Tourism, visitor management, retail and transportation teams are well used to welcoming a couple of thousand guests off a cruise liner but in Napier yesterday there were a little more than that to cater for.

Like an estimated 5450 passengers in the wake of two cruise ships arriving for the day — within an hour of each other.

One of them a true giant of the oceans in the jaw-dropping form of the Royal Caribbean liner Ovation of the Seas which carries up to 4200 passengers - about the same number as the urban population of Wairoa - as well as a crew of 1300, which in total is only a few hundred short of the combined populations of Waipawa and Waipukurau.

It measures 348m and weighs in at 168,666 gross tonnes, making it one of the largest ships to steer its way into Napier Port, and making its cruising neighbour tied up opposite look rather smallish.


An hour before the giant entered port the more modest Holland America liner Maasdam docked with 1250 passengers aboard.

At 55,500 gross tonnes and stretching over 220m in length it is no lightweight, but when the Ovation of the Seas is tied up nearby it tends to shrink.

It is not one third of the tonnage of the Ovation.

A steady shuttle of buses and tour coaches began moving from the docksides to the city just after 8am and continued through the day.

With the passengers and crew numbers of the Maasdam added to the small city aboard the Ovation of the Seas it meant the equivalent of the entire population of Dannevirke arriving in Napier.

"We haven't had this before," Napier iSite manager Jane Libby said, adding that while there had been two liners in on the same day in the past this was the first time one of them was a giant like Ovation of the Seas.

"We have been planning this for months and it has all been going well," she said.

Part of the planning was to set up a second drop-off site for passengers being bussed into the city.


So a stretch of Marine Parade by the Napier War Memorial Centre was closed off for bus parking to cater for the passengers off the Maasdam.

The passengers from the Ovation of the Seas were taken to the parking zones of the Napier iSite Centre where tourism operators had set up their stalls and set-off points.

"The only time we had done that before was for the Art Deco Festival."

At the iSite a staff of 10 were on duty — usually there are six.

"We also have a good team of volunteer ambassadors out on the streets to look after our visitors."

A 20-strong traffic management team was also on duty ensuring the port-city shuttles ran smoothly.

Stop-go crews and road cones were in place at the port entrance just along from Coote Rd while on Bluff Hill Lighthouse Rd was closed off except for residents and pedestrians.

In the past the road to the look-out had become congested with traffic as people headed up to get a look-down view of giants like Ovation of the Seas.

On the hospitality and retail front the heart of Napier was buzzing.

"Flat tack," was how one cafe crew member put it.

At Pacific Souvenirs manager John Jeffares had an extra eight staff on and he said sales, as expected, were constant.

"And it's across the board —everything really."

Napier City Business Inc. acting manager Steph Kennard said their CBD members were well geared to coping with large numbers of people coming from the cruise ships.

"This week alone, we have seven ships arriving across five days and our members are well aware of the ships and the numbers and type of people that are likely to be on them.

For Bryan and Angela Ingram from Tasmania, and visiting aboard Ovation of the Seas, Napier and the Bay were "just beautiful".

After several days of rain and cloud they were delighted with the blue skies, and the friendly feel of the city.

"And the Christmas decorations — especially in the windows — are so beautiful and so much time has gone into them," Angela said.

"Great feel about the place and oh yes, we'll come back," her husband said.

The Ovation of the Seas will make five more visits this season, and on March 4 will again arrive alongside a second liner — the Sea Princess.