The world’s first cruise ship to resume operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic is to start island-hopping tours around Taiwan’s three main outlying islands in August, Lion Travel Co (雄獅旅遊) said yesterday.
The agency, which is organizing the tours, made the announcement at a news conference yesterday afternoon in Taipei, attended by Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) and other officials.
The cruise tours are in line with the ministry’s 10-year “Blue Highway” policy, Lin Chia-lung said, adding that the government has already set 2023 to be the Year of the Island-Hopping Tours.
The island-hopping tours show that the nation has turned a crisis into a turning point, he said.
“Four months ago, the tourism industry worldwide faced perhaps the greatest challenge since the end of World War II. Today, we have some hope thanks to the collective efforts of the people,” he said.
Taiwan’s success in containing the spread of COVID-19 domestically has made it a brand in terms of disease prevention, but now it needs to go further to become a tourism nation, he said.
Lin Chia-lung said he has invited Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) to join the first cruise.
Lin Yu-chang said that the Explorer Dream, which would be used for the tours, is scheduled to dock at the Port of Keelung at 8am today, and 538 of 588 crew members would be asked to undergo a 14-day quarantine in hotels in Taipei, New Taipei City and Keelung.
The ship’s resumption of service out of Taiwan is expected to elevate the nation’s cruise tour industry to the next level, the mayor said.
The four-day tours, which are a partnership between Lion Travel and Genting Hong Kong Ltd (雲頂香港), the ship’s owner, are scheduled to depart on Aug. 2, Aug. 9, Aug. 16, Aug. 23 and Aug. 30.
Two itineraries are planned: a Penghu-Lienchiang County (Matsu) route or a Penghu-Kinmen route.
Passengers would be able to view the Penghu International Fireworks Festival and Marvel-themed light shows, and visit historic battlefields in Kinmen, it said.
The Explorer Dream would carry no more than 1,815 people on the tours, 50 percent of its capacity, with passengers all in sea-view rooms, the agency said.
Other safety measures include guests being assigned set dining areas and times, instead of a buffet service, and all food and beverages would be served by crew members wearing masks and gloves, it said.
The ship has been equipped with 22 negative-pressure isolation rooms, and passengers’ temperatures would be checked daily by the crew, who would also enforce social distancing measures, it added.
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