SUBIC BAY FREEPORT: The Subic Bay Freeport will receive at least 20 cruise ship visits this year to cement its claim as the new cruise-ship playground in Asia.
According to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma Eisma, five different cruise ships have so far scheduled a total of 19 visits to Subic from March to October this year.
More cruise ship arrivals by the yearend are being coordinated with shipping agencies that handle ship itineraries, she added.
“Clearly, Subic is marking a new milestone in terms of cruise ship arrival. This is not your usual once-in-a-blue-moon accidental port call; this is a surge— and a very welcome surge for the Freeport at that,” Eisma said, as SBMA officials and employees awaited the arrival of the Italian-flagged cruise ship Costa Atlantica on Tuesday for its second voyage here.
The 85,619-ton Costa Atlantica, which has a capacity of 2,114 passengers on top of its 897 crew, first arrived here on February 10 and returned barely a month later on March 6.
Eisma said its first visit became a litmus test for Subic, which is raring to redefine itself as a cruise ship destination after serving for decades as a port of call for US Navy warships and cargo vessels later on.
“Now, Subic is ready to offer the best tourism facilities and services for cruise ship passengers, and we are betting that our visitors would find their experiences here — as well as in the neighboring areas of Zambales and Bataan — most memorable,” she added.
A list of scheduled cruise ship visits to Subic from the SBMA Tourism Department indicated the arrival of six cruise ships this month. These are MV Costa Atlantica, which will dock on March 6 and 20; MV Glory Sea, which will arrive on March 31; and MV Superstar Gemini, on March 13 and 21.
MV Glory Sea, which is operated by Star Cruises/Genting of Hong Kong, has a passenger capacity of 838 on top of its 230 crew, while MV Superstar Gemini, also operated by Star Cruises/Genting, carries 1,750 passengers, aside from its crew of 700.
The SBMA schedule also showed that MV Costa Atlantica will return to Subic on April 3 and 17, May 1 and 22, June 5 and 19, July 3, 17 and 31, and August 14 and 28 for a total of 13 trips to Subic starting the month of March.
Two of the biggest cruise ships operated by the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) will be in Subic this year: MS Ovation of the Seas on June 9, and MS Voyager of the Seas on August 26.
Ovation of the Seas has a capacity of 4,905 passengers and 1,500 crew, while Voyager of the Seas has a capacity of 3,138 passengers and 1,181 crew.
Eisma earlier accompanied cruise ship officials in assessing tourism attractions and activities that would be included in the Subic itinerary for cruise ship passengers.
The approved activities include visits to major theme parks in the Subic Bay Freeport, mango-fruit picking at a farm in San Narciso, Zambales, and a tour of the famous heritage houses at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan.