TOWNSVILLE welcomed the first major cruise vessel in more than two years when Viking Orion berthed at Port of Townsville on Friday (2 December).

The vessel carried 930 passengers and nearly 500 crew.

Queensland minister for tourism Stirling Hinchliffe said the government had worked closely with the cruise industry to get ships back on the water after Covid.

“With more ports and anchorages, great weather and unbeatable, world-class onshore visitor experiences, Queensland is Australia’s cruise ship capital,” Mr Hinchliffe said.

“Onshore visitor experiences have always been important, but now more cruise ships are also taking on food and provisions in Queensland ports-of-call, which is terrific for local suppliers.”

Port of Townsville chief executive officer Ranee Crosby said Viking Orion would kick off a strong recovery for Townsville’s cruise industry.

“Townsville will welcome 12 cruise ships to the mainland and Magnetic Island this cruise season,” Ms Crosby said.

“This is a tremendous bounce-back from a two-year hiatus, and already we are on track to see a record number of vessels visit the Port of Townsville in the 2023-24 cruise season.”

Ms Crosby said after Townsville hosted the Australian Cruise Association conference in September, the cruise industry is excited about the town, as well as the port’s capacity to accommodate larger vessels – up to 300 metres – when the Channel Upgrade project is complete in 2024.

“We expect to see a return of year-on-year growth as the port works with council, Townsville Enterprise and the industry to strengthen Townsville’s foothold in the cruise market,” she said.