Singaporeans catch cruise bug

Christmas has come early for cruise-line operators.

Far-flung destinations such as New Zealand are now on the map.

At ASA Holidays, there was a 20 per cent increase in cruise sales during this year's year-end travel period, compared to the same period last year.

Meanwhile, CTC Travel sold about 1,500 cruise packages this holiday season, compared to 300 in last year's.

Other travel agencies such as Chan Brothers, Nam Ho Travel and Hong Thai Travel Services also reported a growth of up to 30 per cent in the sales of cruise holidays.

Travel agencies and industry watchers put the increase down to several reasons: More large ships are docking here, there is a hassle-free appeal of cruise holidays and Singaporeans are looking for different travel experiences.

National Association of Travel Agents Singapore chief operating officer Anita Tan pointed to "more cruise options opening up in Singapore, with a variety of cruise-line operators coming in".

For instance, Carnival Asia - part of Carnival Corporation, the world's largest cruise company - opened its regional headquarters here in May.

A new terminal, the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore, which began operations in May last year, has also doubled its number of berths here to four. It can also take liners taller than 52m, which are too big to dock at Singapore Cruise Centre at HarbourFront, the only other cruise centre here.

The number of cruise passengers visiting Singapore has been growing 6.5 per cent annually over the past decade, hitting 913,000 last year. It is expected to reach 1.5 million by 2016.

Such holidays are also seen as being more affordable. A four-day cruise holiday to Phuket in Thailand, for example, costs about $648 per person, and includes meals, entertainment and use of facilities on board. But a similar package will cost more than $700 via flight, said CTC Travel spokesman Alicia Seah.

There are special performances and parties on board during Christmas, which could draw customers as well.

Such holidays are also more hassle-free. A Chan Brothers spokesman said: "Cruising is an opportunity for multi-generational families to travel together due to the convenience and proximity of onboard accommodation, (and a) wide range of activities to appeal to family members with differing interests."

Accounting executive Lee Choo Mui, 53, who booked a four-day cruise to Malaysia's Port Klang next month for herself and 12 family members, said: "We like the sea view and it's very convenient, because my elderly parents can go to their room and rest if they are tired, while the children can do other things.

"I don't think it's that cheap but, more importantly, the family can spend time together."

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