By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo / Special to the BusinessMirror
HONGKONG-based Star Cruises is looking to set up more home ports in the Philippines, on the heels of its successful cruise launch from its new homeport in Manila.
This was disclosed by Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo after the ceremony last Sunday welcoming the first Philippines homeporting of luxury cruise ship Superstar Virgo, one of the six vessels deployed by Star Cruises in Asia Pacific. She said the cruise-tourism pioneer in the region is also considering to homeport in Boracay, Aklan and Cebu.
In a statement, Teo said the increasing number of cruise ships visiting Manila, as well as Boracay, is a “sure sign” that the Philippines will become a major international cruise hub in the near future.
“As the first-ever cruise ship to homeport in Manila, Superstar Virgo etches a milestone in our tourism journey, as both the ship and our shores will provide vacationers, including the locals, the convenience of not having to fly to either Hong Kong or Singapore to take a cruise,” she stressed. The first maiden voyage of Superstar Virgo from Manila departed on March 19 and is currently en route to Laoag, Ilocos Norte, Kaoshiung in Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The 13-story, 935-cabin luxury cruise ship will return to Manila on May 28.
Filipinos were earlier offered a promo package of P24,500 for twin-share accommodations.
Others who welcomed the cruise ship were Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea and officials from Manila City Hall and other government agencies.
For his part, Star Cruises President Ang Moo Lim echoed Teo’s optimism that a wholesome and ultimate tour experience for both international and Filipino cruise passengers offer families precious time to bond.
“We are very excited to unveil the first-ever ‘Jewels of the South China Sea’, a new itinerary pioneered by Star Cruises that connects four scenic cities in Asia —Hong Kong, Manila, Laoag and Kaohsiung—across a six-day/five- night cruise,” he added.
“In 2013 and 2015, Star Cruises launched the Hong Kong-Kaohsiung itinerary, which was extremely well-received by travelers from Hong Kong; in 2017 we are taking this itinerary up a notch and extending the journey to Manila—the East-meets-West cultural melting pot—as well as Laoag, known for its natural landscape and white- sand beaches,” he said, in a separate statement.
“This unique and brand-new itinerary allows travelers to enjoy a relaxing holiday filled with gastronomic delights, cultural heritage and sunny beaches without the hassle of transits.
We look forward to collaborating with travel and tourism institutions in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines on the promotion of this unique Jewels of the South China Sea to international tourists as the hottest new cruising choice.”
Ang also pointed out that Star Cruises was the first major cruise line to recruit Filipinos 23 years ago for our cruise ships, “and now we are pleased to be the first international cruise line to welcome Filipinos onboard Superstar Virgo as our guests from our home port in Manila. Worldwide, nearly 25 million people have enjoyed a cruise in 2016, and we are extending this opportunity for Filipinos to join their ranks from Manila—at an affordable price.”
Hong Kong-based Star Cruises’ flagship arrived to a rousing, fanfare-filled celebration at Manila’s South Harbor, where hundreds of welcomers waited as early as 5 a.m.
On behalf of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, City Administrator Eric Alcovendaz presented a symbolic key to the city to Star Cruises’ Ang. Revelers and guests were treated to a dazzling musicale at the 2,600-passenger capacity ship’s Lido theater and a tour of its restaurants, bars, game room, shopping mall, gym, massage spa and roof deck swimming pool.
DOT Undersecretary for Tourism Benito Bengzon Jr. hailed the decision of Star Cruises and its parent company Genting Hong Kong to homeport its flagship vessel in Manila.
He said, “More cruise calls support President Duterte’s thrust to increase visitor arrivals in the country, as we introduce our countless tourist destinations to the world.”
Bengzon observed that Filipinos were also interested in taking cruise vacations in their own country, as well as in other Asian countries.
The DOT is projecting 105 port calls in the Philippines this year, with ships carrying about 117,000 passengers.