At 261 metres long, and 77,441 tonnes, the gleaming white Pacific Explorer is a mighty and impressive sight.
Pulled alongside the new Eden Cruise Wharf she dwarfs the busy support boats and tugs around and under her.
A $44 million project, fifteen years in the planning, the wharf extension commenced construction in 2017 and was completed in August this year.
Whereas once these visiting cruise ships had to moor in the centre of Twofold Bay, ferrying people to shore by tender boats, these huge vessels are now able to pull-up snug to the busy tent-city of stalls and coaches, welcomed by red shirted volunteers.
Some of the Pacific Explorer’s 2356 passengers will be taken to outlying areas for specialised tours and experiences, however many will be exploring Eden’s township – the main street, restaurants, shops, pubs and nearby walking trails.
P&O have marketed this particular cruise as a four day ‘Sapphire Coast Food Cruise’, and 11 coaches are at the ready to deliver hundreds to the fabulous ‘Taste of Eden’, a foodie event held in the gorgeous grounds of Boydtown’s historic Seahorse Inn.
The coaches are flowing constantly to and from the event, and shuttles run up and down the main street and around Aslings Beach precincts. People are jumping on and off coaches, exploring, deciding, meeting and chatting, each coach-stop manned by a red-shirted and informative enthusiast.
Barry Hughes is a volunteer guide at Eden’s Killer Whale Museum and he loves his job. He particularly loves telling the stories of the Killer Whales shepherding Humpbacks and other whales into the bay for Eden’s whalers to harvest.
“We have this unique story about Killer Whales working co-operatively with whalers. It’s the only place in the world where this relationship has been documented,” he tells me.
“Museum entries increase significantly on a ship day. We are always working to improve the visitor experience, we want to keep up the interest and comfort levels for large groups.”
Barry and staff at the Killer Whale Museum are excited about the increase in visitors that the new wharf has heralded.
“There are constant briefings so we know what the industry is implementing, the impact on our environment, studies and things,” says Barry, adding “there were 130 at the last meeting at the Fisherman’s Co-op, all wanting info, with questions and plans.”
Nineteen months ago Victorian’s Jason Houston and Eric Wolske were passing through Eden on a ‘ship day’ when they saw and felt the vibe of the place.
“We had a look around, walked up and down the streets, we chatted to the owner of this little shop, and five minutes later we were signing a lease!” They are both very proud of the red-shirted ‘welcome ambassadors’.
Before cruise season, Cruise Eden Co-ordinator Debbie Meers spends much of her time visiting every shop on Eden’s main street. “We want all our retailers to be well-informed, then at the end of the season we want feedback, so we can make changes in the future.”
“The Eden Community has been absolutely supportive over the last 15 years, and loads of people have volunteered with the red shirts, many locals have gone on to become tour guides.”
Picnic blankets embroidered with “Taste of Eden” are selling like hotcakes at the Seahorse Inn.
Families and people from dozens of nations are milling about the beautiful lawns, looking out across Twofold Bay, enjoying the smells and sights of a multitude of food stalls.
From lemon meringue tarts to gin cocktails, from Souvlaki to Paella, tantalising aromas waft across the lawns to the sounds of live music.
A constant stream of coaches delivers passengers from the wharf and picks them up again, often dropping them in the main street for further exploration, fossicking and foraging. Cafes and coffee machines are full and steaming. Shops are bursting and people are streaming along the street to the Killer Whale Museum.
This cruise season (from September this year until April 2020), Eden will see 22 cruise ships, over 33,000 passengers and 15,000 crew members berth in beautiful Snug Cove.
For all comers there are the welcoming smiles of the red-shirted Cruise Eden welcome ambassadors. “We love what we do and we always tell people – you have to come back and stay longer. And I think they do,” one tells me.
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