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Just cruising . . . Passengers from the Emerald Princess cruise ship that was docked in Dunedin last week enjoy the view of Oamaru from Lookout Point as part of a shore excursion tour. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

A group of passengers from a cruise ship docked in Dunedin spent time in Oamaru last week, the first of many likely to see what the town has to offer.

Local tourism operator Headfirst Travel conducted last week’s tour after reaching an agreement with ID NZ, one of the country’s largest destination management companies, to ferry passengers to Oamaru for the day.

Ralph Davies, of Headfirst Travel, said the agreement was two years in the making and he was delighted it had been finalised.

“This demonstrates great vision by ID NZ to see Oamaru on the radar for cruise options from Dunedin and we are super-excited to have the opportunity to showcase what we can in Oamaru with this tour.”

Last Thursday’s tour took seven passengers from the Emerald Princess cruise ship to visit the Moeraki Boulders, Lookout Point, the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony and Steampunk HQ, before they had some free time to roam around Oamaru and then head back to Dunedin.

While the number of people who visited Oamaru was small, Mr Davies believed it could grow quickly.

“I’m pretty confident we’ll get multi coach-loads of people in the future. Other companies will see this tour as well and wonder about Oamaru and what it has to offer.”

He said Oamaru was the ideal location to take tourists who wanted something different, which is why he believed the deal got over the line.

“It’s not an easy sell in some ways, because people look at the destination of Dunedin. But, at the end of the day it’s not further than going to the Otago Peninsula.

“There are certainly some tourists that are looking at other options, so why not go an hour up the road and take them to the Moeraki Boulders, see penguins in Oamaru and then there’s Steampunk HQ, which is unique to Oamaru.”

Mr Davies believed the excursions to Oamaru would benefit local businesses and tour operators in the future.

Headfirst Travel guide Denis Dove said the group that visited Oamaru “really enjoyed” their tour and he expected numbers to grow sooner rather than later.

“I like to think it’s the first of many trips up here.”

ID NZ shore excursions manager Shaun Honiball said the company co-ordinated shore excursions for Princess Cruises and other lines for several ports in New Zealand and was excited about what Oamaru had to offer.

“We are always looking for new product and the itinerary of this, boulders, penguins and steampunk .. and has the potential to be a real winner.”