SINGAPORE - Cruise operator Dream Cruises is now mandating that all passengers above the age of 12 must be fully vaccinated to take its cruises, more than a month after Royal Caribbean International introduced the same requirement.
The change took effect from Nov 21, after Royal Caribbean International introduced the rule on Oct 1.
Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas and Dream Cruises' World Dream are allowed to operate cruises to nowhere, or round-trips with no ports of call departing from Singapore.
Before Covid-19, about 70 per cent of cruise passengers were from the fly-cruise segment, with tourists travelling to Singapore to take a cruise and explore the region.
Both cruise operators previously did not mandate guests to be fully vaccinated but they were required to produce negative tests before their trips.
Royal Caribbean required guests to undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests while Dream Cruises' passengers could take antigen rapid tests (ART).
However, only guests who have been fully vaccinated were allowed to dine in the restaurants on board.
With the rule change, both operators require passengers to complete the full regimen of Covid-19 vaccination at least 14 days before they board the cruises.
Dream Cruises said the new ruling is part of ongoing efforts to provide safe cruises for its guests and crew.
But it is coming as efforts are being made to increase the current 50 per cent capacity.
Mr Michael Goh, president of Dream Cruises, confirmed that the operator is working with the authorities in Singapore to explore opportunities to increase the capacity for trips from the Republic.
He told The Straits Times: "(This will) reflect the current transition that Singapore is entering, as well as to cater the new emerging domestic markets and international fly-cruise segment, especially with the gradual opening of vaccinated travel lanes."
Royal Caribbean International had expressed similar hopes.
"With the added requirement for all guests to be vaccinated, and with our crew being vaccinated as well, we are in good stead to increase occupancy and ease restrictions in a safe and measured fashion, with the same success we have observed in other places operating at increased capacity thus far," the operator told ST.
Dream Cruises had this week announced that it will be increasing capacity from Dec 1 for its Genting Dream cruises, sailing from Hong Kong, from 50 per cent to 75 per cent.
Meanwhile, cruise operators are also adapting their pre-departure testing requirements.
Since Nov 8, all cruise passengers in Singapore will only need to take an ART test instead of a PCR test before boarding the same day.
Royal Caribbean said: "The decision was made in alignment with the Ministry of Health's guidance to reserve PCR testing for symptomatic individuals and use ART as the primary method for event testing, including for cruises."
Dream Cruises' Mr Goh said the operator is exploring other viable testing and screening methods for Covid-19 besides ART but did not elaborate further.
From Dec 2, Royal Caribbean passengers will take an ART before boarding at the testing centre run by Fullerton Health in Raffles City Shopping Centre.
They currently have to do it at Marina Bay Cruise Centre.
Approximately 10 days before the sailing, passengers will receive an e-mail with a link to register their personal information for the free ART test.
Royal Caribbean said: "Raffles City is centrally located, air-conditioned, easy to access and provides a larger space for facilitating the antigen rapid test."
It added that passengers will receive their results via SMS.
Dream Cruises said it will continue to conduct ART at Marina Bay Cruise Centre as it is a "hassle-free experience without the need to travel to another location and back to the cruise terminal".
Ms Annie Chang, Singapore Tourism Board's director of cruise said cruise lines have the discretion to arrange for passengers to undergo pre-boarding Covid-19 testing either on-site or off-site.