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Sydney Harbour braces for flood of cruise ships

17/01/2014 Nina Karnikowski
- © Supplied -

A coveted window-seat at some of Sydney's most popular restaurants overlooking the Opera House and Circular Quay may not be quite the best table in town next month, with the host venue, the Overseas Passenger Terminal, set to welcome nearly as many passenger cruise ships as there are days in February.

Sydney will get a record 39 visits by 25 cruise ships during "Super February", up from 36 visits last February, with 21 of them involving a ship berthing at the OPT, a terminal that Brett Jardine, general manager of Cruise Lines International Association Australasia, describes as "one of the most desirable ports in the world".

The terminal is one of a select number of cruise ship ports globally, including those of Hong Kong and Cape Town, to offer direct cruise liner access to a dazzling central city location.

But with so many ships staying in the terminal, that leaves just three nights in February when a cruise liner won't be blocking or obscuring the view of patrons at OPT restaurants Wildfire, Ocean Room, Cruise Bar and Peter Doyle at the Quay, although the three-hatted Quay is less subject to impeded views because it is on the terminal's high level.

Anthony Tam, general manager of the Ocean Room, said that because February was peak season for cruise ships docking at the OPT, it was not ideal. "When a ship comes in, it blocks the view, which is what many of our customers come here for, especially if they're here with clients," he said.

"On days when there's a ship here, there can be up to a 50 per cent drop in capacity."

Catriona Parsons, general manager of the Cruise Bar, said that while having a ship berthed at the terminal "obviously does take away from the views of the harbour and the Opera House", the Cruise Bar "heavily promote" the fact it is part of a working shipping terminal.

"I think less people these days decide not to come when a ship's here," she said. "With the massive boom of the cruise ship industry over the past five years, more people are aware of it and interested, so it makes for quite an amazing sight to see a cruise ship up so close."

Mr Jardine said the Overseas Passenger Terminal had been operating with ''the primary purpose of processing passengers travelling by sea'' since 1960, and that its tenants were fully aware they were leasing space at a working cruise terminal, with the ship schedules planned and published several years in advance.

But most, if not all, of the leases predate the boom in cruising among Australians, with the OPT's impending upgrade designed to cater for the increased demand for berths. The announcement of the major refurbishment was meant to happen between April and September, the low season for cruise visit to Sydney.

A record: Sydney will host 39 visits by 25 cruise ships during "Super February". © Supplied A record: Sydney will host 39 visits by 25 cruise ships during "Super February".
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