SINGAPORE (TVLW) – A Western-based global cruise brand is making a grand foray into the Asian market.
One of America’s and Europe’s biggest cruise operators – Royal Caribbean International – made its Asia-Pacific debut with the arrival of ‘Rhapsody of the Seas’ in Singapore on Sunday, carrying some 2,000 tourists from Australia and New Zealand.
The ship is calling Singapore home for the next two months before calling on ports in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Japan and South Korea.
Rama Rebbapragada, Asia-Pacific Managing Director for Royal Caribbean Cruises, said: “We chose Singapore for two reasons – to be our homeport for the ‘Rhapsody of the Seas’ for our Asia programme which we offer in the Southeast region, and also as our corporate headquarters. Singapore has a lot to offer. Most nationalities like to come here and visit.”
Last year, 850,000 passengers cruised through Singapore from destinations like Indonesia, India, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Europe.
The number of cruise passengers in Asia Pacific is also expected to grow by more than 40 percent from 1.07 million in 2005 to 1.5 million by 2010 and 2 million by 2015.
The arrival of ‘Rhapsody’, with its innovative onboard amenities and award-winning vacation programme which includes rock-climbing, is set to boost tourism in the region.
Lim Neo Chian, Deputy Chairman & CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), said: “To us, it’s our commitment to grow the Asia cruise business. So it’s really a demonstrated commitment to Asia. We will work with them to get more cruise ships here to our part of the world and to provide more cruise options to our visitors in Singapore.”
With a capacity of over 2,400 passengers and 78,000 tonnes, the ‘Rhapsody’ is the biggest ship to homeport in Asia.
And with 11 decks, it is also among the tallest.
In fact, the ship is so tall that it could not dock at the Singapore Cruise Centre at Harbourfront for fear of running into the cable cars.
Instead, it has to dock at the Pasir Panjang Terminal, which is some 15 minutes’ coach ride away from the Harbourfront.
The arrival of the ‘Rhapsody’ highlights the need for a newer and bigger terminal for the cruise industry to grow, and STB believes the proposed new Marina South terminal could start work next year.
“In terms of facility, there are basically two issues right now – one is that the bigger ships have got some difficulties getting to the cruise centre; second is that because of the increasing demand in cruise business, the present Cruise Centre is getting a bit congested at times. So essentially we’ll have to build new facilities. We’ve been looking at Marina South and we’re working actively with all the different government agencies. We hope to be able to start work next year,” said Mr Lim, who is optimistic the new Marina South cruise terminal will be ready in two to three years’ time.
Even though ‘Rhapsody of the Seas’ moves on from Singapore after January, the Royal Caribbean is deploying another ship – ‘Legend of the Sea’ – to Singapore at the end of next year.
‘Legend’ is of a similar class as the ‘Rhapsody’, but it is shorter and should be able to dock at the Singapore Cruise Centre.