The Voyager of the Seas is an awesome spectacle.
The biggest cruise ship ever to visit Tauranga dominates the skyline, rising high above the port terminal and surrounding buildings.
As your eyes stretch up its bright white flanks, 15 passenger decks high, past the encased yellow lifeboats, up to the angled funnels 64 metres above, you begin to feel very small.
You get a sense of how insignificant those people on Southampton docks in 1912 must have felt approaching Titanic. Except this ship is nearly 50 metres longer than Titanic and three times as heavy.
The Voyager is one of the 10 biggest ships in the world. If it was stood on its bow it would be taller than the Eiffel Tower.
It is just 8 metres shorter than New York's Chrysler building. It was the biggest cruise ship in the world when delivered in 1999 and cost US$500 million to build.
Once inside, it becomes obvious why people refer to this as a floating town.
It houses 5020 people and has all the facilities you would expect to find in a small town. There is a medical centre, shopping arcade, basketball court, swimming pools, mini-golf course. It even has its own postcode.
But there are facilities you wouldn't typically find in a small town: An ice-skating rink, 1200-seat theatre, 14 bars, clubs and lounges, casino, art gallery, climbing wall, inline skating track, and a three-storey restaurant which accommodates 1800 at one sitting.
It is the details which make Voyager an experience.
The three tiers of the restaurant are stylishly interlinked with curling staircases of ornate black wrought iron topped with polished wood. A grand piano sits on the middle tier and gently serenades diners as they eat.
Each area of the ship is designed by a different architect and visually refreshing as a result. For those of a forgetful disposition, there's even a carpeted floor panel in each lift which is changed daily to tell you what day it is.
Strolling around you find yourself craning your neck at cathedral ceilings high above, marvelling at the scale.
The ship's dimensions are not the only massive statistics though; there's the food consumption. There are 105,000 meals prepared each week and within that 28,000kg of eggs, 30,000kg of fresh vegetables, 18,000 slices of pizza and 30,000 litres of ice cream.
The food and drink is endless and, if the guilt kicks in, you can burn off those extra calories in the gym. Its curved serried ranks of steppers, bikes, rowing machines and running machines stare out to sea. And, if you have to be running for 30 minutes getting nowhere, there can't be many better views.
It is easy to be impressed with the Voyager but taking in the panoramic scenery from the bridge is a reminder of just what a stunning place this is we call home. Here I meet the Voyager's charismatic Norwegian captain, Charles Teige, who is of the same opinion.
"New Zealand has the most beautiful ports in the world, there is no doubt about that. I grew up in the Norwegian fjords and the landscape is very similar but we don't have such fantastic weather."
Garrulous and gregarious with a ready smile, he makes the perfect ship's captain. He is not averse to a one-liner either.
"We have upgraded the casino because of the Chinese guests and on this leg, with so many Australians joining us, we've had to make sure we have enough beverage on board."
As we chat, our conversation is interlaced with references to "biggest", "largest", "first".
The Voyager was a groundbreaker in the cruise ship industry when launched, redefining the rules.
"Even if it's one of the biggest cruise ships in the world, it's easy to find your way around," says Teige.
I'm not so sure about this though. I think it would take me a while to get acquainted with the labyrinth of corridors. And the number of craning passenger heads we encountered, looking back and forth bemusedly, would seem to bear testament to that point. But if you did get lost it would scarcely matter, with 1200 smiling staff members (from 60 different countries) you're never far from assistance.
The ship is in the midst of a 14-night cruise, including stops in Sydney, Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Dunedin and Melbourne. Those on board this trip include 1500 Australians and 65 New Zealanders.
The Voyager will remain in Australasia until March, offering a range of cruises. A two-night sampler cruise out of Sydney, Australia, costs $476, while a 14-night New Zealand and South Pacific Cruise is $3143.
Her affable Scandinavian skipper has been in charge of the Voyager for 10 years.
"Of course, everybody thinks it's easy to be a captain," he smiles, "but it's 5020 people and a US$650 million ship, so it's a big responsibility. You're just like the mayor of a small city."
The most difficult part of his job is not, as you might expect, manoeuvring such a vast ship into difficult harbours. It is, he says, all the small organisational matters that need to be undertaken when coming into a new port; jobs where he is forced to rely on others outside the ship's staff.
Not that he has had a problem in New Zealand.
"Small details can make for big delays," he says.
"I have to say though, both in Australia and New Zealand, you deliver what you promise. You go to other places in the world, like Italy, it's not always the case. But from the morning everything here has been excellent, tug boat, gangways, everything."
If Teige is not the world's happiest man in his job, he does a very good impression of it. He is energetic, enthusiastic and his stream of chatter is not interrupted by too many breaths.
"Every morning I come to my job I see the sun coming up and see these wonderful views." he says, casting a blue-blazered arm out towards Mauao.
"I don't have to sit in a car battling traffic for hours and I get to navigate these beautiful waters," he says.
"Of course, sometimes I have to work shoreside on projects. Every time I do, I'm longing to get back to my ship."