Kangaroo Island will today welcome its first cruise ship in more than two and a half years, sharing a special connection with both the valuable sector of the visitor economy and the visiting cruise line.
Princess Cruises was the first cruise line to visit the island following the devastating bushfires in January 2020, with a special visit by the Sun Princess “in a show of support for the local community”.
Many guests of that voyage made donations to South Australia’s bushfire relief and Princess Cruises directed revenue from the day’s shore excursions to the state’s bushfire appeal. The visit was also hoped to help send a message to the world that Kangaroo Island was ‘open for business’.
Today’s arrival of the Coral Princess is one of a record-breaking number of visits scheduled for South Australia in 2022/23 – including 32 visits to Penneshaw – and the beginning of a restart of a once $145 million sector of the state’s visitor economy.
With almost 2,000 passengers and 895 crew, the Coral Princess will return to Penneshaw on another itinerary in April 2023, while other Princess ships are also scheduled for Penneshaw this season through as far ahead as April 2024. This includes one of the biggest ships to visit Kangaroo Island, the Majestic Princess, which carries up to 3,560 passengers and 1,346 crew.
Other cruise ships scheduled for Kangaroo Island this season (September 2022 to April 2023) include P&O’s Pacific Explorer with up to 1,998 passengers and 924 crew, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth with up to 2,081 passengers and 980 crew; and Holland America’s Westerdam carrying up to 1,964 passengers and 800 crew.
The South Australian Tourism Commission has been working with industry, SA Health, and regional stakeholders in preparation for the restart of cruising in South Australia. This included partnering with the Australian Cruise Association (ACA), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and Carnival Australia to deliver a series of practical workshops in July across the state, including Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and Port Lincoln.
Minister for Tourism Zoe Bettison said it was terrific news for Kangaroo Island to see the return of international cruise which means a lot to so many small businesses and to community morale.
“Prior to the pandemic, cruise contributed $20 million to Kangaroo Island’s visitor economy, and that first visit after the bushfires was a real spirit lifter for the region,” Minister Bettison said.
“After a difficult two and a half years, cruising is back in Kangaroo Island and this season will bring tens of thousands of visitors to the region, who will spend with local vendors at the Penneshaw Markets and take onshore tours from Flinders Chase National Park and Seal Bay to Kingscote and Cape Willoughby.”
Princess Cruises Senior Vice President Asia Pacific, UK + Europe, Stuart Allison said today’s call was the first of 13 calls Princess ships will make to Kangaroo Island between September 2022 through to April 2024.
“It is an honour for Coral Princess to be the first cruise ship to return to Kangaroo Island following the pause in operations,” Mr Allison said.
“We’re proud of our special and personal bond with Kangaroo Island which was solidified when we brought the first ship to the island following the devastating bushfires in 2020. The local community welcomed us with open arms then, as they have done again today.
“Today we’ll see almost 2,000 guests explore the island with a number participating in pre-purchased shore excursions supporting local tour operators in addition to visiting cafes and hospitality businesses across the island. Kangaroo Island remains a key bucket list destination for our guests, with many guests sailing here from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and the United States.
“I’d like to thank Kangaroo Island’s tourism sector for the warmth of the welcome for Coral Princess’s guests and their efforts to make the first cruise ship call a resounding success.
“We are pleased that with today’s visit Coral Princess has sent a message that Kangaroo Island is open for cruise tourism once again.”
Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari owner Tony Coppins said the island was “very excited to welcome cruise ships back”.
With a range of half-day and full-day tours booked by ship passengers on Monday, Mr Coppins said visitors would be exploring and experiencing the best of Kangaroo Island, and the return of cruise ships provides an encouraging step forward in the recovery process for the tourism industry.
“There are really positive ongoing effects of the cruise ships returning, and they are felt right across the island,” he said.
“We’ve got nine buses out on Monday, doing a variety of tours. The cruise sector not only creates employment on the island but provides more opportunities for tourism operators and is an integral part of driving income for many local businesses.”
Mr Coppins said tours on Monday included visits to Seal Bay, Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, Flinders Chase National Park, and Kingscote, as well as local family businesses such as Island Beehive, Emu Bay Lavender Farm, Raptor Domain, Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery, Vivonne Bay Store, Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari, and Dudley Wines.
Chair of the Kangaroo Island Tourism Alliance, Susi Whitehead said the return of cruise ships to Kangaroo Island was “vitally important” to the visitor economy, especially the tour and transport sector which has been hit hard in the past two years.
“Confidence is building, the Island is ready to welcome cruising back and provide those visitors with our exceptional hospitality,” she said.