Cruise ship passenger numbers in New Zealand are expected to soar more than 20 per cent next year despite the negative publicity following the deadly capsizing of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy in January.
Adam Armstrong, commercial manager for Royal Caribbean Cruises in Australia and New Zealand, said demand had dropped for cruises following the disaster, particularly in Europe, although he did not think there would be a lasting impact on business long-term.
There had not been a huge impact in Australia and New Zealand, he said. "Australians and Kiwis seem to have been able to process it as a one-off, probably human error, incident."
He said all cruise lines were reviewing processes and procedures following the Costa Concordia disaster, in which 32 people were killed or are presumed dead.
"We're looking across the board at things that we possibly could be doing better from a safety and procedures perspective," he said.
"In this instance it appears to have been a human error ... so we're just going through and checking we have procedures and a culture in place that would prevent that from happening on one of our ships."
Cruise New Zealand chairman Craig Harris said the cruise industry was the fastest growing part of the tourism sector.
Harris had visited 11 cruise lines as part of a roadshow and an exhibition in Miami "and everyone confirmed that New Zealand certainly was on the cruise map in terms of what we offer here".
Royal Caribbean's business in New Zealand is growing quickly, with about 55,000 guests forecast for next season, compared to about 30,000 this year.
The company will have five ships across two brands sailing here next summer, including the 122,000 tonne Celebrity Solstice, which will make three turnarounds in Auckland.
A cruise ship turnaround - during which passengers disembark and embark - can be worth US$1-2 million ($1.2-2.4 million) to a local economy, depending on the size of the ship, through re-stocking, hotels and tours, Armstrong said.
The company sourced a large portion of its passengers from overseas, predominantly the US, Canada and Britain but also from Germany, South Africa, Singapore and the Middle East.
Armstrong said cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean had modernised the industry through building bigger and more innovative ships, with features including rock climbing, ice skating, surfing simulators and large theatres.
We just need a box, not fancy building, says industry
The building of a new cruise terminal in Auckland has been part of a debate about the city's waterfront with $21 million provided in the council's draft long-term plan to 2022, for which submissions closed on Friday.
Royal Caribbean's Adam Armstrong said the minimum the company needed was a box.
"It needs to be under cover. We need to get people off quickly, get their luggage and there needs to be enough space for coaches [and] taxis to come in [and] get them out and then we'll need enough space to get lorries in to load food and supplies for the next cruise and then to check in the next group of passengers," he said.
"We don't need a fancy building costing hundreds of millions of dollars, we just need a box."
Auckland had one terminal but would need a minimum of two, Armstrong said.
" If it's congested then we have moveable assets so we will take the ships to where we can turn them around," he said. "And that's becoming an issue in Sydney, where there's one terminal that's incredibly congested. "Best case scenario is we fix Auckland now before it becomes an issue."
Cruise New Zealand chairman Craig Harris said the industry needed a second cruise ship terminal to cater for growth in the sector.
" The original terminal at Princes Wharf was built when we had ships of 670 passengers. We've now got ships of over 3000 passengers and we're just really struggling to keep this growth story going with a very inadequate facility at Princes Wharf," Harris said.
"We're just looking for a simple structure ... the proposed structure at Shed 10 will be adequate for the cruise ship industry and we appreciate it will be multi-functional use for the city."
Auckland was a major beneficiary from the sector with half the gross domestic contribution.
"If we can't cater for growth and we can't handle the ships it seems illogical not to actual create the infrastructure and the facility to do so," Harris said.
Council controlled organisation Waterfront Auckland said the $21 million in the draft long-term plan was for an upgrade of the Shed 10 building on Queens Wharf so that it could function as a cruise passenger facility and an events space. The building would cater for cruise ships about 75 days a year.By Owen Hembry Email Owen