Gong tourism boss thanks the city as even more volunteer ambassadors sign on for Voyager of the Seas

At the helm: Radiance of the Seas Captain Goran Peterson with Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh on The Bridge helping to navigate a course for more cruise ships to come to Wollongong. Picture: Greg Ellis.

At the helm: Radiance of the Seas Captain Goran Peterson with Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh on The Bridge helping to navigate a course for more cruise ships to come to Wollongong. Picture: Greg Ellis.

Illawarra Women In Business has acknowledged Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh and his team for the massive job done to bring cruise ships to Wollongong and making them feel welcome.

Mr Sleigh also thanked IWIB director Glenda Papac who he recalled talking to him about cruise ships four years ago.

“Glenda invited me to speak at an IWIB lunch about a vision for Wollongong. We had a conversation about that and the last message I got was you better build a bloody cruise terminal. That was not long after we actually met Gavin Smith (of Royal Caribbean) for the first time and I flicked her one back and said “we are on it”. From then on Glenda has been our biggest supporter. She has had so many amazing ideas from cruises she has been on. I really do want to thank Glenda for everything she has done.”

Mr Sleigh also thanked Relativity for coverage he said “blew Royal Caribbean away” and ” acknowledged Steve Melchior, of Just Cruisin’ Harley Tours, for taking Captain Goran Paterson and see the exciting welcome the city was putting on. “He got off the shuttle bus and there were 100 ambassadors jumping up and down..welcoming people. He had a leather jacket on and no one had any idea who he was. He just stopped and could not believe what he was seeing. Now I fully expected the ambassadors would jump up and down and carry on for the first bus..but at 2.30pm it was still going on. Steve then took the captain up to Mount Keira where he could see his ship and he took lots of photos. He had an incredible time. I was lucky enough to be in Lang Park when they came back and he said “I have been doing this for 40 years and I have never had a welcome like this anywhere in the world”.”

Mr Sleigh thanked the volunteers and the whole community for the amazing job they did in helping Wollongong become known as a welcoming city. “Whether you were there as an ambassador, whether you were there waving at Flagstaff Hill or Port Kembla, or whether you were working in your business and you welcomed visitors on the day. You and the whole community of Wollongong should be congratulated. Thank you so much.”

Mr Sleigh is now busy planning for Voyager of the Seas on December 27 and January 18. Destination Wollongong is trying to develop a sustainable model of how that can be done regularly and has decided to move the shuttle bus drop off point up to the arts precinct where there are more facilities and more shade. The whole team is encouraged the city is right behind continuing the to make the significant cruise industry welcome.

“We didn’t know on a public holiday two days after Christmas how we would go with the ambassador program but we have had more ambassadors sign up than we had for the first visit which I think is pretty amazing. About half of them are returning ambassadors and the rest of them are people who have just put their hand up and said they want to be involved in this program. So Wollongong is genuinely going to become known as a really friendly place that puts on a massive welcome for cruise ship visitors.”

And with Port Kembla capable of handling more than one cruise ship at a time and places like Miami welcoming six a day in the rapidly growing industry Mr Sleigh thinks there is a massive chance for Wollongong to benefit.

Mr Sleigh said that was why it was so good to see the momentum keep building after Radiance of the Seas.

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