French cruise ship takes maiden voyage to Tiwi Islands’

Published on : Thursday, March 3, 2016

Le Soléal © Dorothée MouraudThe Tiwi Islands’ reputation as a unique cruise destination was boosted  with the maiden visit of luxury French cruise ship, the Le Soleal.

The visit saw around 200 passengers spend the day on Bathurst Island immersing themselves in the Tiwi’s Indigenous culture, art and story-telling.

Chief Minister and Tourism Minister Adam Giles said the Le Soleal was the first expedition cruise ship to visit the Tiwis this year and it was hoped its maiden voyage would help put the islands on the map as a must-visit destination for smaller international cruise ships.

“The Tiwis strong Indigenous culture and history as well as local art and textiles are a huge drawcard for tourists, and today’s visit will provide an important economic injection for the local community,” he said.

“Close to Darwin, the Tiwis are perfectly positioned to attract more of these expedition cruise ships and can offer cruise ship passengers a rich experience like nowhere else in Australia.”

As part of today’s maiden voyage, the Le Soleal passengers, crew and captain were treated to a traditional welcome to country and dance by Traditional Owners, visited the Ngaruwanajirri art centre, and learned about the history of the Islands at the local church and museum.

The visitors also watched Tiwi artists at work at Tiwi Design, joined in group sewing and printing workshops with local Tiwi women and toured the island with local guides, while a hand-made carved plague was presented to the ship’s captain as a commemoration of the maiden voyage.

The Northern Territory is expecting 22 expedition ship visits this season, which will increase to an expected 30 expedition ship visits next year.

Mr Giles said expedition ships were important for the Northern Territory as they spread the economic value of cruise ships beyond Darwin.

“While these cruise ships carry fewer passengers than the bigger vessels, they can reach our remote and regional communities that bigger cruise ships physically can’t get to,” he said.

“Expedition ship guests also tend to spend more and are more interested in immersing themselves in the local experiences on offer at remote parts like the Tiwis.”

Mr Giles said expedition ships also benefitted Darwin as they used the city as their base while cruising in the region.

“This provides economic stimulus to local businesses that supply the ship with fresh food, water and provisions and fuel, as well as other essential services,” he said.

“As the expedition cruises normally start and end in Darwin, guests usually arrive a day or two earlier or extend their stay after their cruise, spending money in local hotels, cafes, restaurants and on tours.

“A strong performing cruise industry is part of the Country Liberals’ Government’s plan to drive the development of North Australia and build a $2.2 billion visitor economy by 2020.”

Today’s expedition cruise ship visit was the first of five visits to the Tiwi Islands this year, with both the Coral Expeditions I and the Coral Discoverer stopping over twice.

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