After nearly three years, a cruise ship has returned to Thailand, a significant breakthrough for cruises in Asia. Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Sea arrived in Phuket on Monday morning, October 24, anchoring outside the famous Patong Beach.
Cruising in Asia has been dealt several blows over the last few years, with many countries implementing strict regulations for tourists. This meant cruise lines have been canceling cruises in the region en masse. However, the arrival of Spectrum of the Seas could be a turning point.
Spectrum of the Seas Makes First Call in Thailand in Three Years
For three years, not one cruise ship visited Phuket, Thailand’s popular resort and holiday island. Before the global pause in operations in 2019, 154 cruise ships brought some 485,000 guests to the island. The financial impact of the absence of these ships was immense.
However, that drought has now ended as Spectrum of the Seas, a 169,379 gross tons Royal Caribbean Quantum-Ultra-class cruise ship, arrived at the island on Monday morning, October 24.
The 4,600 guests onboard were welcomed to Phuket by Governor Narong Woonsiew and the head of the Phuket office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Nanthasiri Ronnasiri.
While many destinations chose to limit how visitors from cruise ships could explore, often offering ‘bubble’ tours only post-pandemic, Phuket has fully opened up.
Around 800 Spectrum of the Seas passengers chose a tour booked onboard, while the vast majority decided to explore Phuket for themselves. Cruise ships have always been a welcome sight for many tourism destinations in Asia, bringing a valuable boost to the local economies.
However, only some destinations are ready to make the same step. China is holding steady in its mission towards 0 covid cases, which means its residents still suffer under continued lockdowns. It also means that the most significant potential market remains closed for cruise ships, removing the incentive for cruise lines to send ships to Asia.
Spectrum of the Seas operates from Singapore, which has been open for cruise ships since December 2020. The cruise ship is based in the city-state year-round, offering three-night cruises to Penang, Malaysia, and four-night cruises to Malaysia and Phuket, Thailand.
Singapore Remains The Asian Cruise Capital
Despite the difficult situation in neighboring countries, Singapore has been the leader in cruise tourism in the area. Since December 2020, the government has allowed two cruise lines to operate, Royal Caribbean with Quantum of the Seas and now Spectrum of the Seas, and Dream Cruise (now Resorts World Cruises) with Genting Dream.
Although until recently, the ships were limited to Singapore residents only and not allowed to make any calls to other ports and countries, the cruises proved incredibly popular. Both Resorts World cruises and Royal Caribbean have recently moved to international cruises and passengers.
Besides Singapore and Thailand, Malaysia has also opened up for cruise ships. Indonesia is expected to open up soon as well, with resorts World Cruises already scheduling port calls to Bali in the coming weeks. Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Cambodia have also started accepting cruise ships.
The Singapore Tourism Board expects cruise ship traffic to recover in the region between 2023 and 2024. In 2019, Singapore had more than 1.8 million cruise ship passengers. More than 400 cruise ships across 30 brands either called at the port or used it as homeports that year.