Three int’l cruise ships up for Boracay visit in March

(Photo courtesy of ERS)

By John Noel E. Herrera

Three international cruise ships are expected to visit Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan, in March 2023 after it was halted for more than two years because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID)-19 pandemic.

Malay tourism officer Felix Gregorio Delos Santos earlier said that MS Westerdam of Holland America will arrive on March 3, 2023, while MS Nautica by Oceania Cruises is expected to dock on March 6, and MS Seven Seas Mariner by Regent will arrive on March 8.

Delos Santos said the arrival of cruise ships would bring in more foreign tourists to the island and boost Aklan’s tourism industry, especially as it has already started to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

The cruise ships are also expected to bring in about 5,000 foreign tourists and crew to Boracay, which would further help the island and the province’s economic recovery, according to Port Cruise Ship Operation OIC Niven Maquirang.

Maquirang said the island was previously planned to become a hub for cruise ships in the country, but the project was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, Feb 13, the MV Seabourn Encore, which carried almost 600 tourists and 500 crew, also docked at Boracay Island. It was also the first international cruise ship to visit the island since the pandemic began in 2020.

Delos Santos said the cruise ship came from Singapore and the visit was made possible through the efforts of the Aklan Provincial Government and the Malay LGU.

“Way back during our pre-pandemic, they used to be our regular clients and they added to our tourist arrivals. We are happy that, at least, they have returned,” Delos Santos added.

Other international cruise ships expected to visit the island in November and December 2023 include the MV Norwegian Jewel on November 3, 29 and December 1; MS Westerdam on Nov 7, and the Star Breeze and MS Seven Seas Explorer on Nov 16 and 17, respectively.

Meanwhile, Delos Santos said Boracay’s tourist arrivals were estimated from 5,000 to 6,000 a day.

“In January, we have reached 177,000, and hopefully it will increase this February,” he said.

The tourism officer added that visiting Boracay is now made easier since tourists only need to show their booking with a DOT-accredited accommodation establishment, and vaccination cards and QR codes are no longer required.

Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT)-6 also indicated that more than 1.75 million tourists visited Boracay Island in 2022, which is higher compared to only 330,622 tourist arrivals in 2021.

The highest number of arrivals on the island was recorded in May 2022 with 201,368, followed by June (193,650), which was a stark jump from January 2022 (35,799) and February (80,882).

Domestic tourism also remained the main driver of tourism reception in the island with around 1.59 million arrivals in 2022, while foreign tourists accounted for 132,687 arrivals, and there were 38,826 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

DOT-6 also attributed the return of pre-pandemic tourist numbers to the easing of travel restrictions and the reopening of international flights at the airport in Kalibo town.