Voyages to nowhere: Singapore explores options to help struggling cruise lines stay afloat

If boarding a flight to nowhere to live out the good old days of travel is not attractive, how about a round-trip cruise sailing to nowhere?

Singapore, which has not allowed port calls for cruise ships since March 13, is exploring health protocols that would allow cruise companies in the area to operate voyages "to nowhere," according to Singapore newspaper The Straits Times. Singapore's tourism body has reportedly hired a risk management company to create a safety framework for the Singapore-only sailings, which could bolster cruise lines struggling to stay afloat amid the coronavirus's impact on travel.

The newspaper reports that documents pertaining to the safety protocols envision "cruises to nowhere" sailing at 50 per cent capacity. Cruise lines will need to be certified for compliance with the safety plan before returning to sea, The Straits Times says. A Singapore tourism board official told the paper that details of the safety standards will be announced later.

While no timeline for the Singapore cruises to nowhere has been revealed, some cruise lines that operate in the city-state, including Norwegian, Celebrity and Princess Cruises, have voluntarily suspended their operations through at least October 31, with Princess Cruises telling the newspaper it would not return to service until at least mid-December. Princess operates a fleet of 18 cruise ships, two of which - the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess - saw a combined 800 total coronavirus cases and 10 deaths in March and April, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The news of a possible cruise to nowhere comes two days after Singapore Airlines dropped its plans to offer three-hour "flights to nowhere" due to environmental backlash. The airline said it reviewed opposition to the flights, which were slated to depart and return to Singapore's Changi airport, and deemed them too wasteful. It will instead offer dining experiences in planes that remain on the ground rather than flying, The Straits Times reported.

Heralded for its strong coronavirus response early on in the pandemic, Singapore saw a strong spike in cases in April and continued cases through the summer, with 57,000 cases so far. The city-state has imposed coronavirus restrictions on gatherings and indoor activities, but largely reopened in June and is now in Phase 2 of its measured reopening process.

Tourism businesses such as hotels were permitted to resume operations July 1. 

Cruise companies are again operating in some parts of the world, including in Italy, Greece and Germany. US cruise lines have been eager to return to sailing in the US, providing health guidelines they plan to follow to the CDC last week. However, this week the CDC extended its no-sail order through October 31.

The Washington Post

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