FINAL preparations are being made for the arrival of Portland’s first cruise liner less than two weeks away.
The MS Europa, carrying up to 400 visitors, will dock at the Portland smelter berth on March 8 about 8.30am amid massive local interest. Portland is rolling out the welcome mat in a big way — putting on a show for both the visitors and the locals arriving to get a peak at the five-star liner.
Ray Gilby, who chairs the working group for cruise ships in Portland, said the city was keen to make a good impression with hopes of attracting more vessels in the future.
“We’re planning a welcome to country ceremony for the visitors berthing in Portland. There’ll be a market, music playing. It’ll be like a carnival,” Mr Gilby said.
Half the group of mostly German sightseers are booked for tours to Warrnambool’s Flagstaff Hill, Tower Hill and the Twelve Apostles.
The others will stay around the Portland district.
“We believe we’ve got a lot to offer over here. There’s a lot of Australiana tours around here like Budj Bim,” Mr Gilby said.
“We’re organising heritage tours.”
Saturday’s visitors will stay only for the day, making their way back to the ship for departure at 4.30pm.
It’s hoped the liner could be the first of many to visit the south-west, delivering tourist dollars to the region.
The working group is in talks with other cruise ship companies trying to sell Portland as a doorway to the Great Ocean Road.
“We’re talking to a few companies and the Port of Portland are speaking with a few companies as well,” Mr Gilby said. After the weekend all eyes will be on a possible visit next year.
The MS Europa docks at the smelter berth on Saturday March 8 at 8.30am.