Move over flights to nowhere. Yesterday, the Singapore Tourism Board announced their Covid-safe cruise to nowhere programme, launching next month.
Genting Cruise Lines will run the pilot service on 6 November, with Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas joining from December. Classed as ’round trips’ with no ports of call, the cruises are open only to Singapore residents and will operate at 50% capacity to ensure passengers’ safety.
Other stringent safety measures put in place as part of the STB’s CruiseSafe programme include mandatory testing before boarding, ensuring 100% fresh air throughout the ship and strict and frequent cleaning and sanitisation protocols onboard.
Crew will need to quarantine for 14 days in their home country as well as for 14 days in Singapore before boarding.
While prices are yet to be announced, it is thought that tickets for the four-day cruise will cost thousands of dollars.
The cruise industry has been in free fall in the wake of the pandemic, in part due to a swirl of bad publicity off the back of a number of high-profile cases.
In February, 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew aboard the Diamond Princess tested positive for Covid-19, leaving the boat stranded for weeks off the coast of Japan while the local health authorities dealt with cases one by one.
A similar situation occurred on the Hawaii-bound Grand Princess, which was rerouted to San Francisco and then Oakland in March after an elderly man died and the virus spread across the ship. At least a dozen lawsuits have been filed by passengers of Grand Princess against companies responsible for the cruise ship.
Efforts to restart the cruise industry over the summer have been plagued with issues, with Covid-19 detected on ships in Norway and Tahiti.
Keith Tan, the STB’s chief executive, said the scheme would allow cruise lines to ‘regain the confidence of passengers’.
Singapore’s plans come after residents in Asia have been snapping up tickets for controversial ‘flights to nowhere’. EVA Air’s Hello Kitty-themed flight sold out in minutes, as did a seven-hour ‘flightseeing’ service offered by Qantas from Sydney.
Singapore Airlines was initially expected to follow suit and launch its own pleasure flight service, but it abandoned the plans after harsh criticism from environmentalists. Instead, last month SIA launched the ‘Discover Your Singapore Airlines’ initiative, which offers visitors exclusive access to their fleet with a behind-the-scenes tour of their pilot training academy and a dining experience onboard a grounded A380.