Cruise ship passengers spent the day wandering around Halifax's harbourfront. (CBC)

The first cruise ships of the season arrived in Halifax Monday morning, kicking off what the Port of Halifax is hoping will be a strong season on the waterfront.

The Silver Whisper and the Veendam arrived in port with hundreds of passengers who were thrilled to stroll around in the sunny weather. The ships are the first two of 133 vessels scheduled to arrive this year.

That number is on par with the number of arrivals in 2012.

The Port of Halifax estimates those ships will carry 250,000 tourists.

Many have never been to the city before, and they were surprised by what they saw.

"We expected to see nothing but snow," said Mary O’Brien of California.

Major boost

The Port of Halifax estimates the cruise industry in Halifax is worth about $50 million in direct spin off for the local economy.

It’s the busiest time of year for many shops in the area.

"I would say 15 to 20 per cent of our revenue comes from the cruise ships," said Tim Clark of East Coast Beach Sand, an accessories booth.

The season usually starts off slow, with the bulk of ships arriving in September and October when the leaves start to change. That’s when 87 ships – or 65 per cent – will dock in the harbour.