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by Chris Tobin

The return of cruise ship visits to Timaru after an absence of three years has proven successful.

The last ship to visit for the season, Europa 2, came and left PrimePort Timaru on Saturday. The day before, Seabourne Encore, on its second visit to the port this year, arrived and departed.

One other vessel, Silver Muse, also called at the port this summer

Aoraki Development operations manager Di Hay said they had received a lot of positive feedback.

“I think it was really successful. One over-riding comment from the passengers was how friendly and helpful people were.”

She said a major factor in attracting the ships to the port was proximity to Aoraki Mt Cook.

“On Saturday, 40 went to Aoraki Mt Cook and another 100 stayed in town. Aoraki Mt Cook is the key reason. Nobody can beat us on it.”

The visitors also liked the easy access to Timaru’s CBD.

The Information Centre ran an on-again, off-again bus service so passengers could explore further afield if they wished, to the botanic gardens or Aigantighe Art Gallery.

When each passenger alighted from the ships they were handed putiputi (harakeke roses) which proved a big hit.

“They commented it makes us feel special. They were quite chuffed.”

New Zealand Cruise Association chief executive Kevin O’Sullivan said they would not know how the season had gone until a meeting was held in April, by which time they would have received satisfaction surveys.

There was the strong likelihood of increased visits to Timaru next year, about six he said, but there could be others in the offing.

“Timaru has done very well.”

The cruise ship industry was increasing at a rate of 10% a year but there were multiple issues that could impact on deployment.

“Coronavirus is one of many issues, and weather conditions as well.”