Pilot 'cruises to nowhere' to sail from Singapore next month
Two cruise lines to take Singapore residents at 50 per cent capacity with strict safety measures
Two cruise lines have been given the green light to operate "cruises to nowhere" from Singapore starting next month, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said yesterday.
The homeported cruise lines, Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International, will start these cruises from Nov 6 and Dec 1 respectively.
The cruises are part of a "safe cruise" pilot that will cater only to Singapore residents, at a reduced capacity of 50 per cent, STB announced.
The round-trip cruises will not stop at any ports, and feature strict screening and safety measures to prevent an on-board spread of the coronavirus.
All guests will have to be tested for Covid-19 prior to boarding as part of the STB's CruiseSafe programme, jointly developed by global classification body DNV GL.
They will also have to comply with safe management measures such as wearing masks and keeping a 1m safe-distance between groups.
The travel group size will also be subject to prevailing laws on group sizes.
As part of STB's measures to ensure the safety of its guests, cruise lines will have to attain a CruiseSafe Certification before they allow guests on board.
These standards include infection control measures at every stage of a passenger's journey, including a mandatory Covid-19 test prior to boarding.
Cruise lines will also be responsible for setting up on-board measures to discourage close contact and inter-mingling between groups, and prepare emergency response plans for incidents relating to Covid-19.
Cruise ships have not been allowed to call here since March 13, when Singapore joined a number of countries in closing its ports to these vessels over fears that they may carry infected passengers.
Genting Cruise Line's Dream Cruise was granted approval by the local authorities based on its exemplary safety track record during its first two months of operations in Taiwan earlier this year.
The tourism board said Singapore is one of the first countries in the world to develop and implement a mandatory audit and certification programme for cruise lines. It aims to set a benchmark for the future of cruising in the South-east Asian region as the lead coordinator for cruises in Asean.
STB said the Government will monitor the outcomes of the pilot trips carefully in the coming months before deciding on the next steps for cruises.
Health experts The New Paper spoke to welcomed the precautionary measures on the upcoming cruises.
Associate Professor Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said that although the risk of an infected passenger is low, it is not zero, even with the entry tests.
This is because a passenger could be infected a day or two before boarding, for instance, when the test is not likely to return a positive result.
"This is why it's important to have the precautions on board to minimise spread," he added.
Infectious diseases specialist Asok Kurup said those going on the cruises must take the precautionary measures seriously.
He suggested there could perhaps be a limit on the number of elderly passengers, as they are more vulnerable.