Cruise ship passengers are giving the city centre a thumbs up despite one retailer saying the $15 return shuttle trip is a ''rip off''.

Bill Campbell of gift and souvenir shop Fancy That said the shuttle was ''way overpriced when you can get the Bayhopper for about $4''.

''We are ripping our customers off ... we need a free shuttle, we need to make this city get up and go.''

But Sally Cook from Downtown Tauranga said the organisation had no complaints from cruise ship passengers and passenger numbers had increased.

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When the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend visited the bus shuttle yesterday, cruise ship passenger Gayle Caddy from Victoria said she had no qualms with the shuttle price tag.

Neither did Hayley Weinert, Jenny Lay or Reg Bryce, who thought the $15 was reasonable.

So far this season 1352 cruise ship passengers had been shuttled into the city centre, Cook said.

''We are showing an average conversion rate of 8.82 per cent. This figure is based on the assumption of ships being at full passenger capacity, which is aligned with previous seasons.''

However, a significant portion of most ship passengers were pre-booked on tours before they even got off the ship so Downtown Tauranga could only appeal to the freedom travellers, she said.

Passengers had rated the city centre experience an eight out of 10 and the shuttle bus service a 9.4 out of 10.

''Both of these results are excellent. Our restaurants, cafes, shops, bars and businesses should be extremely proud that tourists are giving us such a strong tick of approval."

Downtown Tauranga had partnered with Zespri to give passengers green or gold kiwifruit and a spife (a special spoon-knife for eating the fruit) as soon as they stepped off the bus at the waterfront, as well as information about a new tourist degustation trail.

''We are actively lobbying for the development of more tourism product in our city centre.

"This should be a key focus for stakeholders. We wish to see a proactive initiative to identify and develop more tourism product for our city centre, it is essential if we are to continue to grow our tourist numbers."

The bus shuttle service was self-funded.

Zespri tours and events manager Wendy Taylor said the initiative provided a great opportunity to showcase the important role the kiwifruit industry played in the region.

''We're thrilled with the response we're getting from visitors who love the taste of Zespri kiwifruit. We expect to donate just over 3000 pieces of fruit in November and look forward to sharing even more green and gold kiwifruit with visitors as the cruise ship season continues.''

Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne said estimates showed the 2018/2019 cruise ship season would bring an additional $91 million into the wider Bay of Plenty region.

New Zealand Cruise Association research showed up to 25 per cent of cruise ship passengers returned to the region independently so it was "vital" cruise ship passengers were given an "amazing impression" of the region.

''It's a trend we are keen to encourage. Cruise ship passengers get a taste of the region when they arrive for the day, and this first impression is vital to their desire to return.''

The Celebrity Solstice will berth overnight in Tauranga on Thursday and there will be a Silent Disco for locals cruise ship passengers at Coronation Park, Mount Maunganui. Photo/File
The Celebrity Solstice will berth overnight in Tauranga on Thursday and there will be a Silent Disco for locals cruise ship passengers at Coronation Park, Mount Maunganui. Photo/File

Celebrity Solstice mix and mingle

• It will be the cruise ship's first overnight visit to Tauranga this season on Thursday.

• To celebrate the occasion the ship's crew will bring the silent disco experience off the cruise ship and into Coronation Park for passengers and locals to enjoy.

• Silent discos are hugely popular onboard the Celebrity Solstice and involve guests donning a set of headphones that can switch between different channels, belting out different genres of music - from 80s anthems to modern pop - all overseen by an expert DJ.

• Gold coin donations for the event will go straight to the 'Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service.

• Silent disco from 6pm–8pm.

• The Picnic in the Park event will be on from 4pm–9pm.

• This is a one-off weather permitting event.