The 261-metres Sun Princess was due to open Hawke's Bay cruise season this morning, welcoming up to 2,850 passenger and crew members for the first of nine times this cruise season.
Tomorrow will see the arrival of its sister ship Dawn Princess and Thursday Oosterdam will visit.
The biggest ship this season will be Voyager of the Seas, due in on November 20. Weighing in at 120,000 tonnes it is 311m long - the equivalent of about three football fields.
Around 80,000 passengers are set to step ashore between now and the end of April, providing an estimated $25 million boost to the local economy.
Nationally, the season will be worth about $200 million.
Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry said at a recent conference that the record-breaking season ahead showed the vibrant and growing nature of the country's industry.
"New Zealand is right up there when it comes to destinations that appear on the bucket lists of our passengers," she said.
"The unique Kiwi flavour and level of service that local ambassadors, tour operators, business owners and the broader community provide make New Zealand a place cruise passengers want to return to year after year.
"This year it is particularly impressive to see the efforts of smaller regions throughout New Zealand as they prepare to embrace the thousands of visitors our cruise ships bring each time they visit."
Bluff, Timaru and Nelson will debut on the New Zealand cruise circuit this season.