Hundreds of waving hands ready to wave off passengers and giant ships cruising in to come to a stop at the port are just a couple of things that come to mind when thinking of the cruise ship season. That's right, it is already that time of year again, with the first vessel scheduled to arrive this weekend. Reporter Shauni James talks to people in the region about the season.
With Tauranga's cruise ship season just around the corner, locals are being encouraged to help give passengers visiting the region a warm welcome.
The arrival of the first vessel is scheduled for Sunday, .
Ella Shirley, Tourism Bay of Plenty marketing and communications executive, said 112 cruise ships were expected to dock at the Port of Tauranga during the 2019-2020 season.
Last season, 114 cruise ships visited the Bay of Plenty.
"We're inviting locals to wave our first cruise ship off, the MS Maasdam, this Sunday, October 6, and celebrate the start of the cruise ship season.
"We know cruise ship passengers love to feel welcomed by locals, and it's often the kindness of the people that they leave raving about.
"I encourage all locals to make our visitors feel welcome, offer directions and wave them off."
Shirley said an estimated 217,419 cruise ship passengers and 89,042 crew (306,461 total) were expected to visit the Bay of Plenty during the 2019-2020 season.
Last season, 227,358 cruise ship passengers and 89,033 crew (316,391 total) visited the Bay of Plenty.
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Last season's cruise activity expenditure injected $90.3m into the local economy, she said.
Shirley said given similar forecasts were predicted in cruise ship visits and passenger numbers, they estimated that similar expenditure would be generated by the 2019-2020 cruise ship season.
This season, there are four overnight cruise ship visits expected in the Bay of Plenty. Last season there were seven overnight visits.
The Ovation of the Seas will dock at the Port of Tauranga four times this cruise ship season. Last season the Ovation of the Seas visited seven times.
She is the largest ship to dock in Tauranga and New Zealand, measuring 348m. Only six ports in New Zealand can accommodate Ovation of the Seas due to her size, Shirley said.
The Queen Elizabeth will be docking at the Port of Tauranga for her third visit, and is a Cunard ocean liner as opposed to a cruise ship.
Ocean liners are built to be heavier, with a thicker hull and greater draft so they are more stable at sea.
Shirley said Cunard is the leader in providing what is called an "ocean liner experience".
The atmosphere aboard an ocean liner is more elegant, with historic traditions such as the Captain's Cocktail Party, formal nights, and traditional shipboard games observed aboard Cunard's three ships.
The Cunard's ships are the last remaining "ocean liners" in mainstream cruise service.
Daily afternoon tea is served by waiters in white gloves, black tie and gowns are worn most nights, and ballroom dancing with a live orchestra in the Queen's Ballroom takes place.
She said Tourism Bay of Plenty collaborated with Little Big Events to put on special markets for large and overnight ships, to showcase the best of the Bay of Plenty and the vibrancy of the region.
For more information on the MS Maasdam wave off, and Street Food Union and Little Big Markets events, go to the events section of Bay of Plenty NZ's Facebook page.
Rotorua Economic Development chief executive Michelle Templer said the start of the cruise season was always a good sign that summer was just around the corner, so they were looking forward to welcoming the first cruise passengers to Rotorua this weekend.
"Our proximity to Tauranga means that 35 to 40 per cent of passengers coming into the Port of Tauranga choose an excursion to Rotorua.
"Cruise ship passengers that disembarked at the Port of Tauranga spent $90m in the 2018/19 season making them a significant contributor to our visitor economy.
"It is fantastic to see more and more operators and businesses creating bespoke product and taking the opportunity that cruise presents to provide customers with memorable experiences."
Mount Mainstreet spokeswoman Mandy Gillgren said the cruise season was a fantastic chance for the retailers to be able to show off what a magical place they had at Mount Mainstreet.
"It creates a real buzz in the Mainstreet when the ships come in and the retailers create a warm and welcoming environment for the passengers and the crew.
"The retailers hope is that we showcase this area as the popular destination that we all know it is and hope to create many returning tourists into the area."
Kathryn Busbridge owns V8 Trike Tours in Mount Maunganui with her husband Nigel Busbridge, and said they were looking forward to the cruise ship and tourist season.
She said from now until the end of April was their busiest time of year, and that 90 per cent of their business took place from October through to June.
Busbridge said all the tourism operators at the wharf and port got on well, and that it was nice to be able to work alongside others.
"There is a great vibe. It's nice for the passengers when they come out to see such a vibrant area."
She said this year instead of having a mobile stand they would have a booking office to operate out of, located in the front office of the old police station in Salisbury Ave.
Busbridge said they had a lot of prebooked customers this year, and having a main office meant they would be to sell other tours too.
V8 Trike Tours had two mini buses which this year they would be doing scenic tiki tours with, showing places of interest in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui.
Te Puia is one of the many Rotorua attractions cruise passengers visit as part of tours.
Te Puia sales manager Sean Marsh said more international manuhiri (visitors) were choosing to explore New Zealand by cruise ship, and having one of Australasia's premier cruise ports so close was definitely a positive for Rotorua, and the wider region.
Marsh said Te Puia I NZMACI was excited to showcase its latest developments, including the Kiwi Conservation House, Pātaka Kai restaurant and Te Whare Toto Ariki - Tā Moko studio to manuhiri this season.
"For cruise ship passengers especially, time is their most precious commodity - that we are able to share our stories, history, incredible landscape and cultural narrative in this relatively short space of time is very rewarding for our team."
Marsh said Te Puia I NZMACI was fortunate enough to host the full range of passengers over the season, and that it hosted a significant number of cruise ship passengers annually.