Manila aims to cash in on cruise ship tourism

MERE mortals like us fail to realize it – as we are all living our humdrum lives making ends meet – but there is a booming tourism scene out there that is so huge that countries are fighting tooth and nail to get a piece of the action. And that is the cruise ship tourism sector.

Basically cruise ships are floating hotels that travel from port to port, offering board, lodging and entertainment as it brings tourists from country to country along its route. It’s a great way to relax and enjoy the amenities while traveling to see various countries in a region all over the world.

Just one of the many world-hopping cruise lines — a Norwegian Cruise Line (from their website)

Just one of the many world-hopping cruise lines — a Norwegian Cruise Line (from their website) has a pretty comprehensive article to cruise travel:

The golden age of transoceanic passenger travel is long gone, and the only surviving ships from that era are all either converted to cruising, preserved as museums and/or hotels, or are laid-up, but that doesn’t mean that traveling across the sea by ship is gone too. In truth, modern-day passenger ships, including Cunard Line’s mammoth Queen Mary 2, are actually now much larger and more luxurious than they were decades ago. The Cunard “Queens” still occasionally make traditional fast Atlantic crossings, e.g., between New York and England. Reassuringly, most cruise ships seldom segregate public areas or restaurants that passengers may use based on the “quality” of the cabin they’ve purchased, as was widely customary in the early 20th century.

The picture of cruise ship travel painted by the circa-1977 TV series “The Love Boat” isn’t particularlymisleading (except about the inevitable bliss before debarkation and the all-American crew), but it is rather incomplete. Due to economy of scale, most modern cruise ships carry 2,000 to 5,000 passengers. While the luxury segment of the cruise industry boasts small ships…even “boutique” vessels or “mega-yachts”…you’ll probably board a small floating city. Voyages range from a few days to full circumnavigations of the globe lasting three months, while fares range from a few hundred dollars to $100,000+.

Premium and Luxury cruise lines tend to have much smaller capacity ships carrying 100-1250 or so passengers. Most ships carry 2,000-3,500 passengers, while mega-ships can carry over 5,000…a virtual city on something that weighs many times as much as the Titanic. Each size has its merits, e.g.,:

Smaller ships can visit smaller harbors in highly desirable or unusual locales, e.g., the Riviera, Galapagos, rugged shorelines. They may also be able to port inside a city at an older city port, saving up to 2 hours of travel from where larger ships must dock.

Larger ships may offer a few more amenities…as discussed in “On-board” below…but must use well-sized harbors (or anchor/moor off-shore) with transport and touring infrastructures to handle so many people.

Mega-ships offer huge public spaces and wide-ranging activities, but are limited to major and sometimes even custom built ports…again with even greater infrastructures.

Cruise lines offer widely varying itineraries. Examples range from…

  • A few days at sea or to a nearby port-of-call. These may be offered as an introduction to cruising, or just as an opportunity to party.
  • One or two weeks to visit ports and sights in a particular region, per “Cruise types” below.
  • A month or more to see a region of the world, or three or more months to go around the world; a lifetime experience.

Each cruise is comprised of one or more cruise segments, e.g., a 1-2 week “round-tripper” will be one segment, while visiting two or more regions may involve 2-3 segments…sometimes of an around-the-world cruise. That way, cruise lines can sell affordable “pieces” of long cruises that otherwise few can consider. Not infrequently, cruisers will buy two or three back-to-back/sequential segments to build a longer cruise, e.g., 7-10 days from Florida to the Western Caribbean, return, then 7-10 days for the Eastern, or two or more world regions when they are far away.

For the full article and lots of information go to

This makes the cruise industry a huge tourism market. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) projected that 21.7 million individuals will book cruise vacations this year, with the emerging Asian market ballooning to almost 4 million by 2020.

When I first visited Dubai in 2000 they were just starting to build the port facilities for cruise lines. Their guys in their Tourism department were really bullish about its contribution to their economy, which they were actively shifting from oil dependence to tourism.

Here’s what was written last year in the magazine Emirates24/7:

Speaking to Emirates 24/7 onboard the maiden call of Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas to the emirate, Director of Cruise Tourism, Jamal Humaid Al Falasi, from the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) said: “We are still very much on course for the cruise tourism sector to grow to Dh840m in annual income by 2015.

“We are hopeful to double this number in 2020, as we continue are talks with several cruise companies, along with facilitating the opening of the new cruise terminal by Q1 2014.”

Dr Ahmad A Belhoul, CEO, Strategy and Tourism Sector Development, DTCM confirmed that the cruise tourism sector today contributes to five per cent of the UAE’s annual Gross Domestic Product or GDP.

He said: “There is annual eight to nine per cent of annual growth over the sector, with our aim to hit double digit figures by 2020 in terms of GDP contribution of the cruise segment.
During the 2012-2013, the emirate hosted 407,825 passengers and 105 ships, which is expected to rise to 420,000 or 110 ships by end of the upcoming season; by 2015, this number is set to rise to 450,000 cruise passengers.

Currently, 21 cruise lines include Dubai on its itinerary, with the DTCM in talks to bring in more players to the seas in the coming months.

Looking further ahead, the 2014-2015 already has it growth strategy in place with TUI Cruises resuming its operations in the region.

C.S. Mein Schiff 2 will operate seven-night long Gulf cruises from Dubai, with destinations expected to include Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Bahrain.

The liner will have a throughput of over 75,000 cruise tourist from its 20 turnaround calls to Dubai.

Additionally, Dubai will host a ‘Double Call’ when both the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth will port in Dubai on the same day – the first time ever that the two Cunard Cruise liners have arrived in Dubai simultaneously for a full passenger turnaround…In the last four years of its operations in Dubai, Durai said that the RCI liners have ferried nearly 45,000 passengers along to the emirate every winter season… Of the source markets, DTCM’s Al Falasi said that they were looking to increase tourists from China, India and Russia in the coming seasons.

You can read more of this article in

Manila is named as among the cities that the international cruise ships take a stop, but not as a main attraction but usually because it’s within the Southeast Asia region along the way to New Zealand or Australia. You can see a lot of these cruises and schedules in

The best cruise destinations for the country are those visited by the regional and exclusive cruises that go directly to destinations like Bohol, Boracay, Coron, Hundred Islands, Puerto Princesa and Romblon. Why?

Well, the port of Manila isn’t exactly as inviting. Imagine yourself in a 180 day cruise around the world, or a week long cruise in the region. You’ll get to be choosey where you’ll go down for a day’s visit. When the place isn’t too inviting, you’d rather stay on board – in your hotel – and rest for the more inviting or exotic places. At least that’s what my relatives who have been in European and Carribean cruises say.

Come now the investors of the Manila Solar City who are banking on this opportunity in building a cruise ship port facility in their Manila bay development. The plan is to have a commercial, residential and tourism zone where an international cruise ship terminal will rise with world class tourist attractions and facilities that can significantly boost foreign tourist arrivals. This cruise ship terminal positions Manila as a key port of call and a fly and cruise hub rivaling Singapore and Hongkong.

Apparently cruise packages in Asia usually emanate from Singapore and Hongkong, hence requiring passengers from other Asian cities to fly to the two hubs.

The CLIA report cited earlier projected that the volume of cruise ship passengers will jump to 21.7 million this year, up by 400,000 from 21.3 million in 2013. In addition, while the Caribbean remains the most preferred cruise destination, there is a 32 percent increase in the deployment of cruise ships to Asian cities and destinations.

Singapore’s Cruise Center in 2013 had 391 cruise ship calls which brought in 1.03 million tourists who either shopped or booked an extra night or two in hotels before or after their cruise vacations. With China’s fast emerging middle and upper classes, CLIA foresees around 300 million new cruise ship passengers in the coming years, further opening up opportunities in the cruise industry.

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