Written by 9:49 am Caribbean, Ports

Cruise Guide: Cruise lines eye Asian, Caribbean markets

By Mike Coleman

Three of cruising’s biggest players are gearing up for what promises to be interesting times ahead for passengers. Royal Caribbean will soon be anchoring in Asia, Carnival will position itself in the Caribbean like never before and guests sailing with Holland America will enjoy flexible dining times on future sailings.

In December, Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas will debut in Singapore. The line will offer travelers a selection of six short cruises, ranging from two to five nights, calling at the tropical ports of Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang) and Penang, Malaysia, as well as the exotic sun-soaked islands of Langkawi, Malaysia and Phuket, Thailand.

The ship will also embark on three 12-night voyages between Singapore and Hong Kong, each featuring two-day calls in Bangkok (Laemchabang), Thailand, and Hanoi (Haiphong), Vietnam. Look also for calls at Sihanoukville, Cambodia; and Saigon Vung Tau, Nha Trang and Hue Danang, Vietnam. So strong is Royal Caribbean’s belief in the region, they’ve opened an Asia-Pacific office in Singapore.

Future sailings, departing from Hong Kong, feature a series of itineraries calling at the ports of Okinawa, Japan; Taipei Keelung and Kaohsiung, Taiwan; and Sanya, China. The ship will then sail from Shanghai, China, with port calls in Japan and Korea.

Caribbean Cruising

Carnival, meanwhile, projects that it will carry a record 2.9 million passengers to the Caribbean before year’s end – the most in its 35-year history. When all is said and done, the line will have deployed 18 ships to the region, departing from each of Florida’s five major ports and seven other U.S. home ports.

Not content to rest on its laurels, the line is continually updating its Caribbean cruise itineraries and destination choices. In the coming months, Carnival will introduce several new programs, including a five-day itinerary aboard Carnival Imagination featuring Grand Turk, the new port in the Turks and Caicos, and the award-winning private island of Half Moon Cay.

Look also for a seven-day, five-port schedule on the Carnival Destiny from San Juan offering extended day-long visits to St. Lucia, Antigua, Dominica, Barbados and St. Thomas and seven-day cruises aboard the Carnival Triumph from Miami that feature Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands, St. Thomas and San Juan.

Carnival has also been working with destination partners to enhance and expand shore excursion programming to cater to today’s active lifestyles, featuring some 900 land programs – the most the line has ever offered. In the months ahead, guests aboard Holland America’s 13 ships will be able to select either traditional pre-set seating and dining times or a flexible dining schedule dubbed “As You Wish Dining.” The program will be rolled out aboard Noordam in October, Volendam in November and Statendam in December. It will be phased in throughout the rest of the fleet in 2008.

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