New Zealand world cup fans could be accommodated in cruise ships as there may not be enough hotels in Christchurch in the wake of the February 22 earthquake.

Prime minister John Key, who was raised in Christchurch, said he remained optimistic the earthquake-devastated city could still host World Cup matches at the September-October tournament but warned a final decision was “months, not weeks” away.

Christchurch’s AMI Stadium, which was to host major games during the tournament, was damaged when the 6.3-magnitude earthquake reduced the city to rubble, killing an estimated 240 people.

The stadium will be closed until March 15 while operators check if it will be ready for the World Cup.

Even if it is given the all clear, World  Cup tournament organisers must also consider factors, whether Christchurch has enough hotel accommodation to host the tens of thousands of rugby fans who are due to attend the World Cup.

Key was adamant that the government wanted the city to participate in the largest event ever staged in the country, and was willing to offset some of the cost of using cruise ships to house the fans.

“We’ve already made inquiries about cruise ships and that’s entirely possible, and that’s not a bad place to stay if you’re the Barmy Army,” he told reporters.

“Even if it costs a bit more, we might be prepared to accommodate that cost if it means holding the cup in Christchurch.”

Christchurch is one of the Cup’s main venues, slated to host seven matches, including two quarter-finals.

Key said a decision on whether the World Cup matches went ahead as planned would take time. The tournament’s September 9 kick-off is in little more than six months.

“There’s a series of different boxes that will need to be ticked before we can say yes or no,” he said.

“My strong preference is to hold the Cup in Christchurch if we can because I think it sends a very strong international message that Christchurch is going through a rebuilding phase,” he said.

“Equally, if we don’t, sadly the message is it’s not.”