Travel Weekly Asia joined the inaugural sailings of Dream Cruises' World Dream from Singapore in November and spoke with travel agents to find out more about their experiences on board. Here's what they have to say about returning to sailing again.
1. Koh Chong Wee, general manager, Citystate Cruises, Citystate Travel
How do you feel about the resumption of cruise?
I feel positive. At least there's some recovery for the cruise industry.
And what do you think of the Covid test?
I'm positive about Covid testing because it's one of the requirements which can help to regain consumers' confidence. At the same time, I think testing should be done for general public's health until a vaccine is available.
How are consumers responding?
Before [World Dream's first sailing], there were of course a lot of enquiries from regular cruise customers who know cruising very well and have started to make bookings. Another group of customers are the undecided ones; they are waiting for the results or outcomes of first two sailings — which i believe will be smooth — before they make bookings.
I'm confident of regaining cruise business. Of course it will take time to go back to pre-Covid levels, but at least we're now starting to see enquiries from customers. We also received some group enquiries when it comes to MICE groups. There are positive signs.
How are your staff feeling?
My staff are also quite positive because they see business coming back and recovering. Career and job security wise, they also feel positive and no longer in the blind like in the past few months. At least we see a light at the end of tunnel in front of us.
2. Steven Ler, executive director, head of travel, UOB Travel Planners
How do you feel about cruise resumption in Singapore?
With the cruise resumption, it is showing the market that travel is slowly recovering, which also means that we have the right health protocols, given the fact the last week or so we had almost zero community infections. All these are good signs and indications that Singapore is safe and ready, so together with resumption of cruises it gives customers confidence that we can relaunch our domestic or travel related products.
Cruise will definitely be one of the extensions beyond a typical staycation, as it offers more variety and options for customers who want a typical holiday and cannot go overseas but can now go over the seas on a cruise.
How would you describe your experience of sailing again on World Dream?
I'd say that in the Palace wing everything is well structured and laid out and social distancing are well indicated everywhere, and staff are also trained in understanding the right health protocols to ensure customers are in a safe space. Even when freely roaming you don't feel there's any health restrictions, you don't feel you're under scrutiny of these health regimes. You can basically move around freely. Overall, it gives you confidence and a sense of that nothing has changed — that it's back to holiday per normal.
What activities have you taken part in on board?
Like I said, everything is very much business as usual. You can go enjoy different speciality restaurants, you can go to gym, the only difference is you need to make advance bookings and plan in advance of things, but with butlers helping out it's a lot more seamless.
Technically the only advice for customers is to do a bit of preplanning of how you want to book your schedules on different activities and meals. If that is taken care of, I think the experience overall is as per norm, nothing has changed.
It also feels a bit more bespoke if you look at it the other way as butlers help to set up your time, I think customers will enjoy that experience even more.
What do you think of the Covid test?
I think Covid test not only gives you a sense of assurance that not only are you safe everybody on board with you are safe. Even when you meet people on board, you won't wonder if that person is safe or not because everyone has taken the test as you. It's not just yourself but the entire community on board.
3. Micker Sia Chao Cong, managing director, WTS Travel & Tours
How do you feel about cruise resumption?
We were so happy at least there were some operations and movements that travel agents have long been waiting for.
How do your staff feel about cruise resumption?
I've recalled some staff back. The current staff who stayed with with us are still busy because we have other things to do and we have started reselling some local products.
How are customers responding to cruise packages?
A lot of customers are the wait and see type, but after the cruise restart announcement bookings started coming in. We are seeing more families with young kids, even infants, and grandparents in tow. The youngest was an 11 month old baby, he did cry a bit when he did the Covid test but he was okay quickly.
What are your thoughts on Covid test?
Overall it's OK, some customers expressed concern about taking the tests but now we will tell them about our experience. It's all good, nothing to worry about!
4. Chris Tay, assistant general manager, New Shan Travel Service
How do you feel about cruise resumption?
I am very happy to know about the resumption of cruise in Singapore. Finally there's a complete vacation my family can have after 10 months in Singapore. Although it's just high seas cruise, there is so much can do. The holiday begins once we go onboard.
Your thoughts on Covid testing?
It was my first time taking the antigen rapid test. The test is done till mid nose only. I feel ticklish, but no pain. It isn't unbearable.