Big cat clears red tape hurdle to start Queenstown cruises

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A new 150-seat Queenstown catamaran casts off on her maiden voyage on Tuesday after clearing a red-tape hurdle.

Plans by tourism company Southern Discoveries to launch Spirit of Queenstown earlier this month were postponed till she was issued this week with a safety ship management certificate by Maritime New Zealand.

Tuesday’s first cruise leaves Queenstown Bay’s O’Regans Wharf at 11.30am, followed by sailings at 1.45 and 3.45pm.

Passengers on the inaugural cruise will receive a certificate commemorating the trip and a glass of award-winning Central Otago Akarua wine.

Southern Discoveries is initially offering 1 hour 45 minute scenic cruises on Lake Wakatipu, four times a day, taking in Mt Nicholas and the top of the lake towards Glenorchy.

From late December the boat will then berth at Mt Nicholas Station, where visitors will be able to choose from a woolshed experience, half-day high country walks and 4WD musterer safari trips into the high country.

The boat includes a cafe and licensed bar.

Built in Australia, Spirit cruised from Brisbane to Bluff in July.

Once partly dismantled she was transported to Kingston where she was lowered into Lake Wakatipu.