The first international cruise ship of the season has sailed into Sydney Harbour from the Northern Hemisphere, kicking off a bumper summer for NSW ports.

Celebrity Solstice docked yesterday after crossing the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii. The ship brought almost 3000 passengers and more than 1200 crew into Sydney.

There will be 331 cruise calls into NSW ports during the season, up almost 16 per cent from last summer.

Ovation of the Seas, with just under 5000 passengers, will be one of the biggest ships to sail into Sydney during the current cruise season.

There will also be a record number of maiden calls, surpassing the 2022–2023 summer season, with 12 first-time ships set to make their debut in Sydney Harbour. They include vessels from Virgin Voyages, Disney Cruise Line and Scenic.

More cruises for port of Newcastle

The NSW Government is expanding cruise sailing into Newcastle. Led by Port Authority of NSW, a new agreement with the Port of Newcastle will facilitate the safe transit of cruise ships, create jobs and inject millions of dollars into the Hunter and Central Coast visitor economy and hospitality sectors over the next decade.

Port Authority of NSW CEO Captain Philip Holliday said: “Our new 10-year licence agreement will see even more cruise liners adding the Hunter to their itineraries, building on the cruise industry success already achieved in Newcastle. Expanding operations in Newcastle will support a regional tourism boom in the decade ahead.”

Learn more here.

NSW cruise revival leads the nation

NSW has driven the recovery of the cruise industry in Australia, generating $2.75 billion, or 48.8 per cent of the national total, for the visitor economy in the 2022-23 financial year.

The Value of Cruise Tourism, an economic impact assessment jointly commissioned by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the Australian Cruise Association (ACA) shows Australia’s cruise industry generated a record $5.63 billion during the 2022-23 financial year, a 22.1 per cent increase over 2018-19.

CLIA Managing Director in Australasia Joel Katz said: “Cruising returned to Australia much later than other parts of the world, but the ships have been resoundingly welcomed by cruise fans who have been heading back to sea in huge numbers.

“The 2022-23 year has brought higher levels of passenger spending, higher levels of cruise line spending, and record levels of economic output around Australia.”

ACA Chief Executive Officer Jill Abel said: “Cruise ships visited more Australian destinations than ever in 2022-23, reaching 62 communities around our coast.

“Together these destinations welcomed 1354 ship visits, which generates enormous income for businesses like tourism operators, hotels and restaurants, retailers, transport providers and port operators. The supply chain that supports cruising is extensive, from the travel agents who manage the passengers’ arrangements through to the farmers who provide Australian produce served on board.”

Key findings from The Value of Cruise Tourism include:

  • A total of 62 Australian ports and destinations were visited in FY2022-23, welcoming a combined 1354 ship visits.
  • There were 3.35 million passenger visit days.
  • There was direct passenger expenditure of $1.49 billion (up 10.6 per cent over 2018-19) and direct crew expenditure of $52.0 million (up 48.1 per cent compared to 2018-19).
  • The average passenger spend per day on shore was $446 per person (up 15.2 per cent compared to 2018-19). Average crew spend per day on shore $137 per person (up 7.9 per cent compared to 2018-19).
  • The largest beneficiary of direct passenger expenditure was the hotel and accommodation sector, which received $457.1 million, or 30.6 per cent of passenger spending. Other beneficiaries included food and beverage ($300.1 million, 20.1 per cent), shore excursions ($194.3 million, 13 per cent), transport ($208.8 million, 14 per cent), retail shopping ($163.1 million, 10.9 per cent) and entertainment ($57.8 million, 3.9 per cent).

Learn more here.

“The data shows that every guest spends hundreds of dollars every day they’re in port, boosting local economies right around the country,” said Carnival Australia’s Chief Strategy and External Affairs Officer Teresa Lloyd.

Destination NSW supports cruise industry

There are nine beautiful ports along the NSW coastline — Sydney, Eden, Batemans Bay, Kiama, Wollongong, Newcastle, Trial Bay, Coffs Harbour and Yamba.

While Sydney continues to be Australia’s cruise gateway, visitation to other NSW ports is rapidly growing.

Eden experienced its biggest and longest cruise season ever in 2022-23, with 34 cruise ships visiting and bringing more than 50,000 passengers to the Sapphire Coast. The 2023-24 summer cruise season will be even bigger, with 41 cruise ships visiting Eden and bringing a potential $18 million boost for the region's visitor economy.

In line with the NSW Visitor Economy Strategy 2030, Destination NSW works with the cruise sector to develop new opportunities for Sydney and regional NSW.

Opportunities for collaboration are leveraged via Destination NSW's 2023 Gold Executive Partnership with Cruise Lines International Association and a Platinum State Tourism Organisation membership of the Australian Cruise Association.

Destination NSW worked earlier this year with Port Authority NSW to produce a revised Cruise Sydney & NSW – Along the Blue Highway guide, which is used to showcase NSW cruise ports and experiences to cruise lines and stakeholders.

The development and distribution of cruise shore excursions, including tours and visitor attractions, is also supported to increase visitor economy outcomes from visiting cruise ships. This includes workshops and resources through the NSW First Program and familiarisation visits for cruise ground handlers.

View our NSW First 'Quick Tips for Creating Cruise Shore Experiences' guide here.

Photos and videos highlighting onshore experiences at all nine NSW ports are available on the Destination NSW Content Library. The content can be used to promote cruising in NSW to both domestic and international audiences across all marketing channels.