Subic agog over cruise ships’ comeback


SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is looking forward to regular visits of the cruise ship Blue Dream Star, as the agency revved up its post-Covid 19 pandemic promotions to revitalize the local tourism industry.

The seven-decked, 24,318-ton Liberian-flagged cruise liner made its second voyage to Subic from Xiamen, China on Monday, October 16, after becoming the first cruise ship to visit this port since the Covid pandemic stalled the thriving cruise ship industry here.

SBMA Tourism Department manager Jem Camba said Blue Dream Star, operated by Blue Dream Cruises China, has scheduled 11 port visits to Subic from October 12 to November 21, 2023.

“We are happy to welcome Blue Dream Star to Subic Bay,” Camba said, as the SBMA Cruise Ship Committee welcomed disembarking passengers at the Boton Wharf here.

“We expect around 1,000 passengers and more than 300 crew members in Subic Bay each time that Blue Dream Star arrives here every four days,” Camba added.

Meanwhile, operators of local tourism establishments here expressed hope that this would spark another surge of

interest among cruise ship operators in the Asia-pacific region and revive Subic’s eminent brand as a top cruise destination in the country. The Philippines was recently named Asia’s Best Cruise Destination for 2023 at the 3rd World Cruise Awards in Dubai.

Subic has launched a successful cruise ship program in 2018 under then SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma Eisma, who had brought into Subic the colossal Spectrum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas, which, at 18 decks, are reputed to be two of the biggest and the most expensive cruise ships to sail in Asia.

SBMA had already confirmed 38 cruise ship arrivals and two tentative bookings for 2020, as well as four confirmed bookings for 2021 when the Covid-19 pandemic practically aborted all cruise travels around the world in early 2020.

Following the emergence of Subic as top cruise ship destination in 2018, Malacañang issued Executive Order 72 in December that year to allow foreign nationals granted visa-free privilege to depart from Subic piers and wharves. This amended E.O. 271 issued in 1995 that covered visa-free departure by foreign visitors at the Subic Bay International Airport.

Tourism has traditionally been a major industry in Subic, which boasts of several sea ports, natural attractions, and theme parks.

Incumbent SBMA Chairman and Administrator Jonathan D. Tan, who has anchored his Subic agenda on jobs, development and tourism, said that the freeport has recorded a 99-percent increase in tourist arrivals in 2023, with a cumulative record of 5.15 million visitors and 436,000 tourist arrivals as of June this year.