SINGAPORE - The recent incident of a Covid-19 case on board a cruise ship has not deterred some holidaymakers, some of whom say they have no qualms about the safety of passengers on cruise ships.
Mr Tok Soo Leng, 53, said he heard about an infected passenger on board the Dream Cruises' World Dream from his friends on Wednesday (July 14), even before the news broke.
Mr Tok, who is a semi-retired site coordinator and is currently on a cruise, said: "We still find cruises safer than being on land, because we don't know if places like shopping malls or hawker centres are safe as the people are not tested.
"But on cruise ships, everyone is tested before we board."
Mr Tok, who has booked back-to-back cruises till July 22, said he and his friends will not be cancelling any of their trips for now.
Wednesday's Covid-19 case aboard World Dream, which is run by Genting Cruise Lines, was detected after the passenger was identified as a close contact of a confirmed case on land the day before.
The 40-year-old's polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on board came back positive, despite the passenger testing negative during the mandatory pre-departure antigen rapid test on Sunday (July 11).
The passenger is part of a growing cluster here involving KTV outlets and nightclubs, one of Singapore's largest active clusters.
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said disembarkation of all passengers was completed at about 3am on Thursday.
Passengers and crew members who were identified as close contacts were quarantined. The remaining crew will stay on board for the next sailing.
Despite the incident, a Genting Cruise Lines spokesman said it has seen minimal cancellation for its other cruises. Its July bookings are almost sold out.
A Royal Caribbean spokesman said cancellation inquiries have not risen following the incident and it continues to receive inquiries for new bookings.
It will also not be cancelling any upcoming cruises on its Quantum of the Seas ship.
The spokesman said: "While we cannot eradicate Covid-19 completely, we can continue to stay alert, have strong health and safety protocols in place to minimise risk, while carefully isolating and managing any cases which may occur so that we can resume activities, similar to what we currently do on land."
Guests for both cruise lines who want to cancel their trips will be able to get a refund in credits, subject to terms and conditions. They can use the credits to book another trip.
Another frequent cruise-goer, Mr Ho Hsin Chun, 27, said he will not be cancelling his upcoming cruise at the end of the month.
Mr Ho said: "The case was contained and isolated quickly so that it doesn't spread to the other guests around the ship. This shows that the cruise lines know what to do, and have a procedure for dealing with this."
Student Wong Yong Fu, 19, said that while he was surprised when he heard about the Covid-19 case, he will not be cancelling his cruise trip in September.
By then, vaccination rates would also have gone up and he would feel safer going on a cruise, he added.
Mr Wong said: "Unless the cruise line decides to pause their operations, I won't be cancelling or postponing. I think cruises are handling the situation better now, so if a case is detected, it can be isolated quickly and everyone can get tested."
Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International were given the green light in November last year to offer cruises to nowhere from Singapore under a pilot scheme. Sailings had been halted from March last year amid escalating Covid-19 cases.
STB said on Thursday that the quick response from the World Dream crew in contact tracing and isolating the close contacts demonstrated the effectiveness of its response plans and safety protocols.
STB's director of cruise Annie Chang said: "This puts us in good stead for any future Covid-19 incidents on board. As we learn to live with Covid-19, the focus will be on risk mitigation rather than risk elimination and we will calibrate our measures accordingly."