(3:00 p.m. AEST) — Cruise lines have emphasised the growing importance of Brisbane to the future of Australian cruising as authorities get set to consider a new terminal at the mouth of Brisbane River. This month it was revealed that Queensland Cabinet will discuss a market-led proposal by the Port of Brisbane, which owns the land at Luggage Point, and Australia’s two leading cruise ship operators, Carnival Australia and Royal Caribbean, to build a $100 million cruise ship terminal. An announcement is expected within weeks, according to a report in the Brisbane Times.
Brisbane’s appeal for cruise lines lies in a number of factors, Royal Caribbean regional vice president Asia Pacific Gavin Smith told Cruise Critic. The city is geographically the only port from which they are able to operate a seven-night itinerary that calls at two or three ports such as Airlie Beach, Cairns, Port Douglas or overseas to New Caledonia.
“If you can offer shorter cruises, then your price is lower which means that more people can afford your product,” Smith explained.
The short length of cruise also appeals to those with limited holiday allowances, including people from other states for whom the longer itineraries from Sydney may be problematic.
Brisbane’s location also gives it year-round pleasant weather as well as a large catchment area, with a considerable number of residents living within four hours of the port.
Royal Caribbean is basing a ship in Brisbane throughout the 2015/16 cruising season. The cruise line’s decision to “home port” the 2,076-passenger Legend of the Seas was primarily due to its smaller size, Smith said, as it is the line’s only vessel that can comfortably navigate the Brisbane River and fit beneath the Gateway Bridge to berth at the existing Portside Hamilton facility.
The inability of Portside Hamilton to accommodate larger ships has seen them instead dock at container yards at Fisherman Island, but only for day visits rather than as a turnaround. However, homeporting Legend of the Seas there will help work towards Royal Caribbean’s longer term plan, according to Smith.
“We would like improved infrastructure, and when we work with the government, the best way to demonstrate our interest in a port is to call there,” he said. “But we will eventually outgrow it, so we are jointly working with Carnival Australia and the Port of Brisbane to consider what opportunities might exist for another cruise terminal on the ocean side of the Gateway Bridge.”
Smith said the realisation of a dedicated cruise terminal close to the mouth of the Brisbane River could be around five years off. If it does materialise, Brisbane will be well positioned to take ships that could not berth at Sydney due to its own much-debated infrastructure challenges.
“If Brisbane could have that east of the bridge facility, it would very much stand to take the overflow of ships from Sydney,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, Carnival Australia chief executive Ann Sherry also underlined Queensland’s potential, describing it as a “growing source market” with more cruise destinations than any other Australian state.
“Gone are the days when P&O Cruises’ Pacific Dawn was the only cruise ship based in Brisbane,” Sherry told Cruise Critic. “More Carnival Australia brand ships are being homeported in Brisbane and next year Cairns will become the first regional port to have a cruise ship homeported, with P&O’s Pacific Eden conducting an eight-cruise series from there.”
In addition, the next year will see Brisbane host visits from all three Cunard Queens and other Carnival Australia ships on world voyages.