The upcoming cruises to nowhere will be a safer alternative to staycations on land at a comparable price, according to the two cruise lines approved to go ahead with sailings in time for the year-end holidays.
Genting Cruise Lines' World Dream will begin sailing on Nov 6, while Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas ship will start in December.
Genting Cruise Lines will offer two-and three-night cruises, starting at $359 and $599, respectively. An additional charge of $60 will apply for a mandatory nasal swab test for passengers aged 13 and above, to be done on the day of departure.
Royal Caribbean will be offering three-and four-night cruises, starting at $374 and $509, respectively.
While there will be no self-service buffets, most activities on the ships will proceed as normal, the cruise lines said.
Ms Angie Stephen, Royal Caribbean Group's Asia-Pacific managing director, told The Straits Times that the prices for its cruises are "right in line with, or if not even slightly less" than those for hotel staycation packages on shore.
And while consumers may worry about the possibility of an outbreak on board after one on the Diamond Princess ship made headlines this year, these cruises are safer than staycations on shore, she said.
"It is important for people to realise that the Diamond Princess situation happened in January and February, when the world had no idea about the impact of Covid-19, let alone how to control it," she added.
In addition to Singapore's safe management rules, approved sailings will have additional measures such as pre-boarding screening, she said. "When you think about it, a cruise is a very safe bubble."
If a case is confirmed on board, Royal Caribbean will use Bluetooth contact tracing to isolate those the infected person came into close contact with, said Ms Stephen.
Mr Michael Goh, head of international sales at Genting Cruise Lines and president of Dream Cruises, said it has been operating domestic cruises in Taiwan without incident.
Two of its ships were also used to house recovered foreign workers here earlier this year, and the lessons have proven useful for crew training, he added.
The design of its vessels ensures that there is no recirculation of air on board, Mr Goh said, adding that consumer education is key to rebuilding confidence in cruises.
To provide peace of mind, both cruise lines are offering credit towards a future sailing to guests who test positive for Covid-19 before boarding. Royal Caribbean will also cover up to $25,000 per person for Covid-19-related costs, including on-board medical costs, any required quarantine and travel home.
Dr Wong King Yin, a marketing lecturer at Nanyang Technological University, said the take-up rate for such cruises would be difficult to predict.
While cruises traditionally attract older crowds, operators may use the opportunity to target younger travellers who have not considered cruise holidays before, she added.
"This group of people may be less risk averse and don't mind trying new experiences," she said.