One can only guess how many umbrellas were turned inside out by the wind as thousands of unsuspecting passengers stepped off their luxury cruise ship and into Wellington's windy embrace this morning.
Royal Carribbean's megaliner, Ovation of the Seas — the fourth largest cruise ship in the world and the largest to ever visit New Zealand — brought more than 6300 people with it when it docked in the capital today.
The ship's hotel director, John Rae, said there were 4762 passengers on this voyage, and there were about 1600 crew as well.
For captain Henrik Loy, being in charge of a ship carrying the population of a small town is "a dream come true".
"For me, I thrive on this kind of pressure. This is what I'm trained for, this is where I get to use my talents," he said.
Loy joined the ship today to take over from another captain.
Despite the numerous attractions — surfing and skydiving simulators, bionic bartenders, bumper cars, and a rock climbing wall, Loy joked his favourite place on board was his cabin.
Aside from that, his favourite places to be included the North Star — an observation pod that hangs 90m above the sea — the Two70 cafe, and the bridge.
"I love to be on the bridge," he said.
His enthusiasm for the bridge is obvious as he points out the "groundbreaking" incident response room, which can be closed off from the navigation section of the bridge.
On the wing of the bridge, those bringing the ship in stand over a glass panel 12 levels up and watch the ship come alongside the dock beneath their feet.
And "brand new in the industry", Ovation also has an emergency second bridge six levels up in a bunker-like room.
But these aren't the things the passengers see. For those paying between $100 to $4000 a night to be on board, there's a lot to keep yourself entertained with.
There's the aforementioned attractions, the sports area, the 18 different places to grab a bite, the three swimming pools, and the comfortable lounges and bars.
While only 1300 passengers were on board about 2.30pm today, many of them could be spotted lounging with drinks or food in armchairs and on couches, or curled up on giant circular sunbeds with a book. The sun loungers lined up on the deck were unsurprisingly empty as the wind and rain blew through outside.
There's also the numerous shops, a pub, gym, spa, and casino.
Managing director Adam Armstrong said on average passengers spend $60-70 per day on the ship, and about $120 each in the port.
In a special ceremony, he called it a "historic wet day" for the ship to reach it's first port of call in New Zealand.
"Today Ovation becomes the biggest and newest, the most modern cruise ship ever to sail in our local waters," he said, adding it was "20 per cent bigger than the previous record holder".
It was also the first time any cruise line had based a brand new ship in Australia and New Zealand.
"It's the first time anyone's done that and it's a very bold move," he said.
The "$1.3billion baby" represented modern cruise design and the future of what he called "super cruising".
The ship would bring about $1.5million into the Wellington economy, and $35million into the general New Zealand economy, he said.
Centreport's chief pilot captain Charles Smith received the call about 3am to come in and help Ovation dock.
"The vessel just moves like a dream," he said.
Smith has handled about 8000 ships coming to dock in Wellington.
He is just one of the cogs that keeps the cruise ship process turning, bringing in a ship of this size is a group effort, Loy said.
"Running a bridge these days is very much a team concept," he said.
"The key to success is how well we work together . . . it's the ability to come together and use all the resources. Everyone becomes a part of this operation."
Missing from the bridge is the traditional ship's wheel, but there is a golden bell hanging on the wall — just a decoration, though.
"You're really not supposed to ring it," Loy said. "You'd get in trouble. It doesn't serve any purpose."
One thing that does serve a purpose on the bridge is a special piece of equipment used to keep the ship in place without having to use an anchor. The computer can keep the ship fairly steady in the water, although wind higher than 35 knots would be too strong for it.
The first official time the computer will be used will be when Ovation visits Auckland next week.