LAST week’s visit by the cruise ship Pacific Pearl was a shot in the arm for Mornington Peninsula traders and local tourist operators.
The P&O liner carrying 1800 passengers docked at Mornington for the second time in a month – this time on a four-day, one-stop visit before returning to Sydney.
Mornington chamber of commerce spokeswoman Kim Rowe said a younger demographic made the passengers more independent.
“The average age was about 59 or younger and there were buck’s parties on board, girls on girls’ trips – it was a real contrast to last time,” she said.
“A lot said they were surprised at how big Mornington is and I surveyed every passenger getting back on the ship and everyone was carrying a bag – or bags.”
Ms Rowe said exit surveys found passengers appreciated the warm welcome and the friendliness of locals who frequently stopped them in Main St asking about the cruise.
Adding to the experience was the produce and home wares on sale at the Wednesday traders’ market.
“Our success lies with the traders and the reception the passengers receive on these cruises,” she said. “I spoke to the bus drivers and let them know they could stop at all the bus stops in Main St and many got back to the pier empty. That meant passengers walked down Main St getting something to eat or drink and taking in the sights – they were much more self-sufficient this time”.
She said Bay FishNTrips had 25 passengers from the Pacific Pearl, while the Green Olive at Red Hill had an extra sitting and 33 passengers visited the sand sculpting at Frankston. “Tours were hugely weighted to the Peninsula Hot Springs and the Mornington Explorer buses,” she said.
About 200 passengers made it onto four bus trips to Sorrento and the southern peninsula on the ship’s 24 February visit and about 150 on bus trips last Wednesday.
Sorrento chamber of commerce vice president Marc Clavin said traders were pleased with the influx of passengers. “It’s been beaut,” he said.
“The shops along Main St Sorrento did a bumper trade.
“The one disappointment has been the short time turn around. Some passengers were just getting into shopping mode when it was time to get back on the bus.
“Next time we will try to get the cruise officers to schedule four-hour visits rather than just one-hour visits.”
The chamber’s business development manager, Natalie Garner, was working through passenger feedback forms last week.
“The passengers created a great atmosphere in the town. Quite a few were buzzing around and the demographic was younger this time – with many couples and a few families in the short-break market that P&O is targeting.”
Mr Clavin said about a third of the visitors had remarked that they would return to Sorrento under their own steam within the next three years.
“That will have a nice snowball effect,” he said. “Overall, from a retailer’s perspective, it was a wonderful experience.”
Other southern peninsula sights and activities were popular, too. Moonraker Dolphin Swims put on a boat specifically for 34 cruise passengers and Peninsula Hot Springs catered for 160 passengers in three busloads.
A P&O spokeswoman said sister ship Pacific Eden would visit Mornington on 12 and 30 January next year and the Pacific Jewel on 6 March.