After its first-ever cruise ship visit in 2014, Busselton and the Margaret River Region in Western Australia is expecting 18 cruise ship calls in the next 18 months.

“The (cruise) schedule is going from strength to strength,” said Pip Close, CEO of the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association.

Among highlights the port is looking forward to are calls by the Queen Mary 2 in February 2017 and the Crystal Serenity, already booked for February 2019. Ships are not charged port fees.

“A team of cruise volunteers together with a local band are on hand to meet and greet passengers as they arrive on land from the ship,” said Close. “There is also a free shuttle bus to get passengers who aren’t able to walk the short distance into town. Water and umbrellas are provided in wet and hot weather, there is a cruise welcome and rest tents, and all passengers are offered a complimentary, dedicated cruise passenger walking map.”

Close said that passengers could find themselves at a winery within 30 minutes of stepping off a ship.

A recent independent survey showed that 61 percent of the cruise passengers rated their cruise experience excellent, and 34 percent rated it very good.