After cruising out of her Singapore dry-dock the Pacific Jewel set her sights on the pint sized Southeast Asian country of Timor-Leste. Here, she showed off her brand new makeover and made history as the first cruise ship to call at the nation’s chief port of Dili. It was an incredibly exciting milestone, both for Timor-Leste locals and the passengers sailing with P&O on-board the Pacific Jewel.
Building strong bonds
During the nation’s struggle for independence Australia played an integral role in helping residents reclaim their freedom. Therefore when Australian based Pacific Jewel cruised into port she received a warm welcome from the local community.
It’s a momentous step forward for the country, with Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia praising the fact that “After years of struggle, Timor-Leste finally won its independence only in 2002, but even five years ago few could have imagined nearly 2000 cruise tourists going ashore in Dili.”
Steve Bracks, special adviser to the Timor-Leste Prime Minister was equally as inspired, asserting that “Having hundreds of cruise visitors come ashore in Dili to experience the sights, sounds and culture of Timor-Leste is another positive stepping stone in the country’s progress as a free and independent nation.”
Unique passenger experiences boost local island economies
In the wake of the flyaway success of its newly introduced itineraries to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, P&O pinpointed Timor-Leste as the next exotic destination its ships would visit. Sherry explains that as well as offering passengers unique experiences, venturing to far flung destinations also plays an important part in helping developing island nations thrive. “In addition to taking our passengers to otherwise remote destinations offering fabulous scenery and cultural experiences, cruise tourism can become a valuable part of island economies,” she said.
Bracks agrees, saying “Pacific Jewel’s visit to Dili has been keenly anticipated by the government and the local community who are keen to make tourism a much valued feature of the local economy in a country that has so much to offer visitors in cultural experiences.” Timor-Leste already has its sights set on the future and is looking forward to welcoming more Australian holidaymakers over the next few months.
“Australia has strong ties to Timor-Leste on its path to nationhood and there is no doubt that Australians have been willing the Timorese people and their country to succeed. So, the arrival of the first cruise ship is an affirmation of Timor-Leste’s potential as an attractive cruise destination and the part tourism can play to build its economy,” adds Bracks.
The charms of Timor-Leste
So what’s on offer for passengers visiting the tiny port of Dili? Despite the fact that the city has been the nation’s capital since 2002 it still retains an intimate small-town vibe. Friendly locals smile at passers-by, laid-back eateries serve up fresh fare and of course, the weather is nothing short of wonderful! Its Portuguese history gives it a unique twist that’s evident in the majestic colonial style architecture and the flavours of its food. Passengers in search of rest and relaxation will love the chance to hit up the sandy beaches and soak up the sun. Adventure seekers can participate in a myriad of water sports, history buffs can tour the city by foot and those with cash to splash will find endless trinkets and souvenirs at the local stores and markets. A mini trek to the famous Statue of Jesus atop Cape Fatucama mountain is a must for travellers with itchy feet while there are also plenty of wilderness trails and jungle paths to be explored.
The increasing appeal of ‘off the beaten track’ cruising
While destinations such as the Mediterranean and the Caribbean still remain wildly popular cruise lines have started to shine the spotlight on ports that are a little more off the beaten track. P&O’s trips to Timor-Leste are a part of this new trend, as is the stunning Russian Kamchatka peninsula which is frequented by Crystal Cruises. Cunard is another line whisking its passengers away to unique destinations, with the Dominican Republic’s newly opened Amber Cove port now featuring on several of its itineraries. It’s famous as the original location for Jurassic Park and is celebrated for its breath-taking natural beauty.
Next September fellow P&O fleet member Pacific Eden will follow in the footsteps of the Pacific Jewel and cruise into Dili port. No doubt other lines will soon start to follow suit!
Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: United Nations Photo