Cruises find niche on St. Marys River
By GORDON JACKSON The Brunswick News
ST. MARYS -- The southernmost city on the Georgia coast routinely attracts sailboats, but most people familiar with St. Marys don't think of it as a destination for a cruise ship.
That's why the arrival of the Grande Mariner and the 88 passengers aboard generates excitement from the business community and tourism officials.
The city is one of the last destinations on the eight-day Southern antebellum cruise that begins in Charleston, S.C., and reaches St. Marys on May 10.
By the time the boat arrives, passengers will have visited Beaufort, S.C., Savannah, Brunswick and Jekyll Island.
When passengers arrive, they will only have a few blocks to walk before seeing a city-owned antebellum mansion, Orange Hall. But visitors will do much more than tour the grounds of Orange Hall.
The intent of the Rhode Island-based company's cruise is to take passengers to destinations off the beaten path of larger cruises. It gives passengers a chance to meet local residents and learn the history of the port stops, said Angela Wigger, tourism director for the St. Marys Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Tourism officials will provide guided tours of the city's historic district.
Guests will also visit museums, gift shops and restaurants during their overnight stay.
Wigger estimates the guests will spend anywhere from $25 to $50 each during their stay.
The ship's crew will replenish some of its fresh food supplies during the stay, further bolstering the local economy.
Wigger said cruise ships have stopped in St. Marys about three times a year for more than a decade.
"The authenticity of St. Marys and the people that visitors encounter in our downtown historic district fit the bill of what these passengers are looking for in a tucked-away, treasured location," Wigger said. "St. Marys is considered a 'Southern charm' destination and the St. Marys Convention and Visitors Bureau ensures they are charmed with a tour introducing them to the town and visits to our museums and shops."
The final stop for the ship will be in Jacksonville, after it leaves St. Marys on May 11.
* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or at 464-7655.