Bali is seeing a brighter outlook on cruise tourism this year as the island's main port, Benoa, is scheduled to welcome 60 cruise ships throughout the next 12 months.
This southernmost port is becoming more attractive for cruise lines and has been seeing a rising number of visiting cruise ships every year, thanks to continuous improvements to its services and facilities.
Last year, Benoa welcomed 49 cruise ships, a slight increase from the 41 in 2013.
"We have seen a continuous increase in the number of cruise ship visits since 2009. This year, 60 cruise ships have confirmed they will call on the port," Ali Sodikin, general manager of seaport operator Pelindo III for Benoa port, said Monday.
The Sapphire Princess was the first ship to dock in Benoa this year, on Jan. 1, carrying some 2,600 visitors to the island. As of today, the port has welcomed five cruise vessels with a total of 7,000 passengers.
"Hopefully, it's a good sign for cruise tourism in Bali this year," he said.
Benoa now serves as a turn-around port, where cruise ships can drop off passengers to vacation in Bali. While these passengers take other transportation modes to leave the island, the cruise ships pick up new passengers before leaving for the next destination.
It is also a destination port, where the cruise ships drop off and pick up the same passengers.
Ali attributed the soaring popularity of Benoa to the many improvements undertaken in the port basin, as well as to supporting facilities.
The port has two piers - the eastern pier is 205-meters long and the southern pier 300 metres, as well as an upgraded international terminal.
Further upgrades are planned this year, including lengthening the eastern pier to 250 metres.
In fact, Benoa is one of the major cruise ports in Indonesia, with around 40 per cent of all cruise ships docking in Indonesia stopping in Benoa.
Benoa benefits not only from its infrastructure - with proper docking facilities, passenger terminal and a security system certified by the International Maritime Organisation, but is also geographically strategic.
It is close to the island's famous tourist spots of Kuta, Sanur and Nusa Dua. It is also near Ngurah Rai airport and the new toll road, making it more convenient than Celukan Bawang.
The visits of 60 cruise ships to Benoa throughout this year will contribute more than 90,000 tourists to the island, since each vessel carries between 1,000 to 2,000 passengers. The ships usually stay in port for three days on average before heading to their next destination.
The majority of cruise passengers visiting Benoa are Australians, followed by tourists from the US, as well as European and Asian countries.
To further improve cruise tourism in Bali, Pelindo has asked for the support of the central and the local governments to streamline the bureaucracy/licensing for cruise operators.
Cruise tourism was a promising tourism segment for Bali, as it brought thousands of up-market tourists to the island at once, said Anak Agung Yuniartha Putra, head of the Bali's provincial Tourism Agency.
"Bali has the potential to become an attractive destination for cruise ships from around the world, providing a multiplier effect for local economy. We have to seize this opportunity," he commented.