Over 120,000 have cruised to nowhere; sail season to be extended

Passengers on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas ship last December. When asked whether the capacity of its cruises may be increased from the current 50 per cent, Royal Caribbean International said it is hopeful that sailing passenger capacity wil
Passengers on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas ship last December. When asked whether the capacity of its cruises may be increased from the current 50 per cent, Royal Caribbean International said it is hopeful that sailing passenger capacity will be increased to be in line with that of hotels and other land-based attractions in Singapore. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Over 120,000 people have set sail on cruises here with no Covid-19 cases on board since a pilot programme to reboot the cruise industry began last November, said the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

Noting that the cruise pilot was launched to regain the confidence of passengers, STB's director of cruise Annie Chang told The Straits Times that the two operators on the pilot have "demonstrated the ability to put in place stringent protocols and precautionary measures".

Other cruise lines have expressed interest in joining the pilot programme, noted Ms Chang.

"We will continue to monitor the results of the pilot before deciding on the next steps," she added.

Yesterday, Royal Caribbean International announced that it was extending its Quantum of the Seas cruises until October, after the cruise company saw an overwhelming demand for travel.

Genting Cruise Lines, the other operator participating in the pilot, also told The Straits Times that Dream Cruises will be extending its World Dream sailings in Singapore until October.

This is the second time both cruise lines have extended their sailings, with the first extension to June announced in February.

The cruise-to-nowhere pilot allows the two operators - who are homeported in Singapore - to offer round trips with no ports of call.

Royal Caribbean said that since its first cruise in December, it has completed over 30 successful sailings with more than 50,000 guests.

Demand for cruises will continue to be high with the roll-out of vaccines globally, said company president Michael Bayley.

The new sailings which are part of the extended season from July to October will be available for booking from April 13.

To operate these cruises to nowhere, both Royal Caribbean International and Genting Cruise Lines have to abide by STB's CruiseSafe guidelines.

They include operating at half capacity and abiding by strict safety measures and infection protocols.

Passengers embarking on such cruises must take a mandatory Covid-19 test before boarding, use TraceTogether for effective contact tracing, observe safe distancing measures and not intermingle between groups.

When asked whether the capacity of its cruises may be increased from the current 50 per cent, Royal Caribbean International said it is hopeful that sailing passenger capacity will be increased to be in line with that of hotels and other land-based attractions in Singapore.

"Unlike hotels and other land-based attractions, we test all guests and crew members for Covid-19 as part of our health and safety protocols," it said.

Globally, the cruise industry is also making a comeback.

Beyond Singapore, Royal Caribbean is setting sail from Israel - where 50 per cent of its population has been vaccinated as at March 15 - for the first time next month. It will also resume sailings in the Caribbean in June and around Britain in July. All these sailings will have fully vaccinated crew and adult passengers. Princess Cruises also said two of its ships will be sailing in Britain from July.

Star Cruises, which is under Genting Cruise Lines, will also be the first cruise line to resume sailings in Malaysia.

Its Star Pisces ship, which can accommodate up to 1,600 passengers, will set sail from Penang next month on May 13.

Cruise operators may even be able to count on repeat business, given that overseas travel remains in a nascent recovery.

Secondary school student Kelis Lim, 16, went on a Quantum of the Seas cruise last December and enjoyed the experience.

"You can't go overseas since many countries haven't opened their borders, but on a cruise, you can still have a lot of fun," she said.

"There are bumper cars, shopping; I even watched a concert. I can see why it is so popular."

The global cruise industry generated more than US$150 billion (S$202 billion) in direct and indirect revenues, according to a Forbes estimate in January last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2021, with the headline 'Over 120,000 have cruised to nowhere; sail season to be extended'. Subscribe