PAMPANGA

Subic cruise ship tourism shifts to high gear

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT -- Brighter prospects for Subic's cruise tourism greeted the year 2020 with the arrival here Tuesday, January 7, of the colossal M/V Spectrum of the Seas for its second visit in just the last two weeks.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman and administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the ship's return trip "presages greater opportunities" for Subic and neighboring areas, as the agency ushers in the third year of its highly successful cruise tourism program, which kicked off in February 2018.

The M/V Spectrum of the Seas is the first Quantum-Ultra-class cruise ship built for Royal Caribbean International, the world's largest cruise line in terms of revenue and second largest by passenger count.

With a maximum capacity of 4,905 passengers, the ship is the biggest and the most expensive cruise ship to sail in Asia. The 348-meter, 170-ton vessel features Royal Caribbean's first private enclave for suite guests, new stateroom categories and innovative dining concepts on top of

amenities like outdoor and indoor pools, body and mind spa, fitness centre, rock-climbing wall, sports court, Splash-away bay, and an outdoor movie screen.

Eisma said the arrival of Royal Caribbean's top cruise liner marks the start of the second phase in Subic's cruise ship tourism program.

"We are definitely shifting to higher gear this year" Eisma said, pointing out that the SBMA has already confirmed 38 cruise ship arrivals and two tentative bookings for 2020, as well as four confirmed arrivals and one tentative booking for 2021.

"As I have said before, this is great news for the SBMA and for the tourism stakeholders in Subic and neighboring areas. At the outset we have called for inclusivity in this undertaking, and I hope that things are really looking good for everyone now," she added.

On Tuesday, January 7, some of the mostly Chinese and European passengers of M/V Spectrum of the Seas were whisked off by buses to various local tourist attractions -- from the marine and jungle theme parks in Subic Freeport to a hot spring and sand spa in Angeles City, Pampanga.

Others chose to tour Subic's Central Business District on foot.

Eisma said the SBMA hopes to sustain this momentum with bigger ships that would bring in more income to Subic and nearby areas.

She said that MS Spectrum of the Seas will come back for another visit on January 20, to be followed by the arrival of its sister ship MS Quantum of the Seas on February 28.

According to SBMA records, Subic received a total of 19 cruise ship visits in 2018 and 18 arrivals in 2019.

While the cruise ship tourism program has yielded less than P10 million each year in direct revenue for the SBMA Seaport Department, the indirect income earned by all the tourism stakeholders in Subic and neighboring communities were estimated to be around P83 million in 2018 and P124 million in 2019.

"If only for these, we intend to do better this year to provide better opportunities for all stakeholders involved in the Subic cruise tourism program," Eisma said.

She said the SBMA is in the process of upgrading maritime facilities and tourism accommodations in Subic in order to take in more cruise ships and make their visit here more economically productive to local stakeholders. (Ric Sapnu)


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