Cruise Sector

The global cruise market continues to experience exponential growth with 344,000 passengers expected to visit New Zealand in the 2018-19 season.

From 2014-18 more than 60 new ships will be built around the globe, adding more than 70,000 berths.

The Australian Cruise Market

Australia has become an increasingly important market for New Zealand and it is now the world's leading cruise market in terms of growth and market penetration. This growth has been driven by increased local capacity and product improvements. The Australian industry has a 2020 target of one million passengers, with analysts predicting that this target will now be reached by 2016.

  • In 2016 Australian cruise passenger numbers hit a record high of 1,281,159.

  • Australia is New Zealand’s largest source market, with 112,700 Australian passengers cruising here during the 2016-17 season.

  • Three cruise brands are dominant in Australia - Princess, Royal Caribbean and Holland America.

The North American Cruise Market

Traditionally when most people think about cruise, they think of Americans. They are indeed the world's largest source of cruise passengers and they are one of New Zealand's largest source markets for this type of tourism.

With more turnarounds on the cruise calendar, more North Americans are expected to fly in and cruise out, or cruise in and fly out, utilising the Shed 10 cruise terminal on Auckland's Queen's Wharf. Cruise constitutes a significant proportion of North American travellers to New Zealand.

North Americans who cruise to New Zealand:

  • are experienced cruise travellers who have already cruised to the Caribbean, Alaska and Europe;

  • do not know what to expect in New Zealand beyond stunning scenery;

  • are internet savvy;

  • are not exclusively cruisers, they are frequent travellers who cruise as part of their vacation mix; and

  • use travel agents as a vital part of their cruise booking process (up to 80 per cent use an agent to book their cruise).

While New Zealand is still seen as an exotic destination to both the industry and potential passengers, knowledge about New Zealand as a cruise destination is low.

The European Cruise Market

The UK is currently the leading market in Europe. However, in recent years Germany, Italy, Spain and France have grown at a faster rate (Italy and Spain grew 26% and 20% respectively between 2009-2014). Globally, the UK is the second largest single country source market (after North America).

  • UK consumers research cruise holidays online, but 80-90% still book through a travel agent.

  • It is predicted that the German market could grow up to four times its current size.

  • Europeans tend to buy longer cruises than US passengers and are not averse to travelling long-haul for cruises.

Cruise Industry Trends

  • Globally, the average age of cruise passengers continues to decrease, with the average age of first time guests being well under 40. Their age depends on a number of factors, including the cruise line, destination and length of itinerary.

  • The cruise industry invests more in agents than any other part of the travel industry with estimates that 80-90 per cent of cruise bookings are made through travel agents.

  • Cruise consumers have a high level of commitment to brand.

  • According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), 80 per cent of cruise passengers agree that cruise is a good way to sample destinations that they may wish to visit again on a land-based holiday. Nearly 40 per cent of cruise passengers state that they had returned to holiday at a destination first visited on a cruise. 

Deployment Decisions

Deployment decisions are based on a number of factors including customer interest, as well as logistical issues such as distance, fuel requirements, government policy and weather. Cruise New Zealand actively works with cruise lines regarding deployment decisions and this is a major focus of their efforts.

The cruise industry is a customer-driven business with deployment strategies based on the premise 'we go where people think they want to go'. Cruise executives advise that the most valuable support a destination can offer is to create demand through marketing to consumers and creating awareness for trade. It is acknowledged that at the heart of a successful cruise industry is the destination and there needs to be commitment from destinations to offer good value for money to consumers.

The Major Players

The global industry is dominated by three major players who operate over 80 per cent of global capacity.

  1. Carnival Corporation includes Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises Australia, Princess Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line (also AIDA and Ibero Cruceros, who do not currently visit New Zealand).

  2. Royal Caribbean Cruises includes Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International (also Azamara, Croisieres de France, Pullmanter and TUI Cruises, who do not currently visit New Zealand).

  3. Genting Hong Kong includes Norwegian Cruise Line (50 per cent ownership shared with Apollo Management) and Star Cruises (Asia).

Future Trends

Other trends include the building of much bigger cruise ships, which will bring greater numbers of visitors to New Zealand at any one time and increase the pressure on our infrastructure catering to cruise visitors.

This has prompted a renewed focus on work to upgrade New Zealand's infrastructure - with Cruise New Zealand, regional tourism organisations and relevant government bodies working together on this issue.

Read more market trends and statistics in the Cruise Resources section and check out the Cruise hub on

(Data source: Economic Impact of the New Zealand Cruise Sector - 2014).