The country's cruise ship industry is hopeful it will be returning the waters next summer - or even earlier - but warns it's a long way off before making any final decision.
New Zealand's cruise sector has been hit hard during the Covid pandemic as a result of border closures.
But the barren run could be coming to an end this year, with all tourists set to be allowed back into the country from October - just in time for the 2022-23 cruise season.
Cruise Association chief executive Kevin O'Sullivan says it's working with government agencies to make it happen.
"Our target is to reopen either in July which is where some ships are planning to operate out of Auckland or from the beginning of the main season season for October.
"But as you can imagine, there's a lot of work that needs to go into planning before the ships can be deployed to New Zealand."
O'Sullivan said the maritime border and arrival protocols needed to be in place months in advance of July.
But like others in the tourism industry, he felt self-isolation rules would hamper visitor numbers.
"We really need to see that rule being as short-lived as possible. It makes it very difficult for any international tourism to happen in New Zealand if there's any degree of need for self-isolation," he said.
O'Sullivan said the government needed to make firm progress on maritime border and arrival protocols by March in order for cruise operators to deploy ships into New Zealand waters.