Soon after docking in Singapore in preparation for a new sailing season in two weeks’ time, Royal Caribbean International’s Spectrum of the Seas took off with a special preview for international guests – the first time a cruise line is able to welcome more than just Singapore residents since the pandemic hit in 2020.
The milestone sailing, from April 2 to 4, had media representatives, travel trade partners, business associates and their accompanying family from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and India.
Angie Stephen, vice president and managing director, Asia Pacific, Royal Caribbean International, told TTG Asia: “We have been sailing globally with international guests since 2021, which was an important year for us because we returned to Europe, the Caribbean and Alaska. However, Spectrum is Singapore’s first cruise with international guests (since the pandemic).”
According to Annie Chang, director of cruise with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), almost 500,000 people have sailed since Singapore restarted cruises in November 2020, with programmes restricted to no port calls and for Singapore residents only.
Set to begin its season on April 11 – six months ahead of schedule, Spectrum has seen “incredible” demand, revealed Stephen. Demand from the domestic market has remained strong, fuelled by sister ship Quantum of the Seas’s successful and extended season in Singapore. At the same time, interest from international guests is intensifying, stimulated by Singapore’s simplified arrival procedures that came into effect April 1.
Stephen said: “Initially, international demand was coming in for Q4 when we have published ports of call. Now that it is easier to come to Singapore, many international guests are happy to come here and join our cruise-to-nowhere programmes in Q2.”
Spectrum’s South-east Asian sailings offer a range of programmes, from two-night quick breaks to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to a nine-night retreat to Thailand and Vietnam. These will begin in October.
The ship’s new season in April coincides with Singapore relaxed social restrictions, allowing it to sail with 75 per cent of capacity instead of the previous 50 per cent. Guests can also do away with their mask outdoors, and enjoy the return of live entertainment at lounges.
“Singapore’s relaxation of social restrictions means more opportunities for more guests to enjoy our activities as we scale up occupancy in our venues. Theatres are the perfect example of how things are changing. At one point, we could only have 50 people in the theatre; now we can have up to 1,000,” said Stephen.
However, as Singapore looks to win back international travellers, she said it is imperative that the authorities consider further easing restrictions, as travellers “would want their experiences here to be easier than or equal to the place they are coming from”.
Royal Caribbean International is doing its part to streamline procedures for guests. It now allows pre-departure ARTs to be conducted at any Quick Test Centres or Combined Test Centres designated by the Ministry of Health, or via a video consultation with an approved private healthcare provider. These are in addition to the existing test option by Fullerton Health Testing Centre at Raffles City.
The company has also fast-tracked the development of its Royal app to simplify the online check-in process and to introduce a new e-muster function, shared Stephen. The latter allows guests to complete their compulsory safety drill on the app.
“My favourite technology advancement on the app is the e-muster. The safety drill has to happen before we start sailing. Pre-pandemic, everyone had to gather at the assembly station at the same time, with their life jacket, watch a video and listen to the captain for 15 to 20 minutes. That was never a fun way to start a cruise,” she recalled.
The Royal app’s e-muster function went live on Saturday with the trade and media preview.
Stephen shared that the team is now “really focused on bringing back ports of call”, and is working with the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to set up one set of protocols to make it easier for international guests to enjoy three countries on one cruise.