Cruise ships returning to Subic after 3 years
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—A cruise ship from Xiamen, China, made its maiden voyage here on Thursday, signaling the return of luxury vessels after a three-year hiatus, according to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).In a statement on Friday, the SBMA said the Blue Dream Star was the first of 11 luxury vessels scheduled to visit Subic Bay from Oct. 12 to Nov. 21.
The Liberia-registered cruise line is the first to offer outbound cruises from China since luxury vessels were banned from making port calls when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020.SBMA chair and administrator Jonathan Tan said the resumption of luxury cruises would help boost tourism in the free port and nearby areas.
On Wednesday, Malacañang issued Executive Order Nos. 271 and 272, allowing the admission of foreigners in the free port as temporary visitors who could stay for a maximum period of 14 days.
The SBMA said 10 more cruise ships were expected to arrive at Subic Bay and bring at least 20,000 tourists to the free port.At the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, the Bureau of Immigration suspended the issuance of visas to tourists on board cruise ships upon arrival. Prior to the global health crisis, the free port received 19 cruise ship visits in 2018 and 18 arrivals in 2019.Attractions
In the past years, tourists from these cruise ships would be whisked off by buses to different local attractions—from the marine and jungle theme parks to some tourist spots in nearby Pampanga province.
Some of them would join a day tour of the free port’s central business district.
Robert Gonzaga, president and chief executive officer of Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium Inc., which operates the marine theme park Ocean Adventure and Camayan Beach Resort here, said the return of cruise ships was “a significant event for Subic tourism.”
“This is the first arrival of cruise ships since the pandemic lockdown. We hope to welcome many more of these visits this year,” Gonzaga said in a text message.
Records from the SBMA showed that its cruise ship tourism program brought in almost P10 million each year in direct revenue for the seaport department.
The indirect income earned by all tourism-related businesses in Subic and neighboring communities was pegged at P83 million in 2018 and P124 million in 2019. INQ