Singapore 'can be cruise hub like Miami'

Cruise giant opens regional HQ in plans to 'create the Caribbean of Asia'
Melissa Lin Straits Times 4 May 13;

THE world's largest cruise company opened its regional headquarters in Singapore yesterday, with bosses predicting that this part of the world can become "the Caribbean of Asia" - using Singapore as a Miami-style hub.

Carnival Asia, part of Carnival Corporation which boasts a fleet of 101 ships, will be based at the Marina Bay Financial Centre as it looks to develop in the region.

Chief executive Pier Luigi Foschi estimated that the number of cruise passengers in Asia could hit 3.7 million in 2017 and double to more than seven million by 2020.

In 2011, the total was 1.7 million.

He said: "There's good weather here, lots of islands to visit and a lot of experiences. (South-east Asia is) not too different from the Caribbean in terms of these basic conditions.

"(We want to) create the Caribbean of Asia using Singapore as a major hub, as Miami is for the Caribbean."

Mr Foschi added that the office is the first step towards that long-term vision and the industry faces many challenges in the region - such as convincing governments to invest in infrastructure like docks and changing the habits of Asians who like to book holidays at the last minute. Cruise operators plan their packages at least a year in advance.

Carnival plans to expand here by growing its Costa Cruises and Princess Cruises brands.

Yesterday, its Costa Atlantica, which can carry 2,680 passengers, made its maiden call in Singapore.

It will offer three- and four-night cruises to Malaysia and Thailand over the next two months.

Speaking at a celebration event on board the ship, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry S. Iswaran called on all members of the industry, including travel agents and other related businesses, to work together with cruise companies.

"I believe there is scope going beyond the corporate office to look at areas where we can develop links, in terms of onshore programmes, supporting services, as well as in training and development of manpower for a growing industry in this part of the world," he said.