THE first mega-liner to call at New Zealand will mark a step-change for the sector, says Cruise New Zealand chairman Craig Harris.
Royal Caribbean International's Voyager of the Seas will be based in Sydney for a five-month season from November 2012 and will make 50 calls to New Zealand.
Voyager of the Seas would be the biggest vessel seen in New Zealand in terms of passenger numbers, Harris said.
It would be a "step-change" into the mega-liner bracket, he said. "We can expect more of these larger vessels in 2014/15 when the Panama Canal [locks are] widened and lengthened to allow these mega-liners to come directly into New Zealand."
The liner was built in 1999 at a cost of US$500 million ($622 million), is 311m long, 48m wide, has 15 passenger decks and can carry up to 3840 guests.
Facilities on board include an ice rink, rock climbing wall, nine-hole mini golf course and 1350-seat theatre.
At present, cruise liners visiting New Zealand carried up to about 2500 passengers, Harris said.
The cruise industry is forecast to inject $223 million into the economy during the 2010/11 season, which runs until October, rising to $346 million during 2011/12.
A total of 138,200 passengers are expected during the 2010/11 cruise season, rising to 199,900 in 2011/12.
"The following [2012/13] year without the Rugby World Cup, the numbers are holding and there's still bookings being received so we're expecting an increase," Harris said.
The 138,000-tonne Voyager will sail in China before its Sydney assignment. Royal Caribbean International chief executive Adam Goldstein said there were opportunities in the Chinese and Australian markets, which are areas for the company's global development.
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