22 Jan 2016

Bumper cruise season expected

8:33 am on 22 January 2016

Summer weather heralds the arrival of cruise ships and another bumper season is expected.

The 2014/15 season injected over $570 million into the New Zealand economy, up from $365m spent by passengers the season before.

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The 2014/15 cruise ship season was worth over $570 million. Photo: AFP

If standing upwards, at 311m long, the Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas is almost as tall as the Sky Tower.

The vessel can carry more than 5000 passengers and crew.

Inside the dining room on Royal Caribbean cruise ship Explorer of the Seas

Inside Explorer of the Seas' dining room Photo: RNZ / Jonathan Mitchell

Walking through the interior of the ship, you would be forgiven for thinking you're in a shopping mall - with cafes and shops to visit, not to mention a gym, theatre and vast dinning room.

On a sunny day, there are swimming pools and tennis courts to keep passengers occupied.

Royal Caribbean commercial director Adam Armstrong said New Zealand was a bucket list destination - especially for Australian travellers.

"We can very easily physically get our ships into the country and our guests like coming here, so it ticks both of those big boxes," he said.

Mr Armstrong said cruise ships were getting bigger and so was competition.

"We're very successful in this market and that has been noticed by a lot of our competitors and so the number of ships and number of operators is increasing."

Border clearance fee introduced

Cruise New Zealand represents various companies connected with the sector, including ports.

Its chair, Kevin O'Sullivan, said the industry was a boom for the regions.

But he said there were headwinds, including a new border clearance levy brought in just this month to help cover the costs of biosecurity screening.

"When a person arrives in New Zealand, or departs, then they'll have to pay a fee," he said.

For a cruise passenger, the levy - introduced by the Ministry for Primary Industries and Customs - costs more than $26 (including GST).

Mr O'Sullivan said the long term impact of the levy was unclear but, for now, ship cruises were getting more popular.

According to Cruise New Zealand, passenger numbers are forecast to grow by a third to about 270,000 this season.

It said indications for next year were looking positive too with the appearance of the newly launched Ovation of the Seas, which will be largest to call here.

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