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ASEAN brings full-on Southeast Asia cruising to Seatrade Cruise Global

Mariner of the Seas berthed at Marina Bay Cruise Centre, Singapore Mariner of the Seas berthed at Marina Bay Cruise Centre, Singapore

Tourism authorities from Southeast Asia had their biggest presence ever at this year’s Seatrade Cruise Global to showcase collective efforts under the ‘Cruise Southeast Asia’ brand.

They hosted a trade reception during the event for US travel agents to highlight ASEAN as a single cruise destination featuring a rich itineraries.

For longer cruises in the region there are typically more guests who come from further afield and they have the opportunity to visit three or more Southeast Asian countries in a single sailing, agents were reminded.

One seven-night sailing on Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas last month, with 3,307 guests from 61 countries, called at three ASEAN countries, including Singapore from where they set sail from.

The farthest the ship called was Phu My in Vietnam. It stopped overnight at Thailand at Laem Chabang, located on the southeast of Thailand.

Last year Laem Chabang received 47 cruises calls with some 200,000 passengers from countries such as Germany, Australian, UK and US, with the peak season being between December and February.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand is developing a shorex for guests to visit a village community along the Chao Phraya River.

Elected headman Dui or Taweesak Wangchan, will play host in his ward north Bangkok’s Khao San Road and be at hand to cook lunch himself.

Visitors can get to walk around the village, seeing Thais in their homes while tourists on boat tours from the floating markets stop by.

In one extended family home (with half a dozen cats),  80 year old Grandma Bom teaches visitors how to make banana and coconut cake from scratch. The temple across the canal is more than 200 years old.

For now most day-visitors from cruise vessels calling at Laem Chabang, travel two to three hours from the pier to Bangkok, and only have time for a quick visit.

A typical itinerary would start with a stop at Bangkok’s must-see Grand Palace located on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. Built by King Rama I more than 230 years ago, it is now used for ceremonial purposes. They can then do some shopping nearby, perhaps squeeze in a Thai massage before indulging in some street food like pad thai (rice noodles) and mango with sticky rice. 

Cruise passenger volumes in Asia are up 40% since 2012, and continue to grow along with the spending power of its growing middle class.

‘With 2017 marking the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, we have embarked on several initiatives to further drive growth in the cruise industry,’ Annie Chang, director, cruise, Singapore Tourism Board told SCN. 

STB is the ASEAN lead cruise coordinator, been working with  regional counterparts to promote Southeast Asia as a cruising region of choice and explore port infrastructure development.

ASEAN member states have committed to developing a Joint Declaration on Cruise Tourism to spur port and destination development in the region.

Indonesia, for instance will be prioritising infrastructure development to allow the berthing of larger cruise ships. It is also reviewing immigration clearance processes to ensure consistency across all checkpoints and communication channels to support the cruise industry on cruise-related matters. 

The Philippines implemented the National Cruise Tourism Development Strategy (NCTDS) last year, which also entailed infrastructure and destination development, and refinement of regulations and processes.

Posted 17 March 2017

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Jacintha  Stephens

Singapore correspondent

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