Locals and tourists gathered at Coronation Park tonight to celebrate the arrival of the season's first overnight cruise ship, with the region set to benefit from the increased time the passengers spending in the Bay.

The Celebrity Solstice, carrying about 3000 passengers, cruised into port about 7am yesterday, and was expected to leave at 8.30pm tomorrow.

Organiser Rachelle Duffy said the Picnic in the Park event celebrating the overnight stay, had gone "amazingly".

Despite high winds, Ms Duffy said about 2000 people attended the Picnic in the Park, with about 30 per cent cruise visitors and the rest local. The location of Coronation Park also helped due to the close proximity to the ship.


"Who would have thought we could have this kind of event on a Monday night?"

She said the overnight trip meant the passengers, many who spent the first day in Rotorua, had the opportunity to come back to Tauranga to spend time.

Kate McDermott of Tauranga and daughter Ayla, 17 months, were enjoying the Picnic in the Park event, organised by Tourism Bay of Plenty and Little Big Markets.

She said she thought the cruise ship season was "fantastic for tourism", but bio-security was a concern.

Coronation Park was full of craft stalls, food trucks and live performers.

Passengers Elaine and Melvin Ogden, from Yorkshire, England, had jumped onboard at Singapore, and had already visited Dunedin and Akaroa.

They had just returned from a day trip to Rotorua, and were looking forward to exploring the Mount area.

Local Kay Farthing said she thought the beginning of the cruise ship season was "really, really good".

"It's making money for the area which is awesome. We just need to keep them in the area."

Mount Mainstreet manager Ingrid Fleming said it would be fantastic to have such an event to enjoy on a Monday night.

The next overnight stay will be on December 10.

This season's expected stats
- 83 ships to call

- 153,000 passengers, plus 66,000 crew

- Five ships will overnight in Tauranga

- Ovation of the Seas (largest ship to berth in NZ) and Emerald Princess will bring about 9500 visitors