Royal Caribbean International’s Ovation of the Seas was forced to cancel the planned port stop at Lyttelton, New Zealand, on November 3 due to high winds that posed dangerous navigational hazards for the large ship.
The Quantum-class vessel is currently on its first sailing of the Australian season, and is the first Royal Caribbean ship to restart operations in Australia since 2019.
Wind Causes Missed Port
Ovation of the Seas was unable to make her scheduled visit to Lyttelton (5 miles / 8 kilometers southeast of Christchurch) in New Zealand on Thursday, November 3, 2022, due to exceptionally high winds that made navigation too hazardous for the ship.
“Unfortunately, Ovation of the Seas was unable to berth this morning due to strong north-west winds in the forecast for the day here at Lyttelton,” said Phil de Joux, Lytteton Port Company chief corporate affairs officer.
“Safety is always the first priority and there are wind speed limits for all berths and vessel types here in Lyttelton as at other ports.”
The ship had been due to dock at 9:30 a.m., but because of the winds – measured at sustained speeds reaching 21 mph (34 kph) – the decision was made to forgo the port visit at 7 a.m. Instead,
Ovation of the Seas will spend the day at sea en route to its next port of call, Wellington, 190 miles (305 km) northeast of Lyttelton. Gusts at the time were measured at 45 mph (72 kph).
Ovation of the Seas has 16 total decks, rising more than 130 feet (40 meters) above the waterline. This provides plenty of surface area for winds to act on to push the ship, and makes navigation in high winds trickier.
The ship, with a capacity of 4,180 guests at double occupancy and up to 4,905 passengers when fully booked, was to have been the largest ever vessel to call at the port, but will return to Lyttelton later in the season.
Weather Impacting Docking Abilities
While not a frequent occurrence, it is not unusual for high winds or waves to cause cruise ships to change docking plans, even canceling port visits due to inclement weather that would make docking unsafe.
In July, for example, Princess Cruises’ Coral Princess was unable to dock in Brisbane due to swells in excess of 20 feet (6.5 meters), coupled with wind gusts occasionally reaching gale force (39 mph / 63 kph).
Of course, hurricanes and tropical storms are obvious instances of cruise ships changing itineraries, shifting routes, or canceling ports stops. Just this week, Hurricane Lisa has altered port visits and itineraries for at least five separate ships, including Carnival Vista, three Royal Caribbean vessels, and Virgin Voyages’ Valiant Lady.
If cruise ships take a chance at maneuvering in challenging conditions, there is a risk of being pushed off course by strong winds and possibly running aground, as happened to Norwegian Escape while departing Puerto Plata in March, an incident that damaged the ship and led to five canceled cruises.
Cruising Down Under with Ovation of the Seas
Ovation of the Seas and her sister ship, Quantum of the Seas, are both sailing Down Under during the 2022-2023 Australian summer season.
Ovation of the Seas is currently on her first Australian cruise of the season, an 11-night roundtrip voyage from Sydney that departed on Saturday, October 29, 2022. The sailing includes port visits with six (now five) stops around New Zealand, a very desirable itinerary.
The ship will offer six other New Zealand sailings in the season, though the ports of call differ.
Other itineraries offered by Ovation of the Seas include South Pacfic sailings, Tasmania explorations, and cruises to nowhere for quick, relaxing getaways.
The ship will finish her Australian season in April 2023, departing on April 17. Three successive repositioning sailings – first to Honolulu, then to Vancouver, then to Seattle – will reposition Ovation of the Seas for the 2023 Alaska sailing season.
The ship will return to Sydney in early November 2023.