Monday 14 February 2011

Diamond service key to cruise market

In the wake of the Diamond Princess cruise ship which visited Port Douglas on Friday, The Newsport spoke with Carrie Carter of Carter Marine Agencies, an integral player in attracting cruise ships to our town.

And, just like any other industry, Ms Carter says the key to the future success of the the town's cruise ship industry boils down to service.

The Newsport: Tell us about the work that you've been doing.

Carrie Carter: My company has the contract with Carnival Cruises Australia and Princess Cruises in America, and our role is we make the bookings with the Port Authority for the vessels to call at the relevant port be it Port Douglas, or Cooktown, or Cairns, or Yorkey's Knob.

About two years out from a vessel coming when a cruise company is doing their scheduling, they send us through a forward schedule of each vessels plans and once we receive it it's up to us to make an application to the Regional Harbour Master.

As far as Port Douglas is concerned we have to go to the Harbour Master to seek approval for the vessel to anchor off, and the Harbour Master will let us know if they're any conflicting vessels.

TN: What cruise ship companies have you been working with?

CC: Carnival Cruises in Sydney and Princess Cruises in the USA.

TN: Can Port Douglas expect a growing number of cruise ships to the area over the next few years?

CC: I think so. It is becoming quite a popular destination because of the access to the reef and because it's only an hour north of Cairns. I think there will be fairly steady growth, as with everything there'll be highs and lows. You might find that every second year that you have more than the year before, and then the next year might drop off. But that's the way business goes.

TN: What helps make a cruise ship company choose a destination?

CC: It's usually passenger feedback. When they do call to a port they (cruise ship staff) give everyone a feedback form and they ask for the passengers to let them know what they thought of that port call and that's when they can say the landing stages were good, the service was good, the people were friendly, there were lots of things to do, it was a good value for money place to call that sort of thing.

That feedback from the passengers themselves that actually decides whether the companies will continue to take people to that destination.

TN: What messages would you have for Port Douglas businesses to get that positive feedback?

CC: Basically it's being friendly and inviting more than anything. The odd welcome sign in the window, 'We welcome Diamond Princess passengers today'. . .passengers get a real kick out of that.

I get a lot of feedback for the Sunday port calls when they do go to the markets. Sometimes they (businesses) could be in a position to give them a 5% discount, or two-for-one offer, or some little freebie. . .it's all those little personal things that add up.