Cruises, a lucrative revenue stream for travel agents in normal times, will serve as a “critical lifeline” for embattled industry members when cruise lines restart operations in Asia, says Michael Goh, president of Dream Cruises and head of international sales, Genting Cruise Lines.
The cruise executive believes that the importance of cruise will become even more pronounced to the recovery of the travel sector, as the Singapore government has just given the green light to reopen sailings after closing all port calls in the country to cruise ships since March 13 this year.
Dream Cruises will be the first cruise line to trial ‘cruises to nowhere’ from Singapore on 6 November on World Dream, which will homeport in the city for the first time.
Furthermore, the timing of Singapore’s cruise resumption will put local travel agents in a good position to tap the anticipated boost in demand for cruise packages ahead of the year-end school holiday, says Goh. The early November sailing coincides with the usual school holidays season – putting “family, friends, couples, multi-generational customers our target audience”, he adds.
The eagerness of travel agencies to sell cruise again is palpable, notes Goh. “Some of the bosses I’ve talked to are very happy [about cruise resumption], they tell me ‘even if my office is not open yet we’ll come online and support’. When they want to restart they must have a product to sell, so cruise will be a lifeline for them,” he remarks.
He continues, “Our job didn’t start today but a couple of months ago with webinars for the travel trade, sharing with media and consumers the safety measures in place. We've to provide [agents] the tool to sell, a bible that’s easy to read – simple rate structures, itinerary and communications.”
World Dream will resume operations in Singapore in compliance with Singapore Tourism Board’s mandatary CruiseSafe certification programme.
Safety as top priority for guests and crew
Dream Cruises will resume operations in Singapore in compliance with Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) mandatary CruiseSafe certification programme – akin to the cruise version of SG Clean – but with the auditing framework and guidelines established by classification and risk management company DNV GL.
But Genting Cruise Lines – the parent of Dream Cruises – is no stranger to the protocols, as Explorer Dream was the first cruise ship in the world to receive DNV GL’s CIP-M certification (Certification in Infection Prevention for the Marine industry) prior to its operations resumption in Taiwan.
World Dream, too, has now joined the CIP-M certified fleet, which means that the 18-deck vessel has in place stringent safety standards, including enhanced infection prevention control and systems for the well-being of guests and crew members.
Dream Cruises’ recommencement of sailings in Singapore will be a gradual one though, beginning with 50% guest capacity on the 3,376-pax World Dream. On board, the ship will have a team of medical personnel and quarantine rooms on standby, while buffet will still be offered but with food served by staff onto plates.
The most notable changes will be observed for pre-embarkation procedures, with guests undergoing Covid-19 antigen tests at the cruise terminal prior to boarding. Goh acknowledges that Covid-19 testing can be “a double-edged sword”, as some passengers may welcome the procedure while others will be more wary of it.
What is clear, he stresses, will be the enhanced safety and peace of mind the testing protocol will bring. “Staycations don’t need tests, but we want to give guests comfort and enjoyment. Safety remains a top priority for Dream Cruises so that both guests and crew can sail with a peace of mind,” Goh states.
Seacations in place of staycations
What the audited World Dream will offer is not a staid cruise experience, says Goh. Instead, cruise passengers can continue to expect a barrage of entertainment, cultural programmes revolving around festivals, plus myriad meal options onboard World Dream, not unlike what have been rolled out on sister ship Explorer Dream for the Taiwan market.
Going forward, Goh emphasises, guests can expect “new experiences in the new world of cruising” as Dream Cruises rises to the challenge of innovating amid a stricter operating environment.
All these offerings will make for a “super seacation” for the Singapore market when World Dream operates two- (departing Wednesdays and Fridays) or three-night (departing Sundays) sailings on the high seas.
“The cruise ship itself is a destination,” says Goh. “We want to ‘Sea you soon’.”
Goh, who recently shared Dream Cruises' new safety measures during a dedicated workshop at CruiseWorld Asia, will be joining other cruise leaders in Asia for an open dialogue during the 14 October virtual conference. More information can be viewed here.