SINGAPORE - Excited passengers booked on Singapore's first cruise to nowhere trickled into the Marina Bay Cruise Centre on Friday (Nov 6) for a two-night voyage.
Among them was Mr Steve Chong and his wife, who were in the queue with their two children, aged four and six.
Mr and Mrs Chong, who were given assigned time slots for boarding, told The Straits Times that they are overjoyed that their much-needed getaway is finally happening.
"This is the first time we're able to travel since the pandemic began. The kids and my wife all want a short break," Mr Chong said.
The 37-year-old, who works in the logistics industry, and his wife, a private tutor in her 30s, boarded the World Dream cruise liner at around 4pm.
The Chong family paid over $1,400 in total for their trip.
They are among 1,400 passengers on the cruise, which will leave the Marina Bay Cruise Centre at around 9pm.
These round-trip cruises, without ports of call, are taking place under a pilot programme announced by the Singapore Tourism Board in October.
Cruise operators Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International, which have their home port in Singapore, are part of this "safe cruise" pilot.
The programme is open only to Singapore residents, with the ships limited to a reduced capacity of 50 per cent.
For the World Dream, this means the cruise liner can accommodate only 1,700 passengers.
Passengers were allowed to check in from around 2 pm, and were tested for Covid-19 before boarding.
Mr Robert Gaxiola, 50, a creative director at an advertising firm, told ST that his check-in experience was smooth.
"I was a little nervous, but it was a quick, painless, and an easy process. One swab test and 20 minutes later, we were done with the test and ready to board," he said.
Mr Gaxiola is travelling with his wife, television presenter and travel host Denise Keller.
He said he is looking forward to the voyage after spending an extended period of time in Singapore during the circuit breaker.
"We travel a lot, so staying in Singapore for so long was quite a new thing.
"I took a long walk around the ship right after boarding, and it's fantastic - with a beautiful view, water slides, a basketball court, and loads of entertainment options," he said.
Passengers are required to wear masks on board, and pre-register to get into entertainment facilities on the ship as there are capacity limits for each venue.
For instance, only 26 people are allowed in the swimming pool at any one time.
Mr Gaxiola said he noticed plenty of safe measures on the ship - with crew members in masks, and seats and tables spaced apart.
"I'm relaxed, and have confidence that this ship is safe to be on since everyone has been tested for Covid-19.
"But I will not take that for granted when moving around the ship, and will be sure to keep my mask on and maintain a safe distance from other passengers," he added.
Mr Gan Theng Tiong, 50, who is self-employed, is on the cruise with 11 others: his wife, his in-laws, and a group of friends.
"We are very excited to be on a vacation together, since we haven't been able to meet at all due to the number of people allowed for social gatherings in Singapore.
"Even though we'll have to social distance on the boat too, it's nice to see everyone in one place," Mr Gan said.
He has already booked his next cruise trip out of Singapore. He will be back next Friday, and is looking to book more sea staycations.
"Since we can't fly, sailing is the second best option. I'm looking forward to exploring the ship, and we'll be certain to go up to the deck to watch as we set sail," he said.