Two cruise ships and shocking weather: Dealing with the busiest day of the year

Two cruise ships and shocking weather: Dealing with the busiest day of the year

Last Tuesday brought with it 98km/h southerlies, 20.4mm of rain, and two cruise ships carrying 4,500 extra people to our city. All of this meant we were heading into our busiest day of the year. Host Lucho Arca describes why our Visitor Services team deserve a round of applause for going above and beyond for our visitors.

Wellington on a ‘good’ day…

There’s nothing more stunning than heading to work and gazing upon Wellington’s beautiful harbour.

When the morning sun is shining over the Hutt Valley, with rays of light breaking through the clouds, it’s hard not to think you’re in the most stunning city in the world.

There’s a sense of pride as cruise ships enter Te Whanganui-a-Tara that its passengers will get to experience a place filled with culture, art, and history.

The arrival of the Golden Princess, travelling north from Akaroa, and the Sun Princess, coming down from Napier, on 27 Nov meant that Wellington was going to play host to 4,500 people over the next 10 hours.

Unfortunately, their arrival was not met with sunshine. Instead, they were greeted with the wailing winds for which Wellington has become world-famous.

The arrival of a cruise ship in port when it’s a ‘You can’t beat Wellington on a good day’ type of day is typically a tall order. Having two ships on the same day is definitely a challenge.

But when Windy Wellington lives up to its name, Te Papa acts as a shield for thousands from the howling gales.

The busiest day of the year

As these predominantly Australian passengers were set to descend on our city, we were bracing ourselves for the busiest day of the year – potentially of all time!

Our first tour for the day arrived at 9am, as they were invited to enter the Gallipoli exhibition an hour before we open. Even after three-and-a-half years since its opening, Weta Workshop’s sculptures still invoke a sense of awe and heartbreak. The chance to explore the exhibition before the general public arrives allows our guests to have an important chance to reflect on the tragedy our ANZAC troops experienced.

Tours began in earnest at 9.30am – coaches arrived filled with passengers eager to enter our shelter from the incessant rain.

Walking from the carpark to the entrance foyer feels like traversing an obstacle course on a day like this. Wind threatened to blow people off their feet and rain forced people to hop, skip, and jump to avoid puddles.

Hosts greeted frazzled visitors by providing wayfinding assistance and introductions on the special exhibitions they are about to enjoy.

Delivering the extraordinary

The purpose our tours are to discover and highlight the unique features that make Te Papa one of the leading museums in the world.

A trip with our hosts is a great way to help orientate the first-time visitor, and adds depth and understanding to the Te Papa experience.

I’ve heard hosts describe delivering tours as the chance to guide visitors through our natural and social history with ‘interpretive storytelling with the hope of opening minds and hearts’.

Tours provide visitors the chance to contextualise the importance of the objects and writing in front of them.

Delivering tours for up to 20 people at a time means finding time for humour and time for blunt honesty. This is an important task as it requires candour, passion, and reverence.

Standing in front of the meeting house Te Hono Ki Haiwaiiki in Rongomaraeroa, and Te Hau ki Tūranga, the centrepiece of Rongowhakaata’s exhibition, and sharing their significance imbues hosts with pride.

From detailing the history of New Zealand’s separation from Gondwana, to the uphill battle our native birds face, to the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi), Te Papa’s tours allow hosts and visitors to engage in spirited conversations about how New Zealand arrived at where it is today.

In spite of 98km/h southerlies, 20.4mm of rain, and two cruise ships, Te Papa’s hosts managed to seamlessly weave extraordinary tales about New Zealand’s history. We delivered 33 tours to 492 visitors who came from across the ditch, Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

The mahi (work) the Visitor Services team displayed on that day deserves a round of applause for going above and beyond for our guests.

Only 17 out of 110 cruise ships have berthed so far this season, meaning the fun has only just begun…!

If you would like to know more about our tours, get in touch by emailing

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