SUBIC BAY FREEPORT -- Officials of one of the biggest cruise ship liners in the world came out visibly impressed after visiting the Subic Bay area over the weekend to gauge its potential in the international cruise tourism scene.
Dr. Zinan Liu, president of China and North Asia Pacific Region of the Royal Caribbean International (RCI), a cruise line brand based in Miami, Florida, arrived here on December 16 along with his assistant Anna Lian and company director Antonio Muresu.
Liu’s entourage was escorted by Isabela Vice Governor Antonio Albano, and was welcomed here by Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman and administrator Wilma T. Eisma.
During their two-day stay here, Eisma accompanied the cruise officials on a tour of tourism sites in Subic Bay and also briefed them on local history and tourism features.
The tour included Zoobic Safari, Ocean Adventure, Segara Villas, as well as the famed Philippine heritage destination Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan.
Liu said he was impressed over the potential of the area and said the Subic Bay Freeport should be included in the Philippine itinerary of their cruise tours.
“Three days I’ve seen some ports in the Luzon region and I think it’s very attractive to Chinese,” Liu said. “We have only been here for a few hours, and from your presentation, I can already imagine that we can develop a tour suitable and appealing to different age groups.”
Liu also noted that the Subic area has attractions for people interested in culture, history and religion. He said the Subic Freeport’s modern amenities give it a unique quality not found among most free port zones.
“So I think we will be very interested in making Subic Freeport a part of the Philippine tour. Thank you for your presentation and we want us to work together and make a dream come true,” he told Eisma before the group departed Subic.
The group also visited Subic’s Alava Pier where passenger, as well as military, ships usually dock during their stay in the Subic Bay Freeport.
Eisma told the visitors that the SBMA plans to rehabilitate the docking facility even before the first cruise ship from Royal Caribbean International arrives in June next year.
An estimated P2.46 billion will be needed for the rehabilitation and development of the 15 piers and wharves here, which have been described as the heart and soul of the Subic Freeport.
Eisma said the agency is currently asking for the inclusion of funds in the national budget to rehabilitate the ports.
The Royal Caribbean International cruise line brand is owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), a global cruise vacation company that operates 24 ships in more than 500 destinations on all the seven continents and controls 22 percent of the cruise market worldwide.
As a global cruise vacation company, RCCL owns and operates three global brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. It also has interests in the German brand TUI Cruises, the Spanish brand Pullmantur, and the SkySea cruises
Last July, RCCL Vice President for New Business Development John Tercek also visited Subic to assess its readiness as a cruise ship destination.
Eisma said Tercek similarly cited the potentials of Subic and advised the SBMA to step up efforts in developing the free port to address the demand. (Ric Sapnu)