Pacific Dawn cruise passengers at Vila

(7 p.m. EDT) -- Cruise passengers will be allowed to go ashore in Port Vila starting next week, following the widespread damage caused by Cyclone Pam last month.

The capital of Vanuatu was today declared safe for visitors to return, largely thanks to the massive recovery efforts, which included several shipments of humanitarian aid by Carnival Australia ships and a $300,000 donation.

During those South Pacific cruises, passengers were required to stay onboard, with many watching the unloading of supplies from the top deck (pictured).

Passengers departing Brisbane this Saturday on P&O Cruises' Pacific Dawn will become the first to go ashore in Port Vila, followed by those on Pacific Pearl three days later. Both ships are continuing to deliver building material to support reconstruction efforts.

The decision to permit passengers to disembark for day visits at Vila follows an on the ground assessment by Carnival Australia specialists in consultation with local government authorities.

"The arrival of the two ships, which between them will be carrying nearly 4000 passengers, sends powerful signals about Vanuatu's capacity to bounce back from such a major natural disaster," said Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry.

"Our passengers have been eager to return to Vila to show their support for the people of Vanuatu and it is an expression of our promise to resume regular cruise calls because of the importance of cruise tourism to the Vanuatu economy."

Two-thirds of international visitors arrive in Vanuatu on board cruise ships, Sherry said.

Pacific Dawn will arrive in Port Vila on Wednesday and Pacific Pearl, departing from Auckland on April 6, will be there on April 11.

Passengers are being urged to remain within the downtown area and to not venture into residential areas or travel to outlying communities still grappling with the impact of the cyclone.

--By Louise Goldsbury, Australia Editor