A 29-year-old tourist who has confessed to importing 23kg of cocaine into Australia on a cruise ship was doing "an easy job for easy money", a court has heard.

The French-Canadian woman, whose name was suppressed by order of the Sydney District Court on Friday, wept during a sentencing hearing, saying: "I fear for my life".

She says she was working in a bar in Canada and got into debt after borrowing $20,000 "to start a new life".

When the debt was called in, she was told she could take a suitcase, which was full of drugs, through Customs in Sydney because a woman of her age was unlikely to be stopped and searched.

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She told the court that the night before the ship docked in Sydney, a man had taken the key to her cabin and put something in her empty suitcase.

Wearing a black pants suit and a white collared shirt with her long dark hair drawn back into a ponytail, the woman held up a hand briefly to greet family members as she entered the courtroom for her sentencing hearing.

The woman, for whom French is her first language, had pleaded guilty in December to the importation of a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.

Crown prosecutor Slade Howell asked the woman: "You were told your role would be easy and you shouldn't worry?" to which she replied "Yes".

Mr Howell read from a character reference written by the woman's sister who said "at the bottom line she was convinced of an easy job with easy money and I know she regrets every step of that journey".

But the woman denied her sister had been talking about smuggling drugs into Australia.

Instead, she told the court the words had been referring to her former job working at the Resto-bar in Canada.

The woman was arrested with two others accused of importing cocaine in August last year after police boarded the cruise ship in Sydney and discovered the cocaine in suitcases.

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The woman agreed that she had flown from Canada to Dover in England to board the ship and that she had neither paid for the flight nor the cruise.

She met six men and one woman on board and had shared a cabin with the woman for a six-week cruise "halfway around the world" to Australia.

The woman said she had committed the crime because "I kind of knew they would threaten me and my family. I had no choice".

"They came and told me I had to do this. I had to take the trip and I had to bring a bag."

She had decided not to name the people who had put her up to it "because I am mostly fearful . I fear for my life".

The cruise ended when officers boarding the ship and allegedly discovered the drugs in plastic bags in suitcases.

The woman denied she touched or looked into the bag after it was filled with drugs the night before docking in Sydney.

In a suitcase in the woman's cabin they found a "pure amount of 23.864kg" of cocaine.

Asked by her defence lawyer Tony Kimmins what she would get in exchange for carrying the bag of cocaine through Customs, she said her debt "would be erased".

The woman faces a maximum penalty of life in jail.

Judge Kate Traill said she would reserve her decision and that the name of the woman and her co-accused would be suppressed for several months.