Inside Radiance of the Seas’ voyage to Wollongong

Tuesday, November 1: 

Radiance voyage a day to remember

Dream realised: Directors of Destination Wollongong were able to stand on board Radiance of the Seas and soak in the significance of the day. Picture: Greg Ellis.

Dream realised: Directors of Destination Wollongong were able to stand on board Radiance of the Seas and soak in the significance of the day. Picture: Greg Ellis.

- Greg Ellis

As Radiance of the Seas sailed away on Sunday Captain Goran Peterson made an announcement to all on board saying what a wonderful day it had been. “This was my very first visit to Wollongong. People are very nice and very warm and welcoming and I definitely don’t want it to be the last,” he said.

During the day directors of Destination Wollongong took a moment to reflect on the achievement and many passengers from the region such as Geoff Jones, John King and Tony and Glenda Papac remarked on it being a moment in history that no one will forget in a hurry. Mr King enjoyed it on his birthday and said it doesn’t get any better for the region than what happened on Sunday.

“This is a bit emotional. It’s been a great welcome and very exciting,” Mr Jones said. Mrs Papac said it was such a good day for Wollongong and her husband said during the fireworks he observed how it looked like such a modern, progressive, dynamic city.

Global tourists love our region

- Greg Ellis

A perfect day: Jo Dixon.

A perfect day: Jo Dixon.

Joseph Dixon, of New Zealand, has cruised many parts of the world but described Sunday’s visit to Wollongong the best day he has very experienced. He was particularly impressed with the volunteers and how enthusiastic they were on just about every corner.

“It has been a brilliant day,” Mr Dixon said.

“The people and the organisation made it fantastic. We went to the markets, did some shopping and talked to people. It is the best cruise stop we have every had. If you can do what you did this time again you are going to get more cruise ships. We have your local newspaper panorama that we are going to put in a frame and hang on our wall because we are so proud to have come here. We knew nothing about you but we do know now and you people are brilliant.”

Mr Dixon said Wollongong was certainly cruise ready and deserved the interest it is getting. He felt blessed to be on the first mega-liner to Wollongong.

Mary, of Boston, chose to holiday 10 days in Australia and do the maiden cruise to Wollongong because it was an opportunity to do something different and visit a place that is different. She said she had heard of Wollongong before and thoroughly enjoyed her time in Lang Park and the welcome all the passengers on the shuttles received from the mayor and helpful volunteers in blue shirts. She admits feeling a little special being on Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas on Sunday. “We stayed in the part for about an hour or so, looked around...and did some souvenir shopping and then we boarded our bus to take a tour. We went to the temple and then we went across Sea Cliff Bridge. And we saw some of the beaches on the way the top of the mall and did some shopping. I like Wollongong. It is interesting and people are nice. The scenery is beautiful. It is very nice.”

John Snider, of Ohio, said the Wollongong visit was a great way to spend his first holiday to Australia and loved the historic aircraft fly over. “We are very honoured to be on this cruise”.

Monday, October 31: 

-Kate McIlwain

With more than 2000 passengers and 900 crew, the arrival of the Radiance of the Seas mega liner was always going to making a big impact in Wollongong.

Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh said Sunday’s visit would bring in about $897,000 to the Illawarra economy.

“You can imagine if you had that turning around every day, it becomes a major industry for Wollongong,” he said.

“But I think what’s really significant is the way we can sell Wollongong to the world through these cruise ship passengers.”

Notably, the ship’s arrival – accompanied by scenic images of Wollongong’s coast and escarpment – was beamed out to almost 4 million people following Royal Caribbean’s Facebook page.

Scroll below to see how the day unfolded:

Sunday, October 30: 

6.30pm: Find out what the cruise visitors thought of their Wollongong welcome here.

5.20pm:Watch as Wollongong farewells Radiance of the Seas. Video by Syliva Liber.


2.10pm: Did you miss Radiance of the Seas’ arrival in Wollongong this morning? Watch it again here!




12.45pm: Some fabulous reader pics coming through #cruisewollongong. Got a photo to share? Post it to our Facebook page.


Picture: Frank Hemar

Picture: Frank Hemar

12.28pm: Welcome aboard the first ever cruise ship to arrive in Port Kembla- Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas. 

12.20pm: Make sure you check out Knafeh Bakery’s bearded bakers at Lang Park until 4pm today.

12.05pm: Mark Sleigh on board Radiance of the Seas on Sunday.

11.40am: Great video of Radiance of the Seas arriving in Port Kembla this morning courtesy of Paul Pulcins‎.




10.51am: Did you miss Radiance of the Seas’ arrival into Wollongong this morning? Check it out here:

Video by Robert Peet and Adam McLean




10.07am: Leigh Colacino speaks about the arrival of the Radiance of the Seas in the Port Kembla inner harbour. 

Click on the image for an enlarged version.

Click on the image for an enlarged version.


9.40am: Don’t forget the Harley Days Thunder Run Route kicks off from Flagstaff Hill at 10am. 



Click the image for an enlarged version.

Click the image for an enlarged version.

9.15am: Picture Robert Peet



Radiance of the Seas arrives in Wollongong. Picture: ROBERT PEET

Radiance of the Seas arrives in Wollongong. Picture: ROBERT PEET







8.10am: Fab pic from photographer Adam McLean.


8.04am: Flyover #cruisewollongong

Radiance of the Seas arrives in Wollongong. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Radiance of the Seas arrives in Wollongong. Picture: ADAM McLEAN



7.35am: Tug boat Svitzer Kiama fires it's water cannon celebrating the arrival Radiance of the Seas into Port Kembla harbour. Captured by Mercury photographer Adam McLean.

7.28am: Wow! Picture by Mercury photographer Rob Peet.


7.20am: Live from Radiance of the Seas. Captured by Mercury journalist Greg Ellis.


Radiance of the Seas makes her way into Wollongong. Picture: ROBERT PEET

Radiance of the Seas makes her way into Wollongong. Picture: ROBERT PEET

7.06am: Tug boat Svitzer Kiama fires it's water cannon celebrating the arrival Radiance of the Seas into Port Kembla harbour. Captured by Mercury photographer Adam McLean.




6.48am: Radiance of the Seas makes her way into Port Kembla Harbour on Sunday morning. Captured by Mercury snapper Rob Peet from the chopper.


6.29am: Here she comes! Picture: Adam McLean


6am: Are you awake Illawarra? It’s cruise day! 

Royal Caribbean and NSW Ports have pushed back Radiance of the Seas’ arrival time to ensure everyone who wants to welcome it in can get the best spot. The schedule is now approximately:

6am: The port pilot boards Radiance of the Seas off Flagstaff Hill

6.45am: Tug boats will perform a water cannon display

7.15am: The cruise liner will make its way into Port Kembla Harbour and dock by 7.40am

8am to 4pm: Festival held at Lang Park

5pm: Radiance of the Seas leaves Wollongong. A fireworks display will be held in front of Wollongong Golf Club.

Saturday, October 29: 

Friday, October 28: 

3.15pm: Don’t forget to pick up Saturday’s Illawarra Mercury for your special cruise feature liftout.

2.15pm: Port Kembla pilot’s work is a shore thing

Click the image for an enlarged version.

Click the image for an enlarged version.

- Julian O’Brien

As cruise liner Radiance of the Seas arrives in the waters off the Port Kembla Harbour, it will continue to sail further north.

A small pilot boat will emerge from the harbour and pull up alongside the larger ship.

With both vessels still moving, a door will be opened on the side of the cruise liner at sea level.

A sea-hardened former New Zealander and 14-year Illawarra local will emerge from the pilot boat and cross over to the cruise ship in transit.

SAFE HANDS: Senior pilot Don Buckthought will guide Wollongong's first cruise ship to berth on Sunday. Picture: Adam McLean.

SAFE HANDS: Senior pilot Don Buckthought will guide Wollongong's first cruise ship to berth on Sunday. Picture: Adam McLean.

From that moment it will be the responsibility of the port authority’s senior pilot Don Buckthought to guide the 90,000 tonne vessel and her 2400 passengers safely into dock inside Port Kembla’s calm waters.

While it’s just another day at the office for the experienced seaman, this one is a little bit special.

“It’s an exciting day for the Port,’’ said.

“When I first came here 14 years ago it was a humdrum diet of bulk carriers, then we shifted into motor vehicle carriers and it’s very exciting to now see cruise ships.

“We hope this is not a one off, that this is something that is on-going.”

While the Radiance of the Seas is in safe hands - Mr Buckthought has more than 26 years experience, has piloted more than 5000 ships and has handled cruise ships in other ports - the berthing is not without its challenges.

“Radiance is 290 metres long and 40 metres high so that’s a massive wind area and it’s prone to strong winds.

“But we do some of the biggest car ships in the world in this port.

“Apart from the wind, it’s a large ship and a small port - it’s set up for ships 180 m long and now here we are with one almost 300 metres long.

“It’s confined water and straightforward once we get in.”

To prepare for Radiance of the Seas arrival, Mr Buckthought and other pilots from Port Kembla attended the Australian Maritime College in Launceston, Tasmania, to use their high tech shipping simulator.

“It’s the same as an aircraft simulator in that you are steering the exact ship, dial up the weather conditions and put it through its paces,’’ he said.

While the weather forecast is looking a bit murky, Mr Buckthought had one clear message.

“Come down and watch it,’’ he said.

“We are really spoiled here with good viewing access of the harbour.’’


7am: Greg Ellis chats to Mona whose father helped build the break wall at Port Kembla. She is on Radiance of the Seas to honour his memory. 

Thursday, October 27: 

3.25pm: Sailing into the weekend

Saturday’s edition of the Illawarra Mercury will include a special commemorative feature to celebrate the arrival of the Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas in Wollongong on Sunday, October 30.

The feature is the equivalent of eight broadsheet pages including everything you need to know and more about the ship’s visit, which was championed by local Destination Wollongong board member Cr Leigh Colacino. The feature is free with your copy of the Illawarra Mercury on Saturday.


Port Kembla tug boat the Svitzer Kiama testing its water cannon ahead of the Radiance of the Seas arrival. Video: ADAM McLEAN


TALL AND SHORT OF IT: Illawarra Hawks centre AJ Ogilvy checking out the size of the special feature in Saturday's edition of the Illawarra Mercury with Cr or "Captain" Leigh Colacino. Picture: Adam McLean.

TALL AND SHORT OF IT: Illawarra Hawks centre AJ Ogilvy checking out the size of the special feature in Saturday's edition of the Illawarra Mercury with Cr or "Captain" Leigh Colacino. Picture: Adam McLean.

Wednesday, October 26:



3.15pm: This is the view from Radiance of the Seas as it docked at Melbourne on Wednesday morning. At 6pm it will leave the harbour bound for Hobart, where it is due to dock on Friday morning. 


Greg Ellis speaks to Radiance of the Seas’ captain and cruise director on day three of its voyage to Wollongong.

Tuesday, October 25:


Proof in the pudding at Lang Park

Video: Greg Ellis

Bearded Bakers will be part of an eclectic marketplace which will greet cruise ship passengers and the community alike at Lang Park on Sunday.

Between 8 am and 4 pm the park will host a welcome precinct for the cruise ship – a marketplace which will be open to the public and is designed to showcase the region.

There will be local food and wine, arts and craft and entertainment available.

As well as the regional showcase the Bearded Bakers from pop-up bakery Knafeh will headline.  The bakers prepare their popular Jerusalem street food while singing and dancing for customers.

“This event will be a great way to experience what Wollongong has to offer and a great chance for our visitors to mingle with the locals and see what our city has to offer,” Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh said. 

WHAT'S COOKING?: Bearded Bakers attract big crowds from all different backgrounds to eat their Jerusalem street food dessert. Picture: SMH

WHAT'S COOKING?: Bearded Bakers attract big crowds from all different backgrounds to eat their Jerusalem street food dessert. Picture: SMH

Destination Wollongong chair Tania Brown encouraged locals to support the event.

“The people of Wollongong love their city and want to share that love with others,” she said. 

“We know we live in the best place in Australia and it’s time other people realised how amazing this region is.”

The other stars of Lang Park will be the 500 locals who have volunteered their time as part of the IRT ambassador program.

Monday, October 24:


Greg Ellis speaks with and Dianne Love of Woonona and Judy Beaumont of Bulli on Radiance of the Seas as she sets sail on the maiden cruise industry voyage to Wollongong.


Kings cruising to holiday 

– Greg Ellis

When Radiance of the Seas docks in Port Kembla at 7.45am on October 30 there will be 10 members of one family watching what unfolds at Berth 105 with great interest. And they will have a perfect vantage point as passengers on the first cruise.

The King family run Premier Motor Service. When the business tendered to provide buses for pre-booked tours and a shuttle service for Royal Caribbean’s maiden voyage to Wollongong they also decided why not treat themselves to a holiday. It will be a reward for three decades work growing their business in NSW and Queensland.

When John and Sue King and Bill Stephens acquired Nowra Coaches in 1987 it had nine coaches and 12 employees. Premier now has a fleet of 550 coaches and 700 employees.

“That is a tribute to our good young management team. 90 per cent of our managers are women,” Mr King said. The senior management team in Nowra includes two of his daughters Simone King and Jess Davis. As they learned more about Royal Caribbean making Port Kembla its 501st port of call in the world they both had an idea. “We decided to buy tickets on the cruise for mum and dad’s birthday. We then shouted Pa to go. Then we thought this is an opportunity to all go on the first cruise ship and experience it from the other side. One of our long term drivers who has been here 25 years is now coming with us as well.”

Mrs Davis’s husband Daniel and three children are going along with Simone’s partner Mark Burton who is the Premier’s workshop manager. It will be reward for the way they have all rallied and worked together to help the business steadily grow. The Kings acquired John J Hill’s and Rutty’s in 2001. Premier now operates in NSW and Queensland.

Mrs Davis said Premier was working Royal Caribbean and Intercruise more like a partner than as a client. “There will be 15 shuttle buses running every 3.5 minutes in both directions. They will just do a constant circuit between 8am and 4pm”.

Mr King said there is at least one bus booked for each of the six pre-booked tours. They will be lined up ready for passengers to board as soon as Radiance arrives. He said Royal Caribbean and NSW Ports had been wonderful to work with. All drivers have been inducted and given security clearance. There are 15 buses ferrying passengers to and from Lang Park and at least six doing the pre-booked tours. 

Premier also operates the Gong Shuttle with eight buses carrying up to 18,000 passengers a day. It is seeking approval to include Lang Park on a modified shorter second circuit that takes in the CBD on October 30. There would be four buses on that route linking into the longer Gong Shuttle circuit.

Family cruise: Bill Stephens, Simone King, John King and Jess Davis (rear) with Olivia, Lachlan and Elysha Davis.

Family cruise: Bill Stephens, Simone King, John King and Jess Davis (rear) with Olivia, Lachlan and Elysha Davis.

Premier does cruise ship work in a number of locations and Mr King said from his experience when Wollongong becomes a turnaround port that will generate even more bus tour bookings.

“Typically they will all get off the ship between 8am and 10am and get back on around 1pm or 2pm. This is going to be different to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne where passengers can just go for a walk for an hour and come back again,” he said.

Premier Bus Service is keen to keep working with all relevant parties to convince the industry to bring more cruise ships to Wollongong. Mr King said there was a great team of experienced people in Wollongong that made it possible to provide any service necessary. And he is confident Wollongong will show the world what a great cruise ship destination it is.

Saturday, October 22:

Ready for radiant display 

– Julian O’Brien

Wollongong is ready. The Illawarra is ready.

In just over a week’s time history will be made when passengers disembark from a cruise ship at Port Kembla.

Hundreds of local people have registered to be volunteers for the day to assist the 2400 passengers who will be enjoying our region before their final return leg of the journey to Sydney.

It just goes to show the sense of anticipation and pride the region is feeling around this moment..

It’s opening up a new world of tourism to our region and giving the world an understanding that the Illawarra is a legitimate cruise destination.

We already know more ships are booked and no doubt we will hear of many more to come yet.

But this is different. It’s a “first” and that makes it special.

The Illawarra Mercury will have a special insight into the cruise, which many locals have actually booked to be a part of again due to the sense of pride of being involved in local history.

One of our reporters Greg Ellis will be on board and will be filing for us throughout the journey for both the and our printed edition.

Greg will be providing live vision via our Facebook page on board as the Radiance of the Seas makes her way into the Port Kembla harbour.

We will also feature a special commemorative edition of the Illawarra Mercury on Saturday, October 29.

A special feature will be inserted into the edition providing locals with all the information they need and passengers with a special momento of the journey.

The feature, a unique print publication the equivalent of eight broadsheet pages, has been done in conjunction with Destination Wollongong, Destination NSW, Ports NSW and Harley Days.

It will include information on the best vantage points to see the ship, details of the festival at Lang Park, information on the Harley Days event that weekend and more. Only eight more sleeps.

Thursday, October 20:

Radiance of the Seas arrival could signal beginning of tourism boost for Kiama

- Brendan Crabb

When the Radiance of the Seas cruise ship disembarks at Port Kembla on Sunday, October 30 it is set to create a sea of opportunity for surrounding areas, including Kiama. 

Radiance of the Seas’ maiden visit to Port Kembla has been viewed as marking the start of a new era of tourism opportunities for the Illawarra and South Coast.

An estimated 2400 passengers, plus 800 crew will become the first cruise boat passengers to dock at Port Kembla aboard the Royal Caribbean mega liner.

The cruise company confirmed last year the 293m long mega liner would include Port Kembla in its seven-night East Coast and Tasmanian cruise from October 2016.

The ship will spend a day in port, allowing tourists from Australia and throughout the world to explore the Illawarra’s beaches, city, towns and attractions through day trips, courtesy buses and planned activity options.

The tour program for Radiance of the Seas passengers takes in Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and the Southern Highlands.

This includes visiting Kiama Blowhole, the Illawarra Fly Tree Top Walk, waterfalls and the Southern Highlands. 

Kiama councillor and former State MP Matt Brown is a council representative on the Kiama Tourism board. 

The former Tourism Minister said it was “early days”, but there were encouraging signs for the municipality.

“I’m sure the passengers will really enjoy the Illawarra… The challenge is to have passengers want to do a day trip and come down to the Kiama area,” he said.

“Over time the Kiama section of the tour will be very popular.

“It’s the prettiest town in Australia by a long shot.

“It has excellent natural attractions, and also has excellent man-made attractions like the tree top walk and Jamberoo Action Park.”

Volunteer ambassadors will greet visitors with information and opportunities. 

Cr Brown said even if those aboard missed out on the booked tours, ambassadors greeting them at Lang Park, Wollongong would still be able to promote methods of transport available to take them to Kiama for the day. 

“Their (visitors’) feedback on their social media platforms will be crucial in generating interest from other passengers in the future to come to Kiama,” he said.

“It’s early days, but it’s a great trial.

“We’re putting together a strategy to try and make the most of this opportunity.”

Kiama and District Business Chamber president Marie Beikmanis said while the ship’s arrival may not have a noticeable impact the first time around, “in the future it will be an asset to have day trippers here”. 

“It is a problem that we don’t have enough accommodation, so having day trippers can only be good for us,” she said.

Ms Beikmanis suggested a committee be formed of “interested parties who could make suggestions to encourage people from the cruises to come here, and what we can do to entertain them”.

“They could do things like small tours,” she said.

“Some people actually like to drive around an area themselves, so the possibility of hire cars so people can do that (could be another initiative).”

Carole Johnston, strategic tourism and marketing manager at Kiama Municipal Council said the cruise ships coming into Port Kembla were a great addition to the South Coast. 

“It is a great opportunity to showcase Kiama and the South Coast,” she said. 

“We see this as an opportunity to build brand awareness and put Kiama and the South Coast top of mind when considering where visitors will take their next holiday. 

“Ultimately it will bring more tourists to the region, increasing visitor spend and driving new jobs.

“Kiama council will be offering bus tours on October 30 for passengers to experience Kiama for the day before returning to the ship.”

October 19:

10 days until Radiance of the Seas hits Wollongong

-Greg Ellis

The man behind Royal Caribbean’s decision to start bringing some of the largest cruise ships in the world to Wollongong thinks the region has plenty to offer and be confident about. Wollongong also has enormous potential as a turnaround port.

Gavin Smith is Senior Vice President International for the large global cruise line and said the potential of the Illawarra as a cruise destination and potentially turnaround port is significant. And after his company’s investment proving it can be done the rest of the industry is taking notice.

Speaking at Illawarra Women in Business Mr Smith said a few factors came into play when his attention was first brought to Port Kembla as a place to berth.

Mr Smith said Wollongong had all the things a capable port could bring that were not available in many ports around Australia.

Industry leader: Gavin Smith on the top deck of Radiance of the Seas which looks down on the Sydney Opera House. Picture: Greg Ellis.

Industry leader: Gavin Smith on the top deck of Radiance of the Seas which looks down on the Sydney Opera House. Picture: Greg Ellis.

“I think this is an element that will set Port Kembla and indeed Wollongong apart,” he said.

“Because as we bring guests ashore in a safe and secure environment the cooperation of moving our guests off the wharf and into the city, and providing easy access to the attractions of the area, is really going to be what is going to deliver on the day. What we are going to do is inspire and try and get them to seek out those authentic in-depth experiences that are available in this region.”

But what October 30 is also about, is bringing a ship with thousands of guests from diverse backgrounds and many nationalities to a vibrant and progressive down town and beautiful beach front and allowing them to enjoy the many things the city has to offer.

Mr Smith said when Cr Leigh Colacino arrived in his office just over three years ago he brought with him an energy. That convinced him about what Wollongong as a destination was going to become. He said it was clear that journey had already commenced.

“And what I see today and what our passengers are going to see is delivery on the promise. There are a lot of blessed tourism bodies around Australia that take it for granted that the cruise ships will keep coming and people will want to fly there..because there are plenty of things to do. To make a less obvious destination deliver on that promise really takes a lot of energy and commitment”.

Mr Smith said Wollongong’s drive and determination lead by Destination Wollongong was so successful that Radiance of Seas was 93 per cent sold 100 days out. We usually get around 70 nationalities on our cruises. There will be a lot of Aussies, a few Kiwis, a lot of Americans and a few Brits. 

“In every cabin throughout the ship we will be broadcasting Destination Wollongong material trying to educate people about what it means to visit the Illawarra, the South Coast and Wollongong. And our lovely crew, 900 of them, all really enjoy coming to a new destination and will all really look forward to their new opportunity. And we are working with the cruise director about revving everybody up on board about the joys of coming ashore,” he said.

Mr Smith also noted there have been many bookings from people who live in the Illawarra for Royal Caribbean’s maiden voyage to Port Kembla and Wollongong

“Such is the enthusiasm for being part of a maiden call by a cruise ship to a port. It really is going to be a nostalgic experience and we are looking forward to creating a very memorable Sunday morning.”

.The cruise industry is worth $4 billion a year to the Australian economy and is growing at 15 per cent. The average passenger coming ashore spends $400 so Radiance’s first visit is expected to inject around $500,000 into the local community.

Mr Smith said Royal Caribbean’s desire was to go beyond that and as a brand it was looking at “how we can view Port Kembla as a potential place to turn our ships around? How we can start and finish cruise holidays here? As the industry expands...all the cruise brands led by ourselves will look for other start and finish our holidays”.

The economic impact will double if Wollongong becomes a turnaround port because travelers heading out and returning from a cruise will often spend nights in a hotel and dine at restaurants. “And with international guests at a turnaround port you are looking at people spending $600 or $700. So you get over $1 million of investment on the day”.

Port Kembla has the capacity to handle more than one ship at a time so “there are exciting days we bring cruise tourism to town. Every element of this port has gone out of its way to provide a business service..which says welcome. Long term I think it is about cruise tourism in Wollongong being on the map. We are a resort oriented international cruise brand so..we market Royal Caribbean around the world”.

Mr Smith is confident about Wollongong’s future because of the experiences organised on the day that are likely to attract plenty of industry attention. “It just keeps saying to an organisation looking to create a business and invest in a local community “that we are being made to feel welcome”.” He expects passengers to be impressed when Wollongong shows what it can do and will be one many lining the foreshore to watch the maiden industry voyage he made happen with the help and encouragement of people such as Cr Leigh Colacino, Mark Sleigh and Dom Figliomeni. The tour program will take in Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama, Bulli Tops, Bald Hill, Symbio, Sea Cliff Bridge, HARS, Fitzroy Falls and Illawarra Fly. Mr Smith said the choice was amazing as was the community welcome planned on the beachfront by a city that is set to really showcase itself. “Wollongong is cruise ready. We are now about delivering on that day”.

Radiance will bring 2400 passengers but Royal Caribbean has already decided to bring the larger Voyager of the Seas with 4200 passengers on December 27 and January 18 and the 320 metre long Explorer of the Seas in early 2018 because Port Kembla has a capability many other ports don’t have. Mr Smith expects October 30 will result in ships coming in much greater numbers because “in the cruise industry we follow each other. If one of the cruise brands does something once we find that interesting. If they do it twice it is probably successful. Passengers are going to see a passionate industrial port that has the welcome mat out. And they are going to incredible community event on the foreshore. We are going to be made to feel really welcome”.

Radiance will travel from the south, go past the Five Islands before turning around and passing in front of City Beach shortly after dawn. “On a cruise with such anticipation you will see guests lined up on the balconies and on the top deck and crew on the helipad because of their excitement about being the first”.

October 18: 

Volunteers ready for Radiance of the Seas

- Greg Ellis

Volunteers who answered a call by Destination Wollongong and the IRT Foundation to become ambassadors for Wollongong on October 30 have been given a glimpse of what is about to happen at Port Kembla when the city’s ship comes in.

A spokesperson from NSW Ports was invited to explain why Port Kembla is considered world class and such an attractive option for the cruise industry.

Sandy Rae also spoke about what will take place as Royal Caribbean’s maiden voyage arrives. Ms Rae said the 293 metre long Radiance of the Seas will dock at Berth 105 in the inner harbour. The pilot will meet the mega-liner at 6am and with the assistance of three tugs it will make its way into the harbour. The narrowest part will be the shipping channel between the inner and outer harbour. It will then make a turn in the inner harbour basin before berthing alongside the AAT facility around 7.45am.

Because of tight port security onlookers will get some of the best views from Flagstaff Hill and City Beach. Radiance will travel up the coast from the south and go past The Five Islands before turning back in past City Beach before entering the port.

The AAT facility is clean and provides easy access. It welcomes car carriers that are up to eight decks high and 299 metres long and boasts many facilities that are already better than many ports already handling cruise ships.

Port Kembla is a viable option for cruise lines because it is close to Sydney and operates 24/7. It has a 15.25 metre deep shipping channel with bulk cargo handling facilities. It used to handling some of the biggest vessels that visit Australian ports. Cruise ships are long but have a shallower draft, so it doesn’t matter how big they get Port Kembla can handle them. There is no height restriction because there is no bridge to get under. Berths 105 and 106 can handle more than cruise ship at a time and there is no need for tender boats. Another attraction for cruise lines is that Port Kembla is a full service port where all stakeholders work together to provide a seamless service.

Berth 105 is easily accessible so the official tour coaches being provided by Premier Motor Service will be lined up ready to go when Radiance arrives. “The passengers will come down the gangway and straight into those buses. For passengers making their own arrangements there will be a series of shuttle buses moving them to the activation zone in Lang Park”.

Being a Maritime Security Zone there will be tight security for access points on October 30. A number of designated official viewing places will be promoted in advance.

NSW Ports knows October 30 is a test and that the eyes of the cruising world will be on everything that happens. So significant planning has gone into how the visit by Radiance and then larger Voyager of the Seas just after Christmas are being managed.

July 23:

100 days until the first cruise ship hits Wollongong

In less than 100 days the Illawarra will welcome the first cruise liner into Port Kembla. In the second and final part of a Q&A series, Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh took time out with Illawarra Mercury editor Julian O’Brien to explain why he believes this will be “a turning point” for the region.

Julian O’Brien: We’ve seen ports on the South Coast like Eden leading the way and showing exactly what can be done.

Mark Sleigh: Eden’s a tremendous example and the Federal Government is investing another $40 million in the port to be able to facilitate larger ships in coming in is a tremendous thing for tourism on the South Coast.

And I think anything that happens down there can only benefit us. But the opportunity here in Wollongong is slightly different to the opportunity in Eden. Eden is a destination port and will always be a shore excursion port.

What we’re talking about here in Wollongong is potentially turning into a turnaround port. What that offers is people get on in the morning and get off in the afternoon. It’s two different groups of people. We’re talking about turning over 5000 people instead of 2500 people each time the actual ship comes in.

Being located so conveniently to Sydney, 73 kilometres away, we’re able to facilitate very similar services to what they can facilitate in the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Sydney. Unfortunately we don’t have the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Opera House but we have so much else to offer.

The other exciting part about being a turnaround port is we can provide something Sydney can’t and that’s the opportunity for long term parking. Domestic cruisers at the moment are catching public transport or getting dropped off at the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

What we could do is create an environment very similar to Blue Emu at the Sydney airport where you park, you get your shuttle bus over to the ship, you go for your cruise and your car is ready there for you to go. That’s something that’s never going to be achievable in Sydney Harbour but it’s certainly achievable in Wollongong immediately.

JOB: In terms of passenger spend, what do we know while they are here and what (passengers) will they bring to local tourism?

MS: So for a shore excursion, which is what we’ve got here on October 30, we’re looking at somewhere between $160-$220 per person depending on whether they’re domestic or international and a couple of other variables.

When you upscale that to becoming a turnaround port your metrics change considerably. So all of a sudden you’re spending $450 for a domestic visitor, $760 for an international visitor.

There’s far greater economic benefit - and not withstanding the perception changing opportunities for Wollongong - the actual economic opportunities are considerable.

JOB: The tourism offerings here within our short arm span are incredible and diverse aren’t they?

MS: It really is. I think we’re incredibly lucky on the South Coast. It’s very transitional - we have things for adventure seekers, we have things for families, things for the grey nomads.

The tours that have been selected by Royal Caribbean and the tours that will be available for sale on the day at Lang Park celebrate that diversity. No matter who you are when you get off that ship, there’s going to be something very exciting for you to do.

We’ve got Nan Tien (Temple) for example which is a fantastic tour they are going to be doing off the ship. HARS museum is another one which a lot of local residents wouldn’t really realise how fantastic that is.

But when you bring in a company like Royal Caribbean to town and you introduce them to all the incredible product, you actually understand how world class we are in the tourism industry and we should celebrate it a lot more as a community.

JOB: What can local people do to really support on October 30?

MS: Last week we launched an ambassador program in conjunction with the Illawarra Retirement Trust and that’s very much based around the Sydney Olympics volunteer program where Sydney came out, they dressed up in their colourful shirts and hats and they went out and said “g’day” to the visitors.

What we want to see and the environment we’re trying to create with IRT is something very similar for Wollongong.

Wollongong is very lucky it has that friendly and engaging personality for 365 days of the year so what we want to do is put a shirt and a hat on that and show the quality of people and the fantastic natural asset we have there. 

Greg Ellis is travelling on Radiance of the Seas courtesy of Destination Wollongong