The sheer size of the Pacific Dawn becomes clear once I exit the Port of Tauranga Salisbury Ave office.
Making my way up the gangway, calls of "I'm the king of the world" ring out behind me from Classic Hits radio personality Grayson Ottaway at the end of the queue.
His enthusiasm reflected much of the anticipation murmured among the 84 Tauranga people who boarded the 70,000 tonne cruise ship yesterday. The opportunity to tour the ship and enjoy a four-course lunch was part of a unique offer to raise money for the victims of Christchurch's earthquake.
Pillans Point resident Bev McGregor said she and her husband James were quick to buy tickets.
"I couldn't wait to get home to ring up for it."
Mrs McGregor said although she was curious to explore a cruise ship, the chance to help raise money "for a good cause" was the main driving factor behind her buying the $80 tickets.
An immaculately dressed P&O Cruises staff member scanned our temporary passes, photos were taken and our bags were x-rayed. We were officially welcomed aboard.
Beautiful artwork hung on the walls, marble floors laid entrance to several event rooms and some of the ship's 700 friendly staff said "hello" at every opportunity.
P&O Cruises New Zealand manager Shannon Currie said the line received many requests from people wanting to look around the ships but it usually was not possible because of operational reasons.
"However, we made an exception on this occasion because it was an opportunity to help raise funds for such an important cause."
Our tour guide Belinda Clark took us through an indulgent health and spa centre, classy bars, live stage areas and a stunning atrium at the centre of the ship.
She also referred to the sheer amount of food available on board.
"If you are on a seven to 10-day cruise, you put on about 3kg," she said.
The tour ended with a sumptuous silver service meal while enjoying a panoramic view of Tauranga Harbour.
In total $6000 was collected and a cheque was presented to the Red Cross towards the end of the tour. "Rest assured all of this money will go directly to people in Christchurch needing it. There's no administration costs taken out," Tauranga Red Cross events co-ordinator Heather Dabrowski said.
The Pacific Dawn left for Napier at 4.30pm yesterday.