Due to complex scheduling issues at Sydney Harbour; Royal Caribbean is putting its faith in smaller, regional ports for future cruises around the country. In order to maximise the potential of new ship, Ovation of the Seas, the cruise line plans to negotiate with port authorities near Sydney for space in which to port smaller vessels, including Radiance of the Seas — effectively freeing up space in Sydney Harbour for flexible itineraries aboard Ovation.
Given the extremely limited availability in Sydney’s famous harbour, Royal Caribbean has turned its attention to regional ports outside of Sydney, including Wollongong and Newcastle. If they are granted permission to dock smaller cruise liners in these two ports, the cruise line hopes this will give them greater flexibility in terms of itineraries, as well as a longer cruise season than the traditional September to April period.
Gavin Smith, vice president of Royal Caribbean’s Asia Pacific division, said: “The thinking is, if we moved our smallest ship, Radiance of the Seas, to Wollongong for a few turnarounds, that would allow us to extend our Ovation season.”
Considered to be more of an industrial port than your usual cruise terminal, Wollongong does, according to Smith, have bags of potential as a cruise port. He said Wollongong has “sheds of football field proportions that could easily accommodate baggage and border control, so we haven’t got to build anything. If people can overcome the emotion of an industrial harbour, I can see no downsides.”
Smith went on to add that the ability to homeport in Wollongong would give the line greater flexibility, particularly at times when Sydney Harbour is fully booked. He explained: “If Sydney is booked out on the day we want to go back, Wollongong gives us the opportunity to extend the cruise by a day but still have a port of call.”
Whilst the planned expansion to regional ports is not yet finalised, Royal Caribbean hope other cruise lines will follow their example — potentially opening up a whole new selection of regional Australian ports to commercial cruise travel.
To keep up to date with the progress of Royal Caribbean’s planned port expansion, be sure to regularly check back with the Cruise1st Australia team.