The cruise business is still relatively new in the Philippines, according to Gina Marie Esmaña, Head of the Cruise Team at the Philippines Department of Tourism.
“As a new player, we’ve been performing well and consistently, attracting more calls,” she said.
The geography of the country allows for many potential cruise destinations, but currently, the ports of call are mainly located in the central part of the country.
“Most cruise ships call in Manilla, Palawan and Boracay. A good number also go to Ilocos, especially during the winter months in China,” Esmaña said
Manila is the main port and has occasionally done turnarounds.
Introduced by the Asia Cruise Cooperation and operated by Star Cruises, an itinerary that debuted in 2017 included embarkation in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Manila and a call to Ilocos.
The Stars of the South China Sea voyage sailed five nights for a complete summer season aboard the SuperStar Virgo.
“75 percent of the passengers came from Philippines while some 25 percent were from Taiwan,” noted Esmaña.
The itinerary was repeated in 2018 and is expected to come back soon, but on a bigger ship.
Another area that is being developed into a cruise destination is Subic Bay.
“In 2017 we only had one cruise call there and then, in 2018, we had a total of 20 cruise calls,” Esmaña said. “They are also making aggressive efforts to open their ports to the ships.”
For 2019, there are two main highlights.
“We’ll see more frequent calls from Costa and we are receiving the new Spectrum of the Seas,” Esmaña noted, adding the new Royal Caribbean International ship has three scheduled calls.
Among future plans are a new cruise terminal set for a 2021 opening in Manila as Esmañas said the Solaire Cruise Center will be able to berth two large ships at once.
Photo: Caroline Uy, director for the Department of Tourism Region 3