A record cruise ship season is helping tourism operators and retailers enjoy a bumper summer. Larger ships, and more of them, are expected to inject more than $540 million into the economy this season and passengers are staying longer and spending more.
The Celebrity Solstice is a regular visitor here, but it's the first New Zealand cruise for the smaller Azamara Quest. Aimed at the premium end of the market, the boutique ship is targeting more experienced travellers.
Philip Herbert, the Azamara Quest hotel director, said, "We're able to take our guests to some of the places the larger ships aren't able to go to. And that in itself – the size of the ships – allows a different atmosphere on board, which attracts a different type of clientele."
The luxury cruise line boasts overnight calls and longer stays. That translates to more money spent in local economies.
The Azamara Cruises NZ service manager, Mark Kinchley, said, "It gives them a lot of time to understand and see not just the scenic beauty and the cultural beauty, but the friendly people of New Zealand. And that's really important for our guests."
New Zealand's cruise sector has grown by five times over the past decade. Previously dominated by older American travellers, there's now a range of brands targeting different nationalities and family groups.
It's a big tourism market. If the cruise industry were a country, it would be the third largest source of visitors to New Zealand.
Dunedin will welcome more than 70 cruise ship visits this season, bringing more than 200,000 passengers and crew to the city. That's a boost and a challenge for tourism operators, but they have the benefit of knowing numbers months in advance.
Louise van de Vierd from the iSite Dunedin visitor centre said, "Because we know they're coming, we all actually do have that opportunity to be prepared and cope with the crowds, and make their day in Dunedin the best we possibly can."
Kiwis are also catching the cruise bug in increasing numbers – a chance to see the country from a different perspective.