Boutique tour operator Dean Hampel believes that tourists must feel like a local to really appreciate the joys of visiting a foreign city.

The co-founder of Localing, Hampel is partnering with Princess Cruises to offer passengers a series of completely new and enriching shore excursions as part of the line’s Local Connections program.

Instead of packing cruise passengers on to a bus for a three-hour tour of the city, Princess has engaged local experts like Hampel to curate experiences you will never forget.

“We believe feeling like a local on the other side of the world is a pretty special feeling, created through insight and genuine connection,” Hampel says.

His local stomping ground is Melbourne, a city of a thousand experiences. It is not easy to pick the right tour – especially for first time visitors.

As Melbourne is one of Australia’s great eating destinations, Hampel recommends Moroccan Soup Bar, a Middle Eastern restaurant popular with locals and Transformer a cool vegetarian restaurant in Fitzroy which serves innovative dishes.

The plant based menu features grilled figs, st agur blue cheese roasted hazelnut and aged balsamic and heirloom tomatoes with smoked black garlic ponzu, puffed wild rice & shiso.

Melbourne is also renowned as a coffee city. While it is hard to get a bad coffee anywhere in town, the three places for the best roasted coffee are – Dukes at Ross House in the city, Aunty Peg’s on the northside and ST Ali in South Melbourne.

Melbourne laneway
Hosier Lane, Melbourne

He suggests visitors explore the city’s urban art with a local graffiti artist.
“Marvel at the dizzying array of colours along Hosier Lane, the multi-storey murals of the Upper West Side Gallery and the bohemian rhapsodies of Fitzroy and Collingwood. Finish with a visit to a local art studio to chat with local artists.”

In Adelaide, food aficionados can go on a food, art and wine experience with a well known food celebrity, Mark Gleeson, founder of Providore at Adelaide Central Market. Gleeson is passionate about South Australian produce and is keen to share his knowledge on why the food is so exceptional.

His 25-year-old store stocks a massive array of sweets, from muffins and biscuits to donuts and pavlova.

Mark Gleeson
Go on a food, art and wine experience with a well known food celebrity, Mark Gleeson, founder of Providore at Adelaide Central Market

The tour includes meetings with other artisan food producers and stall holders.
In Broome, passengers step back in time on a guided Aboriginal Narlijia heritage and cultural tour with Bart Pigram. Born and bred in Broome, Bart tells the story of life in northwest Australia, drawing on his own experience from living a saltwater lifestyle.

He started Narlijia Tours in 2015. Narlijia means “true for you.” He also belongs to a long tradition of pearling workers and musicians. A natural entertainer, Bart regales visitors with fascinating stories of the town’s pearling history, opium dens, brothels and gambling houses – the lawless Broome in the early 1990’s.

Zach Green of Elijah's Kitchen
Zach Green, creator of Elijah’s Kitchen

He also takes visitors on a tour of Broome, the turquoise waters of Roebuck Bay, Dampier Creek to experience the rich pickings in the mangrove forests and on the jabalbal (mudflats). The excursion ends with a taste of Broome’s local staple, “fish soup and rice” at Runway Bar.

Meanwhile in Darwin, celebrity chef Zach Green, creator of Elijah’s Kitchen, loves nothing more than showing his travelling restaurant specialising in indigenous food. The pop-up restaurant serves food and Zach shares stories connected to the food which he says is a way of educating visitors about indigenous culture.

Green and his extended family forage and catch the food including mud crabs. He has put two dishes on the map: cured crocodile which tastes like chicken and green-ant cheesecake. Guests will participate in a wildly creative gastronomic feast and sample bites of native ingredients.

Little Creatures brewery, Fremantle
A local hotspot, The Little Creatures Brewery

Perth’s Fremantle port is rich in history and architecture. You can soak it up on a walk around the port city and then go on a city tour visiting the Western Australian Maritime Museum, the UNESCO Fremantle Prison, the 12-sided Round House, charming terraced houses with a stop at a local hotspot, The Little Creatures Brewery. There will a guided tour of the brewery by a local expert. Grab a pale ale and pizza. There’s also a free bike hire to explore the area.

As Sydney is a turnaround port for Princess Cruises, there is no Local Connections program available.