Going on Philippine cruises: What’s holding back travelers


    If you ask any observer of Philippine cruise tourism, they would likely say it’s still young and its potential still largely unrealized. While some tourists have expressed interest in going on a cruise, many more are reluctant to go on one. Their reasons vary, from the possible high cost to the quality of service.

    As a seaferer, Dennis Tompang has traveled outside the Philippines, but whenever he comes home, he makes sure to travel around the country. Asked what would make him go on a Philippine cruise, he said he’s “willing and open to try Philippine cruises if the rates [are]affordable [and if]there [is]a high quality of service, and it [depends]on the destinations.”

    Sean Lim, a reservations supervisor in a five-star hotel in the Middle East, shares the same sentiment. She has been to various parts of the Philippines, as well as Asia and Europe. She said “it would be great if Philippine cruises can offer affordable packages, especially for families. I will be [on]cruise ships that can provide cozy rooms; great facilities, like pools for both children and adults; and other leisure facilities [and]restaurant outlets with various options.”

    Avid traveler Kathleen Sandoval, who works as a human-resources professional in a business process-outsourcing (BPO) company, expressed interest in going on “Philippine cruises to see the beauty of discovered and undiscovered islands here.”

    Volunteer community worker Amelia Lorente said she “would be interested to go on a Philippine cruise for the novelty of the experience, since I’ve never been in one.”

    Asked if the cost of the cruise would be a factor, she replied: “Yes, I suppose this would be more affordable for me than [a]Caribbean cruise, but if what comes with the cruise is irresistibly [greater than the]value-for-money [aspect], [then that’s]fine with me.”

    Chris Pollio, an American anesthesiologist who’s been to the country a few times, remarked that “people in the Philippines are very warm and friendly. If it was filled with friendly people, I would do it [go on a cruise].”
    “It would be nice for it to be clean and comfortable, too,” he added.

    However, Pollio said he would only pay a premium amount for a cruise if it is very luxurious and had special options.

    Michael O’Hagan, the CEO of an Australian company who is now based in Makati City, said he might go on a Philippine cruise if the dates suit his schedule; if the ship has a strong Wi-Fi connection; if it offers a certain level of luxury, particularly in the facilities and cabins or rooms; and if the cost is commensurate to the level of service provided.

    When asked whether affordability or quality of service is more important to him, O’Hagan answered that, on “a Western level, everything is about matching the cost to the level of experience. Very few Westerners need to, or want to, buy the cheapest. They look for value.”

    If these people can be persuaded to go on a Philippine cruise, there are others who won’t, like BPO employee Lea Encarnacion. She loves to travel, but has no plans to go on cruises because, she said, “I am afraid to ride [on]ships.”

    Training supervisor Jason Quizado offered another reason. He said that “here in the Philippines, we work five days a week, which means we only have two days off. [Because of] this, we are not into cruises that usually take weeks, even months.”

    “In the United States, it is encouraged to take a lengthy [vacation]. That is why, somehow, [Americans can afford to] travel a lot. Since we only have two days off, I personally prefer planes, which will take me a few hours to get to my destination.”

    Jurg Schudel, the Swiss president of a Cebu province-based BPO, also said he had no interest in going on a Philippine cruise. He argued that he can travel around the country more inexpensively if he traveled by plane.

    “For the money I pay for a cruise, I can easily reside in Siquijor [province]for a couple [of]months and enjoy [its]peace and quiet,” he said. “But you know what I would wish for? That the ferries here in the Philippines would become more like the ferries [traveling]between Norway and Denmark.”

    According to him, the ferries in these countries are a combination of a cruise ship and ferry.

    “They [have]scheduled ferry routes, [and are]combined with the fun and luxury of a cruise ship,” Schudel said.
    He also said people who come to the Philippines don’t like mass tourism, adding that they come here mostly to go backpacking and dive.

    “The problem in this country is its terrible inefficiency and unreliability. That keeps the [ordinary]tourist away who wants everything to work out properly. Having a fully planned-out schedule broken down to the hour simply doesn’t work in this country. So, people who come here must have plenty of time, want to just hang around [or]live cheap, or are divers. They come here for the marine beauty, and they bring money,” the Swiss said.

    Australian investor analyst Andrew Sheldon, who frequently visits the country, also shares Schudel’s views. He said he would not be interested to go on a Philippine cruise, as he does not like to get stuck in a boat. Although he had been on an Indonesian cruise, which he enjoyed, he said he’d rather travel by bus when traveling around the Philippines.

    “You don’t see much by sea and a lot of [the]Philippines’ [coasts have]no appeal. Palawan, yes, but only if stops [are made]at different resorts, with organized activities. That would work if not too far. Terrorist risk, though, [would be]high,” Sheldon added.


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