MAIN St Mornington will be a hive of activity on Tuesday (24 Feb) as locals welcome passengers from the P&O cruise liner Pacific Pearl.
The 63,875-tonne ship is due to arrive from Eden, on the NSW south coast, at 8am and berth about 1.6km off shore – weather permitting – or 3.2km out if it is too rough near shore.
Its 1800 passengers will be ferried to shore in tenders for a day’s sightseeing and shopping in the town, bus trips to Sorrento and Portsea, drinking at wineries, as well as dolphin, swimming and paddling excursions.
A Plan B scenario, if seas are too rough in Port Phillip Bay, is for the ship to be diverted to Stony Point in Western Port. There will be no change to itineraries, with passengers still visiting the same peninsula sights by bus and Mornington as planned.
The ship will sail for Portland at 5pm, arriving at the western end of the Great Ocean Rd at 7am the next day when guests will have the opportunity to explore the port’s maritime history or see nearby Cape Bridgewater’s fur seals before departing for Kangaroo Island, off South Australia, and then back to Sydney.
The eight-night itinerary to regional towns is a first for the cruise line – and a boon to the peninsula – with an expected five visits over the next 12 months injecting around $150,000 per visit into the local economy.
Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Kim Rowe – who met twice with P&O executives to plan the reception – said roving musicians would entertain passengers strolling along Main St during the stopover. She said Mornington Secondary College drum band would play outside K-Mart, Southern Sound would play Australiana songs, and there would be glass blowers, stilt walkers, a herd of alpacas, Aboriginal paintings from Baluk Arts, face painting, sausage sizzle and tables of home-made products for passengers to buy and enjoy.
Beleura Hill Rd is tipped as the best vantage point for viewing the ship and its passengers’ comings and goings – or the Matthew Flinders Lookout at Mt Martha if the ship is further out. Restrictions on parking at the boat ramp and minimal car spaces will make parking difficult any nearer the boat harbour.
“We are going to put on a real show for them,” Ms Rowe said. “We encourage as many locals as possible to come along and welcome the passengers. They are providing a massive injection into the local economy and we want to show them how great we are.”
Ms Rowe said the 1800 passengers would be a huge boost to the average Tuesday visitor numbers. She said the chamber would survey passengers on the perceived highs and lows of their visit before they embarked. “We want to show that we care and to be continually raising the bar to this kind of tourism.”
P&O Cruises senior vice president Tammy Marshall said the maiden visits come as P&O Cruises builds its presence in Victoria. “We’re thrilled to be taking our guests to some of Victoria’s most beautiful coastal areas, while also spreading the valuable cruise dollar further in what is sure to be a boon for these regional towns,” she said.