Dinner Cruise a tempting tourism venture

5:00 AM Wednesday October 5, 2016 Meredith Graham

Darryl’s Dinner Cruises’ boat Ratanui is purpose-built floating dinner cruise venue.

After 20 years of operation in the Bay of Islands, the family run business, Darryl’s Dinner Cruise has been placed on the market.

“This is the Bay of Islands’ only dinner cruise venture in Paihia and its sale gives hospitality-minded entrepreneurs an opportunity to capitalise on the increasing popularity of cruises,” says Meredith Graham of Bayleys Auckland who is marketing the freehold going concern business for a price to be determined by negotiation.  

“There is plenty of potential to expand on the established reputation and client base of this business,” Graham says.

The tourism venture is centred around the boat, Ratanui, a purpose-built floating dinner cruise venue, 16.5 metres in length with a capacity for 55 passengers.

“In addition to giving clients a sea-bound dining experience, this is the only commercial boat charter taking guests to the famed Haruru Falls – a rare horseshoe shaped waterfall around the corner from Paihia and the site of New Zealand’s first inland river port,” says Graham.

A cruise currently costs between $68-$98 for adults and $25-$35 for children under 15 while those under five years of age are admitted for free.

“Business owners Darryl and Shelley Honey recommend guests allow up to two-and-a-half hours for the return journey, saying that the historic backdrop and bird-life offer a very special dining experience.”

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The Ratanui is 16.5 metres in length with a capacity for 55 passengers.

The cruise is Qualmark accredited and serves dinner in two courses showcasing Kiwi delicacies including mussels, fresh fish and New Zealand lamb while sailing up the Waitangi River. The business has a four-and-a-half star rating from a potential five stars on well-known tourism website tripadvisor.com

Graham says the twilight dinner cruises are the mainstay of the operation but recently lunch sailings and bespoke event packages have been “added to the menu” to meet a growing demand. “These have proven popular with touring wedding parties, office groups and local Christmas parties,” she says.

“Darryl’s is positioned well to benefit from the tremendous growth potential of the cruise industry with key contracts that include inbound tour operators like Grandpacific Tours, Leisure Time Tours/Riviera, Scenic Tours, Kirra Holidays and Flight Centre.

“Business is manic while cruise liners are in town, as Darryl’s manages back-to-back bookings for visitors.”  

Reportedly the fastest growing sector of tourism, business in New Zealand’s cruise sector has doubled over the past five years bringing in $543 million dollars annually for the country with the 144 different islands in the Bay of Islands attracting a constant stream of cruise ships.

“Paihia, as ‘the jewel of the Bay of Islands’, is expecting 60 major vessels for the 2016-2017 season carrying over 90,000 passengers,” Graham says.  

“As the only dinner cruise provider in Paihia, Darryl’s Dinner Cruise has a monopoly on this niche tourism sector.”

Graham says the owners have built strong international affiliations by their attendance at nine conferences run by the Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand (TIA).

“As a result of these connections, it’s likely more booking will be added to the schedule this year resulting in a significant upturn in business.” 

Graham sees that there is potential to expand the company’s fleet and capitalise on the growing number of touring groups visiting Paihia’s shores for yacht races, sporting events, food and wine festivals. “Other new drawcards are the Te Kongahu Waitangi Museum and the Tai Tokerau QRC [Queenstown Resort College] tourism training facility.”


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 Meredith Graham of Bayleys Auckland