Napier was a hive of activity yesterday, with the first of an expected record 125,000 cruise ship visitors hitting town.
A total of 72 cruise ship visits are booked to arrive at Napier Port this summer season, which started with yesterday's arrival of the 330 metre-long Majestic Princess.
Napier Port chief executive Todd Dawson said the 72 cruise ships scheduled to call this season, an increase from 57 last season.
"We'll be welcoming up to 125,000 cruise passengers to Napier between October and April, which is an increase of around 25 per cent on the passenger count last season. Our cruise industry is growing in leaps and bounds, and we're hitting new records every year."
The 2018-2019 cruise season promises to be a major boost for the Hawke's Bay economy, with passengers expected to spend around $28 million.
Recent figures from Statistics New Zealand show cruise passengers spent on average $227 per day in Hawke's Bay last season, a 41.5 per cent increase on the previous season.
"We've seen a huge jump in passenger spend, which is fantastic for our local businesses," Dawson said.
"And with passengers spending up to an average of $620 in other centres, we know there's plenty of room to grow it further.
"Demand from cruise lines is growing, with an increasing number of cruise passengers wanting to explore all that Hawke's Bay has to offer.
"There's huge demand for the Hawke's Bay experience. Cruise lines are booking more Napier calls every year, and they're already asking us to prepare for Oasis class cruise ships, which are even larger than the Ovation of the Seas.
"We've already embarked on a programme of upgrades for our existing infrastructure, to support our cruise sector to grow in the short term. But looking further ahead, catering to Oasis class ships – which are around 360 metres long – will require much more significant infrastructure developments.
"We're excited about the potential in our cruise sector, and the benefits it could bring for the people, businesses and economy of Hawke's Bay."
NZ Cruise Association chief executive Kevin O'Sullivan said the growth of the country's cruise sector and relationships with international cruise lines benefited communities throughout New Zealand.
"The Majestic Princess will visit New Zealand ports 88 times this season, calling in to Fiordland, Dunedin, Akaroa, Wellington, Napier Tauranga, Auckland and the Bay of Islands. The swell of visitors to these regions creates a huge economic boost as well as showing off some of our ports, cities, and towns to visitors from all over the world."
The Majestic Princess is the largest liner in the Majestic fleet and will be the second largest liner to ever arrive in Napier - second only to the Ovation of the Seas, which will come to Napier a record six times this season.