If you walked around Cobh on Friday morning you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Sydney Harbour on a cloudy day instead of south Cork.
Australian flags flew from every shop front and Dame Edna's face graced several posters on the harbour, proclaiming it Australia Day in Cobh – an initiative set up by Cobh Tourism in 2009 to greet visitors from Down Under.
Up to 1,500 passenger disembarked from the Sea Princess cruise ship – which has a crew of 900 - some onto buses to visit Blarney and Killarney, but a significant amount spent the day in the harbour village where traditional Irish music was laid on and the Australian Ambassador to Ireland spoke and attended events.
Port of Cork Harbour Master Paul O'Regan said the visit of the liner – which set has spent time in Sri Lanka, Dubai, Jordan, Egypt, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Spain over the last month before docking in Cork - is highly beneficial in terms of showcasing Cobh to tourists.
“It's starting to become a continuous thing every year. I think from the Sea Princess point of view, it's a highly successful cruise itinerary that they are on but the feedback that they get from the passengers when they spend the day and most of the night in Cobh is always superb. It rates as one of the highest calls in terms of passenger satisfaction,” he said.
“Talking to the master of the ship and staff captain today, they get a really strong sense of the links between Ireland and Australia. It's great to see the ship here on a day when it's not lashing rain,” he added.
Local politician Ken Curtin said the relations built by the annual Australia Day in Cobh means a lot of the liner's passengers stay in the town for the day to partake in the festivities, rather than heading to other towns and villages for sight seeing.
“We've been running Australia since 2009 and we always try to put a bit of Australian flavour around the shops. Some of the restaurants add Australian dishes to the menu and it's really made an impact,” he said.
“A lot of passengers on other cruise ships tend to leave on buses but this is one particular cruise ship where the passengers stay in Cobh because they see the effort that we put in.
“People talk about Trip Advisor and things like that but it's ordinary consumers that people want to hear from and if the people who have been on the cruise before talk about Cobh as one of the highlights of their round the world trip, that's great,” he added.