Tauranga's cruise ship season kicked off with a warm welcome for more than 1000 visiting passengers, including retirees Stan and Christine Smith from Scotland.
The couple were among the 1098 passengers and 587 crew onboard MS Maasdam, the first cruise ship to visit Tauranga for the 2019-2020 season, which docked at the Port of Tauranga at 7.30am yesterday and sailed to Auckland at 6.30pm last night.
"We love New Zealand and were really looking forward to visiting Tauranga and seeing more of your beautiful country," Stan Smith told the Bay of Plenty Times.
Smith said he and his wife Christine were making their fourth visit to Tauranga, but this was their first time they had arrived on a cruise ship.
"Last time we visited Tauranga we spent time in Papamoa with friends and absolutely loved the place," Mr Smith said.
"If the weather was a bit warmer, we would have spent more time onshore in Tauranga, but we got the chance to stretch our legs and had an excellent coffee. "
The Smiths were 10 days into a 51-day cruise and while in Auckland they planned to catch up with family, before the cruise ship heads to French Polynesian area, including visiting New Caledonia.
Mount Maunganui's Pohutukawa Gallery spokeswoman said the morning's sales had begun well but slowed down around lunchtime.
"It was really busy in the morning, and we expect it will get a bit busier as our cruise passengers return from their tours in the afternoon. But it's a bit of a slow start to the season and the weather could be a little bit nicer," she said.
Other retailers in downtown Mount Maunganui also said the coolish weather had impacted on the start to the cruise ship season.
Paper Plane assistant Abby Bakker said it was a "good Sunday" in terms of sales.
"It's been pretty steady with lots of cruise ship passengers coming in the store. Some were only browsing, but some were snapping up our New Zealand-made goodies, which is great," she said.
Another Mount retailer said while it had been a bit slower start to the season, things tended to pick up from November.
Ella Shirley, Tourism Bay of Plenty marketing and communications executive, earlier said 112 cruise ships were expected to dock In Tauranga during the 2019-2020 season.
This included the largest ship to dock in Tauranga and New Zealand, The Ovation of the Seas, measuring 348m and weighing 144,216 tonnes visiting four times over the season.
Last season, 227,358 cruise ship passengers and 89,033 crew (316,391 total) visited the Bay of Plenty and cruise activity expenditure injected $90.3 million into the local economy.
Shirley said given that similar forecasts were predicted in cruise ship visits and passenger numbers this year, it was estimated that a similar expenditure would be generated by the 2019-2020 cruise ship season.
"I encourage all locals to make our visitors feel welcome, offer directions and wave them off," Shirley said.