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Legend of the Seas docks at Puerto Princesa for first time


Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas docked for the first time at Puerto Princesa in the Philippines today as part of the cruise ship's seven-night "Borneo Explorer Cruise".  The cruise includes stops at Kota Kinabalu and Bandar Seri Begawan.  

The city's mayor, Edward Hagedorn, and local government officials welcomed the cruise ship at the port.

“We are proud to add yet another destination in the Philippines… to Legend of the Seas’ Asian season for her guests to explore and experience. Our successful call at Puerto Princesa today is the result of the strong effort and support of the Philippines government in terms of infrastructure building which marks a positive step in cruise development for the country,” said Marilen Sandejas-Yaptangco, Royal Caribbean’s representative in the Philippines.

“The maiden voyage of Legend of the Seas to Puerto Princesa is historical and we are glad that the visitors can experience the scenic beauty and hospitality of our people which will boost tourism in our country,” added Mayor Hagedorn.

Puerto Princesa is located on the island of Palawan and is best known for its Subterranean River National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Asia to see 7 million cruise passengers by 2020


At the Seatrade Hong Kong Cruise Forum, experts predict that by the year 2020, 7 million passengers will be cruising in Asia compared to 1.7 million in 2011.  This goal will mean one of out five cruisers will be from Asia if the predictions hold true.

Royal Caribbean regional vice president and chairman of the Asia Cruise Association, Zinan Liu, said that Royal Caribbean has the most tonnage dedicated to Asia currently. 

According to Liu, Royal Caribbean has 276,000 gross tons followed by Star Cruises at 259,749 tons and Costa Cruises at 160,785 tons.

Royal Caribbean vice president for commercial development, John Tercek, says one challenge for the cruise line succeeding in Asia is tailoring the cruise line offerings to the Asian market.

"We are in a bit of an experimental stage," Tercek said.  "The potential is fantastic, but it's a question of what do the local clients want to do, and can we accommodate it?"   

One such difference is Asians prefer shorter cruises, as opposed to European and North American cruisers.  Asians typically like cruises of 5-nights or less while Americans and Europeans prefer 12-14 night cruises.  Another example is cruises out of China skip sun-bathing ports because Chinese guests tend not to enjoy sunbathing in harsh sunlight.

Perhaps the biggest challenge currently is the lack of ports in Asia that can handle the large cruise ships that Royal Caribbean has in its fleet. Of the 80 potential ports in Asia that were outlined by Liu, most lack the capacity to handle large ships such as Voyager of the Seas, which recently arrived in Asia.

Tercek believes the arrival of ships like Voyager of the Seas will help increase port capacity, "Wherever we take that ship, others follow because we cause the infrastructure to be built."

Phuket port wants to expand port to accommodate Royal Caribbean ships


The head of the Phuket, Thailand Marine Department Office is trying to kick-start stalled negotiations to expand the port to allow larger cruise ships to dock there.  Represenatives from Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises met with Thai officials on July 12 to discuss the problems encountered by large ships using their port.

Located at Cape Panwa, the deep sea port has long been criticized as too small to accommodate large vessels, both cargo and passenger, for docking.

According to Marine Department Region 5 chief Phuripat Theerakulpisuk, Royal Caribbean wants to see the government become more involved in lengthening the wharf and dredge the seabed.

Chief Phuripat cited one example of a Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas, measuring 312 meters long and 38m wide, that is forced to moor about four kilometers from the wharf and ferry its passengers ashore on smaller vessels.

Chief Phuripat commented on the need, "“It’s uncomfortable for passengers. Royal Caribbean Cruises has come to Phuket three times – once in May and twice in June, bringing 6,000 passengers each time. I truly believe if the port were improved, there would be a lot more ships from across the world arriving on Phuket.”

Photo of the Day: Voyager of the Seas in Japan at night


Photo by daigolou_chan

Voyager of the Seas arrives in Xiamen, China


Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas arrived yesterday in Xiamen, China after she departed Singapore, thus marking the first stop in China for the mega ship.

According to Royal Caribbean's Managing Director of China and Asia, Liu Zinan, the city of Xiamen was chosen as the first stop for Voyager of the Seas in China because Xiamen has a geographical advantage and it is a cruise ship market with huge potential.

This is the first time a giant cruise ship has docked in China, which signifies Royal Caribbean beginning to take the Chinese cruise market seriously.

After Xiamen, Voyager of the Seas will sail to Shanghai.

Royal Caribbean announces Cruise-Fly service in Singapore


Royal Caribbean announced their new service called "Cruise-Fly" in partnership with SATS, that offers its guests a seamless process from the pier to the airport for flight check-in and baggage drop off.

For guests traveling on Legend of the Seas, cruise passengers who arrive in Singapore a day ahead of taking an evening flight can check-in for their flights and drop-off their bags at their convenience upon arrival.

Passengers traveling with Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Qantas Airways, Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and EVA Airways will be able to make use of the service.

Royal Caribbean's regional director for South East Asia, Kelvin Tan, likes the new service, "We are pleased that SATS is able to offer this innovative service to value-add to our international guests’ cruising experience.  Cruising in itself is a very hassle-free travel option and the Cruise-Fly initiative elevates this notion by bridging and shortening the distance between the pier and flight check-in services, and at the same time, bringing these guests to the doorsteps of some of the most exciting tourist destinations in Singapore. We hope that more and more of our guests can take advantage of this service whenever our ships call at Singapore.”

Royal Caribbean will be part of Cruise Shipping Asia conference


The Cruise Shipping Asia conference will take place November 16-18, 2011 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore and Royal Caribbean will be among the participants.

The conference will feature sessions and exhibition showcases that show off pan-Asia's potential as a cruise business sector and source market, focusing on the region from Japan and Korea to China, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Indian subcontinent and Australia.

Royal Caribbean Executive Vice President Michael Bayley thinks there's lots of potential for the cruise giant, "Asia holds promising opportunities for the cruise industry, and the inaugural Cruise Shipping Asia event gives us all a foothold in shaping what comes next.  From port infrastructure development to attracting tourists from around the world, our industry can be instrumental in Asia’s future growth.”

The first panel of the conference is entitled “State of the Asian Cruise Industry" and among the panelists will be Michael Bayley.  

In the final conference, "Identifying Source Markets", Dr. Zinan Liu, managing director, China & Asia Pacific, for Royal Caribbean will be on the panel.

First Royal Caribbean cruise from Xiamen, China will sail in October


Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas will sail out of Xiamen, China as its homeport for the first time with its maiden voyage on Oct 19, 2011.  The cruise will feature five days and four nights itineraries.

Xiamen will become the fourth Chinese city Royal Caribbean has chosen to be a homeport once it conducts its cruises in October.  For its first cruise, Legend of the Seas will visit Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Royal Caribbean will continue to serve China with regular service in 2012 and will also add Voyager of the Seas to the mix as well later in the year.

Legend of the Seas stops for a visit Taiwan


Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas made a stop today in Taichung, Taiwan. The city's deputy mayor characterized the passengers as mostly from Europe, China and Australia.

To welcome the passengers, Taichung City Deputy Mayor Tsai Ping-kun greeted them at the port and gave the tourists an aboriginal-style welcome, offering them Taichung's famous sun cakes and seasonal fruits such as lychees.

In addition, the city provided ground transportation services for the Chinese tourists on board, who were visiting Taiwan under the recently introduced individual traveler program.

Legend of the Seas is scheduled to depart Taichung for Keelung Port later in the day. It was its eighth call at Taichung Port, the most recent being in March 2009.

South Korea eases visa restrictions for cruise tourists


In an effort to attract more foreign tourists, the South Korean Justice Ministry proposed a measure to allow foreigners visiting on cruises to disembark without a visa for short stays.

The “tour landing permit” system will allow those on cruise ships to disembark in South Korea and stay for up to three days without a visa, if the cruise company or the ship’s captain applies for and receives the permit beforehand, officials said.

The move is good news for Royal Caribbean because they had about 55,000 tourists from China to Busan, South Korea in 2010 and have always complained about the lengthy visa problem.

Lisa Yun, Head of Royal Caribbean's marketing team in South Korea, is excited about the proposal, “Our cruise runs from China to Busan, so the majority of our customers are Chinese, but visas for entering Korea causes a lot of woes, as the application is a time-consuming and complicated process".

"It will be a huge help for us to expand in the Chinese market."