Last weekend was a hive of activity at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore as nearly 1,000 passengers descended at the terminal to board Royal Caribbean’s newly arrived Spectrum of the Seas.
Among the passengers were travel agents, industry partners as well as media members from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and India, who flew into Singapore for the Spectrum of the Sea’s shakedown cruise ahead of its Singapore sailings starting 11 April 2022.
Spectrum of the Seas’ arrival for her Singapore homeporting from April 2022 also coincides with the country’s full reopening on 1 April, making another major milestone in Southeast Asia’s cruise recovery since cruises restarted in Singapore in November 2020.
“The arrival of Spectrum of the Seas couldn’t have come at a better time, just as Singapore shifts towards general vaccinated travel and readies for a strong recovery. We will continue to work with Royal Caribbean and other industry partners to steer cruising in the region towards greater heights,” said Annie Chang, director of cruise at Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
"Cruising is pretty much back to normal now," said Royal Caribbean's Angie Stephen. Passengers still have to do a pre-boarding antigen test, but Singapore cruises can operate with 75% capacity while live performances are back.
“We've been getting international demand from the minute we opened, but Spectrum of the Seas marks the first time we’re accepting international business,” said Angie Stephen, vice president and managing director, Asia Pacific of Royal Caribbean International.
“I expect that demand to speed up now that it's getting a lot easier to come into Singapore, which is why for the next step we're really focused on getting ports of calls and one set of protocols for the region.
The Spectrum of the Seas will homeport in Singapore for sailings from April to June 2022, and will offer regional sailings with ports of call including Penang and Phuket when it returns to Singapore come October.
Until regional sailings resume, Stephen says Spectrum of the Seas is as much “a destination in itself”, as the Quantum-class ship offers a wealth of activities, entertainment and food offerings on board for passengers to see and enjoy on the open ocean, so the ship "actually is somewhere until destinations come back into play”.
Looking ahead, Royal Caribbean’s priority is working with STB and travel partners across Asia Pacific to generate consumer interest in combining a Singapore holiday with cruising. “Get your clients to understand how easy it is to get to Singapore, and how easy it is to get on the ship,” Stephen urged travel agents.
The Ultimate Family Suite is a two-deck, multi-room accommodation complete with its own in-suite slide, cinema slash karaoke room, and a separate master bedroom with its own spa-like bathroom.
Southeast Asia’s cruise industry sails into new wave season
The recent stream of positive developments are buoying hopes among travel agents that the return to normalcy in cruise and travel is now within sight.
EU Holidays’ director Ong Hanjie sees Spectrum of the Seas as an especially good fit for families and younger millennials, citing its modern ship design and extensive facilities as crowd pullers.
As outbound travel from Singapore is likely to gain momentum now that borders are open, Ong believes that the Spectrum of the Seas would still be able to capture a sizeable local market.
“Whenever there’s a new ship in town, it’s going to be hot selling – that’s common in Singapore market because Singaporeans love a different experience,” he noted. “Moreover, the seacation sailings in Singapore over the past 18 months have also introduced the local market to cruises and converted a sector of the first-time-cruiser market to cruise fans who are eager to try new ships.”
Effendy Dharmawan, CEO of Preferred Tours Management, sees strong prospects in Indonesia’s corporate incentives and MICE market in Spectrum’s wide array of dining experiences and international dining options, plus activities for teambuilding, all of which are drawcards for Indonesian corporates.
As per protocols on land, live performances have been given the green light to return to cruises in Singapore as curbs were lifted on live entertainment and on the consumption of alcohol past 10.30pm.
“Enquiries for MICE have started, especially for departures in 2023. I have already done some promoting of Spectrum while on the ship, and the interest is already positive. Many of my corporate executive clients have already expressed their interest in the new ship.”
Pricing, however, remains Singapore’s biggest challenge in attracting travellers. Air connectivity has to increase to accommodate the strong interest from the Indian market,” expressed Varun Chada, CEO of Tirun Travel Marketing. “You need to get them out and get them there [to Singapore].
“It’s all moving in the right direction now. The current focus is FITs, but we’re hearing whispers of MICE and corporates starting to talk about [Singapore]. It will happen – just give it another quarter,” he added.
Ultimately, ports of calls have to be part of the cruise itinerary to make cruises a desirable vacation type for international travellers to Singapore. “If you fill the ship up but you’re going nowhere, you need to make sure the onboard experience remains as good when the passenger numbers come back,” said Chada.
The coming months will be critical for Singapore to anchor itself as a destination of choice for regional travellers. Said Effendy, “As long as Singapore continues to innovate its experiences, Indonesians will come. Once the trend to visit Singapore starts, many Indonesians will follow.”