After months of inactivity and uncertainty, the cruise industry in Singapore made its first attempt to stage a comeback with the "Cruise to nowhere" that sails on Friday with all the necessary safety measures required to make the journey free of any threats from COVID-19.
The 335-meter (1,100 ft) World Dream liner will sail through the Malacca Strait, an important shipping lane linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and traverse into international waters and return to Singapore on Sunday. No stops will be made at ports during the 'seacation'.
Making a Comeback
Cruise services across the world were halted in March after the pandemic struck the industry hard. Several cruise liners became floating epicenters after reporting hundreds of cases aboard, the most notable of them being the Diamond Princess.
All the passengers were administered COVID-19 swab tests prior to the boarding of the vessel, with workers in PPE suits carrying them out and maintaining distancing norms. Also, the ship is carrying passengers at only 50 percent of its capacity—1,400—in order to eliminate the risk of crowding. In addition to this, self-serve buffets on the ship have been suspended and the medical facilities have been upgraded and include isolation units and testing.
"All activities on board will be organised in accordance with permitted group sizes – specific to each activity – in line with the prevailing national policy, and measures will be in place to discourage close contact between groups," said Dream Cruises in a recent press release.
A Semblance of Normality
The cruise is a partnered venture between Singapore national tourism board and two cruise lines, with Royal Caribbean International's Quantum of the Seas and Genting Cruise Lines' World Dream being the first two ships to participate. However, the tourism board has made these trips exclusive only to residents of Singapore.
After being staying put on the island state for several months, the cruise comes as a welcome change for the residents, and as a chance of ushering in some pre-coronavirus normalcy. Vinoth Arun, a 27-year old financial consultant, who was accompanied by his girlfriend, told AFP, "The fact that you carry your luggage and you bring your passport out, I guess it's just the mindset that you're going on holiday."
For some, it is the very idea of being able to leave a place, even if it is only for a short duration. Robert Gaxiola, another passenger, told Reuters, "The idea of just getting out of Singapore, even just for a little bit, a few days, it's really an attractive thing,"
Most of all, this serves as an opportunity for cruise operators to revamp their models and adapt to the new pandemic-centered scenario. "This cruise pilot is a valuable opportunity for cruise operators to reinvent the entire cruise experience in order to regain the confidence of passengers," said Keith Tan, CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board, in a statement.