SINGAPORE: Tucked away in the south-west of Singapore, at Sembcorp Marine’s Tuas shipyard, Royal Caribbean’s 15-deck Voyager of the Seas cruise ship is getting a US$97 million (S$134 million) facelift.
The 20-year-old ship is getting a complete 41-day overhaul, with almost 2,000 contractors working on reshaping the ship to include 72 new staterooms, as well as replacing items ranging from carpets and curtains to furniture.
READ: Targeting younger passengers, offering diverse experiences key to cruise industry's growth, say experts
The Voyager of the Seas is the fourth in a series of 10 ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet being brought up to date as part of a US$1 billion investment by the cruise operator.
Following research and guest feedback, the Voyager of the Seas will also see the introduction of a number of new features when it sets sail once again on Oct 21, aimed at appealing to a younger crowd.
These include two new interlocking waterslides - together dubbed the Perfect Storm - as well as Battle for Planet Z, a laser-tag game.
And with multi-generational families typically making up more than half of Royal Caribbean’s passengers, the Voyager of the Sea hopes to appeal to young parents with the introduction of a nursery, where infants and toddlers will be under the supervision of certified child-minders.
CRUISE INDUSTRY GROWING, CHANGING
This investment comes as the worldwide cruise industry continues to grow.
Asia is the industry’s third largest market after North America and Europe, with 4.24 million cruise passengers last year, up 4.6 per cent from the previous year, according to Cruise Line International Association.
And figures from the Singapore Tourism Board showed that 1.87 million in Singapore went on a cruise holiday last year, up 35 per cent from 2017.
Dynasty Travel marketing communications director Alicia Seah said cruises give holidaymakers a chance at a more relaxing vacation, without the need to constantly pack and unpack.
This is especially attractive for more elderly travelers, or those with young children, she said.
“They simply board the cruise and get to relax and rest,” she said, adding that cruise travel makes up some 25 per cent of Dynasty’s sales revenue.
Ms Seah notes that Singapore’s position as a cruise hub in Asia means many cruise lines ply routes in Southeast Asia.
While food and gaming have traditionally attracted older passengers, she said that cruise operators are now expanding their offerings with attractions for a younger crowd such as water slides and rock climbing, as well as unique events like music festivals on board ships.
WHAT CRUISE OPERATORS ARE DOING
Cruise operators are indeed tapping new market segments.
“We see an increasing number of millennials and young families sailing with us in addition to first-time cruisers. This is very encouraging as these are new target groups for us to reach out to,” said Princess Cruises Southeast Asia director Farriek Tawfik.
While millennials are keen on bucket list destinations such as Alaska, Baltics & Russia, the Mediterranean and Caribbean cruises, young families and first time cruisers tend to go for short sailings around Southeast Asia, he said.
Meanwhile, Dream Cruises says as part of efforts to expand and tap into newer markets, it is rolling out thematic cruises for the 18-deck Genting Dream cruise ship.
These include the family-friendly “Justice League @ Sea” cruises, which feature activities and parties themed around the DC Comics superheroes, as well as the culinary-themed “Taste the Dream – Wine and Dine at Sea”, said Dream Cruises president Michael Goh.
“We also offer post fly-cruise packages with access to some of Singapore’s popular international events like the recent F1 Singapore Grand Prix and the upcoming UFC Fight Night to encourage travellers to cruise and extend their stay in Singapore,” he added.
To enhance the passenger experience, cruise operators are banking on technology.
Royal Caribbean has introduced a mobile app that passengers can use to plan their activities and book dining slots, among others, once onboard.
Meanwhile, Princess Cruises has introduced the Ocean Medallion, a wearable device which can be used for everything from opening room doors to ordering food, drinks and services on-demand.
It will also be introducing greener ships to appeal to environmentally conscious customers.
By 2025 Princess Cruises' fleet will also include two liquefied natural gas (LNG) ships – which will be the largest in its fleet - in line with the International Maritime Organisation’s tighter sulphur emission regulations which will come into effect next year.
As work on the Voyager of the Seas ramps up, its crew is looking forward to welcoming the first batch of passengers onboard later this month.
“What I’m looking forward to is seeing the first impressions of the guests when they come on board,” said Voyager of the Seas hotel director Gary Waugh.
“I think a lot of people will be in awe at what we’ve changed here. That will be fun.”