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The arrival of boutique French cruise ship Le Laperouse heralded expectations of increasing visits in coming seasons.
This season, from October to mid-April, Port Otago is expecting about 250,000 passengers to arrive at Port Chalmers and is predicting a 20% boost to about 300,000 passengers next season.
A total of 117 scheduled vessels are expected this season, and there have been four weather-related cancellations so far.
The last call will be the Majestic Princess on April 12.
Port Otago chief executive Kevin Winders is expecting up to 130 vessels next season, and an increase by 50,000 to about 300,000 passengers.
"With all the passengers it's great to be able to provide the social dividend to the city, and it's great for the economy all round,'' he said.
He said while hundreds visited Dunedin and its tourist attractions, a "surprising number'' helicoptered from Dunedin to Queenstown on arrival.
There, they played golf and overnighted before rejoining their cruise ship at Milford Sound, in Fiordland, the next day.
The 1-year-old, 131m Le Laperouse arrived on Sunday evening from Fiordland, with capacity for 184 passengers and 110 crew, and departed about 6pm yesterday, back to Fiordland, with new passengers aboard.
Le Laperouse is described as an "ice-strengthened expedition mega-yacht'', one of six polar expedition vessels operated by Compagnie du Ponant Cruises, spending time in both Arctic and Antarctic regions.
Port Otago cruise manager Carolyn Bennett said last year's 87 ships was the previous record, and yesterday's Le Laperouse visit was only its second to Dunedin.
"They're excited about continuing to visit Dunedin in the years to come and look to use the destination as a passenger turnaround port, with all passengers disembarking and new passengers embarking,'' she said.
Mr Winders said the cruise ship booking cycle is about two years out, and for the 2020-21 season there is an "indicative'' more than 130 vessels visiting.
He said passenger totals and spending per passenger would not be available until about three months after the end of the present 2018-19 season.
When asked if Port Chalmers was at capacity with 130 visits, Mr Winders said completion of the recent 140m, $23million multipurpose wharf extension gave the company the extra flexibility required.
"Without that extension we would have been in trouble ... we have to accommodate the container and log ships,'' he said.
Another easing on congestion was being able to berth some of the smaller cruise ships in Dunedin's upper harbour, he said.
Port Otago had not struck any technical problems in hosting the larger ships.
"Yes, they're getting bigger, but they're very maneuverable,'' he said.
The Majestic Princess is a regular visitor and is the second-largest ship that visits Port Chalmers, the biggest being the Ovation of the Seas.
Mr Winders said Port Otago's pilots had a "head start'' in learning how to handle the large vessel in the shipping channel.
While it was still being constructed in the United Kingdom, Port Otago pilots went there to use the shipping company's simulator, loaded with Dunedin harbour data, to practise handling the ship.
"So the first time they go on board [in Dunedin Harbour] they are already familiar with it,'' he said.
Mr Winders said given the "five-year pipeline'' of new cruise ships under construction, he expected there would be many more overseas trips for pilots to use simulators.
He did not expect any extension to the present October to April cruise season, as that was the northern hemisphere's winter "off season'', the height of the season here being December to February.