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Princess Cruises’ Dawn Princess has kick started Melbourne’s busiest cruise season, arriving in the city early yesterday morning.

The ship is one of 28 that will make 78 calls to Melbourne this season. A rise of 16 percent compared to 67 last year.

An estimated total of 210,000 visitors are expected to pass through the pier this season.

Celebrity Century, Celebrity Solstice, Diamond Princess, Seabourn Odyssey, Radiance of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas are among the other vessels making regular visits to the city between October and April next year.

Inaugural calls will be made by MSC Orchestra (20 March), and L’Austral (10 January).

Meanwhile, the Melbourne Cup will see three vessels berth simultaneously at the port for the first time (Pacific Pearl, Pacific Jewel and Carnival Spirit).

Other highlights for the season will be Costa Cruises’ Costa Deliziosa’s arrival and Queen Mary 2’s return in March.

Port of Melbourne Corporation chief executive Nick Easy said work with government bodies and tourism authorities as well as a $40 million facility upgrade has contributed to the port’s growth.

“Station Pier marked its 160th anniversary of operation last month and it is now busier than it has ever been in its long history in terms of passenger numbers,” he said.