Saturday, 20 June 2009

Manila wins bigger slice of cruise market

Roderick T. dela Cruz
Manila Standard

THE Philippines is slowly becoming a destination for cruise ship passengers from Europe and the United States, and their number is expected to double in the coming months.

Costa Cruises, one of the largest European luxury passenger liners, has been bringing close to a thousand tourists to the country each month since May 2007, according to Jenica Ferrer, sales and operations officer of the Italian-flagged Costa Cruises in Manila.

Costa Cruises has 15 veritable floating hotels deployed around the world. One of its ships, Costa Allegra, is dedicated to cruise Southeast Asia .

Last year, Costa Allegra made 14 port calls in Manila and brought 10,586 tourists. It is expected to return to the South Harbor tomorrow as part of a regional swing that includes stops in Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City and Da-Nang in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia and Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei.

The Web site of Costa Cruises showed that the Southeast Asian tour costs between 1,000 euros and 2,000 euros per passenger depending on the type of ship accommodation and tour package chosen.

Costa Allegra docks at Pier 13 at the South Harbor in Manila from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and their passengers have the option to avail themselves of any of the four tour packages.

The tour packages, lasting up to eight hours each, include bus tours around Metro Manila or to Tagaytay and Pagsanjan, or a short cruise to Corregidor. The cost of the local tour including lunch is 50 to 100 euros.

Costa Allegra has visited Manila six times this year, bringing a total of 4,710 tourists of whom 2,464 opted to go ashore and join the tours, Ferrer said.

Tourism Secretary Ace Durano said the Philippines expected 18,000 cruise passengers this year from 15 visits of the Costa Cruises, up from 10,586 last year, since the cruise company would field a larger vessel starting October—the 1,680-bed Costa Classica—instead of the 800-bed Costa Allegra.

Costa Cruises’ guests had cited the Philippines for having the warmest arrival reception of their destinations, with the Tourism Department treating day visitors to cultural performances and great shopping, Tourism Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque Jr. said

The Manila tour, for example, involves a visit to Intramuros, Fort Santiago, San Agustin Church and Museum, Manila Cathedral, Casa Manila, tdhe American Cemetery, Coconut Palace, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and the financial district of Makati.

Boracay is also starting to get noticed by cruise operators, with the Delphin Voyager making a stop in the world-famous island in February.

Another ship, the Silver Whisper, also stopped in Cebu after Manila in February.

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