By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo / Special to the BusinessMirror
THE Philippines is now included in the itinerary of Dream Cruises, a luxury cruise line for the Asian market created by Genting Cruise Lines, owner and operator of the Star Cruises.
This developed as over 2,600 foreign tourists experienced the warmth and hospitality of Filipinos, as luxury cruise ship World Dream made its maiden call at Pier 15 of the Manila South Harbor on November 21.
“With the introduction of World Dream, Dream Cruises is now a fleet and with strong destination partners, such as Manila. Dream Cruises is proud to be an exciting part of Genting Cruise lines’ leadership role in promoting the growing tourism and related industries throughout Asia and specifically the Philippines,” Dream Cruises President Thatcher Brown said.
The 18-deck ship, designed for the Asian cruise market, is homeported in Hong Kong, but will include regular port calls to Manila and Boracay. With a speed of up to 24 knots, the ship will have great flexibility in serving Asian destinations.
The 150,000-ton mega-ship will make its regular port calls in the Philippines until March 28, 2018. World Dream recently made its debut in Guangzhou, southern China.
In a news statement, Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo said: “We welcome World Dream to the Philippine shores, the largest cruise ship for the year, as we continue to position the country as one of the major cruise hubs in Asia. This milestone is another sign of the confidence and trust from cruise lines, especially Genting-Star Cruises.” She added: “As we broaden our cruise-tourism portfolio with more exciting shore excursions and plans for our very own dedicated cruise-port terminal, we continue to welcome more and more cruise passengers and bigger cruise ships for the years to come.”
World Dream was the second cruise ship to call on Manila this week. On November 20, the international cruise ship MS Celebrity Millennium also made a port call in Manila as part of its 14-day Asian Tour Program. According to Czarina Loyola, officer in charge of the National Capital Region, the cruise ship carried 1,800 passengers, about 700 of whom went on a day tour of either Manila, Tagaytay, Hidden Valley and Villa Escudero.
The ship departed for Boracay at 6 p.m. on the same day.
The DOT projects about 122,000 cruise passengers from 140 cruise calls this year, up some 70 percent, from 72,350 passengers from 72 cruise calls in 2016.
In a separate news statement, Dream Cruises said World Dream provides guests with the highest levels of service and spacious comfort that the cruise line has become known, with over 70 percent of staterooms featuring private balconies and a selection of connecting rooms catering to extended families and groups.
The well-received Dream Palace “ship within a ship” concept on board World Dream offers more suites and all-inclusive options and privileges. Several new restaurant concepts, along with new entertainment options that combine both high-tech and high-touch experiences, will be announced shortly. The recognized Crystal Life Spa brand operates both the Western Spa and Asian Spa on World Dream.
Complimenting World Dream’s onboard attractions are diverse itineraries featuring new, authentic destination experiences that will take guests on tropical and cultural journeys in Asia. Especially designed voyages taking in sun-drenched, popular destinations for the winter feature six-day/five-night cruises to Manila and Boracay in the Philippines, alternating with six-day/five-night journeys to Ho Chi Minh and Nha Trang in Vietnam.
Early this year, World Dream’s sister ship, the SuperStar Virgo, homeported in Manila and cruised to Laoag, Kaoshiung in Taiwan, Hong Kong and back to Manila. SuperStar Virgo is also currently sailing between Shanghai, Laoag, Manila, Naha, then back to Shanghai.
SuperStar Virgo will be returning again in March 2018, and will set sail between the Philippines, Japan and Taiwan. Heralded as the third-largest cruise line in the world, the Hong Kong-based Star Cruises has started offering a five-night cruise from Manila to Naha in Japan, Keelung in Taiwan and back to Manila. Another cruise offering is five nights from Manila to Ishigaki in Japan, Keelung, then back to Manila. (See, Star Cruises returns to Manila homeport in March next year, in the BusinessMirror, October 31, 2017.)
The Duterte administration hopes to attract more cruise companies to include the Philippines in their Asian itineraries. Under the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) for 2016-2022, about P6.1 billion is needed to develop cruise ports in key destinations in the country.
This includes a cruise port and terminal in Manila, the site of which is still being finalized but will most likely be at reclaimed area of the CCP complex, beside the current Senate building. The Department of Tourism, through its government corporate arm, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, is trying to get the private sector to invest in constructing the Manila port.
Under the NTDP, the Duterte administration also hopes to develop the so-called Turquoise and North Triangles as cruise destinations: These include Manila-Boracay-Puerto Princesa and Currimao/Salomague-Cagayan-Batanes.
It also targets the number of cruise visitors to reach 456,164 via 402 ship calls by 2022, from a projected 117,000 visitors via 105 port calls in 2017.