Marlborough got a population injection of 700 yesterday as the first of the season's cruise ships docked.
Picton warmly welcomed the Radiance of the Sea under grey skies at Shakespeare Bay. The 90,000-tonne cruise ship stopped in on its 18-day voyage taking 2400 passengers and crew from Honolulu to Sydney. This leg is part of a longer trip that began in Alaska.
Destination Marlborough general manager Tracy Johnston said more than 700 passengers took organised bus tours into the region while others chose to be bused into Picton.
"That's a huge boost to our visitor numbers in one day.
"It gives them a sneak peek of New Zealand and then hopefully they come back for a longer land-based tour. A positive cruise ship experience brings positive returning numbers."
Picton Meet and Greet team co-ordinator Margaret McHugh agreed, and said welcoming the passengers to Picton was an essential service
"It's the simple things that matter, helping people find places or taking their photos. They're not always wanting to go on pre-organised trips."
Eighteen volunteers greeted the passengers and all had done a "phenomenal" job, she said.
Speaking on the Coathanger Bridge, Australian passengers Lea and David Martin said they enjoyed exploring Picton, found the Meet and Greet team to be very helpful, and planned to buy souvenirs at the market on the foreshore.
"It's just beautiful, we want to come back next year and do a proper tour down to Hokitika."
Captain Bill Wright said sailing the large ship through the Marlborough Sounds reminded him and the crew of their starting point of Alaska which they left on September 7.
"All of us kind of feel that, being a ship coming from Alaska and coming down here, we almost feel like we're back in Alaska. We feel quite at home."
He has worked for cruise ship company Royal Caribbean for about 20 years but his home is set among mountains in Norway, on the Swedish border side of the country.
"It's about as far from the ocean as you can get."
- The Marlborough Express