Malaysia’s ‘cruise to nowhere’ waiting to embark

A proposal to restart the cruise tourism has been submitted to Putrajaya and is currently pending approval

by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / pic by BLOOMBERG

MALAYSIA plans to launch a domestic cruise travel without a port of call — the “cruise to nowhere” — to revive its cruise industry and break the long hiatus following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Port Klang Authority GM Captain K Subramaniam said a proposal to restart the cruise tourism has been submitted to Putrajaya, through the Transport Ministry (MoT), and is currently pending approval.

“We have asked for a special consideration for the ‘cruise to nowhere’ and if possible, domestic cruising. Singapore is starting one this month.

“We requested this two months ago and we understand that the Health Ministry (MoH) has some reservations about it.

“Currently, it is still being discussed by the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, MoT and MoH. So far, no green light yet,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.

The reservation came from new Covid-19 transmissions that started to surge in September, after the country had managed to stay at single-digit figures since late June, Subramaniam said.

He added that the proposal also came with a set of tight standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure the cruises do not contribute to the spike of coronavirus cases.

“We actually planned to start last month, but since the cases have spiked again, we are unsure if we will get the go-ahead.

“The SOPs in the proposal were set up in August. We can try to answer Putrajaya’s reservations, and see how we can improve and allay their fears and concerns,” he said.

Cruise companies often schedule “cruise to nowhere” trips to fill the gaps in their long routes.

Its short journey offers a roundtrip itinerary with no ports of call, except for the passengers’ disembarkation terminal.

Subramaniam said the proposal received inputs from other cruise terminals, including Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal in Penang, Boustead Cruise Centre in Port Klang, as well as several other cruise liners.

“We are working with Penang as well, rather than have all the ports do it individually. Several liners are also involved in it where they provide the SOPs for boarding the ships, passengers at the terminal and on the ships.

“We collated all the SOPs suggested, made some improvements and submitted them to the MoT.

“We have presented the SOPs to the Immigration Department and the Port Health of the Marine Department, and they were quite accepting,” he said.

Penang Port Sdn Bhd CEO Sasedharan Vasudevan told TMR that some of the cruise liners agreed to reduce their capacity onboard by half to give space for the social-distancing measure.

“Singapore and Taiwan have already started doing short cruise journeys, it is not new. Singapore is starting their trips soon, so we can compare and improve our SOPs where needed,” he said.

In Singapore, two cruise liners — Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International — will take part in the republic’s pilot programme of “cruise to nowhere” amid the pandemic.

Following the Singapore Tourism Board’s announcement on the cruise trip in early October, Genting Cruise Lines reported having received more than 6,000 bookings in five days for the short journey, while Royal Caribbean International received tremendous demand which exceeded its expectation.