Much bigger cruise season in the offing

By Roger Moroney -
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Ovation of the Seas will visit Napier on January 5, 2017.
Ovation of the Seas will visit Napier on January 5, 2017.

The arrival of the liner Noordam at Napier Port on Saturday will be the fourth-last arrival of the season as the cruise business winds down, although it is set to spark up even bigger next season.

There were 45 cruise ship arrivals scheduled during the 2015/16 season but that number is set for a major rise with 59 liners already lined up for the next season which will kick off on October 11 and run until April 21.

The following season of 2017/18 will also be a strong one with 56 liners scheduled.

The queues of passengers for transport back to their floating hotels  are set to grow larger next season, as ship numbers rise.
The queues of passengers for transport back to their floating hotels are set to grow larger next season, as ship numbers rise.

Among next year's arrivals will be the largest ship to ever enter Napier Port, the 167,800 gross tonne and 348m-long Ovation of the Seas which will arrive on January 5.

It will be carrying 4180 passengers and 1300 crew, which on that one day alone will be nearly 5 per cent of the total number of passengers estimated to have come ashore this season.

About 92,000 visitors came ashore for what economists believe has been a $25 million boost for the region.

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said the rising numbers of ships heading this way underlined Hawke's Bay's increasingly strong reputation as a destination to head for.

"These sort of numbers are great for the Bay and it reflects the fact that in all the surveys we rate very highly as a destination and are always right up there; either at the top or second," he said.

Mr Dalton said attracting one of the largest cruise liners in the world, the Ovation of the Seas, further underlined that.

"People love to come here and the end result is all good for Napier and the region. It is a lovely place to visit."

Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said the latest season had seen a dip in numbers of arrivals but was now well back on track: upwards.

"We will see a 25 per cent increase in passengers next season and that is very good news," Ms Dundas said, adding it would take the numbers to well over the 100,000 mark.

"We want to get them out there to see the region and everything will be in place for them."

The cruise industry had a positive spin-off effect for the local accommodation industry also as people, mainly from Australia, who got a brief taste of Napier and the region and had returned for longer stays, she said.

"We have had a lot of anecdotal responses from people who have come back here for a holiday."

For Will van Asch who has been operating the Hawke's Bay Express tour "train" in Napier for the past four years, the news is all good.

"I only logged into 39 cruise ships this season but have 59 next year." He said cruise-ship passengers were eager to take the city tours as they wanted to know more about the region and the lifestyle. Since starting up he had carried about 30,000 passengers.

"It is very good for business and the economy and Napier puts on the great show for them," he said. It was important however for the council and major tourism agencies like the Art Deco Trust to "stay focused and grow it; develop opportunities".

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