SINGAPORE — First there were flights to nowhere, now there are cruises to nowhere.
This week, Singapore announced a pilot program where cruises will make round trips to the city-state with no port of call in between. Capacity would be limited to 50% and passengers must be Singapore residents.
The move is a fresh attempt to bolster travel demand in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic that’s infected 36 million people around the world and crippled the global tourism industry.
To participate, cruise lines have to obtain a mandatory safety certification and will be subjected to an audit before they are allowed to commence sailing. Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International are in the process of obtaining that certification, according to the Singapore Tourism Board.
“Since the announcement, the calls have been coming nonstop. Online enquiries as well. So, this is very encouraging,” Michael Goh, president of Dream Cruises at Genting Cruise Lines, said Friday on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.“
Dream Cruises’ World Dream ship will be the first to sail from Nov. 6, followed by Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas starting in December.
Goh claimed that once the cruise is ready to sail, it will be one of the stiffest travel options available due to the numerous safety measures that will be implemented. Those include mandatory Covid-19 testing for passengers and crew, frequent and thorough cleaning as well as 100% fresh air ventilation — all of which are necessary to get the so-called CruiseSafe certification.
“This is going to be the safest holiday option,” he said. Unlike staycations in hotels, Goh said “the cruise ship itself is a destination, it has an integrated facility” that includes multiple water slides, ziplines, rock climbing walls as well as dining areas and musical performances.
In the early days of the pandemic, cruises were hotspots for the spread of the coronavirus. For example, more than 700 people were infected on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan.
With reduced capacity, initial voyages are unlikely to be profitable. Goh told CNBC the priority was to regain consumer confidence and that the occupancy rate will gradually increase. He said Dream Cruises’ Explorer Dream ship in Taiwan, which has already resumed operations, saw its occupancy rise from an initial 50% to close to 90% at the moment.
With a mix of different room types on board the World Dream in Singapore, an increase in gradual occupancy and the tendency for Singapore passengers to spend on dining and beverages onboard, Goh said he was confident the ship would be operational positive in the near future.
A similar experience was reportedly being explored by Singapore Airlines, which would have involved a flight route that would take off from and land in Singapore’s Changi Airport. Local media reported that the airline, battered by the pandemic, has now dropped its so-called flight to nowhere plan and would instead launch a restaurant onboard one of its parked Airbus A-380 planes.