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Passengers from the Sun Princess this morning became the first cruise guests to set foot on Kangaroo Island in a show of support for residents who survived recent devastating fires.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall and Kangaroo Island’s community leaders and firefighters were on hand as the ship anchored off Penneshaw and sent out tenders with passengers determined to demonstrate there is still plenty to love about this island wildlife sanctuary.

The guests fanned out on a range of tours by local operators, while many visited market stalls established by the local community on the nearby Penneshaw Oval.

“Princess Cruises’ visit to Kangaroo Island today is an expression of solidarity with the local community and is symbolic of its resilience and courage,” said Stuart Allison, princess Cruises Senior Vice President Asia Pacific, who was aboard the ship.

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“It is both an honour and a privilege for Sun Princess to be the first cruise ship to return to Kangaroo Island following the fires that resulted in the tragic loss of lives, property and wildlife.

“We are pleased that with today’s visit Sun Princess can play a part in sending a message to Australia and the world that Kangaroo Island is on the path to recovery.

“It is our hope that this visit by Sun Princess and her guests will serve to boost morale and send a message to the community that their lives are getting back to normal.”

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Mr Allison thanked Kangaroo Island’s tourism sector for the warmth of the welcome for Sun Princess’s guests and their efforts to make the first cruise ship call a resounding success.

Sun Princess is currently on a 13-night cruise from its current home port of Fremantle with the majority of guests on board residents of Western Australia.

An earlier cruise to Kangaroo Island had been diverted to Port Lincoln at the height of the bushfire emergency.

Sun Princess’s Captain Diego Perra said guests and crew were very mindful of the significance of being the first cruise ship to call at Kangaroo Island following the fire emergency.

Many guests made donations to bushfire relief, to be directed to the South Australian Government Bushfire Appeal. Princess Cruises is also directing revenue it would normally receive from the day’s shore excursions to the appeal.

Carnival Australia has pledged $1.9 million in total to various bushfire relief efforts in Australia. This includes $1.5 million from the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation, much of which is funding a UNICEF Australia initiative to support the back-to-school needs of children whose families lost everything in the fires in Australia this summer.

“Our guests are aware that in some ways this isn’t a normal visit to Kangaroo Island and that their presence is to show respect and solidarity to the local community,” Captain Perra said.

“Understandably, some local tours won’t be available as a result of the impact of the fires.

“We have encouraged our guests to support the local tourism operators who have worked so hard to ensure there is a good selection of experiences from which to choose.

“All of us on Sun Princess are so proud to know that we are helping send a message that Kangaroo Island’s recovery has begun.”

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz said the ship’s visit was a major milestone on the island’s path to economic recovery and sent an important message to the outside world.

“Today’s visit by Sun Princess demonstrates the resilience of the Kangaroo Island community and helps show that Australia is open for business and ready to welcome visitors from across the globe,” Mr Katz said. “The island’s tourism businesses have shown great determination in preparing to welcome cruise visitors and our industry is grateful for their support and commitment.”

Cruise tourism on the South Australian island has grown significantly in recent years, having increased from three ship visits in 2012 to a schedule of 26 ship visits over the current summer season. Cruise vessels scheduled to visit Kangaroo Island in 2019-2020 have a combined capacity of more than 54,000 passengers and crew, whose spending provides vital economic benefits to the local community.

“The arrival of Sun Princess in Penneshaw not only symbolises the start of Kangaroo Island’s path to recovery, it also represents our national efforts to revive communities and support businesses throughout the visitor economy.”

Sun Princess was due to depart Penneshaw at 6pm.

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