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'Welcome economic boost': Coast businesses ride cruise ship wave

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Only the weather gods stand between Sunshine Coast businesses and an early Christmas windfall, courtesy of nearly 3000 passengers disembarking from four high-end cruise ships over the next three weeks.

From now until Christmas Eve, the Coast is set to welcome to our shores:

  • Viking Orion on Saturday, December 2 (up to 930 passengers, 465 crew);
  • Star Breeze on Friday, December 15 (up to 312 passengers, 124 crew);
  • Seven Seas Explorer on Tuesday, December 19 (up to 809 passengers, 542 crew); and
  • Regatta on Sunday, December 24 (up to 675 passengers, 372 crew).

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Each ship will spend between eight and 10 hours offshore, with passengers coming into The Wharf Mooloolaba on tender boats.

A further six ship visits to Mooloolaba are planned in 2024 and four in 2025.

The Sunshine Coast will turn on the charm when high-end cruise ship passengers disembark at The Wharf Mooloolaba.

Visit Sunshine Coast staff, volunteers from the Visitor Information Centres and tourism operators will be at The Wharf from 8am to greet passengers as they disembark – and locals are invited to join the welcome party.

“Our volunteer ambassadors will be there to welcome the passengers and help them to make the most of their shore excursions as they explore the Sunshine Coast on their stopover,” Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Matt Stoeckel said.

“The cruise ships provide an impressive contribution to the Sunshine Coast economy – these visits are worth close to $1 million a year.

Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Matt Stoeckel.

“The economic boost to Mooloolaba, and the Sunshine Coast, is extremely valuable to businesses, especially during quieter mid-week trading periods.

“Plus, research shows that passengers who have a great time here during a stopover tell their friends and family and frequently return to the Sunshine Coast in the future, so it provides longer-term benefits.”

The Viking Orion left Bangkok on November 7 on a South Pacific sojourn and has travelled via Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia on its way to Australia, with a planned arrival at its Down Under home port of Sydney on December 5.

Sunshine Coast Council Economy Portfolio Councillor Jason O’Pray said cruise ship arrivals were an important part of the region’s tourism mix as they provided a welcome economic boost.

“The Sunshine Coast is a premier destination for cruise travellers with so many tours and experiences available,” Cr O’Pray said.

“Our local businesses and tourism operators recognise the opportunities these visits present, and we’ve seen positive impacts from previous visits felt throughout the region, including in our hinterland communities.”

Robert Irwin with Monty the croc at Australia Zoo.

A prime example is the up to 600 passengers heading to enjoy a visit to Australia Zoo in Beerwah, with the opportunity to experience a variety of conservation shows while exploring native wildlife habitats.

Guests will arrive on coaches between 9.45am and 1.15pm for a three-hour duration at Australia Zoo on December 2.

And in an effort to make meaningful contributions at each port, Viking Cruises is giving an additional $5 per passenger to Wildlife Warriors, supporting global conservation projects such as the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, treating sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.

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The 2022-23 Southern Hemisphere summer cruising season brought an unexpected windfall to our shores.

The shock decision to close Brisbane’s Portside Wharf cruise terminal at the start of the 2022-23 cruising season forced major cruise lines including Viking, Regent Seven Sea Cruises and Silversea to make other arrangements.

Passengers are set to sample all the delights of Mooloolaba and beyond.

That meant an unexpected boost for our region as a total of 23 cruise ships changed course on their itinerary and decided to add the Sunshine Coast, instead, over at least the next three cruising seasons to 2025.

Of the four, only Regatta, a Regent Seven Seas Cruises vessel, is making her maiden visit here.

This year, Seven Seas Explorer – trademarked as “the most luxurious ship ever built” – visited on January 29, Star Breeze on January 30 and Viking Orion on March 5.

Before Covid shut down the industry worldwide, our region had put out the welcome mat for passengers over several years, as the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane featured on a growing number of cruise ship itineraries.

In the past, however, rough seas have forced the cancellation of tender boats, prohibiting passengers from disembarking and enjoying their shore excursions and independent travel.

Only two ships have had to cancel their scheduled stops this year: Amera on February 6 and Silver Whisper on February 26.

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast temperatures reaching 30C by mid-morning on Saturday, with showers (70 per cent chance) bringing up to 15mm to Mooloolaba, and a moderate north to north-westerly breeze at 12-13 knots (22-24km/h).

Seven Seas Explorer.

Who’s coming this summer

2023

Viking Orion (up to 930 passengers), Saturday, December 2, 8am-6pm

Star Breeze (up to 312 passengers), Friday, December 15, 10am-6pm

Seven Seas Explorer (up to 809 passengers), Tuesday, December 19, 8am-6pm

MS Regatta (up to 675 passengers), Sunday, December 24, 7am-5pm

2024

Silver Whisper (up to 388 passengers), Friday, February 16, 8am-5pm

Viking Sky (up to 930 passengers), Sunday, February 18, 8am-6pm

Viking Orion (up to 930 passengers), Friday, March 1, 8am-6pm

Azamara Onward (up to 670 passengers), Thursday, March 4, 8am-8pm

Amera (up to 835 passengers), Friday, March 8, 9am-11pm

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