THE sun was shining, the people were smiling and the passengers were pleasantly surprised to see the "mining port city" they'd heard so much about went beyond expectation.

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The Pacific Dawn pulled into Gladstone just before 6am as morning light was breaking across Gladstone harbour.

The atmosphere grew gradually as people made their way off the ship throughout the morning and into East Shores where more than 70 stallholders had set up their markets.

By midday the precinct was a hive of activity.

Sea planes and helicopters flew above taking tourists to Heron Island or for bird's-eye view of the port.

For one Gold Coast family, Gladstone was the last place they expected to find themselves on holiday, but they were eager to learn more about what made Queensland's industrial powerhouse port city tick.

"We just thought it was a big port for mining," Craig Felici said.

All the action at East Shores : P and O cruise passengers are still making their way through the east shores markets.
All the action at East Shores : P and O cruise passengers are still making their way through the east shores markets.

That might not seem like a selling point, but according to P&O's Carnival Cruise spokesman David Jones, Gladstone's reputation as a town built around one of Queensland's biggest pieces of infrastructure will attract the curious tourists.

"People say why would you take a cruise ship to an industrial port?" Mr Jones said.

"Well the fact is Australians are actually fascinated by nation building infrastructure and that's what they see here. This is a fabulous cruise destination."

But there are teething problems. GAPDL CEO Darryl Branthwaite said next time there will be more tour coaches and more information about the available tours online.