Ports of Auckland is hailing the upcoming cruise season as a bumper one, with expected ship calls at a record high of 97.

The number of cruise ship bookings is up significantly on last season’s 79, itself a record high.  At the height of the summer season, in January and February 2012, 22 ships are expected each month.

“An existing customer has increased its ships in the region from one to three, we have six maiden callers booked and have also secured the entry of an entirely new cruise line to the New Zealand region,” said Wayne Mills, Ports of Auckland General Manager Multi-Cargo and Marine.

“On five occasions this season there will be three cruise ships in port simultaneously.”

The port also announced that cruise bookings for the 2012/13 season had cracked the century mark, with 101 ship calls booked already.

Mills noted the cruise industry has seen tremendous growth over the last 20 years.

“In 1991, Auckland hosted just one cruise ship,” Mills continued. “Fast forward 20 years and we are looking at one hundred ships a year.  The growth has been dramatic and of enormous benefit to both the city and region.”

“In the 2011 season, the cruise industry is forecast to generate $177.0m of direct expenditure in Auckland.  This cash injection into the local economy will generate an additional $71.0m of value add and 1,044 jobs.”

The 2011/12 cruise season kicks off next week, with the first ship in the Pacific Dawn, which will berth at Princes Wharf on October 5, followed by the Rhapsody of the Seas, due on October 6.