Published July 22. 2014 12:54PM Updated July 24. 2014 12:23PM
New London — As the Nutmeg Fife & Drum Corps played and tour buses waited, the 856-foot Dawn Princess, carrying about 2,000 passengers, cruised into New London’s State Pier Tuesday morning.
Passengers lined the decks of the gleaming white cruise liner as it neared the pier. A small crowd of people — some from as far as Canada — eagerly waited outside the pier’s gates to welcome their friends who were aboard the ship.
Once the cruise ship arrived, throngs of passengers stepped off into the sunny morning and lined up for buses traveling to New London, Mystic and Newport, R.I., among other destinations.
The Australia-based Dawn Princess is traveling the world, taking passengers on stops that included Thailand, Singapore, Dubai, the Greek Islands, Ireland and Portugal. Its stop in New London was the first for a large-scale cruise ship since 2010.
After visiting Boston on Monday, the passengers were in New London for the day on Tuesday, until they boarded the ship, bound for New York City, in the evening. The cruise liner will then proceed to the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean and back to Sydney, Australia, where the trip began.
On bus tours of New London provided by New London Main Street, volunteers pointed out sites, from the Mohican Hotel to the historic Starr Street, and gave an overview of the city’s history.
In downtown New London, visitors rode on Segways along City Pier, popped into shops along Bank Street and took photos of the Custom House Maritime Museum.
Ron Anderson of Perth, Australia, who stood Tuesday afternoon by Union Station with his relatives, said he planned to go shopping and then tour the downtown area.
“It seems a nice little town here,” he said, noting some of the older architecture.
In New York City, he said, he plans to explore Coney Island.
Many businesses along Bank and State streets had “Welcome Dawn Princess” signs in their storefronts. Vendors selling a variety of goods set up shop at Parade Plaza. Coastal Image, a vendor, sold T-shirts printed with New London Ledge Light, the U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle and other symbols of New London.
The State Street Saloon handed out free drink coupons to people disembarking the tour buses and brought in a few extra servers to accommodate the visitors, said General Manager Maggie Jacksin.
“We were packed,” said Jacksin about the lunchtime crowd. Others told her they would stop by later for a drink after shopping or visiting Mystic, she said.
Ellen Cummings, the owner of Flavours of Life, a fair trade store on Bank Street, said she saw a steady stream of friendly visitors to the shop, who complimented both the store’s goods and the city.
“It’s so exciting to see all these people on the streets of New London,” she said.
Ray and Kay Chadburn of Brisbane, Australia, were enjoying waffle cones Tuesday afternoon, while sitting at a table by the window at Berry’s Ice Cream and Candy Bar on Bank Street.
The Chadburns had bought some souvenirs for friends at the Bank Street Gift Shop and planned to visit the vendors set up at Parade Plaza after their ice cream.
“This is lovely,” said Kay Chadburn. “We like the small little places where you can meet people.”
The Chadburns were on their 28th cruise — with two more booked. They said the cruises are a great opportunity to meet people, both at stops and on board the ship.
“I would recommend it to anybody,” said Kay Chadburn.
New London isn’t Dubai, by any means, but Gai and Anthony Patterson of Sydney, Australia, loved roaming the streets of the city Tuesday afternoon, ducking into stores and admiring the waterfront.
“It’s lovely,” said Gai, who with her husband has been touring for more than 60 days aboard the Dawn Princess.
Dubai was “OK” she said, adding it didn’t really appeal to her.
The couple from Down Under were interested in Union Station and the trains headed north and south, the history of the twin spans of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge and Electric Boat, where they spotted the nose of a submarine under construction. In the afternoon they were taking a bus to Essex, where they said they would take a steam train ride along the Connecticut River.
The Pattersons, who boarded the cruise ship in Sydney more than two months ago and were expected to spend the next three days in New York City before flying home, said they had stopped at various cities during the cruise — including Dubai, Athens, Rome and Lisbon — but found New London “charming.” They also liked Boston, where they had been the day before, and were looking forward to sightseeing in New York.
George Cassidy, the executive director of the Connecticut Cruise Ship Task Force, said the last large-scale cruise ship to dock in New London was the Crown Princess in 2010. Before then, other large cruise ships, such as the Royal Princess, which docked in New London five different times, also visited the city.
Kathleen Edgecomb contributed to this article.