Bayanihan Media Awards National Winner

Subic cruise ship program gets new boost

The 12-decker Serenade of the Seas docks at the Leyte Wharf in the Subic Bay Freeport on Monday, bringing 1,371 guests and 819 crew members for a day tour

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The arrival here last week of a cruise ship carrying mostly European tourists marked what officials here said would be the revival of a successful cruise ship program that was only interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic three years ago.

GTS Serenade of the Seas, a 12-decker Radiance-class cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean International, made its maiden call here on March 25, carrying 1,371 guests and 819 crew members.

SBMA employees welcome the cruise ship Serenade of the Seas, as it eases into the Leyte Wharf in the Subic Bay Freeport Monday morning. Its arrival signals the revival of the Subic cruise ship program, SBMA officials said.

Before the pandemic, Royal Caribbean ships regularly sailed into Subic Bay. These include the colossal Spectrum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas, which, at 18 decks, are reputed to be two of the biggest and the most expensive cruise ships to sail in Asia.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Eduardo Jose L. Aliño said the arrival of Serenade of the Seas starts a revitalized cruise ship program here, with seven more cruise vessels already scheduled to arrive in Subic until November this year.

“Subic Bay is fast becoming a favorite cruise ship destination due to its deep harbor and the shore experience we offer to cruise passengers,” Aliño said. “This is one target industry that we continue to develop and sustain in order to create more jobs and economic opportunities here and around the free port zone,” he added.

Last year, Subic recorded six cruise ship arrivals when MV Blue Dream Star, a 180-meter vessel operated by Blue Dream Cruises China, made a series of stops here and brought in a total of 3,927 tourists over a two-month period.

This year, the SBMA intends to breach the pre-pandemic cruise arrival figures with an average of 18 cruise ship arrivals per year, said SBMA Senior Deputy Administrator for Operations Ronnie Yambao.

He said that the Subic agency has invested in the development of maritime facilities here to ensure the safety of vessels and their passengers arriving in Subic.

The maritime development projects include the installation of a new vessel tracking management system, as well as road repair, slope protection and illumination costing a total of P255 million, and putting in closed-circuit television systems at Leyte and Rivera wharves at P2.7 million.

Reportedly, the Subic Grains Terminal Inc., which operates the Leyte Wharf, has invested in a P219-million expansion project to further improve the wharf and extend its length to 371 meters. This is where the Serenade of the Seas docked when it arrived last week.

Yambao also said that following the arrival of Serenade of the Seas, Subic has booked six more cruise ships: MV Mediterranea on April 16; MV Resorts World One, May 8, June 5, July 31, August 28, and September 25; and MV Costa Serena, November 13. All these will dock at Subic’s Rivera Wharf.

Disembarking cruise ship passengers are expected to visit tourist attractions within the Subic Bay Freeport, as well as similar sites in neighboring Olongapo City and the provinces of Zambales, Bataan and Pampanga.

Yambao said among the favorite shore experience package taken by tourists are visits to beach resorts and theme parks like Ocean Adventure, jungle survival demonstration by Ayta natives, as well as the heritage resort Las Casas de Acuzar in Bataan. (Press Release)