P&O Shipping In The Rugby Fans
Monday, 20 June 2005
Shipping in the rugby fans
They've come by air in their thousands - now they're invading by sea.
More than a thousand Lions' tour supporters are following their favourite rugby team by cruising to games aboard a P&O Cruises' ship.
It's the first time an international rugby event has made use of a cruise liner for supplementary accommodation according to the organising sports tour company.
Gullivers Sports Travel from the UK is bringing more than 5,000 clients to New Zealand at various stages of the once-in-a-decade tour.
The bulk of the fans arrive around June 20 to attend the three Lions vs All Blacks test matches. However, accommodation shortages in New Zealand have resulted in some lateral thinking about where they can sleep off their excesses.
Pacific Sun arrives in Auckland on June 21 before heading for Christchurch to take up her Lions tour duties and for a Midwinter Festival of Lights welcome in Lyttelton Harbour on June 23.
Gullivers Sports Travel director John Hall says chartering a cruise liner to accommodate sports fans is ideal in a maritime nation such as New Zealand.
"We have more fans coming to New Zealand than we had following the Rugby World Cup in Australia. In relation to New Zealand's bid to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup, I think we will be able to demonstrate the country is ideally suited to the use of cruise liners to supplement local hotel accommodation.
"The ports are close to the grounds and a ship is ideal for like-minded groups who want to stick together. Plus, all main meals are catered for and it has the added benefit of pre-planned and inclusive entertainment."
"For a lot of fans it is a bonus to unpack only once instead of every time between games!"
Pacific Sun has been de-Aussiefied for the duration with Australian comedians replaced by Brits, Aussie beers and wines supplemented by Kiwi and British ales and Marlborough and Hawkes Bay wines.
On-board guests will be entertained by Welsh and Wellington groups while the ship's two Phillippino bands have been on a crash course on performing staple rugby songs such as Bread of Heaven, Swing Low, Molly Malone and Flower of Scotland.
P&O Cruises New Zealand Manager Shannon Currie says the ship is ideal for group events.
"We quite often accommodate big corporate groups for conferences of company incentive schemes but this is the first sports tour support role we have played in New Zealand.
"In fact, you could say this is a good dress rehearsal for the bid for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011."
The 19 year-old, 45,000-ton Pacific Sun cruised in to the South Pacific market after a $35 million refit last year. She's the biggest cruise liner ever based in Australia.
* Pacific Sun packages for UK travellers covering the three Lions tests range from NZ$9,700 to NZ$15,000 with all transfers, meals and entertainment included.
* The highest paying Gullivers clients are a couple of guests who have paid more than NZ$35,000 each flying first class and spending part of their stay in a suite on Pacific Sun.
* 12 couples are using the Lions Tour as their honeymoon and one couple is getting married in Queenstown.
* 78 year-old Cornishman Jimmy Lugg is on his 50th trip to New Zealand. He lives in a home he has named Taranaki in Cornwall.
Issued for P&O Cruises by Pead PR