The Bay of Islands is busily preparing for tomorrow's visit by Ovation of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship to visit Northland with almost 5000 passengers on board.

The monster ship - which, at 348m, is longer than the Sky Tower is tall - is due to be piloted into the Bay between 7am and 8am tomorrow.

It will anchor off Russell's Tapeka Pt with the first passengers expected at Waitangi wharf about 8am and the last tender returning to the ship at 6pm.

Businesses in Paihia and Russell are gearing up for the influx and council-owned company Far North Holdings (FNH) is organising extra shuttle buses, traffic control and parking.


FNH cruise ship co-ordinator Irwin Wilson said the one-way section of Williams Rd would be closed to traffic with cars replaced by tables and umbrellas to create a festival atmosphere. A craft market would be held on the Village Green.

Twelve buses will shuttle passengers between Waitangi jetty and central Paihia with a similar number taking tours around the Far North.

Contractors had been hired to control traffic at the Marsden Rd pedestrian crossing to ensure a smooth flow of vehicles and foot traffic.

Volunteers from Paihia's Ambassador scheme would greet passengers as they arrived at Waitangi to hand out maps and answer questions.

There would also be a commentary on the buses.

"So they'll be reasonably well-informed by the time they arrive in Paihia about to how to find the Village Green, ferries to Russell, and get back to vessel," Mr Wilson said.

In the afternoon the shuttles would stop at the Treaty Grounds for those who wanted to explore New Zealand's beginnings.

He expected the high level of public interest in the visit meant a lot of locals would head to Paihia. FNH would make extra parking available in the Williams Rd car park; once that was full attendants would give advice on other parking places.

Sarah Greener, who manages eateries Alongside and 35 Degrees South on the Paihia waterfront, said all staff had been rostered on in anticipation of a "full-on day".

She expected 1pm to 3pm to be especially busy.

"It's exciting to see it [Ovation of the Seas] come in. It's a really cool opportunity for the Bay of Islands so hopefully everyone's geared up and ready to make the most of it."

Meanwhile, some boat operators are offering trips out to the ship for people who want a closer look.

Fuller GreatSights manager Charles Parker said an evening "sail away cruise" would follow Ovation as it left the Bay before returning via the islands.

The company put on a similar cruise when the Queen Mary visited in 2010.

The ship will head to Tauranga next.