Cruise ship season has kicked-off in Hawke’s Bay, with more than 130,000 visitors expected between November 2023 and April 2024. This is a record number of visitors expected to come to the region.

The 19/20 cruise season was the last time the region hosted more than 100,000 cruise visitors.

The arrival of the boutique National Geographic Orion on November 14th marked the beginning of the season. The first large ship – the Grand Princess, carrying 3100 passengers and 1100 crew members – will dock next week.

Demand for Hawke’s Bay as a destination signals a record season for cruise tourism, with 92 cruise calls booked, including 18 double days (two cruise vessels in port at the same time) and two triple days. The final ship currently booked to visit Hawke’s Bay is the Carnival Splendor, carrying up to 3,012 passengers, on April 5, 2024.

The visitors are expected to provide a significant boost to the region’s economy with the New Zealand Cruise Association estimating the curtailed 2019/20 cruise season being worth roughly $30m to the region.

Napier Port CEO Todd Dawson said Napier Port was excited to welcome back cruise ships this month and again see visitors deliver a timely economic boost to the region. 

“Cruise tourism was able to bring immediate support into our region and in particular to local businesses in Napier during the post-cyclone recovery period,” Dawson said.

“On port, this will be our first season berthing cruise vessels on our newest wharf – Te Whiti (6 Wharf). Designed as a multi-purpose wharf, Te Whiti is capable of berthing the largest cruise vessels coming to New Zealand, including the Oasis-class liners (such as Icon of the Seas), as well as container and bulk cargo vessels. We expect to berth approximately 20 cruise vessels on Te Whiti this season. Napier Port is now able to berth cruise vessels on five of our six wharves – 2, 3, 4, 5 and Te Whiti – providing greater flexibility and availability for cruise lines.”   

Hawke’s Bay Tourism CEO Hamish Saxton said all those involved with the cruise sector were excited for the season ahead. 

“We saw the immense value that cruise can deliver earlier this year, when vessels returned following Cyclone Gabrielle and brought vibrance, vitality and visitation back to the region, along with much-needed commerce. 

“Cruise is always the cream on the top of the regular tourism season because it delivers significant visitation through a short number of days,” Saxton said. 

“A great many businesses throughout Hawke’s Bay benefit from the dispersal of not only the passengers participating in tourism experiences, but also some of the crew who’s on-shore activities often mirror those of locals – running errands in the city.”   

Napier City Business Inc General Manager Pip Thompson echoed these sentiments on behalf of Napier CBD’s retailers. “Our retailers, cafés and hospitality venues are excited to invite cruise visitors back into the city again. We’re hopeful of a classic Hawke’s Bay summer season and visitors with open wallets.”

A Hawke’s Bay Tourism spokesperson said it was important to attract all sorts of visitors to the region.

“It is important to attract a fully-rounded portfolio of visitor types, including leisure travellers, groups and tours, business events, event visitors and cruise visitors, to best serve a community and its local economy.”

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