Wollongong’s Port Kembla Harbour will welcome its first cruise ship in 2016 when Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas sails in and docks.
It’s a major development for cruising and also for tourism on the NSW South Coast, a destination with many little-known delights. Royal Caribbean is going to investigate Port Kembla as an alternative home port when Sydney Harbour is too congested.
The 293-metre-long megaliner will bring more than 2400 people to the Illawarra in October 2016 as part of a seven night East Coast and Tasmania cruise. The debut could lead to more visits.
The ship will spend a day in port, allowing tourists from Australia and around the world to explore the Illawarra’s beaches, city, towns and attractions through day trips, courtesy buses and planned activity options.
Royal Caribbean Cruises regional vice president Gavin Smith says the visit is the first step in investigating an ongoing relationship between the cruise line and the Illawarra.
“I’m thrilled to announce we will be bringing one of the largest and most feature-packed megaliners in Australian waters to the South Coast of NSW, when Port Kembla becomes the newest destination for Radiance of the Seas,” he said.
“With capacity for more than 2400 guests, in a single day she’ll deliver an economic injection of more than AUD 890,000 to local operators in the region.
“As the appetite for cruising continues to grow, expanding our offering for our many international and domestic guests is the key to our continued success.
“Including Port Kembla on our itineraries will provide our guests the opportunity to sample all that Wollongong and the South Coast has to offer. At the same time, it will give us the chance to investigate Port Kembla as an alternative home port, as an overflow to congestion in Sydney Harbour.”
It couldn’t come at a better time for Wollongong – but there’s nothing sudden about it. Destination Wollongong board member, councillor Leigh Colacino revealed the venture has been more than two years in the making.
“I am excited to announce that Royal Caribbean ships will soon become a regular sight at Port Kembla and I will be standing dockside to welcome the Radiance of the Seas when she makes her first visit to Wollongong,” he said.
“This is a wonderful outcome for the Illawarra and regional tourism, but also makes business sense for Royal Caribbean to make use of one of the most capable ports on the east coast of Australia.
“This commitment from Royal Caribbean is also a wonderful endorsement of the new operators of Port Kembla and their commitment to the economy of the Illawarra.
“Royal Caribbean understands the value of Port Kembla and Wollongong for tourism with its proximity to the Sydney CBD and airport, and the varied attractions of the region whether they are the vibrant nightlife, shopping and dining precincts, the beaches, adventure activities, the wineries of the South Coast and Southern Highlands or simply the outstanding natural attraction of the Illawarra escarpment.
“It has been rewarding to work with Gavin Smith, regional vice president of Royal Caribbean, over the past two and a half years in making what seemed to many as nothing more than a dream, a reality to our region.”
Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh says the agreement with Royal Caribbean is an amazing opportunity for the Illawarra which will have immediate economic benefits and ongoing tourism advantages.
“It is terrific that one of the world’s leading tourism operators has seen the potential of Wollongong as a genuine, world-class tourist destination,” he said.
“Cruising is a booming tourism industry in Australia and the visit by the Radiance of the Seas will bring an influx of visitors to our shores and allow us to show off Wollongong and the South Coast to a whole new audience across the world.”
While the inaugural visit by the Radiance of the Seas is a momentous occasion for the region, the sight of cruise ships off the coast could become more common in the future.
Here’s an interesting comparison: Radiance of the Seas’ theatre holds 868 people. The IMB Theatre at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre holds 515.
Edited by Peter Needham