Tour guide Sue would love to see more cruise ships visit Torbay

Sue SaundersSue Saunders

I am and have been a professional, fully qualified Blue Badge West Country tourist guide for over 30 years, am a member of The Institute of Tourist Guides based in London that monitors and oversees the training and professionalism of UK’s tour guides. I am also a member of the association of West Country tourist guides.

For the last 15 years, I have been one of the guides that meets the guests coming off the cruise ships that visit, Torquay, Dartmouth, Plymouth, Fowey and Falmouth, taking them off on coaches and tours around Devon and Cornwall. I am also a seasoned cruiser.

Torbay is an extremely attractive destination as the article suggests and it would be absolutely fantastic if we were able to attract more cruise ships.

There are people working at the Torquay harbourmasters offices and others that attend the major cruise destinations fairs abroad to do just that.

P&O Azura off Babbacombe. Photo: Jay RichardsP&O Azura off Babbacombe. Photo: Jay Richards

Our docking fees, I believe are very reasonable, but one drawback for Torquay is that guests need to be tendered in because we are too shallow and don’t have a deep-water harbour.

Ships need to drop anchor roughly half a mile out in the bay and dependant on the weather, it’s a major logistical operation to tender passengers into and out of the harbour.

The health and safety implications are also uppermost on the minds of the cruise line operators; this is why you won’t find the Disney ships visiting a port where they have to tender in, as there are too many children to consider.

Elderly passengers and those with disabilities are also at risk getting on and off tenders. If the weather conditions mean the waves are too rough, the captain will take the decision to abandon the port completely.

I found it interesting to read that it has been suggested that initially cruise lines might introduce single country itineraries, and that it might be hoped that P & O will introduce more round Britain trips.

In reality, due to our very mixed weather patterns, there are very few round Britain cruises, from any of the cruise lines, most taking place during summer months and again ports with deep harbour stops are chosen in preference.

Itineraries are set two years in advance based on demand, there needs to be a good reason such as this year’s 400-year Mayflower celebrations in Plymouth or 75-year VE day for Dartmouth.

About a third of cruise ships passengers will book on organised trips. When it comes to this area, the trips which are most popular, Steam train, Dartmoor, Buckfast Abbey, Exeter, Powderham Castle, are just as easy to conduct from Dartmouth and Plymouth, two nearby ports that attract the ships because of easy passage to the shore.

Of the other passengers maybe another third explore on their own. These are the passengers that will spend money in our shops. There is sometimes a person to greet them, but I believe a presence is needed for at least the morning to provide information and help.

The German cruise lines were mentioned. The authoress Rosamunde Pilcher, born in Lelant Cornwall in 1924, was famous for her romantic fiction novels, such as “The Shell Seekers”, and “Coming Home”.

One of Germanys TV stations took one of her novels “The day of the storm” and turned it into a “soap” using German actors in 1993.

The German market loved it and there have been more that 100 episodes of her stories since.

The stories are set in Cornwall and many locations both there and in Devon have been used in the filming. In Torbay, Torquay town hall was used as a bank and Oldway Mansion was used as the setting for a wedding.

The cruise lines caught onto the popularity and organised themed cruises to Cornwall and Devon, which caused a surge of German visitors to Cornwall and thus to Devon.