David Jones is a journalist and cruise industry veteran, with his career including 13 years as corporate communications manager at Carnival Australia.
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THERE is a certain liberating feeling in becoming a cruise fan as opposed to being a cruise company spokesman after 13 years in the best and most exciting industry I have ever experienced in more than 50 years as a journalist.
In now being able to speak in my own ‘voice’ I can contribute a frank and fearless perspective on what cruising needs to sustain future growth and in particular the cruise infrastructure needed in Sydney Harbour east of the Harbour Bridge.
One thing I’ve learnt from decades of political reporting and in corporate affairs is that the policy wheel is always spinning, and like one of those lucky dip chocolate wheels, it often lands on the same number.
So, while I am amazed that the wheel has come full circle to land on potential shared use of Garden Island with the Navy, it probably shouldn’t be that big a surprise — it made sense 10 even 15 years ago when it first hit the cruising agenda and makes just as much sense now.
What is no surprise is that the NSW Government knocked the Yarra Bay option on the head as one of its first decisions in government urged on by Michael Daley, the Member for Maroubra and newly installed Attorney General.
Having covered state politics for the Sydney Sun and for 7 News, I knew from the start Yarra Bay had less chance of flying — or cruising — than Australia had of sending a spaceship to the moon.
Yarra Bay was always going to generate intense community opposition.
Ann Sherry, my first CEO in cruising, did two big things. Ann set the audacious target of a million Australians cruising by 2020 and achieved it five years early. And she chipped away to ultimate success in her campaign for cruise ships to use Garden Island during the peak of the summer cruise season.
The pictures of Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2 berthed at Garden Island in 2007 and 2009 are not an Artificial Intelligence hoax. It happened and could happen again.
Yarra Bay only came into frame because the industry split with Royal Caribbean inexplicably throwing Port Botany into the policy mix in spite of the fact that domestic and international cruise passengers want the Sydney Harbour experience.
Cruising has bounced back faster than other parts of the tourism sector, the halcyon days of $5 billion-plus in annual economic activity will return and the industry will inevitably need port infrastructure east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Malcolm Turnbull might have knocked Garden Island on the head as Prime Minister and he’s recently been even more vitriolic in his disdain for cruising but if I were a betting man, I would put money on the Ann Sherry Garden Island solution being resuscitated.
It’s hard to argue with the big thinking of someone who took Australian cruising to being the most successful cruise market in the world. Ann was right then, and she still is.