Popular cooking show Masterchef took over a high seas cruise liner yesterday.

A dozen contestants on the popular TV show arrived on Prince's Wharf in two vans, one with blacked-out windows. Two teams of blue and red-aproned chefs strolled down the road beside the Hilton before posing for a Masterchef camera crew.

Contestants, and at least two of the show's regular judges, then boarded the 266m Dawn Princess cruise ship.

Masterchef Judge Ray McVinnie relaxed in the hotel before boarding. Approached in the hotel, McVinnie said he couldn't comment on the day's filming. Boarding at 11.30am he initially covered his face but later changed his mind, smiling for the photographer. Fellow judge Simon Gault arrived at the wharf a few minutes later before passing through Customs and boarding the ship.


Some Dawn Princess passengers said they were asked to sign privacy waivers and weren't supposed to talk to media about the shoot.

Passenger Rosemary Ackroyd said the series was discussed on the ship. She said Alfredo Marzi, the Princess Cruises company's top chef, was involved in yesterday's show.

"The chef who designed the menu for the whole Princess fleet is on board giving culinary demonstrations," Ackroyd said. "He talked a little about the event."

She understood filming would take place from 5.30pm to 9.30pm. Ackroyd also said an audience would probably be invited to one of the ship's two fine dining restaurants for the shoot.

Her husband, Miles Wright, was unimpressed: "Who wants to watch people being exploited? It's cheap television."

But Wright had a theory why TVNZ chose Dawn Princess for the shoot. "They probably saw me and said: 'We want that bloke in the audience'," he joked.

TVNZ publicist Meredith McGrath said it was too soon to talk about the Masterchef series. "It's very early days in the production."

The ship was to have sailed to the Bay of Islands last night but due to bad weather the captain chose to leave for Sydney instead.

In the last series, contestants visited Singapore and cooked on the naval frigate HMNZS Canterbury.

The show has been a consistent ratings winner for TVNZ since it debuted in 2010.

This year, 766,100 people watched the series finale. Last year more than 850,000 tuned in to the finale but viewership numbers have risen each year.

Tourism sails into Auckland

The biggest cruise ship season kicked off with the arrival of luxury liner Dawn Princess yesterday morning.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Martin Snedden said the value of cruise ship visits could probably double in a few years if the country played its cards right.

This season's biggest would be Voyager of the Seas. At 311.1m, it's only 17m shorter than the Sky Tower.

"When the ships are moored at our docks they need to be able to be tied up safely," Snedden said.

"It sounds obvious, but the ability of the wharves to achieve this is challenged on a much more frequent basis." Shed 10 on Queen's Wharf was undergoing refurbishment and would be ready in April next year.

Snedden said the new Shed 10 would be better than any existing Auckland facility. Waterfront Auckland hoped Shed 10 would become Greater Auckland's primary cruise ship terminal, as well as a public space.

"We're expecting a good season with over 100 port calls, which is good news for the port and for Auckland, business-wise," Ports of Auckland spokesman Matt Ball said.