Anyone who would like to book a spot on the first cruise ship to start a voyage from Wollongong can do so now.
Cruise Wollongong chair Cr Leigh Colacino broke the news on Thursday morning when he announced Norwegian Jewel will sail from Port Kembla on January 13, 2021.
The 11-day cruise will travel to New Zealand. Embarking from Port Kembla, the cruise itinerary will see the ship visit Dunedin, Lyttelton, Marlborough, Picton, Wellington, Napier, Gisborne, and Bay of Islands before finishing in Auckland.
"Norwegian Cruise Line returning on their own volition is really good. That is where we are now. Cruise lines are looking for more opportunities to come here," he said.
The new cruise ship announcement comes as Wollongong and Destination Wollongong welcome the release of a report by Destination NSW of a new cruise strategy for NSW.
Cr Colacino said the report ranks Port Kembla as one of the four major ports for cruise ships in the state. He said that standing was really important for the future of cruise ship visits to the city and region.
The Cruise Sydney & New South Wales along the Blue Highway report comes after the cruise industry injected more than $27 million into NSW regional communities in 2016-17.
Cr Colacino said the industry also injected $1.6 billion into NSW and it was important the state needs to come together to ensure this business isn't lost interstate or overseas.
He said with little capacity available at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, it is vital NSW identifies and promotes other ports which can play a role in continuing to grow the important industry that injects significant visitor dollars into the economy.
Cr Colacino said Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia are all investing heavily in new cruise infrastructure to facilitate turnaround visits, Port Kembla, being identified as one of four major ports in the the new strategy is really important.
He said it is because it already has much of the infrastructure and planning required to host turn arounds over spring and summer.
"Being a deep water Port with easy access to a large multi-purpose berth, Port Kembla has the potential to become Sydney's alternative turn around berth when Overseas Passenger Terminal is unavailable," he said
Cr Colacino said long term infrastructure projects are still being investigated in Sydney but Garden Island is now off the radar.
But by utilising the existing infrastructure at Port Kembla the Illawarra can help keep cruise ship business and visitor spend in NSW rather than see it lost to other states and countries actively pursuing more of growing sector of the travel market.
Cr Colacino said Wollongong's warm welcomes were the other great selling point for the city with 120 volunteers actively turning out each cruise ship visit to welcome visitors from interstate and overseas.
He said Norwegian Star experienced that when it visited Port Kembla unexpectedly in 2017.
The city certainly left its mark and provided such a positive experience for passengers and crew it helped the international Norwegian cruise line confidently plan to bring more cruise ships to the Port Kembla.
"Turnaround visits are a different proposition to what we have previously experienced with guests boarding the ship expected to fill our hotels, restaurants and cafes for days before the ship departs," Cr Colacino said.
"This brings with it not only great economic benefit but also international awareness of Wollongong as a genuine leisure destination bringing visitation for many years to come".
Cr Colacino said the other exciting news is that those who want to book a spot on the first cruise ship to begin a cruise in Wollongong can do so now.