Star Cruises, the leading cruise line in Asia-Pacific, has made Boracay and Manila as part of the 7-day Asian tour, giving hope to the potential rise of cruise shipping in the country.
Honourable Florencio T. Miraflores, Governor of the Provincial Government of Aklan (fourth from the left), and officials from the Provincial Government of Aklan, the Municipality of Malay, Philippine Ports Authority Iloilo and the Department of Tourism Regional Office- Region VI commemorated SuperStar Gemini’s first call to Boracay with Captain Jukka Silvennoinen (fourth from the right). (photo courtesy of starcruises.com)
Captain Jukka Silvennoinen, Master of M/S Superstar Gemini, said they started the cruise from Xiamen with about 1,271 Chinese tourists. They visited Keelung, Penghu, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Hong Kong, Boracay and Manila and then back to Xiamen.
Star Cruises Chief Operating Officer William Ng said Star Cruises has been calling into China since 1994 inclusive of Xiamen.
“With Xiamen being our homeport for SuperStar Gemini, we’re pleased to take Chinese customers on cruise holidays to destinations in Taiwan, Boracay and Manila,” he said, adding that “these itineraries will energize local tourism and attract both new and our regular cruisers.”
Superstar Gemini’s maiden call in Manila on October 18, 2013 was a milestone event for the country’s cruise industry.
“Despite the lack of berthing facility and rough waters, which was an uneasy destination for big ships, it becomes part of the excitement… Boracay is the most popular island in the world,” said Capt. Silvennoinen.
He added that Manila is a big city and there are lots of undertakings for the tourists. Resorts World Manila, a joint-venture between Genting Hong Kong and AGI, provided free shuttle service.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) made a warmth welcome through traditional music using bamboos and various folkdances, which really cheered Chinese tourists.
Tourism Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon Jr., said surely Philippines is becoming a very attractive port of call.
“Interestingly, Boracay becomes a popular destination among cruise ships, despite the absence of cruise infrastructure. This is a very significant development seeing the cruise market in Europe, North America shifting to Southeast Asia,” he said.
“You can just imagine a ship full of Chinese tourists coming to the Philippines,” said Bengzon.
The ship has a capacity of 2,800 passengers including 1,000 crew. The Captain said one third of crew are Filipinos.
SuperStar Gemini, a 50,764-tonnage vessel, currently calls Shanghai home and sails to Taiwanese and Korean destinations. The cruise ship’s amenities include fitness center, spa, music lounge and pool.
In addition to entertainment facilities and amenities, it newly refurbished ship has collaborated with China Duty Free to design the 450 sqm duty free shopping heaven onboard, well stocked with products including premium international brands.
Government officials see cruise requirements must be addressed such as development and upgrade of cruise ports, terminals and visitor facilities to increase capacity and meet international cruise shipping standards.
Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager Juan Sta. Ana said they have identified 8 ports which can be developed as international hubs and these include Davao, Boracay, Subic, Manila and Zamboanga.
Capt. Silvennoinen said the port facility in Manila, operated by Asian Terminals Inc. (AT), is just good and he has not encountered any problem. The ship left Manila on Friday night on its way to Xiamen. (Source : PNA)