NEWCASTLE'S bid to become a regular stop for cruise ships over the past decade has made the great white whales of international liners a somewhat common sight.
Given how accustomed we as a city have become to the ships appearing and disappearing on our horizon, it is surprising that passengers disembarking today will step onto roughly the same ground as years ago.
In November 2017, the design for the mooted Newcastle cruise terminal was finally unveiled to the public in a bid to make a better first impression and help reel in the potential tourism dollars that underpins much enthusiasm for the industry.
When those images were finally put to the public, those backing the plan were unequivocal about what it represented.
"It reflects Newcastle's position as a world-class cruise ship destination," Port of Newcastle chief executive Geoff Crowe said at the time. "Importantly, it will position Newcastle as a home port where ships can start and finish their destination in Newcastle."
What was important less than two years ago, it seems, has failed to retain its place in the plans for the city's gateway for seafaring tourists. The project's completion had been expected before this year began until rough seas struck in June last year.
This newspaper reported at the time that a terminal could be built, but a heated construction market meant the funding for the project no longer covered some infrastructure required to make the Hunter a home port. It is some comfort, then, that plans are continuing. But it is also perhaps frustrating when Hunter cruise enthusiasts look to Eden on the south coast, perfectly placed between Sydney and Melbourne, and see a purpose-built $44 million terminal drawing in more cruise ships than Newcastle is expected to receive next season.
Hunter tourism advocate Will Creedon says we have "dropped the ball" on the project. While forging ahead rather than scrapping plans altogether is a result, it remains to be seen how easily homeporting can be integrated into what the city ultimately receives with the original round of funding. It is a process the Port of Newcastle says can be undertaken "easily".
Given the results of the last two years, many will be hopeful it does not require further funding negotiations between the stakeholders involved.