Whangārei joyously welcomes MV Regatta as first ever official cruise ship

Northland has just added another jewel to its tourism crown as Whangārei becomes the latest stop on the region's cruise circuit.

However, the move may not result in the economic boom many are hoping for.

The MV Regatta, a boutique vessel with nearly 700 passengers on board, docked in stunning weather conditions at 7:30am on Sunday.

The council called it the first official cruise stop in the city's history and the ship was welcomed with open arms.

The handing over of a taonga marked the occasion as local hapū and the captain kept the tradition saved for when a ship and a port join forces for the first time.

Tourism Minister Matt Doocey was also there, personally welcoming tourists.

"We need to grow the economy and tourism is going to be a part of that success story," he said.

Whangārei has been campaigning for cruises for years.

"We've got the largest ball clock in New Zealand - the largest I believe in the Southern Hemisphere," said Mayor Vince Cocurullo.

"Doing up the town basin, the waterfront area through to putting in the Hundertwasser - this is just one more step to getting more of the tourism back into Whangārei and back into Northland."

Tourism operators are confident it's the first of many.

"In Whangārei we have three cruise ships so far booked for this season, another seven booked next season and we're sure more will come onto the books," said Tania Burt of Northland Inc. Destinations.

And while some are hoping they're cruising for an economic boom, others are urging caution.

Brad Olsen, Principal Economist at Infometrics, said: "I certainly wouldn't bet my life on the fact cruise ships are back and that's going to completely remake the tourism economy in Whangārei. Around $225 per passenger is what Infometrics estimates each passenger contributes to the local economy."

There is also the cruise's less than perfect environmental reputation to consider.

"Cruise ships are probably the worst mode of transportation when it comes to emissions," said Timothy Welch, a transportation professor at Auckland University.

"When you look at things that come out of the exhaust pipes, it's at the level of a million cars per day on a cruise ship, so they're significantly bad when it comes to climate change and emissions."

A boatload of considerations for a city back on the tourism map.