Regular visitor MS Paul Gaugin, operated by Paul Gauguin Cruises, was the first cruise ship to visit the country for the year, after calling into Aitutaki on Tuesday.
Yesterday the ship called at Rarotonga, allowing its 300 passengers a day of shopping and sightseeing around the island.
Cook Islands Tourism director of destination development Metua Vaiimene said it was the first of six scheduled visits by the Paul Gaugin for 2018.
“We have been blessed with fairly good weather these last two days which has meant that the almost 300 passengers and crew have been able to disembark and enjoy tours and sightseeing on two of our islands during this voyage,” Vaiimene said.
“The Paul Gaugin will go on from here to Bora Bora and other Society Islands in the French Polynesia group. The MS Paul Gaugin, which is expected to make the most number of calls (of any cruise ship) this year, will be back around February 24.”
Other vessels such as the Silver Whisper also visit the Cook Islands in February, with Crystal Symphony expected to call here in March.
Vaiimene said based on statistics to June last year, the cruise industry had seen moderate growth.
He said the Tourism Corporation was still verifying their cruise ship statistics for 2017 as these were not captured as part of the border management system as they were at the airport.
“There were 15 voyages scheduled for 2016, 21 voyages scheduled for 2017, and now 24 voyages scheduled for 2018,” he said.
“This is encouraging for this small but important sector of the industry. Ships cancelling calls due to weather continues to be our biggest challenge.”
Vaiimene said Tourism was excited with prospects for the cruise ship market this year.
He was particularly pleased to see Manihiki and Suwarrow featuring on the cruise calendar for 2018.
“The private sector continues to play the major role in growing cruise tourism to the Cook Islands.
“Cruise Cook Islands and Turama Pacific Travel Group have the working relationships needed with international and regional cruise line companies, to entice them to visit the Cook Islands in 2019 and beyond.
“Cook Islands Tourism will continue to work with our partners in the South Pacific Cruise Alliance, and the South Pacific Tourism Organisation, which includes countries such as Tahiti and Fiji.”
Vaiimene said more exploration would be made of the expedition cruise market, along with calls by vessels along the Tahiti to Fiji cruise routes.
“A limited number of marketing activities will be undertaken to support this sector beginning in March at Seatrade Global, the world’s largest cruise tourism expo held annually in Florida, USA.”