An impromptu wedding, a world class jazz cruise, oysters, beer and a strong community were just some of the highlights that made Eden's 2018/19 cruise ship season a thriving success.
Cruise Eden wrapped up the 2018/19 season at the Eden Fisherman's Club last Tuesday, April 16.
The well-attended de-briefing session was delivered by Port Authority of NSW cruise development manager Natalie Godward. Ms Godward began the session by describing the success of the season and an increase in bookings as a result of 14 hard years of work by the community and governments involved.
"Seventeen ships were booked to visit Eden this season. However two visits were aborted. One pulled out due to heavy swell and the other for other reasons."
The majority of the liners were international with only three domestic cruises visiting throughout the season. Ms Godward said there had been an increase in international visits but "quite a decrease" in domestic visits.
"We lost P&O visits this season - so it's important to note our berth reduces the risk of aborts so with the completion of the wharf we should see domestic numbers begin to jump up again."
Of the 19,000 passengers that landed on Eden shores, 17,500 passengers disembarked. The disembarkation rate was at 89% and was only slightly down from last year's figure of 92%. Ms Godward said that passenger demographics played a role in the figures and once again said the completion of the wharf would justify a rise in passengers disembarking.
"There were a lot of high end overseas passengers and in that demographic you also have quite a few immobile passengers who are not going to get off the ship, on to a tender, on to the wharf. So we will be able to mitigate that when we have the wharf finished," she said.
There was an increase in international visitors taking up shore excursions with figures showing the average of around 37%, however on some days, 60-70% of international passengers took up shore excursions.
"The last day of the season was the biggest shore excursion day we have ever had, with 18 tours and that's not including the independent and private tours."
Ms Godward explained the number of domestic passengers taking up shore excursions were low but they were working closely with P&O to increase the interest.
"There will be an opportunity in May for people to submit new shore excursions opportunities for new experiences around the Sapphire Coast," Ms Godward said.
Cruise Eden surveyed around 1000 passengers and 62% of passengers said they would return.
"That's excellent," said Ms Godward, "Think about how many domestic ships we had this season compared to last year and the amount of international passengers that is a very high figure."
READ MORE: Eden set for a huge cruising season
Of the tours, the number one rated experience was Cruise, Oysters and Brews, followed by Kiah Kayaking and Haycock's Point Bush strolls.
"That pretty much sums up what we do on the Sapphire Coast," Ms Godward said.
"Nature along with food and wine experiences. It's what we love about the coast and we share that really well."
A major highlight of the season was the sample Taste of Eden Festival at Seahorse Inn. A collaboration between P&O, Cruise Eden, Bega Valley Shire Council, Port Authority NSW and Department of Premier and Cabinet - 1870 passengers attended the festival.
"We are going to keep running this festival, it's all about putting us on the map and creating valuable experiences. We have it booked in twice already for the coming season."
Although the official date has not been given for the opening of the new wharf extension, Ms Godward said it will be opening in time for the first ship of the next season.
"Once we know we will let everyone know. It will be a community event and it will be for everybody to come along. It will be big celebration."
READ MORE: Cruise Eden organises impromptu wedding
Ms Godward said they were working with P&O to secure an additional booking in September to coincide with the opening however it was yet to be confirmed and more details were to come.
Looking forward to next season Ms Godward said so far 22 visits have been booked with four maiden voyages and around 40,000 passengers and crew set to visit Eden .
Ms Godward also spoke briefly about the new welcome centre set to be built in the vicinity of the breakwater wharf. She said the land has been surveyed and once the documentation is finalised, engineers will begin to work out the exact location of the building and what it will look like.
"We already know that it is going to be a multipurpose building incorporating the cruise markets and have a high sustainability factor. We also know it wont be ready for the coming season," she said.
Attendees consisting of tour operators, market stall holders, transport operators, community volunteers and other interested community members were invited to give feedback at the end of the session .