The Diamond Princess sailed into Tauranga Harbour yesterday morning - marking the start of this year's cruise ship season.
She will be followed by the Sun Princess, which is due to arrive next week. Both ships are regulars to the Bay, but in this season's cruise ship schedule nine new ships will be making their first visit to Tauranga Harbour.
Tourism Bay of Plenty head of marketing Kristin Dunne said Tauranga was still the second most visited port in New Zealand, after Auckland, and had high visitor-satisfaction ratings.
"It is also the port that sells the most tours in New Zealand so from a cruise-line company point of view we are a good choice of port as we are popular, give passengers a good experience - that they rate highly in post-visit surveys - and also offer good tour options for passengers to choose from," Ms Dunne said.
Most of the new ships will be on a South Pacific itinerary and will be arriving from, or travelling to, Australia.
The new line-up also includes smaller and more boutique ships not seen before in Tauranga.
"Cruise is a highly visible part of our tourism industry and the ships bring vibrancy and excitement to our area, with families enjoying the opportunity to picnic at Pilot Bay and watch our cruise-ship visitors depart," Ms Dunne said.
"Passenger surveys show that our cruise guests love that we wave them goodbye after a visit where they have also been welcomed so warmly."
Cruise ships make up around 10 per cent of the tourism spend in the Bay of Plenty region and at least 55 per cent of passengers stay in the local area.
This year 78 cruise ships are scheduled to visit Tauranga, bringing in a record number of passengers and a $40.5 million boost to the region's economy
Mount Main Street manager Peter Melgren said many cruise-ship passengers were often whisked away on to pre-purchased package deals in Rotorua or Hobbiton but he was noticing some passengers liked what they saw of the Mount and Tauranga so much that they came back on another cruise.
"This is about benefit for the Bay, not just the city, not just the Mount. But the Mount surely wins.
"They do go into the shops and into the cafes. They carry a huge amount of vibrancy while they are here," he said.
"It's a case of being a really good host, not just me but the whole city."
Christine Potter and others from the Mount Maunganui and District Lionesses Club welcomed passengers to the city as they disembarked yesterday.
She said the volunteers offered help and local information if passengers needed to visit specific stores such as opticians.
Many passengers did not necessarily know what was available within walking distance, she said.