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Cruise ships diverted in wake of devastating New Zealand quake

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Cruise ship calls at Christchurch, New Zealand, are being canceled following Monday's devastating earthquake, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale and destroyed large areas of the city and suburbs.

At least 65 people have been killed, making this New Zealand's worst disaster in more than 80 years. Although the area suffered a bigger quake last September, this one took place much closer to the earth's surface, in the middle of the day, and caused much greater structural damage.

The suburb of Lyttelton, where cruise ships dock, has been described on the BBC Web site as "unlivable." Telecommunications, water supplies and power are all down.

Meanwhile, Cruise Critic member pmd98052, who has family in Christchurch, reports on the forums that "Lyttelton harbor where the ships dock was the epicenter and is badly damaged."

Hapag Lloyd's Europa was in Lyttelton when the quake struck at lunchtime. A line spokesman told Cruise Critic that all passengers and crew are safe and unharmed and that the earthquake did not cause any damages to the ship." Furthermore, the ship has left the port and will continue on its scheduled itinerary.

Cruise Critic member SY7DNEYCRUISER reports on our forum: "From a reporter who was on the Europa with the Captain. The boat shook and the lights and the chandelier fell down. The amazed captain said 'What is this?' and the reporter replied 'An earthquake.' They looked out the window to see the local cathedral falling down and the cliffs collapsing."

This is peak season for cruising Australia and New Zealand, and celebrations in Sydney, Australia, over the headline-grabbing rendezvous of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2 in Sydney Harbor have been overshadowed by the tragedy. Queen Mary 2 was scheduled to arrive in Christchurch on Saturday.

Cunard president Peter Shanks, who's in Sydney, confirmed to Australia's Cruise Passenger magazine that the ship would not call at Christchurch, although Cunard would be "doing all it can to support the devastated port city." A line rep told Cruise Critic that it has not decided yet on a replacement port for QM2.

We're waiting to hear from P&O Cruises Australia and other lines about the impact on their itineraries. P&O's Pacific Sun is due Friday and Princess Cruises' Sun Princess on Monday. Dawn Princess, Holland America Line's Volendam, Pacific Dawn and P&O Cruises' Aurora are all due at Lyttelton the first week of March.