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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Cruise ships dropping anchor anew in PHL

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THE Philippines is regaining its allure as a leisure destination for  international cruise lines.

Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed 139 port calls on various  destinations in the country by 29 cruise ships, carrying 37,374 passengers this year. These include expedition vessels, which carry no more than 250 passengers to huge cruise ships, which in turn can ferry over 5,000 passengers. Among the most popular locations for this year’s ship calls are Manila (34 ship calls), Puerto Princesa (22),  and Boracay (13). Prior to the pandemic, there were 102 port calls in the Philippines in 2019.

In an interview via email, Ben Angell, Vice President and Managing Director, Asia Pacific for the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) told the BusinessMirror, “The Philippines is a significant market for us as a source market and as a destination. The Philippines

is well-known for its pristine beaches, vibrant culture, friendly people, and unique cuisine. When Norwegian Jewel makes her long-awaited return to Asia in October, she will offer NCL’s first cruise departing from Manila, allowing Filipinos to cruise with us right from their doorstep.”

Asian cruising season

Marking its return to the region after three years, NCL is offering 14 voyages aboard its Norwegian Jewel for the Asian cruising season between October 2023 and March 2024. This includes an 11-day cruise from Manila to Kuala Lumpur departing November 30, that “will take travelers on an unforgettable journey through popular tourist destinations like the vibrant markets of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the multicultural landscapes and towering skyscrapers of Singapore, and the intricate caves of Puerto Princesa in the Philippines.”

In addition, “We’ll be calling to several brand-new Philippine ports of call for NCL during our upcoming extended Asia season, including Boracay, Palawan and Salomague [Ilocos Sur].”

Angell cited a Skyscanner study in 2022 that indicated travelers across the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas are increasing their travel budgets, with 48 percent of these bigger spenders looking to book extended getaways. “Many of NCL’s global itineraries—including Norwegian Jewel’s 14 Asian voyages—are longer and more immersive, featuring few to no sea days, lesser-known cruise destinations, and on-shore experiences that allow guests to interact authentically with locals. On-shore, our excursions provide travelers with an opportunity to learn about the Philippines’s rich history and scenic wonders. Travelers can explore Old Manila via jeepney or discover Tagaytay and the breathtaking views of the Taal Volcano.”

Enticing Pinoy cruise passengers

The Norwegian Jewel has a 2,376 guest capacity, and “boasts of 13 different bars and lounges; 14 diverse dining options; the Stardust Theater for enthralling entertainment; a basketball court that transforms into a tennis court; Mandara Spa for pampering and wellness, as well as Entourage, where older kids can have their own space, away from it all. Whether it’s a night of entertainment with the family or committing some time to personal wellness at the spa with a massage or hot stone treatment, Filipino travelers are sure to love NCL’s unique cruise offering,” underscored Angell.

The Philippines has often been bypassed as a cruise destination because of the lack of dedicated cruise port facilities. The DOT earlier developed a National Cruise Tourism Strategy that aimed to promote the country as a major cruise destination in Asia, and estimated that P6.1 billion in investment was needed to develop major cruise ports and terminals in Manila and other key cities.

Other cruise line companies with itineraries in the country this year include Seabourn, Holland Cruises, Regent, P&O Cruises, Oceana Cruises, MSC Cruises, Amedeo, Windstar Cruises, Hapag Lloyd, Cunard, Swan Hellenic, Insignia, Heritage Expeditions, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Crociere, Coral Expedition, and Aida Cruises.

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