Napier will be a port of call for the biggest cruise ship to ever visit New Zealand later this year, giving its passengers a small taste of Hawke's Bay.

Longer than three rugby fields, Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas will start cruising around Christmas, and the company has already expanded the length of the season because of strong demand.

Ovation can carry nearly 5000 passengers and the company has said these passengers can spend $500,000 a day in port.

Napier will be one stop in a 10-night New Year cruise around New Zealand departing December 30, with calls also at the Milford Sound region, Dunedin, Wellington and Picton.


Tourism Hawke's Bay general manager Annie Dundas said the size of Ovation was a real positive.

"Cruise ships are getting bigger, and if we can handle ships of that size it means more cruise liners will look at Napier as a place to go," she said.

It is equal third largest cruise ship in the world, eclipsed only by Royal Caribbean's twin ships Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas which weigh more than 225,000 tonnes.

Cruising aboard Ovation costs the most of the Royal Caribbean's vessels here, with fares ranging from about $150 per person a day to several thousand dollars for staterooms.

Those who visit the Bay on cruise ships were often keen to return, Ms Dundas said as "it gives them a small taste of Hawke's Bay, and then they want to come back for a longer holiday".

While here, passengers would also provide an economic benefit to the region by spending money on tours and excursions, Ms Dundas said, with a boost to Napier's economy through spending on food, beverages and retail.

Royal Caribbean's managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Adam Armstrong, said between 30 and 40 per cent of those who had booked were coming from overseas, mainly the United States and Europe.

New Zealand was perceived as a safe destination and the cruise industry was booming in this region. Royal Caribbean, which enjoys about 22 per cent of the market, grew at 27 per cent last season.

"New Zealand and Australia are viewed as safe places to go, bucket-list destinations," Mr Armstrong said.

Ports had approached the company, even before the deployment here had been announced. "They've been proactive even before we'd announced. They asked what they had to do to welcome bigger ships," he said. "It's unique in terms of our experience globally. Generally we're the proactive party in going to talk to ports about bringing in new ships."