Tuesday, August 20, 2013

SuperStar Aquarius cruise ship good for Bintulu tourism

BINTULU: SuperStar Aquarius will be homeported in Kota Kinabalu for the first time from Nov 6, 2013 to March 30, 2014, and would be calling on Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei and here.

Bintulu Resident cum Divisional Tourism Task Force chairman Muhamad Yakup Kari said he was looking forward to the arrival of the 51,309-ton cruise ship.

It is expected to make its maiden stop at Bintulu Port on November 12 at 10am, and retrace to Kota Kinabalu at 6pm on the same day.

Yakup said the presence of the ship, which belongs to Star Cruises, the leading cruise line in Asia-Pacific, would be good for the tourism sector here.

Star Cruises will be the first international cruise line to be homeported in Kota Kinabalu, continuing Star Cruises’ pioneering and leading position in Asia’s cruise industry.

Genting Hong Kong Limited’s East Malaysia Operations vice president Edward Johann Leong said they envisioned their inaugural deployment to Borneo would help build the cruise tourism industry and boost local tourism.

“The route will be Kota Kinabalu-Brunei-Bintulu-Kota Kinabalu. This is the first in Borneo, and we will be exploring other parts of Borneo later.

“Before we look any further, we must introduce the cruises plying in Borneo. We will definitely be expanding our services,” said Leong to reporters after meeting the relevant authorities at Wisma Kontena in Tanjung Kidurong here yesterday.

He said the departure from Kota Kinabalu would be on November 10, and the response was overwhelming.

“We only launched this one and a half month ago, but our bookings have reach 85 per cent occupancy, which is above our average.”

He added most of the bookings were by government agencies for government functions onboard. For example, lots of ministries from Sabah are onboard, and so are corporate firms for their annual get-togethers.

“That is why when we launch this. It is not only for tourism, but for people to come for conferences, meetings and other events.”

Leong said about 60 to 70 per cent of the passengers onboard would be international passengers. They are seasoned cruise goers, and have been cruising in various parts of the world.

On Bintulu, he said, “To us it is an opportunity to come down to Bintulu. This is also a chance for us to show everyone in the world what Bintulu has to offer. It may be small, but very rich in terms of culture. It would generate income for locals in the tourism sector.”

Meanwhile, Bintulu Port Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Dato Mior Ahmad Baiti Mior Lub Ahmad said for the time being they would provide one temporary area for its berth.

“Bintulu Port is not a dedicated terminal for cruises, but our team had made arrangements to give one area of the general cargo wharf on Tuesdays from 10am till 6pm.