Last week’s Cruise Passenger story quoting expert predictions that we’d sail in foreign waters before our own caused a major debate, with Cruise Lines International Association Australasia condemning the government for its inactivity.

But 0ne cruise hub is already preparing to welcome Australians as soon as it is able: Singapore has plans to incentivise Aussie travel agents to send Australians its way once its own government has opened up to international cruisers. There are even grants available to help them do so.

Singapore was one of the first countries to resume cruising last year, with cruises-to-nowhere on World Dream and Quantum of the Seas. Asia’s largest ship – Spectrum of the Seas − homeports there next October. Itineraries including port-stops to Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Australia has always been a popular fly-cruise market for Singapore, which set out to be the regional hub for cruising, building infrastructure and welcoming all cruise lines.

According to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), 70% of passengers were fly-cruise clients before COVID, with Australia one of the top source markets.

As Ms Annie Chang, STB’s Director, Cruise, told Cruise Passenger only local residents of Singapore – including Australians who live here – are allowed to board cruises under the cruise pilot program which started in November, 2020.

But that will be reviewed as soon as case numbers hit their targets.

“As our economy and borders gradually re-open, we will review the requirements to allow non-residents, including those on Vaccinated Travel Lanes, to sail from Singapore,” said Ms Chang. “Fly-cruise remains core to Singapore’s status as a cruise hub and gateway to discover Southeast Asia. The ability to revive that will depend on border measures.”

That can’t happen soon enough for Mr Michael Goh, President of Dream Cruises, who told us the line remains highly optimistic about the continued growth of the international fly-cruise market, including passengers from Australia.

“We look forward to welcoming back Australians in the future when safe and viable opportunities become available to grow the fly-cruise segment,” he says.

When fly-cruising does openup, Singapore hopes to work actively with its Australian travel partners to attract Aussies.

Prior to COVID, STB worked with cruise agents in Australia on their cruise campaigns promoting sailings from Singapore. As borders gradually re-open, it hopes to engage in similar partnerships.

“Eligible cruise agents can also apply for a grant from Singapore’s Cruise Development Fund, a scheme that supports the development and marketing of cruise packages,” Ms Chang said. “Through these partnerships and the actual cruising experience, we hope to attract Australian visitors and have more cruise converts on board with us.”

Dream Cruises also hopes to entice Aussie cruisers with its exclusive thematic cruises. In light of the current pandemic, it has brought the world onboard its ships through thematic cruises based on popular destinations. For example, Rhythm of Korea, Amazing Thailand, Wonders of Japan and Oktoberfest at Sea.

The World Dream's inaugural voyage from Singapore
The World Dream’s inaugural voyage from Singapore

So will Australians be able to fly-cruise safely without quarantine or danger to their health?

Singapore was one of the first countries in the world to develop a mandatory audit and certification programme for cruise lines before they can commence sailings.

Called the CruiseSafe Certification, it’s benchmarked against global standards and protocols as well as national measures such as SG Clean.

“The certification serves as a mark of quality for increased assurance that cruise ships have rigorous on-board safety and hygiene measures in place, thus boosting confidence in cruise as a safe travel option,” Ms Chang says.

She adds that to resume port-of-call sailings, Singapore needs to consider the public health situation in each country or region. These include COVID-19 incidence rates, vaccination rates and testing regimes.

With regard to what the future of fly-cruising will look like, Ms Chang highlights existing safety measures, including:

  • Infection control measures at every stage of a passenger’s journey, including a mandatory COVID-19 test prior to boarding
  • Strict and frequent cleaning and sanitisation protocols onboard
  • Safe management measures aligned with prevailing national policy
  • Ensuring 100 per cent fresh air is circulated throughout the ship
  • Reducing ship capacity to enable sufficient safe distancing
  • Onboard measures to discourage close contact and inter-mingling between groups
  • Medical response plans for incidents relating to COVID-19

Fly-cruise passengers can also expect ships to only allow fully-vaccinated passengers to sail in future. Royal Caribbean Singapore now requires all guests 12 and older to be fully vaccinated, for all new bookings made from October this year.

Looking ahead, Ms Chang adds that airlines and cruise lines will need to review how they can optimise the passenger travel experience and make it more seamless through the use of technology and innovative solutions.

“For a fly-cruise itinerary, both airlines and cruise lines will have to explore ways to minimise the friction of having multiple documents and requirements, to ensure the passenger experience at the ports is as fuss-free as possible,” she said.