SINGAPORE - As Genting Cruise Lines prepares to launch Singapore's first pandemic cruise to nowhere on Friday night (Nov 6), the company signalled confidence that this will be a safe voyage on its World Dream mega-ship for the first 1,400 passengers.
Mr Michael Goh, head of international sales at Genting Cruise Lines and president of Dream Cruises, highlighted a safety regime that includes a new real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine on board that yields Covid-19 test results in 60 minutes while being able to rule out 22 other respiratory viruses such as H1N1 and influenza. PCR tests are the most accurate ones for Covid-19 available.
Before boarding, all passengers aged 6 months and above are tested for Covid-19. An on-site testing facility set up on the third level of the carpark of Marina Bay Cruise Centre can clear 125 people every 30 minutes.
There are protocols to turn the 19-deck ship around in an outbreak. Sailing in the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea, the World Dream can return to Singapore shores in less than six hours, Mr Goh said.
Also, seven isolation cabins for suspected Covid-19 cases and 34 quarantine rooms for their close contacts have been configured, apart from the existing intensive care unit ward equipped with a ventilator.
Every passenger gets a Mice pod for contact tracing; the token also alerts passengers when they are clustered too closely.
Capacity has been halved to 1,700. The passenger count of 1,400 is below that new limit.
Speaking to the media on board the German-built ship that began its home port debut in Singapore on Friday, Mr Goh said that with 27 years of industry experience, the cruise line could swiftly roll out "new health and safety standards not just for our fleet but also for the industry".
The new measures add up to comprising at least 40 per cent of operational costs, he added. Looking ahead, regional cruising could be next after cruises to nowhere, he said.
Mrs Annie Chang, director of cruise at the Singapore Tourism Board, noted that Singapore is adopting a gradual and phased approach to resume cruising safely.
She said: "The fact that we are on board the World Dream today is testament to the resilience and innovative spirit of the cruise industry."
She added that it had been a difficult year but cruise companies have taken the past few months to "refine and reinvent" the cruise experience to focus on safety - without compromising the comfort and quality that cruises are famous for.
Among the lifestyle experiences are more than 35 dining and bar concepts, six water slides and a laser show.
Activities include yoga, rock-climbing, virtual reality games and learning how to mix cocktails.
The World Dream will also begin Christmas early. Guests, safely distanced, can enjoy the glitzy and acrobatic Verry Christmas show in a theatre.
In March, Singapore ceased port calls for cruise ships but the Marina Bay Cruise Centre was abuzz on Friday with the first wave of invited guests who started checking in around 8.30am for their two-night "Super Seacation" voyage. Three-night cruises are also scheduled and World Dream will have up to three sailings a week.
The company let other passengers check in from 2pm onwards to maximise the cruise experience ahead of the 9pm sailing. Pre-pandemic check-in was around 6pm.
Other safety measures include having fresh air filtered and supplied to each guest and crew cabin.
Self-service buffets have been suspended, and guests will be seated in groups no bigger than five. Restaurants and bars are cleaned and sanitised three times daily.
In December, Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas will be the second ship to start cruises to nowhere. From Dec 1, the ship will have up to two sailings a week.
Together, the two ships' sailings will represent only about 30 per cent of the usual winter cruising season, said STB.
The two companies are part of a "safe cruise" pilot that caters to Singapore residents at a reduced capacity of 50 per cent.
STB said the Government will monitor the outcomes of the pilot carefully in the coming months before deciding on the next steps for cruise resumption.
Meanwhile, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority rolled out iris and facial biometrics on a large scale at the cruise centre.
For more stories on exploring Singapore, go to the SG Go Where page.
- Additional reporting by Ng Keng Gene