Opinions

STB Lets 2 Cruise Lines Pilot 'Cruises To Nowhere' From Nov - Will This Idea Sink Or Float?

[Update: 8 October 2020]

Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced today (October 8) that two cruise lines will be allowed to offer ‘cruises to nowhere’ from November.

Genting Cruise Lines’ World Dream will start offering these cruises on November 6, while Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas will begin sailing in December.

This is part of a new pilot scheme for Singapore residents that allows round trips with no ports of call, and sailings at a reduced capacity of up to 50 per cent.

‘Cruises to nowhere’ is also part of STB’s efforts to revive leisure travel in Singapore following border restrictions.

“We are able to provide Singapore residents with more vacation options beyond land-based resorts and we hope to bring back the joy of cruising with safety being paramount,” said Dream Cruises president Michael Goh.

STB asserts that public healthy and safety remains their utmost priority, and that the mandatory CruiseSafe certification will help provide assurance for safe cruising.

“Singapore is one of the first countries in the world to develop and implement a mandatory audit and certification programme for cruise lines before they can commence sailings,” it added.

According to STB, the government will carefully monitor the outcomes of the pilot sailings in the coming months before deciding on the next steps for cruises.

Singapore Airlines recently announced that it is scrapping its plans to launch ‘flights to nowhere’ following criticism about the harsh environmental impact created by such flights.

The airline went on to conduct a market study and review, and decided to launch a suite of SIA experiences such as A380 ‘plane restaurant’, home dining and facilities tours instead.

Following this news, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced on September 30 that it is looking to launch ‘cruises to nowhere’ as part of efforts to resume leisure travel.

Among four bidders, STB has awarded a S$145,000 contract to Norway’s DNV GL AS to come up with necessary health and safety measures for cruise lines that want to restart sailings from Singapore.

For instance, the ship’s capacity will be halved for the first three months of operation.

All cruise ships will also be audited, certified and inspected for three months before sailing.

“Cruise lines that pass the compliance audit will be given a certification, which serves as a quality mark to assure consumers that the cruise has met these required standards,” said Annie Chang, cruise director of STB.

All cruise lines must also attain this certification to sail out of Singapore ports. However, it is unclear when this programme would start.

It’s Better Than ‘Flights To Nowhere’

Cruise ships was once a COVID-19 hotspot.

Following a spate of COVID-19 outbreaks at sea, the cruise industry were forced to shut down in March.

Particularly for the Diamond Princess cruise in Yokohama, Japan in February, five Singaporeans were quarantined. More than 600 passengers were infected and two died.

Even healthy passengers have suffered, as many ports turned ships away for fear of seeding new shore-side outbreaks. Tens of thousands of crew members were trapped on vessels for months.

As Singapore has halted dock-ins since March, this move by STB could definitely give some relief to cruise operators.

Moreover, ‘cruises to nowhere’ is on a slightly different playing field than ‘flights to nowhere’.

Unlike flights, those onboard a cruise can have the freedom to roam around, engage in many activities, sleep comfortably in a private room, and indulge in good food while enjoying the scenery.

singapore airlines
Image Credit: Singapore Airlines

While some may argue that you can also enjoy good food in a ‘sky restaurant’ onboard a plane, flying without purpose is not exactly palatable.

While people look forward to traveling, the flying experience itself is not particularly enjoyable or comfortable most of the time.

Moreover, leisure cruises that travel to aimless destinations is not a novel concept and has been around for decades.

However, with no stops at ports and shore excursions, cruise lines have to make sure guests are entertained onboard — be it for solo travelers, couples, friends or families.

Mid-Term Solution To Revive Leisure Travel

cruise holiday singapore
Image Credit: Awards.sg

To rebuild public trust, cruise lines must tighten their safety and sanitation protocols to protect passengers and crew from future outbreaks. 

New health and safety requirements will require big changes to dining, air circulation and boarding procedures. Buffets will also likely become a thing of the past, replaced only by à la carte dining, at least until a vaccine can be found.

That said, cruising will most definitely be a far different experience once liners begin sailing again.

However, to make ends meet, cruise definitely need to start going somewhere.

They might not help with pollution control, but ‘cruises to nowhere’ could be a mid-term solution to revive the leisure travel industry.

They could be offered at a much cheaper price than normal cruises because of the lack of port charges and reduced fuel consumption. The only downside is that they won’t help revive local economies.

Above all, cruise lines need to reinstate customer confidence because ‘cruises to nowhere’ can either be a great getaway, or a coronavirus cage.

It’s a difficult restart for sea cruises, but if they work out and there are no major outbreaks, these ‘cruises to nowhere’ can serve as best cases, which is key to ramping up the industry in the near future.

Featured Image Credit: Royal Caribbean International

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