Luxury liners' day in port big boost to economy

Last updated 05:00 21/11/2013

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Two luxury cruise ships with about 6000 passengers on board spent the day in Wellington yesterday.

Each passenger was expected to spend about $100.

It was the first time cruise company Royal Caribbean and its associated Celebrity Cruises had brought the two ships into the port together. They were the Celebrity Solstice and Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas.

The companies are big contributors to New Zealand's cruise tourism, bringing about 60,000 people to New Zealand last year.

Celebrity Cruises hotel director Tom Brady said the Caribbean was the most established cruise market but New Zealand was quickly emerging as a destination. "We really recognise this as a real growth market right now, and it's something we're tapping into more."

Royal Caribbean opened an Auckland office in 2010 and 20,000 Kiwis had since travelled on its cruise ships.

About 200 Kiwis were among the 2800 passengers on the Celebrity Solstice, Mr Brady said.

The target market was clearly more affluent, higher-end passengers, of which Australians made up the majority. "To me this is very much like a luxury hotel with all the bells and whistles and components for the guests."

The Celebrity Solstice included a half acre of grass on its top deck, the first ship to do so. This was used for sports barbecues and picnics.

The 317-metre-long liner also included a 1500-seat theatre, a two-storey wine tower, restaurants and gyms. .

On board was millions of dollars worth of art, including a Picasso drawing, and a $500,000 tree in the atrium.

Positively Wellington Tourism's figures show cruise passenger arrivals to Wellington last year increased by 33.6 per cent, to 172,015.

The number was expected to continue to grow in the coming years, though this season's cruise numbers are expected to be similar to last year.

Cruise New Zealand estimated 78 cruises would visit Wellington this summer and cruises were expected to add $311m to New Zealand's economy.

CentrePort marine services manager Charles Smith said yesterday was the biggest day of the cruise season so far and one of the busiest expected this season.

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