The luxury cruise ship MV Europa and its passengers have sailed away, but only after a "perfect" stopover in Tasman Bay marked a triumphant return for this lucrative tourism industry.
"I think the best way to describe it was perfect," Darryl Wilson said. His company Wilson's Abel Tasman was one of a group of local operators contracted to look after the tourists during their day-long stay in Nelson and Tasman.
"The day was sweetened by the weather looking a wee bit doubtful for a moment, which made the sun coming out even more gratefully received.
"It was a good way to start cruise ships this year, and an interesting market, and one no doubt the Nelson region will see more of," Mr Wilson said.
Yesterday 100 passengers from the 198-metre liner landed at Port Nelson for a morning jaunt around the city. The predominantly German group visited the Suter Gallery, the WOW museum and Hoglund Art Glass studio, before boarding a bus bound for Kaiteriteri where they rejoined the Europa.
Some of the visitors preferred native bush to city bustle, and were treated to a tour of the Abel Tasman National Park with Wilson's Abel Tasman, while others enjoyed a scenic helicopter flight.
At midday a Wilson's boat ferried 120 of Europa's passengers, plus crew, up the coast to Anchorage.
Mr Wilson said they split into groups, with some kayaking in Torrent Bay and others walking around Pitt Head or over to Apple Tree Bay. "It was great, it all worked really well. They were very appreciative and very keen," Mr Wilson said.
"Germans historically have had a good reaction to the Abel Tasman.
"But these definitely weren't backpackers, they were the other end of the spectrum - upper-end 5-star cruise ship market."
Mr Wilson said he hoped to see more cruise ships return to the region.
"The company was looking for places to berth in Golden Bay for when they come back next time." "Good-looking" Tarakohe Port was a contender, he said.
"It's not the simplest destination for them to operate.
"But if the operators can all get together and operate as efficiently as they appear to have done yesterday it certainly becomes a lot better proposition for the shipping companies."
Mr Wilson said his company had a similar day of activities planned for passengers on the next cruise ship to visit Tasman Bay, the MV Bremen due on March 11.
- © Fairfax NZ News