SINGAPORE - Singaporeans will soon have more options for travel, as Royal Caribbean cruise ships will start calling at ports in Malaysia from the end of this month, with stops at Penang and Port Klang.
The cruise line said on Thursday (June 2) that it will offer three- and four-night cruises on its ship Spectrum of the Seas from June 30.
This marks the start of international cruises from Singapore and the end of almost two years of cruises to nowhere - that began in November 2020 - as an attempt to bring back cruising safely amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Singapore had ceased port calls for cruise ships since March 2020.
According to Royal Caribbean's website, three-night cruises will stop at Penang, while four-night cruises will stop at both Penang and Port Klang. Prices for three-night cruises start from $310, while prices for four-night cruises start from $390.
Bookings for these cruises open from Thursday.
All guests must have passports with six months validity and should update the MySejahtera tracing app before their cruise.
After they complete the pre-departure form in the app, they will receive a Blue Traveller’s Card to present to Malaysian authorities upon disembarkation.
The passengers can choose to book a shore excursion when they disembark or opt to move around on their own. Shore excursions include a visit to St. George’s Church in Penang and a trip to the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur.
As part of an agreement with the Malaysian authorities, no additional Covid-19 test will be needed on arrival, as long as passengers have fulfilled Royal Caribbean’s existing requirements.
These include being fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and undergoing a supervised antigen rapid test a day before boarding the ship.
The Singapore Tourism Board' s director of cruise Annie Chang said port calls will provide more vacation options which will hopefully draw in more first-time and repeat cruisers in the coming year as more ports in the region open up.
"We have been working closely with various governments in South-east Asia to align on cruise protocols and policies, and are excited to bring back port calls in Malaysia for sailings as a start," she said.
STB had been working to set up a few ports of call by year end, with destinations such as Bali in Indonesia and Phuket in Thailand being considered.
Royal Caribbean's Asia-Pacific vice-president and managing director, Ms Angie Stephen, said the cruise line is the first in Singapore to resume port calls.
The cruise line added that the Malaysian government requires all visitors to the country to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Those who have had only two doses of the Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccine, as well as guests aged 60 and older who have not received their booster shot, are considered to be partially vaccinated by the Malaysian government.
They will be required to have a booster shot in order to debark in Malaysia.
Royal Caribbean also added that all existing guest bookings will be automatically converted into a destination sailing for Malaysia at no additional cost. Those who have been affected will be informed of the change via e-mail.
This means that the cruise line will no longer be offering cruises to nowhere from June 30.
Over half a million passengers have gone on close to 360 cruises to nowhere since Singapore restarted cruises, and more than 250,000 residents have sailed with Royal Caribbean.
Currently, only two cruise lines operate in Singapore - Royal Caribbean and Resorts World Cruises.
Ms Chang added that STB’s discussions with other cruise lines have been positive so far, with some brands eager to deploy their ships back to South-east Asia by late 2022.
One of those going on a cruise to Malaysia is Ms Sophie Tan, who had her cruise to nowhere in July converted into a three-night cruise to Penang.
She said she would be travelling with three other friends, and added that being able to go to Penang is a bonus as she had initially expected the three-night sailing to stop at Port Klang instead.
She said: “I have been anticipating this move by STB and Royal Caribbean for some time now and it’s great that it is in time for the cruise that I booked.
“I’m (a little nervous). My friends haven’t caught Covid-19 before, so we’ll just try to keep our masks on and practise good hygiene nonetheless.”