Boutique cruise ship explores the Keppels!

Another FIRST for our region, on Monday 18th June, we welcomed cruise company Silversea as the ‘Silver Discoverer’ sailed through the Keppels, docking in close proximity to Great Keppel Island, overlooking the main beach accommodation and activity in stunning winter conditions.

This boutique international luxury cruise product with only 120 passengers and crew on board, including marine biologists and naturalists as their expedition leaders, has a high degree of flexibility due to her low draft and high maneuverability, so the shallow waters of Keppel Bay presents no issues.

This ‘expedition’ ship positions their brand as going to places no other cruise ship does, so the Keppel Islands was a perfect inclusion in this voyage and we are confident of more in the future!

A 15 days South Sea itinerary for this cruise started at Port Villa (Vanuatu) on the 7th June and ends in Cairns this Friday 22nd June.

The tour included a five (5) hour shore visit via official customs procedures at the Port of Bundaberg (owned by Gladstone Ports Corporation) on Saturday 16th June from 2 to 7pm where international visitors were greeted by dignatories and locals, with the team at Bundaberg Tourism organising buses with three tours on offer, with the Heritage Tour (including Hinkler Hall of Aviation) and Drinks Tour (including Bundy Rum and Bundaberg brewed drinks) the most popular choices.

She then headed to Fraser Island on Sunday 17th June and back to Great Keppel Island on the 18th June and then onto the Whitsundays.  So why does she head south then north?  Because Bundaberg is a designated port to undertake arrival into the country (border force and customs) and also to take fuel and water after being in the South Pacific. An Australian Pilot is on board with all the necessary permits and the ship owns her own zodiacs.

I must sincerely acknowledge the fantastic work of Tourism and Events Queensland’s cruise specialist Julie O’Brien in the Global Partnerships team, who has been lobbying on behalf of Queensland and all of our coastal destinations, including the Southern Great Barrier Reef, for her incredible support and assistance to increase this sector of the tourism industry.  Julie has direct contact with all the cruise companies, attending meetings and conferences in overseas destinations like Fort Lauderdale to promote the benefits of visiting destinations like ours, identifying our unique points of difference to complement what these boutique cruise companies are seeking.

With the larger ships like P&O docking in Gladstone for the past couple of years (with about 16 cruise ships planned for the coming year, with Carnival bringing her first ship this Friday 22nd June 2018), it has been the strength of the Southern Great Barrier Reef destination brand backed by the strong partnership between the three RTO’s of Capricorn Enterprise, GAPDL and BNBT that has grown this interest.  Our product development both on water and on land over the past few years in the Southern Great Barrier Reef has supported this growth and we have so much more potential over the next few years.

Once Great Keppel Island realizes the development of a Marina as part of the Resort hotel development, there is absolutely no doubt that the larger ships will also have a keen interest in tendering their passengers from deeper waters to the island.

I recall our first visit (Capricorn Enterprise and Freedom Fast Cats) with representatives from P&O nearly six years ago who were keen at that stage to visit GKI when the Resort approvals were imminent, but in the meantime that market has grown into Gladstone with the incredible efforts of GAPDL, Gladstone Ports Corporation and the local community.

These additional cruise visitors to the greater Southern Great Barrier Reef have now cemented our destination brand as a must visit by a number of cruise companies and we have a great opportunity right now to grow these Boutique Cruise Ship visits into Keppel Bay and the Capricorn Coast!

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