P&O’s first cruise to Tasmania’s winter arts festival Dark Mofo has proved a big hit with a new breed of “cultural” cruiser.

Around 1600 passengers, comprising almost 200 Dark Mofo devotees and the rest regular P&O “cruiselings,” are aboard the Pacific Jewel for a six night journey to an event which is a long way from the usual burlesque show in the main theatre.

The Dark Mofo festival has become something of a cult. It runs for two weeks on the island state with major exhibitions at the Museum of old and New Art (Mona) and other venues.

Highlights include the annual City of Hobart Dark Mofo Winter Feast on the waterside, the ogoh-ogoh parade and burning on solstice night, and the annual Nude Solstice Swim in the River Derwent.

Pacific Jewel will stay in Hobart for two nights and nearly three full days, allowing passengers the opportunity to visit Dark MOFO attractions, in addition to what is one of the city’s main drawcards, the Museum of Old and New Art.

Passengers receive entry and transport to MONA as part of their cruise, as well as tickets to the medieval themed Winter Feast.

They are expected to pour $1 million into the State’s coffers, and the ship is carrying the largest contingent of interstate visitors.

Some of those on board told Cruise Passenger this was the easiest and best way to see the festival – particularly since hotels were all booked out in advice, and the Pacific Jewel offered the chance to stay in comfort and see all the shows.

P&O already offers comedy, sport and other themed cruises.  But Dark Mofo represents a radical departure.  Full marks to the line for pushing the envelope.

Destination Southern Tasmania CEO Melinda Anderson said P&O had booked in again next winter, so it could be the start of something.

P&O Cruises President Sture Myrmell said the inaugural cruise provided guests from around the country with an easy and convenient way of accessing Tasmania’s most popular annual event.

“Our guests tell us they’re looking to discover new and unique events around the country which is why it made sense to create a dedicated contemporary cruise to a unique Australian festival which continues to grow in popularity,” Mr Myrmell said.

“The cruise has been so well-received that we are delighted to announce its return in 2018, further reinforcing our commitment to Tasmania local businesses.”

Recent studies have shown cruising’s total economic output in Tasmania surged by 32 per cent in 2015-16 to $60 million. Tasmania’s visitor economy is seeing the impact of a 42 per cent increase in the number of passengers sailing on Australian domestic cruises last year alone, with a significant number of these itineraries featuring Tasmanian destinations.

So what was the journey like?  Our man on board, Lachlan Colquhoun reports great food – Luna Asian Restaurant was “excellent” and Salt Grill “exceptional” with its crab  omelete and liquorice desert.

P&O laid on a ferry to events and shore excursion tickets to feasts and markets.

Pacific Jewel returns to Sydney on Monday.