The first of 3 cruise ships destined this summer for New Plymouth docked at Port Taranaki yesterday morning. With 90 passengers onboard, Caledonian Sky arrived from Nelson in the last leg of a 2-week long journey around New Zealand for a day-long stop over.
Greeting them at the port with three buses was Blair Withers, owner of Withers Coachlines, ready to take the visiting tourists for a day trip either around town or to North Egmont Visitor Centre to get a glimpse of Mt Taranaki.
"We try to take them to the famous sites like Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, Pukekura Park, Puke Ariki and of course the Len Lye Centre," he said.
"It's also about showing them those little things they wouldn't get without a guide.
"But it comes down to what they want to do at the end of the day, if they want to range farther afield then they can but they're only on shore for the day."
The common goal among the passengers was to see Mt Taranaki.
Maureen Wilson - from the UK - was hoping the clouds would lift so she catch a glimpse of it.
"It's my first time in New Zealand and every place has its own charm about it," she said.
David Crowther was also on the bus headed for the Egmont Visitor Centre where he hoped to spy the mounga from above the cloud line.
"I was in New Zealand 18 years ago but never managed to venture to this part of the country."
Withers said he's been lobbying for more cruise ships to come to Port Taranaki for years and was glad to see Taranaki get a slightly bigger slice of pie this year.
"There's been a lot of time and money invested into developing the cruise ship market here because historically it hasn't been big here."
The Caledonian Sky offers a range of different cruises around the world and boasts a more luxurious way of travelling the high seas than what people experience on larger cruise ships.
Its hotel manager Greg Newman has worked on large cruise ships for more than 20 years before moving to the Caledonian in July last year and said the smaller ships were better for the crew and the passengers.
"We have about 89 crew members, so almost one for every passenger, which is unheard of in this industry," he said.
"It means you get to know the passengers, down to even what drink they order at the bar."
Even though the ship is small by cruise ship standards Newman said they've had to anchor out to sea at seven out of 11 destinations they've stopped at in New Zealand, ferrying the passengers to shore on inflatable Zodiac boats.
"When I first started it was almost a competition between cruise companies to see who could have the bigger ship, now it has come full circle and people are after that boutique kind of experience," he said.
Last year Port Taranaki saw two cruise ships come to town, whereas larger ports like Auckland or Centre Port in Wellington could see several a day.
Venture Taranaki's former general manager for the visitor industry Paul Stancliffe said cruise ships didn't often visit Port Taranaki because the region had little in the way that tourism agents could take a commission from.
"There's nothing here for agents to take a cut from advertising," he said.
"The port also has a very commercial focus which provides much more revenue for them than a cruise ship."
Stancliffe said in order for Taranaki to boom for cruise ships and tourism in general there needed to be activities and sites that weren't free.
However, Port Taranaki's chief executive Guy Roper said they'd be rolling out the welcome mat for every ship that came to harbour.
"With Lonely Planet's recent recognition, we feel a great responsibility to ensure that the passengers get a warm welcome as they discover our region," he said.
"We support a wide range of industries from forestry to oil and gas and the cruise ship sector is another important and growing part of that."