Mega terminal set for boatload of berthings
THE number of cruise ships setting sail for Queensland is growing at a rate of knots.
The Sunday Mail can reveal that interest in the soon-to-open international cruise ship terminal at the Port of Brisbane has exceeded all expectations, with ship bookings for the facility's first season approaching 200.
Brisbane already has a cruise ship terminal at Portside Wharf, Hamilton, but an increasing number of the mega-liners sailing the seas are too big to navigate that far up the river.
Instead, a new cruise ship terminal able to accommodate the largest ships on Earth is set to open near the mouth of the river in October next year.
It is understood officials had been expecting about 150 ship visits in the new terminal's first year of operation but the number has swollen to 191 - meaning a ship will be destined for Brisbane an average of every second day.
Carnival Cruises alone, which features seven brands under its umbrella, has committed to more than 250 ship visits to Queensland in the next two years, bringing an estimated half a million passengers to our shores.
Already worth more than $1 billion a year to the Queensland economy, the cruise industry is one of tourism's fastest-growing sectors and the growing number of ship visits to Queensland ports has tourism industry leaders excited about the future.
The new Brisbane development has scope for a second terminal, meaning the facility could handle up to 700 ship visits a year if growth continues to skyrocket, while State Government approval for dredging of the Trinity Inlet shipping channel near Cairns could also see a new wave of boats headed further north, placing Queensland in pole position to assume the mantle of Australia's cruise capital.
NSW remains Australia's No.1 cruise centre, with almost 60 per cent of the national total, but Queensland commands the second-biggest market - a share growing twice as fast as NSW and faster than Victoria.
And with Sydney already at capacity during the peak season, Queensland is well positioned to capitalise as more liners seek to operate in Australian waters.
A proposed cruise ship terminal remains on the table for the Gold Coast, while Cairns, Townsville, Gladstone and Moreton Bay already receive regular visits from cruise ships.
The world's leading cruise ship companies are eyeing off the new Brisbane terminal as it shaves several days off a South Pacific journey compared to Sydney, while itineraries can also be developed featuring multiple stops along the Queensland coast.
Port of Brisbane chief executive officer Roy Cummins said the explosion in interest from cruise ship companies regarding the new facility would be good for tourism.
"We've been thrilled with the response from the cruise industry to the new Brisbane International Cruise Terminal," he said.
"Brisbane and Queensland needed this infrastructure to entice the cruise lines to bring their ships to Queensland, and that's what is happening.
"It means the biggest cruise companies in the world will have dedicated facilities here in Brisbane, with the flow-on effects for tourism impacting across the state."
Carnival is also going full steam ahead for Brisbane, with Carnival Spirit to be based in Queensland year-round from the opening of the new cruise ship terminal next October.
P&O Cruises, one of the mainstays of the Carnival brand, will base its flagship vessel Pacific Explorer in Brisbane from next October, while the company will start and finish almost 150 voyages in Brisbane between now and May 2021.
Carnival vice-president of Australia Jennifer Vandekreeke said she saw "huge promise" in the Queensland cruise industry.
"We are really excited about the potential in Queensland," she said.
There were 29 cruise ship visits to Tangalooma last year, bringing more than 50,000 visitors to the region.
Ships moor in Moreton Bay, with passengers ferried to the Tangalooma jetty by smaller tender vessels for day-trip activities.
Kim Gray, 42, and husband Richard, from Shell Harbour, south of Sydney, are five-time passengers with P&O.
"The pros are that everything is paid for," Mrs Gray said.
Mr Gray agreed that once you're on the boat everything was taken care of, and he commended the staff, saying servicing was "amazing".
Jackie Smyth, 36, from Sydney's northern beaches, said she and daughter Mahalia Lee, 6, were never short of entertainment.
"You don't have to think, there are activities every day," she said.
"It's just social every day, it's just easy, and there are no downsides."
Cunard mega-liners Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth are also expected to make six calls to Brisbane between them over the next two years, injecting an estimated $3.3 million into the state's economy as thousands of passengers and crew spend up on our shores.
Royal Caribbean International is also eyeing off Brisbane, with the gigantic Voyager of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas already booked to visit Brisbane within days of the new terminal's opening.
Australia is the fifth-biggest cruise market in the world, and the largest per capita, with 1.3 million Aussies a year taking voyages.