Auckland could be the winner from Sydney's congested port facilities as cruise lines consider basing more cruising from this side of the Tasman.

Cruise industry leader Gavin Smith said congestion in Sydney was a deterrent to cruise lines.

There was just one berth at Sydney's Circular Quay and while there were more facilities further up the harbour, the biggest ships couldn't get under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, said Smith, who is Royal Caribbean's senior vice-president, Asia Pacific.

It could be possible to do more round trips out of Auckland.


"If Sydney's full you could merchandise a cruise out of Auckland that included return flights to Australia," he said.

"We're doing some work with Air New Zealand about basing a ship in Auckland and doing some studies - we've got capacity out of the capital cities in Australia," said Smith, who is also the chairman for Australasia of Cruise Lines International Association.

While it might take five years the natural overflow was to Auckland.

Smith said New Zealand continued to rate highly with cruise lines with a range of deep water ports, relatively close together and welcoming port and tourist authorities.

"As opposed to the Pacific, New Zealand does what it says it will do on the packet," he said.

About 200,000 passengers will visit New Zealand ports this summer, down slightly on last year with the loss of one ship.

Smith said Royal Caribbean was carrying more than a third of that number and had increased the number of cruises from 22 to 25.

While there were reports of rivalry between tourism operators fighting over passengers spilling over in Dunedin last summer, there was generally good behaviour at New Zealand ports.

"It's the only time I've heard of it here," he said.

"It's custom around the world for people trying to service the industry will sleep on the wharf in a minivan but Australia and New Zealand are highly regulated."

Royal Caribbean has estimated that through passenger spend onshore, and also through activities such as supply of provisions, Royal Caribbean contributed around $30 million to the economy during last year's cruise season, and this year that figure promises to grow.

The number of Kiwi cruise tourists visiting Europe increased by 23 per cent last year to a reach of 10,617 tourists.