into a bright future," said the company's president and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo.

The Celebrity Eclipse weighs 122,000 tonnes, has a length of 317m (1041 feet) and a maximum occupancy of 3148.

Its maiden voyage took place in April 2010.

The spa experience on the Celebrity Eclipse.
The spa experience on the Celebrity Eclipse. Photo credit: supplied/Celebrity Cruises

The Otago Daily Times went onboard this week and described it as "a rabbit warren of luxury, with every part of its 13 passenger decks dedicated to pampering its voyagers", adding that "around every corner seems to be another one of the ship's 19 restaurants and bars, each with a different theme".

The Eclipse cruise is the first of 17 Celebrity sailings departing from Sydney and Auckland between now and April 2023.

Several other major companies including P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises are also operating once again in the region.