The Cruise Eden welcoming committee was tested and the town benefited doubly when not one but two cruise ships pulled into Twofold Bay on Monday.
More than ever the voluntary committee is convinced the $10millon promised for the extension of the wharf to accommodate cruise ships is vital for Eden to take advantage of the lucrative industry.
It was the first time since the Cruise Eden initiative started greeting ships in 2005 that two ships pulled up at the port on the same day.
Cruise Eden coordinator Gail Ward, who runs a bed and breakfast when not mixing with the international cruise set, said it was just a fortuitous coincidence that both the Astor and Seabourn Sojourn had Eden on their itinerary on the same day.
Considering that both ships carried around 400 passengers, almost all of which took the shore visit option, she said it all went very smoothly with passengers whisked off to various locations as far away as Canberra on tour buses.
Closer to home, visits took in the old whaling station, Seahorse Inn, Wheeler’s Oysters and Potoroo Palace while the centre of town and even the supermarket also proved popular for both passengers and workers on the ships.
Passengers, many of them well seasoned world travelers, mingled with the locals and took in the sights.
Spotted at the Eden Killer Whale Museum were New Yorkers George Graham and Kyle Merker who left home back on January 4 departing out of Los Angeles on board the five-star luxury Seaborne Sojourn.
On board the brand new liner they had crossed just about every geographic boundary from the equator to the international dateline before arriving in Eden half way through their cruise.
They planned a final disembarkation at Venice on May 4.
The guys from the Big Apple had a travel tip they took advantage of themselves while in Eden.
“Getting a haircut is a good way to meet locals and so we went the barber,” Graham said.
Stopping in at the local newspaper was also always interesting and they did just that at the Eden Magnet, as did several others making various inquiries about the town.
An amusing tale of travel emerged when fellow Americans Mitch and Helen Rosner from Chicago were visibly excited after shopping – not shopping for the usual trinkets but rather their favourite Aussie muesli bars at one of the local supermarkets.
“We love Carmen’s muesli bars and back home can only get the apricot flavour,” Helen said triumphantly holding up a full shopping bag soon to be stashed in their cabin on board the Seabourn Sojourn.
“We had no idea there were all these other varieties.”
The didgeridoo playing Eden locals Darren Mongta and Boden Douglas greeted passengers at the wharf.
They impressed international visitors with their explanation of the intricate paintings on their instruments with flowering wattles signaling plentiful bream and a full moon shining over lobster walking in a line on the ocean floor.
The local indigenous community is hopeful that Jigamy Farm can be one of the destinations for future cruise visits, with the improved highway access no doubt making it easier for buses to pull into the cultural centre.
Traders were invited to set up stalls on the wharf where there was added security from a private firm, Water Police and SES volunteers.
And it is the wharf that is key to cruise tourism taking off in Eden, according to coordinator Gail Ward.
Cruise Eden began as an initiative of Bega Valley Shire Council and Sapphire Coast Tourism, but funding was withdrawn and it now operates as a voluntary organistion with the underwriting of the Eden Chamber of Commerce.
Ward said it was vital that the governments at different levels followed through and built the wharf extension as soon as possible.
Under the current arrangements, cruise ships anchor in Twofold Bay and ferry passengers to shore in orange lifeboats of the kind currently making news in Indonesia.
“You can imagine if the boats had arrived yesterday, that wind would have prevented any shore visits at all,” Ward said.
As it was on Monday even a light swell and chop in the bay made it a challenge for passengers some of them with walking aids to take the leap from the bucking lifeboat to the ship.
The idea was to extend the wharf to allow cruise ships to actually dock to the land, making the port even more attractive for short cruises out of Sydney with free-spending young families and singles looking for a good time, she said.
Mayor Bill Taylor was there to greet the cruise passengers on Monday, an indication of council’s support for Cruise Eden and the wharf extension project. He also presented plaques to the ships’ captains.
There was a $10million promise made initially by the previous member Mike Kelly and then matched pre-election by current Member for Eden Monaro Peter Hendy.
A spokesman for Mr Hendy said the funds had been allocated and were available but it was now up to state and local governments to design and build the wharf extension.