Lyttelton welcomes first cruise ship in midst of Covid-19 pandemic

The first passenger ship to get a Government exemption has arrived in New Zealand in the midst of a pandemic.

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The cruise ship will pick up its first passengers next week as it embarks on a domestic cruise. Source: 1 NEWS

The Christchurch-owned Spirit of Enderby sailed from Vladivostok in eastern Russia, docking today at Lyttelton's new $67 million cruise ship berth.

The 22 Russian crew have been in isolation for 43 days now, most of which was spent at sea.

They've already had two Covid-19 tests before getting a third on arrival today.

Commercial director Aaron Russ says the ship was in New Zealand in March, before Covid-19 became a significant issue.

"Basically since then we've been in close dialogue and I guess working towards this day, the day when we can have the ship back and look forward to sailing with passengers soon again," he told 1 NEWS.

The cruise ship will head to Invercargill to pick up its first passengers next week to explore Fiordland and Stewart Island.