SINGAPORE - Phones have been ringing off the hooks at the offices of Genting Cruise Lines, with the company receiving more than 6,000 bookings for its "cruises to nowhere" in just five days.
Each of these bookings is likely for at least two people. A total of 23 Genting Cruise Lines sailings, each with a maximum capacity of 1,700 passengers, are scheduled for November and December.
The Singapore Tourism Board announced last Thursday (Oct 8) that round-trip cruises without ports of call will take place under a pilot programme.
Under it, only two cruise lines - Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International - can take to the seas.
Without disclosing specific numbers, Royal Caribbean International also said that the demand has "exceeded expectations".
According to a spokesman, bookings are up 500 per cent compared to the past two weeks. Its first sailing on Dec 1, which is capped at about 1,000 guests, is almost sold out.
Cruises have been suspended since March due to the coronavirus outbreak, with the authorities recognising that the proximity of guests could turn the ships into infection clusters.
But with the number of local infections dwindling, companies have been working with the authorities to find ways to regain their revenue stream after the tourism industry took a massive hit from prolonged measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Mr Michael Goh, head of international sales at Genting Cruise Lines, said calls of inquiry began flooding in almost immediately after the STB made its announcement.
He told ST on Monday: "The response has been overwhelming. We call it a 'superstaycation', because we offer all three meals, outdoor activities like waterslides and rock climbing, and even a Christmas musical.
"It is a complete holiday experience. The ship itself is the destination."
After Covid-19 spread in migrant worker dormitories, two of Genting Cruise Lines' ships were used as dedicated quarantine facilities.
Mr Goh said this was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed the company to "gain a lot of knowledge" and use "what we have learnt and apply it to our operations".
Ms Angie Stephen, managing director of Royal Caribbean's operations in Asia Pacific, attributed the surge in bookings to the "pent-up desire to travel".
She said the four-night cruise sailing every Thursday evening is particularly attractive, as guests will only need to take a day off of work on Friday to enjoy a long weekend on the cruise.
Starting prices for both companies' offerings range between $359 and $599 per person, depending on the duration of the cruise.
On board, safe distancing measures will apply and face masks are to be worn at all times by those who are not dining. Passengers will have to take a mandatory swab test before they are allowed onto the ships.
Ms Margaret Chew, 66, who booked a Royal Caribbean cruise for her family, including her two-year-old grandson, said the stipulation that passengers will have to wear masks makes her feel confident about her safety.
The housewife, who visited Gardens by the Bay and the Sea aquarium during phase one and two of Singapore's reopening, said she has missed cruising.
Mr Johnny Pay, a 58-year-old head of sales, said the 50 per cent capacity the ships will run at means "less crowding and a shorter queueing time".
He made a booking with Genting Cruise Lines for his family of four, and said the price of the package is very reasonable.
On Monday, Singapore Airlines' Restaurant A380 @ Changi dining experience kicked off to acclaim, as its more than 900 available seats were snapped up within 30 minutes of bookings opening.
Diners paid between $50 and $600 to have a three-hour lunch on an aircraft.