Picton businesses rally after 3000 guests turn up in unexpected cruise stop

The Emerald Princess steams past Waikawa Bay to Shakespeare Bay in Picton on Monday, a full day earlier than expected.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

The Emerald Princess steams past Waikawa Bay to Shakespeare Bay in Picton on Monday, a full day earlier than expected.

With only hours to prepare for 3000 unexpected guests, businesses of a port town rallied to roll out the welcome mat for a re-routed cruise ship.

The Emerald Princess made an unexpected early arrival in Picton after being diverted from Akaroa on Monday.

The cruise ship was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday but made the rare decision to dock overnight in the Marlborough Sounds town, and businesses are counting the benefits.

Tourists explore the streets of Picton after the Emerald Princess unexpectedly docked on Monday afternoon.
SUPPLIED/DESTINATION MARLBOROUGH

Tourists explore the streets of Picton after the Emerald Princess unexpectedly docked on Monday afternoon.

Cafes, restaurants and bars were full while the Picton i-Site sold out of tours.

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Seabreeze Cafe and Bar manager Chantal Woodley said the restaurant had a busy night and many operators along High St opened late to serve the visitors.

"It was unexpected for a Monday night but it was great. It ran smoothly," she said.

The cafe was told about the ship's early arrival in the morning and it was good to see businesses in town embrace the sudden change of plan, Woodley said.

Fresh Choice Picton owner Hamish Watson said the weather was perfect and tourists saw a great side of Picton.

"It was like a public holiday, it had that late-night atmosphere. It was really good to see," he said.

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"This was a great showcase of Picton. For once the weather co-operated."

Watson, who was also the Picton Smart and Connected visitor economy group leader, said flexibility was key in the tourism industry.

"You have to be fluid and adapt as you go. You've got to make do as best you can," he said.

The 1000-person Azamara Journey was another ship that changed its plan and added Picton to its itinerary for March 12.

Destination Marlborough general manager Tracy Johnston said it was exciting to see the town handle the influx and cruise companies would take note.

"We didn't have much time to plan but the response was epic," she said.

"Companies will see that Marlborough has the capacity to respond to last-minute changes and turn it on for them.

"There were people all the way up the street and the cafes and restaurants responded."

 - The Marlborough Express

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