Genting Cruise Lines is planning to put two more of its cruiseships back into service using the domestic cruise model it pioneered in Taiwan last July.
The Hong Kong-listed cruise giant has revealed moves that will see its Asian mass-market brand Star Cruises and deluxe US brand Crystal Cruises revive cruise operations that have been on hold since the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the industry in March 2020.
Star Cruises will be first out of the gate with its 40,000-gt cruiseship Star Pisces (built 1990). Last Friday, the company announced the ship would operate out of the Malaysian port of Penang from 13 May.
Crystal Cruises will follow in July when its 68,900-gt cruiseship Crystal Serenity (built 2003) begins operating out of ports on the Bahamian islands of New Providence (Nassau) and Bimini.
The planned cruises for the two ships will differ widely; although they will have one thing in common: neither ship will call at a foreign port.
The Star Pisces will operate overnight high-seas cruises intermingled with two-night cruises to the Malaysian resort island of Langkawi.
The ship will initially operate at a reduced capacity, with all activities on board organised in accordance with the “prevailing Malaysian national policy”.
The ship will also deploy the DNV-certified Safe Return of Cruising protocols used on the two Genting cruiseships that are already sailing out of Taiwan and Singapore.
The cruises will be restricted to residents of Malaysia and all passengers will be tested for Covid-19 before embarking on the ship.
Strong Bahamian bookings
Crystal Cruises has reported strong bookings for a Bahamian deployment of its Crystal Serenity announced earlier in March.
The ship will operate on a series of seven-day cruises to various Bahamian islands between July and October.
The cruises will target US and other foreign passengers, who will fly to either port to begin their cruises.
In addition to protocols covering negative Covid-19 tests, reduced capacity, social distancing, mask policies and health screening questionnaires, passengers will also have to provide proof that they have been fully inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to boarding.
Bookings for the cruises opened last Thursday.
On Friday, Crystal Cruises said 4,000 bookings had been made within the first 24 hours — approximately 25% of the combined capacity of the 16 scheduled voyages.
The company said almost 200 passengers reserved back-to-back voyages, with some planning to spend up to 42 days on board the Crystal Serenity.
“It’s clear that travellers have been eagerly looking forward to exploring again and are as excited to see Crystal Serenity return to sailing as we are,” Jack Anderson, interim president and chief executive at Crystal Cruises, said.
Anderson added that the Bahamian cruises were a significant step forward for travel and tourism overall in the Americas.
The Crystal Serenity will be cruising in the company of Royal Caribbean’s 138,000-gt cruiseship Adventure of the Seas (built 2001), which TradeWinds reported on Monday would begin operating seven-day Bahamian domestic cruises from August.
Like Crystal Cruises, Royal Caribbean will target US passengers who will need to have been vaccinated before they will be allowed to set foot on board the ship.
Operating out of the Bahamas avoids the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) cruise ban out of US ports.
Anderson added that their domestic nature offers another significant advantage.
“The all-Bahamas cruises means there is no risk of border closures, alleviating concerns related to a multiple-country itinerary that may be impacted by differing travel restrictions,” he said.
Genting was the first major cruise operator to launch post-coronavirus domestic cruises when its Dream Cruises brand deployed a ship out of the Taiwanese port of Keelung last July.
Later in 2020, both Genting and Royal Caribbean started operating high-seas “safe bubble” cruises out of Singapore.
Neither company has reported a positive Covid-19 case on board since these cruises started.
Since then, other cruise operators have begun offering domestic cruises, including NYK Cruises and Mitsui OSK Passenger Line out of Japan and Ponant out of Bahrain. Carnival Corp’s Cunard brand will begin operating UK-based domestic cruises later this year.