A POOLE Harbour cruise with a difference, a must for seafood and Champagne lovers, has been hailed a resounding success.

For the first time ever a cruise ship was given permission to cross the protected oyster beds of the harbour, as part of a VIP Dorset Cruise organised in association with Rick Stein, Pommery Champagne, and the oyster farmers of Poole.

Tickets were at a premium for the first ever Champagne and Oyster Cruise, which was put on by Dorset Cruises.

Thankfully the weather gods were kind on the day, and the waters of the harbour were silky smooth throughout the two-and-a-half hour trip.

Guests were welcomed onboard with a glass of champagne on this one-off voyage of discovery.

And it wasn't long before the first oysters made a welcome appearance.

Pete Murt, head chef of Rick Stein Sandbanks was on deck cooking Poole oysters, mussels and clams in a range of innovative ways as we cruised around the harbour's five islands. And the seafood delights simply kept on coming, alongside unlimited - yes, unlimited - Pommery Champagne.

However, the trip was not all about indulgence; the organisers were also keen to ensure we came away with a better understanding of what we were eating and drinking.

While below deck in the beautifully adorned Dorset Queen's cabin, local oyster farmer Robert Milton gave passengers a brief history of Poole rock oysters, and the methods he uses to produce what is now one of the most highly sought-after varieties.

Meanwhile, Champagne host Sara Hicks - who was onhand to answer any queries about the afternoon's stylish tipple, informed guests of the methods, rules and rich history involved in creating the world famous bubbly.

After cruising past the oyster sorting station, moored north of Brownsea Island's shoreline, we then sampled oysters which were pulled straight up onto the deck. You simply couldn't get fresher.

Dorset Cruises director Jon Morgan said: "The first of its kind Champagne and Oyster Cruise was a great success and I’d especially like to thank Sara Hicks of Pommery and oyster farmer, Robert Milton for their fun and informative masterclasses.

"Also huge thanks to Pete Murt of Rick Stein - Sandbanks, for cooking some outstanding dishes on our stern deck.

"We will all be meeting up to discuss a new date and look at repeating this amazing event soon."

The Cruise set sail from Poole Quay on May 20th

VIP tickets cost for £150 from www.dorsetcruises.co.uk