How can you tell if it is cruise season in New Zealand?

It's when in Auckland the skyline is obliterated by floating, white apartment blocks and the water is awash with angry ferry commuters, late for work.

One Waiheke resident, Chloe Barker, wrote in to the harbourmaster to complain she was delayed by pleasure cruisers three times in a week.

On Tuesday morning Fullers 360 ferries said it had to cancel three sailings to Waiheke and Devonport.

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Commuters late for meetings were understandably furious. Both ferry riders and operators are united in thinking that public transport should take priority over few thousand tourists on holiday to float around the coast of New Zealand.

However, New Zealand's Cruise Association has called into question whether the ferry cancellations and delays had anything to do with cruise shipping.

The waters around the Port of Auckland are growing ever busier. Each year the number of ships and passengers arriving in Auckland is steadily increasing and the "off season" reducing.

Auckland has over 139 ferry arrivals in still to come this year, with still around one arrival a week in what was seen as the traditional "off season" – between July and August.

Auckland's harbour congestion is in danger of becoming an all-year-round headache.

Due to the international demand for seeing Aotearoa from the shore, there soon could be no end to the cruise season in New Zealand.

But cruise lines are questioning whether the late running ferry timetable has anything to do with the current level of cruise traffic.

Kevin O'Sullivan, CEO of New Zealand Cruise Association told the Herald that the ire towards cruise ships was unfair:

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"We believe that cruise ships are being targeted unfairly and used by the ferry company as the reason for commuter delays," he said.

O'Sullivan said that on Tuesday all cruise traffic arrived to schedule and that there was no reason for the congestion being any worse than before, saying "there's been no change to the berthing process for cruise ships this year."

He said that Fullers360's inability for late running ships and cancellations do not lie with cruise traffic, speculating that reasons "could include unrealistic schedules, mechanical problems, or staffing issues."

O'Sullivan said there were other factors at play and the infrastructure in downtown Auckland is not ideal, particularly ongoing roadworks affecting Quay Street road access to cruise terminals.

However, he said the cruise industry is taking a "long-term view" to the current congestion.

NZCA will be attending a meeting organised by Nikki Kaye, MP for Auckland Central, to discuss possible solutions to harbour congestion with other parties involved.

A spokesperson for Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA) said that "While local authorities are responsible for the oversight of harbour traffic, the cruise industry is always willing to support the efficient management of port movements."

CLIA added that "Cruise lines operate successfully alongside commuter vessels in busy ports around the world" and said it would be available to "assist in any discussions aimed at achieving smooth operations that suit a port's particular circumstances."

"Safety is always the highest priority and operations take place under the direction of harbour masters."

The cruise industry in New Zealand has long been arguing for wharf extensions to allow larger vessels to tender in Auckland. Ovation of the Seas is currently unable to dock in Auckland, making large turnovers of passengers or restocking untenable.

When asked if extensions might reduce the number of ships needed to service Auckland's growing demand for cruise passengers, CLIA said it was unlikely to affect the number of arrivals only the type of ship arriving.

Fullers was contacted for comment