Tauranga is set to celebrate the maiden visit of the 15-deck megaliner Explorer of the Seas on Monday week, bringing more than 3800 passengers to our shores.
The 312m, 138,194 tonne Explorer of the Seas, which is the Royal Caribbean's newest and largest megaliner based in this region, sails into the Port of Tauranga at 6.30am on December 7.
The megaliner, which has already called at Milford Sound, Picton and Wellington, is the largest of the 78 cruise ships visiting Tauranga between October 7 and May 18. That is more than six times the eight to 12 ships that visited the Bay a decade ago.
During the 2015/16 cruise ship season Explorer of the Seas will make nine visits to Tauranga, with the last being on March 1 next year.
The ship, which has just had a $122 million refurbishment in Spain, features 15 bars and restaurants, a surf simulator, rock-climbing wall, three swimming pools, and nine-hole mini golf course.
Also making its maiden visit to Tauranga on January 30 will be the 264m, 69,490 tonne superliner Legend of the Seas.
Tourism Bay of Plenty head of marketing Kristin Dunne said 166,700 cruise passengers were expected to visit Tauranga this season - a 15 per cent increase on the last cruise-ship season.
Ms Dunne said with a significant number of passengers aboard the Explorer of the Seas, it was an opportunity for Tauranga's economy to benefit hugely from the ship's visit and she encouraged residents to put out the welcome mat.
Many of the passengers will likely be making their first visit to Tauranga, and would want to tour the area and get out and about among the locals, she said.
Ms Dunne said the Bay already earned $40 million to $45 million a year from cruise ship visits, and these larger liners offered the chance to significantly boost the hospitality and retail sector's economy.
"Passengers say they love being welcomed by locals and waved off when their ship departs."
The economic benefit for the region in the 2014/15 cruise season was $38.1 million. Additional reporting NZME