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Passengers sail on from Singapore with takeaways as ships ride out COVID’s new wave

Asia is suffering a third wave – yet, amazingly, Dream Cruises and Royal Caribbean continue cruising out of Singapore under new cruising restrictions.

The tough restrictions, imposed until June 13,  are in line with local government regulations on land, which stipulate that all restaurants and eateries be closed for dine-ins from May 16 to June 13. Going out is also only permitted in groups of two, with each household allowed up to two unique visitors a day.

Following updated guidelines from Singapore authorities, cruises-to-nowhere on World Dream and Quantum of the Seas continue to sail with new restrictions, including:

  • A reduction in guest capacity onboard to 25 per cent occupancy
  • Temporary suspension of dine-in service at onboard restaurants, with take-away and room service options available
  • Group sizes / travelling groups limited to 2 guests
  • Occupancy in public venues reduced accordingly, allowing for at least 16 sqm per guest
  • Theatre and live entertainment shows limited to 50 attendees for each show, with no live singing
  • Permitted onboard activities to operate at reduced capacity and with enhanced social safe distancing measures
  • Masks required in the indoor pool on Quantum of the Seas.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation closely, and are in the process of finalising additional changes to other experiences to ensure we remain nimble as we follow the science and work with the health authorities,” said Royal Caribbean in an official statement.

Despite the new regulations and Singapore’s rising COVID cases, both Dream Cruises and Royal Caribbean expressed confidence in their cruise-to-nowhere program and the decision to continue sailings.

“The confidence in our proven measures and ability to deliver memorable, safe holidays is stronger than ever after months of sailing, that have resulted in zero COVID-19 incidents among more than 60,000 guests,” said Royal Caribbean in a statement.

“We would like to reiterate that Dream Cruises maintains the highest preventative and safety measures on board its fleet and is committed to safeguarding the health of all guests and crew,” said Dream Cruises in a similar statement. “Due to our stringent guidelines, World Dream has been operating since November 2020 without any COVID-19 related incidents on board the ship.”

In addition to a PCR swab test conducted 48 to 72 hours before cruising, Royal will also be offering complimentary boarding day antigen testing in the terminal, as part of guests’ check-in process.

The antigen test has been compulsory for all guests on Dream Cruises since the line restarted Singapore sailings in November 2020.

In light of the new measures, Dream Cruises is offering affected guests the option of cancelling their cruise and receiving future cruise credits or obtaining a full refund.

Royal Caribbean will also allow guests to shift their cruise to a new date or opt for a future cruise credit. Due to the short notice for May 17th’s sailing and high call centre volumes, guests who wished to cancel their sailing but couldn’t call through were permitted to not show up at the terminal.

“We will automatically issue a future cruise credit for all no shows on Monday,” said the line.

Even with cancellations allowed and tightened protocols, cruise passenger Shuan Ong, 27, has opted to continue with his May 17 sailing on Quantum of the Seas.

Explaining his decision to proceed, he said: “Royal Caribbean isn’t currently allowing cash refunds for those travelling as 2 pax, and are only giving future cruise credits should you choose not to proceed – although a representative I spoke to on Saturday claims that RC will eventually allow for full cash refunds.”

He continued: “Future cruise credits wouldn’t really make sense as an option given that I’m unsure of how long Quantum would remain in Singapore. There are rumours that the next ship would be Voyager of the Seas, which is of a less prestigious class. Also, the COVID situation seems to be worsening in Singapore so chances of another lockdown is likely.”

Fellow cruise passenger Florence Chow, 28, was more fortunate, having sailed on Quantum with her husband and friends just before the commencement of the new regulations.

Even then, guests were only permitted to book one show for the entire cruise due to the reduced theatre capacity of 100.

As she shares, older passengers they bumped into were unable to book any shows for the cruise.

“I suspect they might not have the app or were less savvy in using the app to book shows. Also, I heard that one of the older passengers waited half an hour for a show (that required reservations), before being told that there was no capacity,” she said.

That said, Chow still enjoyed the cruise and was relieved to have sail before the even stricter regulations.

“We still had a wonderful experience and there was plenty to do besides catch the theatre shows,” she related. “We watched a live orchestra, which we normally might have overlooked in favour of shows. It turned out to be one of our more memorable experiences at sea.”

With live music not permitted on upcoming sailings and no dining-in, some guests on upcoming Quantum sailings have opted for a cancellation.

Alan Teo, 32, who was booked on a June 7 sailing, likens the restrictions to being in a “luxurious water prison”.

“With so many limitations, it takes away from the whole experience of a cruise,” he said.

Added Lee Sze Hong, 30, who cancelled her early June sailing: “I immediately made the decision to cancel when I heard we had to dine in our own room as it felt too restrictive. I also intended to enjoy the activities together as a group of friends and it is not guaranteed we can enjoy them with such a reduced capacity limit,” she said.