22 Nov 2016

Cruise ship tours linked to two deaths in 45 minutes

9:29 pm on 22 November 2016

Cruise New Zealand says two deaths linked to tours from one ship are "highly unusual".

Onlookers watch luxury cruise liner "Celebrity Solstice" being towed past a lock on the Ems river in Gandersum, northern Germany, on September 29, 2008. The ship, Germany's biggest of its kind, built at the Meyer Werft shipyards in Papenburg, is due to reach the North Sea over the Ems river.

Both tours were organised for passengers of the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship, which was docked in Tauranga overnight. Photo: PHILIPP GUELLAND / AFP

In the first incident, a Mazda driver died after a head-on crash with a busload of cruise ship passengers in Waikato, police said.

No-one else was injured in the crash, on State Highway 29 near Te Poi, on the Waikato side of the Kaimai Range, about 11.30am.

About 12.15pm, a 71-year-old cruise ship passenger died after she was hit by a truck while on a cycle tour in Tauranga, in the Bay of Plenty.

She died at the intersection of Mirrielees Road and Te Awanui Drive.

Police believed the woman was from the United States.

Both tours were organised for passengers of the Celebrity Solstice, which was docked in Tauranga overnight.

Cruise NZ executive officer Kevin O'Sullivan said the tours usually went off "without a hitch".

"I've never heard of anything like it," he said. "I couldn't believe it when I heard of the first - then the second. It's just so tragic. It's been a very bad day."

He believed about four people were on the cycle tour. Cruise NZ had sent messages of sympathy to those involved, he said.

Cruise NZ chairwoman Debbie Summers said in a statement the two tour operators involved were "well known and respected".

Tour operators used by cruise ships were closely scrutinised over their health and safety practices.

"We want to reassure cruise visitors to New Zealand that their safety is paramount at all times," she said.

Police are investigating the incidents.