Impressive fleet of cruise ships set to visit

By John Cousins

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The arrival of the Sun Princess at the Port of Tauranga this morning marks the start of a busy cruise ship season set to bring about 220,000 people to the region.

The five-month season is also expected to bring the return of big-spending Americans and Canadians, many of whom had been holidaying closer to home since the credit crunch pushed world economies into recession.

Mount Mainstreet manager Leanne Brown said an estimated 220,000 passengers and crew - 36,000 more than last season - would visit the Bay, including a 32 per cent increase in passengers from North America.

Based on the nearly $30million pumped into the local economy by cruise ship visits in 2011-12, the new season holds the promise of a $35.8million injection.

The Sun Princess and the Dawn Princess are the bread and butter of the cruise ship market in New Zealand.

Carnival Line's Princess-branded ships will contribute 40 per cent of the 84 arrivals at the port this season.

The Dawn Princess' 11 visits will make her the most frequently seen cruise ship at the Port of Tauranga. Her first visit will be on Thursday.

However, for elegance and style, nothing will match the Queen Elizabeth luxury liner which will make her first visit to the port on February 21.

Launched in 2010, the $634million ocean liner evokes the style of its famous predecessors and is the third generation of Cunard Line ships dating back to the late 1930s.

The biggest cruise ship to ever visit Tauranga, the Voyager of the Seas, will be another highlight of the season. The 15-deck liner's towering debut at the port will take place on November 29 - the first of six visits. The Voyager of the Seas symbolises a cruise-ship season marked by a shift to larger vessels. Although the 84 cruise liners scheduled to visit the port is only two more than last season, confidence in the Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific Island market has driven a switch to bigger ships.

Douglas Colaco, the cruises manager for ISS-McKay, said the Australia-New Zealand region was a growing market for cruise ships. "There is a small increase in the number of ships, but the ones that are coming are much larger," he said.

One of last season's regular visitors, Holland America Line's Volendam, has been replaced with the bigger Oosterdam.

The Sun Princess is due to depart Tauranga tonight.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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