Passengers from around the world on Radiance of the Seas got a taste of Wollongong before they arrived with String Angel Sarah Moir performing on the ship two nights on the New Zealand to Australia leg of the 14 day cruise.
Mrs Moir is a world class violinist and many passengers received a bonus treat when she was waiting to perform with her family outside the Wollongong tourist information when they caught a shuttle bus into the city on Monday morning.
Mrs Moir said she felt honoured to be a guest entertainer on board Radiance of the Seas as it steamed towards Wollongong and wanted to do a little more for the international travelers when they arrived in her home town.
“It was such a thrill and so fun to play to full houses in the Radiance’s wonderful onboard theatre. Usually when performing on cruise ships I explain that I’m from Wollongong. But on this trip everyone on board knew where Wollongong is,” she said.
Mrs Moir has traveled the world and Australia with The String Family who have just released their third album The Glen which includes three original tracks. By early February Mrs Moir and her husband Joel and children Heath and Ashleigh will have been on the road for two years, traveled 85,000 kilometres and performed more than 300 sets. They plan to do that for one more year.
Fifth cruise ship visit only the beginning
Another successful cruise ship visit to Wollongong on Monday is being treated as another step in building the momentum of expanding the new industry in the region.
Cruise Wollongong chair Cr Leigh Colacino, of Wollongong City Council, saw the return of Radiance of the Seas for its second visit and the first visit by Explorer of the Seas coming in March as another step in building the city’s reputation as an international port of call.
“I think it is brilliant Radiance of the Seas has come back,” Cr Colacino said.
“It is like saying hello to an old friend. But we have come a long way in 15 months. This time we thought setting up a Makers Market in the Arts Precinct was a good idea.”
Koori Kulcha Aboriginal Corporation manager Marie Barbaric, who was responsible for bringing two Indigenous market stalls from the Southern Highlands, said next time she would invite some performers to join her so passengers could experience even more of the culture.
Cr Colacino said the army of volunteer ambassadors and welcomers were a great point of difference in making Wollongong become known as the friendly city and cruise destination. “They are invaluable”.
And that is what is giving him even more enthusiasm to push for Wollongong to become a turnaround port.
“The big thing for me is to create a business opportunity. What I have always wanted is to give Wollongong the chance to watch a new business develop. And that is what people in Wollongong are getting to see. It has been embraced and the community is getting to see it was not just a flash in the pan.”
“Even the cruise lines know now from the feedback from the passengers that this is a great place to come. They know they can sail her and their passengers are going to have a great time.”
Cr Colacino was in the arts precinct to greet some of the first visitors off the ship put also found a quiet vantage point on Monday morning to watch the ship come in and reflect on what has been accomplished and what to do next.
“To me the business growth and the potential for the future keeps driving me,” he said.
Pushing for Wollongong to become a turnaround port where cruises starts and finish and ships is a high priority for Cr Colacino.
“It is all dependent on what is contained in the Collins report. I have an idea of what will be in there but until I know for certain how Wollongong is perceived and what the competition is for turnarounds I don’t know how I am going to approach it.”
Cr Colacino said he should have more idea of what is in the report in early February and he will then be pushing for turnarounds at Port Kembla over the next few months.
Radiance passengers love Gong welcome
Regular international cruise ship passengers Scott and Rebecca Jarus, of Manhattan Beach California, have never had a welcome like the one they received in Wollongong on Monday morning.
Almost at then end of a 14 day cruise to New Zealand and Australia the couple from the United States said they felt like royalty when all the volunteer welcomers in colourful shirts were everywhere to greet them.
The Australian leg of their trip includes Hobart, Melbourne, Newcastle and Sydney.
Retired school teacher Glenn Rowe flew the Wollongong flag brightly when he was the first ambassador in the arts precinct to offer them information to help them plan their day. After talking to him they planned a trip to do some shopping and a ride on The Gong Shuttle.
“We wanted to experience New Zealand and Australia. We had never been here before,” Mr Jarus said.
Mrs Jarus described Wollongong as a sweet town.
“You have really rolled out the red carpet for us,” she said.
“There are so many welcomers. We have not had a welcome like this before. This has been really nice.”
“We were originally just going to walk around and do the art gallery. Now we are going to do the bus loop and get off at the beach and walk along it.”
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