The battle for big-spending cruise passengers around New Zealand is heating up with the debut of the newest ultra luxury boutique ships in Auckland today and plans by a rival company to bring what it calls the "most luxurious ship ever" here.
The Silver Muse - which had on board a tonne of lobster for a Christmas cruise from Bali to Australia - is due in Auckland later this afternoon as part of a summer season downunder.
The 42,000-tonne ship is part of a new wave of luxury vessels which a New Zealand cruise expert says is a fast growing segment of the market globally.
Sir Richard Branson this week unveiled details of ultra-luxury suites on his new cruise ships.
Fares can run into six figures on longer voyages and they are attracting more Kiwis.
Helloworld's cruise marketing manager Jacqueline Unsworth said this part of the world was seen as a very desirable destination for seasoned American and British travellers.
"The local market is also embracing high end cruising close to home and further aboard," she said.
New Zealanders were booking top end owners' suites, penthouses and deluxe suites as the appetite for ultra-luxury grows.
"You will find these are the first to sell out with the lower categories being last to sell. I know of at least one cruise line brand where Kiwis more than any other nationality book the top grades of accommodation," said Unsworth.
"Many people just won't travel unless they can be in a top suite. It is not a status issue – people just want to stay in the best accommodation they can and enjoy all the extra benefits that come with it."
The World Wealth Report released by technology consultants Capgemini found that individual wealth registered its sixth consecutive year of growth.
In 2017, the wealth of high net worth individuals grew by 10.6 per cent, the second-fastest year of growth since 2011. High net worth individuals are defined as those having investable assets of US$1 million ($1.5m) or more, excluding their primary residence, collectibles, consumables and consumer durables.
Italian-founded cruise line Silversea owns the Silver Muse and has butlers among its 417 crew aboard and they provide service to every suite for its 596 passengers.
The ship is at the end of 15-day cruise around Australian and smaller New Zealand ports including Akaroa, Picton, Napier and Gisborne.
Unsworth said other ultra luxury lines in this region included Seaborn, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Crystal Cruises were in New Zealand during our summer, either as part of world cruise or regional focus.
Last week Regent unveiled plans to bring a new ship the Seven Seas Explorer, which it has trade marked "The Most Luxurious Ship Ever Built," to New Zealand in the 2020-21.
The $600m, 375 suite ship was launched in 2016.
"Seven Seas Explorer was built for the 1-percenters, with no expense spared. Every detail was meant to create an everlasting impression on her guests" said Lisa Pile, Regent's vice-president sales, Australia & New Zealand.
Although Branson's Virgin Voyages will have larger ships, they are in the ultra luxury category.
Branson said his adults-only cruise ships would bring rock and roll to the high seas. The first, the Scarlet Lady, will begin cruising in 2020.
Highlights of the Massive Suite, the top suite aboard the Scarlet Lady, include its own
guitar-clad music room, views of the ocean from every corner of the suite, and a massive terrace complete with its own Peek-a-View outdoor shower, hot tub, hammocks and a runway outdoor dining table, where a staircase will help passengers make their way on top of the table for dancing.
The ship will initially cruise in the Caribbean but more cruise lines are deploying ships in Australasia to cater for demand.