A Taste Of Eden For Cruise Passengers

Travellers cruising Australian waters next month may be in for a surprise - they're being transported to Eden.

The Sapphire Coast town of Eden (NSW) nestles beside Twofold Bay, the third deepest natural harbour in the southern hemisphere, a harbour that has become a second home for many of the cruise ships plying the eastern Australian coastline.

The ms Volendam (Holland America Line) will arrive in Twofold Bay on Monday, October 3, the first of five visits to the town over the summer cruise season, which ends in March. After Volendam, Orion will dock twice (November 13, 25), then Spirit of Adventure (December 18) and finally Athena (January 31, 2012).

When the ships come in, they are met by a team of volunteers representing Cruise Eden, a group which liaises between the cruise ships and the local operators in the town to co-ordinate a range of on-shore activities.

These include tours to wilderness areas and national parks, gourmet tours, an oyster farm, various sites related to the region's Aboriginal culture and whale hunting history, and - especially for foreign visitors - the chance to meet Australian native animals.

The volunteers are students from the local TAFE tourism and hospitality courses, as well as volunteer staff from the Eden Visitor Information Centre. They greet the passengers when they arrive on shore, helping with directions, acting as tour guides or providing commentary on the buses for the tours, and stationed throughout the town to answer any questions the visitors may have.

Gail Ward is the co-ordinator for Cruise Eden, which is a sub-committee of the local chamber of commerce. She says 2005 was the first time a cruise ship stopped at Eden but many years of planning had gone into it.

"We like to offer the passengers a range of options for the time they are in port, which can be up to eight hours," Ms Ward says.

"They might do a single longer tour or take several different options, but we work with the cruise ship operations team to ensure they have a really good experience while they are here."

Eden's Twofold Bay is a very deep, safe harbour with safe anchorage for the large liners, and easy access to shore. For passengers on the really big ships, it's a five-minute tender ride from the ship to Snug Cove. Ms Ward says the smaller ships can tie up directly alongside at Snug Cove.

"From there, the passengers can board a coach if they are doing a tour, or either walk into town, or take one of our shuttle buses and get on and off at different points around the town.

"There are only three ports in NSW big enough to take these ships and the other two are Sydney and Newcastle, so this is a unique opportunity for us to show our international visitors this beautiful part of the world.

"It's interesting to see that the cultural tours to the national parks are proving to be the most popular with the passengers. They are always booked out.

"We've been told we run one of the best meet-and-greet operations the regular cruise passengers have experienced. They love the naturalness of the towns, the coast and the country and they enjoy the friendliness of the people."

Ms Ward has been in her role for nearly two years and juggles it with managing one of Eden's most successful and popular B&Bs. She admits life can be pretty hectic when the ships are in port, but loves the experience and the opportunities it offers the town and its economy.

However, the big cruise liners are not the only ships that call into Twofold Bay. The tall ship HMB Endeavour will be in port for a full week next year, from May 7-15.



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