Ah, Sydney. Sorry other capital cities. The truth universally acknowledged by the cruise lines is that you can’t sell a cruise from our shores without the Harbour City, and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Chairman Steve Odell agrees.
“For us, Sydney is the centre of everything. International travellers want to come to Sydney – Sydney is the gateway.
“If you don’t have Sydney in the itinerary, it’s hard to sell,” he said.
And by extension, Sydney’s ports – or lack thereof – are a thorn in the side for the industry that cannot be extracted.
“We want a solution that’s fit for purpose that can accommodate two ships a week,” Royal Caribbean Cruise’s Managing Director Australia & New Zealand, Adam Armstrong, said.
One of the alternatives presented was double stacking, where two ships dock in the same day, in early morning and early evening shifts.
“Double stacking just doesn’t work. It’s not done anywhere else in the world,” Armstrong said.
He instead called for a new large ship cruise terminal for Sydney.
Ponant’s chairman Asia Pacific, Sarina Bratton, agreed.
“Sydney berth constraint is the major obstacle for us. We are the most likely place for Asian ships to bring their ships down to. We’ve got to work together as an industry,” she said.
Beyond Sydney, there lies the appeal of Australian coastal cruising.
“We would all love to do more coastal cruising but we can’t. We can’t get that answer from government. We’re equipped.
“The Coastal Trading Act is designed to protect an Australian cruise industry that doesn’t exist,” Bratton said.
The debate over Sydney’s lacking harbour berths has waged on for some time now.
In April, TW reported on the issue as the discussion reared its ugly head again.
It came amid reports the country’s second biggest cruise company Royal Caribbean Cruises made the decision to stop sending its mammoth Voyager of the Seas to Australia because Sydney doesn’t have the capacity for another ship.
A number of cruise companies are looking at bypassing Sydney in favour of overseas ports, and Melbourne and Brisbane – which are starting to gain more cruise kudos than Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal.
“The NSW market is our biggest market, and we would like more space in Sydney,” Cunard’s Vice President of International Development, David Rousham, told trade media at the time.
“Ultimately there’s real problems in Sydney, for example we don’t fit under the bridge.
“But there’s no easy answer to the problem. We’re one of many ships with the same problem,” Rousham said.