Holiday departure lounge is anything but a cruise

Passengers with luggage walk out of the White Bay terminal. Photo: Peter RaeIt’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when Ethirajan Ramakrishnan lost his faith in Sydney’s public transport solutions.

It could have been the moment – almost two hours after he set out for the White Bay Cruise Terminal via a bus from Seven Hills – that his bag finally broke. Or when it started raining.

Or it could be when he was forced to stop his three-year-old son walking into Balmain’s traffic after the Robert Street footpath abruptly disappeared.

It was at this point that his wife Lakshmi suggested they try to reach the Pacific Jewel by taxi instead. Their two-week holiday was on the horizon, but the family still had a kilometre’s walk to get to it.

”It’s hard for us,” said Mr Ramakrishnan, who explained the cruise’s central appeal was that everything – once they got on the boat, at least – was self-contained and organised.

”Maybe in the future we will have friends who can drop us.”

The $57 million White Bay Cruise Terminal began operating only in April, but already tourism message boards and P&O’s Facebook page are littered with negative feedback about its access problems.

”What about the people who can only get there by [public] transport like me? I don’t know how I am going to get there and back,” said one on TripAdvisor. ”I won’t be booking with P&O again.”

Bus is the only public transport option for the luggage-laden seeking to get to White Bay, and ”it is a long walk” to the terminal, concedes a Sydney Ports spokesman. The ”overwhelming majority” of passengers travelled there by car, taxi or coach instead, he said.

A $12 shuttle to Central and the airport is provided by P&O Cruises for its passengers. Parent company Carnival Australia had been a consistent past critic of the area’s ”sub-optimal” location and public transport issues, but has since pledged to help make the terminal a success.

”People have adjusted to the new arrangements,” a spokesman said.

But Tourism & Transport Forum chief executive Ken Morrison said cruise holidays were the fastest-growing area of the tourism industry and passengers should have a range of transport options to get to the terminal.

”We urge the NSW government to explore public transport options, including a possible ferry service, especially in the countdown to the start of the next cruise season in October,” he said.

Passenger Jun Feng was headed home by bus after discovering the costs of the taxi to the ship for her large group.

”It’s so expensive,” she said.

A government committee is preparing a two-year working plan that will consider ways to improve public access to the area.

In the meantime, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said the irregularity of cruise ship arrivals meant ”increasing public transport would not be an efficient use of taxpayer funds”.

”Taxis and charter bus services which link to public transport hubs are a more effective option,” she said.

But Leichhardt mayor Darcy Byrne said the problems would only be compounded when the temporary exhibition space opens next year at nearby Glebe Island, which will include a ferry connection for events only.

”With so much vital economic infrastructure getting off the ground in White Bay it is short-sighted not to provide any public transport into the precinct,” he said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.