You heard it here first! Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas is coming to Wollongong on Sunday October 30th.
Well, okay, perhaps that’s not a scoop. But! This is the inaugural cruise ship visit to our shores. Officially, it will drop anchor in Port Kembla which is about ten minutes out of the city centre. The port is already one of the three key trade gateways to New South Wales. Every day thousands of cars are unloaded here, in addition to its traditional export and import cargoes of coal, steel, grain, fertiliser and other bulk and break-bulk products. Regular readers may be aware this is the industry that both my husband and I worked in before retiring to The ‘Gong, and it is a great delight to us to be able to see the entrance to the harbour from our living room window.
This latest venture will see 2400 guests and 800 crew disembark for a day’s outing in the Illawarra, and I am proud to say that 400 volunteers will be on hand to greet them. Bill and I are earmarked as Visitor Information Assistants. I can’t resist saying that means we will be standing on a street corner telling people where to go, but hey! You know that is tongue in cheek. We are very excited to be part of this fabulous opportunity to showcase what this area has to offer. We are keen to tread in the footsteps of the Sydney Olympic volunteers. There were nearly 47,000 of them, but judging by the enthusiasm in the room at our first briefing session, we will be doing our best to emulate their extraordinary achievement.
Whenever we have international visitors, we usually take them on a round trip featuring coast and rain forest, and that is also on offer, with a full day trip to the Kiama Blowhole, the Illawarra Fly Tree-Top Walk, and the Fitzroy Falls. Another shore excursion is to a Fresh Fruit and Honey Bee farm, incorporating a trip up to Bald Hill – where, if conditions are right – they can watch the hang gliders taking off over the Pacific Ocean. On the return along the Grand Pacific Drive, they will cross the Sea Cliff Bridge, where the escarpment touches the ocean. Whales are migrating south now, so they might catch a glimpse of the tail-enders.
Many more visitors will travel at their own pace, exploring Wollongong and its surrounds, and they will find it so easy to get around using the free shuttle bus. There will be volunteers on board the busses as well, ensuring visitors know their correct stop. There is much to see in the area. Wollongong has the unique claim to two lighthouses, a spectacular foreshore, several beaches, and the sight of tandem skydivers tumbling out of the sky. It is also a university town, with a fabulous Early Start Discovery Space open to the public. Adjacent to that is the Botanic Garden.
Not to mention the variety of food on offer in town, just as would be expected of a city built on a multicultural base of migrant workers to the steel works. That employment may have dwindled over the decades, but their culture remains.
We’re pretty excited about this visit, and we hope this is just the beginning of cruise ships making Port Kembla their call of choice.
Footnote: Several photographs in this post were supplied through the kindness of Destination Wollongong. They are fabulous in their original format, but I had my first attempt at resizing photos, with mixed success. All loss of quality is Mea Culpa, not the original photographers. Hope I do better at being a Visitor Assistant!