Hawke's Bay tourism and hospitality operators have only a fortnight to wait before the largest tourist-carrying buses begin to arrive.

They are the great buses of the sea - the cruise liners that will make 45 visits to the Bay through until next May and will bring an estimated 95,000 international visitors to the region - estimated to give the bay's economy a $25million annual boost.

The Sun Princess, with 1950 passengers aboard, will tie up on Saturday October 17 and is a traditional early arrival.

For the past five seasons it has been the first to call on three occasions and the crew at the Napier i-Site in Marine Parade, which is the drop-off point for the ferrying coaches between city and port, is ready and waiting.


"It seems to have come around so quick - I don't know where the winter went," manager Jane Libby said. "Every year we tune things a little more but we've got it going pretty smoothly now."

Meetings with local tourism operators, the centre's volunteer ambassadors and "all those involved" took place this week in preparation.

"It is going to be good to see the passengers here again enjoying themselves and I would say we will see some familiar faces return."

Ms Libby said during the previous season staff had encountered passengers who were on their fifth or sixth visits to the Bay.

After the Sun Princess departs for Wellington in the evening there will be a three-week lull before the season really kicks in.

Five liners are scheduled to arrive in November, seven in December, 14 in January, 10 in February, four in March, three in April and one in May.

One feature of the season will be the appearance of three liners, albeit smaller boutique ones, during the Tremains Art Deco Festival between February 17 and 21.

On February 17 the Carnival Spirit with 930 passengers will call, followed by the Europa with 160 passengers on February 18 and the Pacific Pearl with 514 passengers on February 20.


As a destination, Napier got top marks from 84 per cent of cruise ship visitors in a survey carried out by Cruise New Zealand.

For 42 per cent of passengers expectations were exceeded.