The Singapore government has opened a path for the cruise industry to navigate its way out of the Covid-19 crisis, beginning with 'sailings to nowhere' from the country, and cruise lines have responded with the strongest possible safety measures onboard their ships.
Earlier on 8 October, Dream Cruises and Royal Caribbean had received approval from the Singapore government to pilot cruises out of Singapore in November and December respectively.
The Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore (MBCCS), likewise, has also locked in health management measures that will transform the terminal into a safe haven.
The onus is now on travel agents to convey to their customers that the sum total of stringent measures taken by industry stakeholders, from cruise lines and cruise terminals to governments and industry bodies, will ensure that it is safe to cruise again in Asia.
“It’s now a critical time to come together as an industry,” said Irene Chua, vice president and group publisher Asia at Northstar Travel Media, organiser of CruiseWorld Asia.
MBCCS' Lionel Wong gave an overview of safety protocols rolled out at the Singapore cruise terminal.
Lionel Wong, chief executive of Marina Bay Cruise Centre (MBCCS), also emphasised the importance of travel agents to share all the new health and safety measures being undertaken by the cruise sector so that when passengers came aboard, they would be aware of what to expect at the terminal and on the ship.
“This whole thing is a change from what we know of normal cruising. We can build all the measures and policies, but if the market is not assured...[therefore] building trust starts with travel agents," said Wong, who spoke during the second of CruiseWorld Asia’s three webinars, Rebuild, Reassure and Renew.
“This will help the market to become confident about coming back to cruising.”
During the webinar, MBCCS also revealed the new measures implemented at the terminal to ensure passengers that embarkation of cruise ships will be done in a safe "bubble environment".
“You will know that everyone around you has been tested for Covid and is healthy," said Wong.
These measures include allowing only one vessel to operate in the terminal daily; passengers being required to take a Covid-19 test to mitigate risk; staggered arrivals of passengers to avoid over-crowding and 50% passenger capacity for cruise ships.
Costa Cruises' Paul Chong sharing more about Costa Firenze, which will sail into Southeast Asia in November 2021.
Opportunities in future sailings
While Dream Cruises and Royal Caribbean's imminent restart in Singapore have given a boost in confidence for Singapore-based agents, cruise executives speaking at CruiseWorld Asia were quick to point out that the selling opportunities also lie in future sailings.
Costa Cruises, for instance, has announced that its new ship, Costa Firenze, will operate out of Singapore and Bangkok from November 2021.
Costa Firenze, currently under construction in Trieste, Italy, is a sister ship of Costa Venezia, and will feature a strong Tuscan theme. “This ship isn’t about amusement parks, it’s about the experience of Italy, in this case the city of Florence,” said Paul Chong, Carnival Asia's vice president, business development and Costa Cruises' vice president of sales and commercial Southeast Asia.
Chong, who was recently appointed the leading regional role to ramp up Costa's presence in South-east Asia after establishing a strong presence in North-east Asia, is keen to speak to as many travel partners as possible in the region ahead of Firenze’s arrival.
“Cruise lines have good product to sell but at the moment there just isn’t enough product to sell. Our travel partners in Asia are all waiting for more products,” Chong added.
With ships restarting operating at 50% of capacity, the Costa Cruises executive added that “there is never a better time to take a cruise” than now.
“It’s a rare opportunity. You’ll have the run of the ship. No more jostling for table space, no more queuing for activities.”
Jiali Wong, regional manager of Cruise Lines International Association, stressed that the industry needed to reassure guests that it is safe to cruise “now more than ever”.
“Let’s stand together to boost confidence,” she said.