The first of 55 cruise ships set to call into Hawke's Bay over the next seven months tied up yesterday morning - a day early.

The Sun Princess, which carries 2000 passengers and crew, had been scheduled to arrive today but advised Napier Port and tourism agencies that it had reversed its initial schedule so would be calling in earlier.

That was no problem for tourism groups who were ready to roll after the 77,000-tonne liner tied up just before noon.

With more than 100,000 passengers and crew set to step ashore at Napier through until next April, and with passengers estimated to spend on average $200 a day, the cruise business is effectively a $20 million injection into the region.


"It is vital to our regional economy," Napier Port chief executive Garth Cowie said.

"On average every cruise ship brings an extra 2000 people into the region and that represents a significant boom for our local businesses."

Mr Cowie said the cruise sector had grown five-fold over the past decade and was now the equivalent to the third largest country of origin for visitors here, behind Australia and China.

"The potential for our local economy is huge."

Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said the region had built a great reputation as being an attractive place to visit.

"They love to explore our Art Deco, see the gannets at Cape Kidnappers, shop, cycle and visit the wineries," Ms Dundas said.

"They really do make the most of their time off the ship and inject a lot of money across all of Hawke's Bay."

She said research into the industry showed that many passengers returned as independent travellers.

"So the long term benefits of cruise ship passengers are ongoing."

Mr Cowie said the port had undertaken a major programme of investments to ensure larger cruise ships can call into Hawke's Bay, including upgrading its cruise wharf, commissioning a new gangway system and installing led lighting to assist with navigation.

The port was consulting on a proposal to build another wharf along the outer edge of the container terminal which would enable it to handle two large cruise ships simultaneously at the height of the season.

The issue of berth availability for cruise liners during busy container and logging ship schedules had resulted in the port having to "turn away" five of six liners a season.

"That's around $2.4 million sailing past Hawke's Bay every year," Mr Cowie said.

"Another wharf would give us the capacity to bring roughly another 12,000 passengers into our region."

There will be 10 more arrivals than the 2015/2016 season, but 14 short of the record 69 arrivals during the 2011-2012 season.