The Diamond Princess docks in Dunedin

The Diamond Princess docks in Dunedin

Christmas is usually mandatory time off for shopkeepers, but some in Dunedin's Port Chalmers were given special permission to open today to cater for thousands of cruise ship visitors.

The Diamond Princess sailed in just after dawn and that made for a busy day for those playing host.

With more than 2500 passengers on board and touching land for the first time in three days, nearly all chose to stretch their legs and see what the city has to offer.

It was full steam ahead for local tourism operators with a special 19-carriage train setting off from the Port to Taieri Gorge, showing around 400 visitors some of New Zealand's most spectacular scenery.

"We're all very honoured to be able to take people for a ride on this train and honoured that people want to give up their Christmas day to actually travel with us," says train driver Kevin Phillips.

Tourists play a big part in Dunedin's economy so there was no Christmas Day off for some shopkeepers. One opened up shop at 8am, expecting his busiest day of the year.

"Visitors have come three days over the water to visit us so it's a shame to come here and find that we are closed, so someone's got to be open," shopkeeper Fred Cross says.

One of the city's most iconic attractions, Larnach Castle, also opened and saw busloads of grateful visitors through its doors.

As for the rest of the day, it will be smooth sailing for the visitors as they enjoy Christmas dinner on board when the Diamond Princess sets sail again this evening.

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