New Zealand's fuel and port costs are among the highest in the world, representatives of international cruise lines say.
Even though cruise passengers regularly rated their experience of New Zealand highly, the high costs of operating were a challenge for cruise lines. Ports needed to adapt to keep the business, the representatives said.
The comments were made by cruise-line representatives to delegates at Cruise New Zealand's recent annual conference in Napier.
"More than ever, established products and ports are competing globally," Royal Caribbean Cruises planning spokesman Christopher Allen said.
"Auckland is competing with Port Canaveral and Barcelona. Napier is competing with Cozumel, Palma and Ushuaia."
The higher costs, combined with the trend of increasingly bigger ships, were significant implications for New Zealand as a cruise destination.
New Zealand needed to be prepared to host the next generation of cruise ships to remain competitive, Allen said.
Crystal Cruises spokesman John Stoll said he agreed there were challenges for the New Zealand market.
But opportunities for New Zealand's tourism industry to benefit from the cruise market remained.
Both the cruise line's reputation and the appeal of the destination played a part in a passenger's decision to take a cruise. So all parties needed to work together to maximise the opportunities for the sector, Stoll said.
Royal Caribbean Cruises told the conference it was expecting a record number of New Zealand port visits and passenger numbers for the 2015-16 cruise season, up 600 per cent from the 2010-11 season.
The Miami-based cruise line operates two brands in New Zealand.
As a group, Royal Caribbean Cruises is second-largest in the world, behind Carnival Group.
In the 2013-2014 cruise season, Royal Caribbean International conducted 13 voyages and 60 port calls in New Zealand, while Celebrity Cruises (part of the group) conducted 12 voyages and made 71 port calls.
Owned by NYK Line and based in Los Angeles, Crystal Cruises caters to the luxury end of the market and visited New Zealand in the 2013-2014 cruise season.