Wollongong Ambassadors welcome Norwegian Star

Thursday 23rd February, the day after our 31st wedding anniversary, we were up with the birds. The cruise liner, Norwegian Star, was making its inaugural visit to Wollongong, berthing at Port Kembla.

This was the fourth cruise ship to visit our shores, following on from the Radiance of the Seas (October 30th, 2016 ) and two calls from the Voyager of the Seas (December 27, 2016 and January 18, 2017).  Each time, Bill and I have donned our T-Shirts and Caps designating us as volunteer ambassadors and headed into town to welcome the passengers and crew.

The first time, we were “volunteer information assistants” part of the large contingent posted around the city to provide advice as required. Here is a short video from that day, including an ad-hoc interview from yours truly. I’m not sure how many takes we needed to make it look this easy – just rest assured, it was not!

The Norwegian Star was an unscheduled visit and was coming to us with a bit of history. During December and again in January it had developed engine propulsion issues, and rather than off-load passengers and send the ship to dry-dock, the decision was taken to send engineers to repair it on board which threw its schedule out of whack. Subsequently it suffered the greatest indignity for a world-class liner; it completely lost propulsion en route to Tasmania and had to be towed back to Melbourne. It was quite something to watch the news footage of two little tugboats pulling a 294 meters (965 ft) long ship through several hundred kilometres of open waters.

So we were expecting that we were going to have to win the passengers over to enjoying Wollongong, but that was not our experience at all. After the first vessel visit, Destination Wollongong had negotiated that the shuttle busses bringing people from port-side to city-centre could have a volunteer on-board. I had landed the job as ‘team leader’ and Bill as one of the hosts on board. As Team Leader I get to have a white T-shirt, and I joke to everybody that signifies I am the boss – because I can be trusted to keep the shirt clean. Why? Because everyone knows the bosses never get their hands dirty, ‘cos they don’t do any work. I completed the look by running around with a clipboard and pen, trying to keep track of the number of visitors.

One of the ‘gimmes’ of this role is that shuttle hosts get to go port-side where I allocate each volunteer a bus, and they accompany the passengers back into town, giving them an introductory and orientation talk along the way. It is a great privilege to get up close to the ship, as it is a secure working port, but we can’t wander around the dock, hence I could only snap a portion of the vessel from the bus door. The early morning sun is glinting off a top deck as we wait for the crew to organise barricades and start handing over the passengers a busload at a time. What is not in shot is all the refrigerated and container trucks providoring the vessel. Twenty tonne forklifts whizzing around is another reason to be careful about where one walks!

Norwegian Star Port Kembla 23 Feb 2016 (2) (1024x577)

What a fabulous group of people we welcomed from Norwegian Star! They came from the UK, America, Germany, Venezuela, Brazil, Singapore, Philippines and many other countries. Nearly 600 elected to go on shore excursions – which meant that many of the experienced shuttle hosts were diverted to a role as “tour-guide Barbie“. I tried to get picked for that but told I was too valuable in my current role. Again I joked – “wish it was as hard to get sacked from a paying job”, but I have to confess, I do enjoy organising the other volunteers, keeping track of the busses pulling in and out every few minutes, and mingling with the passengers as they are coming and going. Another 1400 or so passengers and crew decided to come and see what Wollongong had to offer.

They were all so enthusiastic and many took the time to give us positive feedback and to thank us. I kept hearing over and over, “we heard Wollongong is the friendliest city in Australia and it’s true!” As the day wore on and the tide turned to passengers returning to the ship, we had many photographs taken with various groups of happy campers.

Perhaps it was all due to one of our local women. Jennifer Gray is a fabulous entertainer who includes cruise ship performances in her repertoire. From Melbourne, the Norwegian Star had travelled on to New Zealand, and she had boarded in Auckland, booked to do a number of shows on board. Out of the blue she was asked to present a talk on Wollongong before arrival. Three hundred lucky passengers heard what she had to say, and many must have told others. Jennifer was such a hit that Norwegian Star has invited her back on board, and she flies out tomorrow to rejoin the ship in Singapore. This article from the Illawarra Mercury explains more.

(If you are interested to know the lyrics of the song she is singing in the Australia Day video, I am Australian, you can find them here.)

Well, the T-shirts are now washed and ironed, ready for another day. Although we don’t expect another cruise liner until much later in the year, we do hope we have done our bit to promote our patch. Locally, the Wollongong Ambassador Program has been recognised by receiving the Community Group Award in our recent Australia Day celebrations, so we are basking in that glory.

Norwegian Star Port Kembla 23 Feb 2016 (1) (1024x577)

21 thoughts on “Wollongong Ambassadors welcome Norwegian Star

      • I’m too busy Agonising over whether berthing or docking is the correct expression for these ships. Strictly speaking, docking should be reserved for when a vessel goes into dry dock, and mooring for when it drops anchor away from the wharf – so that leaves berthing, . . . Even though people don’t seem to use that expression in common English. Over –

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        • I always think docking, the ship ties up at the dock to embark/ disembark passengers and crew/company or complement for the RNs of this world. Berthing seems a relatively new word, I can’t recall hearing it used until the last few years.
          I wonder, when they are lying at berth are they about to spawn some little ships?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Actually, berthing is the correct word in Australia, at least in the cargo trade, and has been in use on our wharves for many decades. I think because the vessel does not come in under its own authority. The pilot goes out, and the tugs come alongside, and between them, they berth the vessel at its allocated berth. I used to work with a chap who started in shipping when he was 15 and stayed in it for the next 50 years. Used to go ballistic when anyone referred to docking the ship. In his opinion, a ship is only docked when all the water is drained out from underneath it i.e. it is sitting high and dry. And “vessel arrived” versus “vessel berthed” has a distinction in cargo trade terms (one which is hopefully obvious to a person as astute as you).

            In my opinion though, it is quite possible that cargo vessels at berth could birth little ships. Which might be yachts which neither berth nor dock, but only moor, until such time as they grow up to be big enough ships to warrant a special place of their own. IF they can afford the port authority fees and charges, that is.

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          • True enough, a ship was usually reported as being berthed at such and such a dock, I do think your old chum going ballistic and getting his knickers in a knot wasn’t quite correct. There is definitely a difference in dry dock and a dock.
            As a lad growing up in England I lived quite close to the docks in London, always referred to as such never the wharves or the berths. You have no doubt seen many references and quite possibly have been to the London dock area
            Sadly all the old docks have long gone

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          • Yes, I could barely recognise the east end docks area last time I was in London in 2013. Nor south of the river. As for the terminology, I think we have hit on one of the times “proper” English and Australian differ. What Americans call longshoremen, and English call DOCKERS, we Australians call wharf labourers, or, as you know, given we can’t be bothered to say the full word for anything – are really “WHARFIES”.

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          • When my girlfriend first introduced me to the man who is now my husband, she told me she had met this wonderful ‘shipping company executive’ who would suit me well. Afterwards I said to her, “let me tell you the difference between a shipping company executive and a tally clerk . . . one of them is a wharfie! Guess which?”

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  1. What fun! Those vacationers were so lucky to have you and the others make their inconvenience so a wonderful experience. My wife and I took a cruise last year. First port call was a pirate island off Honduras. In the first hour, I managed to slip and roll down a hill. Spent the rest of the cruise in a wheel chair staying on board the ship for the others stops.

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    • Oh no! What a pity. I hope they looked after you well on the ship in the meantime. Of course, there is always a risk when travelling, but it is such a disappointment to have the plans disrupted. Especially if it was something you had saved for a long time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great read Gwen and like you we love the opportunity to promote “wonderful Wollongong” to cruise ship passengers .. ( Loved the link to Jennifer Gray too 🙂 but guess I am somewhat biased 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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