SINGAPORE - Singapore's ambitions to grow its cruise industry could be hobbled by shortcomings that prevent it from being a seamless experience, said ground handlers.
Handlers, who manage disembarkation, embarkation and tours for cruise passengers, said hour-long waits at immigration points, bottlenecks at attractions, and a shortage of coaches and tourist guides make Singapore less attractive to cruise operators.
Cruise ships can disgorge up to 4,000 passengers at one go, or be boarding the same number simultaneously, they said. But the industry is also marked by seasonal falls and rises in numbers.
"The clearance in our cruise terminals could be more efficient. Passengers sometimes wait in line for an hour to get out," said Mr Darren Tan, managing director of World Express.
At other ports of call, passports can be stamped on board ahead of arrival so disembarking passengers "just stream through". "Could something be done to clear passengers faster?" he asked, speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of a Singapore Tourism Board (STB) industry workshop on Monday.
Passengers go through the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore at Marina Bay or the Singapore Cruise Centre at HarbourFront. Destination Asia's managing director, Mr Bob Guy, also pointed to a shortage of tourist guides and coaches, and the capacity at attractions and restaurants here. Shore excursions are often booked on the vessel, en route.
"Many parts of the city run at more than 85 per cent capacity, so we have problems of things selling out," he said.