The first cruise ship of the season, Golden Princess, visited Dunedin last week, carrying about 2500 passengers – and more than 180,000 others are expected on a further 89 cruise ships scheduled.
Friends Bob (59) and Connie (62) Sherrod, and John (67) and Pat (72) Dilworth, all of Ohio in the United States, boarded Golden Princess in Sydney.
The ship berthed in Dunedin on Friday and the two couples visited the city for the first time.
Mr Dilworth said they realised they were this season’s “pioneers” as passengers on Golden Princess only when they arrived in Dunedin.
The couples began the visit with an excursion on the Taieri Gorge Railway and also planned to visit Baldwin St, the city’s steepest street.
Mr Sherrod said after experiencing the “beauty” of Dunedin he expected to return as an independent traveller to see more of the “great” city.
The passengers on Golden Princess represented 33 countries and the crew represented more than 40 countries, he said.
Dunedin i-Site visitor centre manager Louise van de Vlierd said if the 90 scheduled cruise ship visits to Dunedin this season were at capacity, nearly 184,000 passengers would have visited the city by April next year.
On the ships would also be nearly 80,000 crew.
This season’s passenger forecast was a 27% increase on last season, when cruise ships visited 76 times, bringing 144,450 passengers and an estimated $34million to the city.
The New Zealand Cruise Association estimated the passengers visiting this season would inject $38million into the Dunedin economy.
Forty-nine of the scheduled visits are of cruise ships with a capacity of more than 2000 passengers.
MS Ovation of the Seas, scheduled to visit seven times this season, can carry more than 4000 passengers.
It visited Dunedin twice last season.
Cruise ship visitor numbers were expected to continue to rise, Ms van de Vlierd said.
In the 2018-19 season, 30% more passengers had booked on a cruise with a stop in Dunedin.
“It’s mind-blowing,” Ms van de Vlierd said.
Noordam, with a capacity of 1918 passengers, is the next cruise ship scheduled to visit Dunedin this season, arriving on October 30.