THE majestic Diamond Princess brought thousands of holiday-makers to Penang on its last port call at Swettenham Pier for the current cruising season.
Of the 2,739 guests and 1,100-odd crew aboard the 116,000-ton world-class liner, an estimated 80% disembarked to explore George Town’s historic sights.
Farriek Tawfik, director of Southeast Asia for operator Princess Cruises, said the Pearl of the Orient has over the years become one of their guests’ favourite ports of call.
“Each cruising season, which runs from November to March, the ship makes eight to 10 visits here during voyages that range between three and 12 days.
“And each time, a high percentage go down to enjoy the wonderful local food, great shopping choices and sight-seeing attractions.
“Most have nice things to say about their experiences here,” added Tawfik during a press conference on board the Japan-built and British-registered vessel yesterday.
In total, the Diamond Princess brought 20,000 visitors to Penang during its Southeast Asian cruises out of Singapore this season.
It also called on 12 other ports across six countries in the region through 16 round-trip departures with 25 distinct itineraries.
For its latest visit to Penang, the 290m-long liner was on a five-day Malaysian peninsula voyage, en route to Phuket before returning to Singapore.
It has a total of 1,353 cabins and numerous facilities spread across 18 decks, including the largest traditional Japanese Onsen or ‘bath at sea’ in the world.
Izumi, which means spring, sprawls over 8,800sq ft and has an open-air unisex hydro-therapy pool, as well as gender-segregated ocean-view saunas and baths.
Elsewhere around the ship are three swimming pools, eight whirlpool spas, 14 eateries, four lounges and nightclubs, a casino, a nine-hole putting course, several duty-free shops, a library, an art gallery, a sports deck, fitness centre and a theatre.
Tawfik said the ship would service the Japan market following its deployment here, with sister ship Sapphire Princess taking its place to be homeported in Singapore for the November 2017 to March 2018 Southeast Asian cruising season.
“We expect to bring another 20,000 visitors to Penang during port calls then.
“Guests from northern Malaysia will also have the option of boarding the ship in Penang for these voyages,” he pointed out.
But before that, Princess Cruises’ newest vessel, the 140,000-ton Majestic Princess, set for launch soon, will make its inaugural stopover here in June during a cruise from Europe to China, carrying some 3,500 guests.
State Tourism Committee chairman Danny Law, who visited the ship yesterday, said the continued arrival of such cruise liners would benefit various stakeholders in the tourism industry.
Tawfik and the Diamond Princess’ Canadian captain Todd McBain took Law and pressmen on a tour of the vessel’s state-of-the-art bridge, explaining the intricacies of operations and navigation.
Princess Cruises is owned and operated by Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruised operator based in America.
It also owns the luxurious Cunard Line whose ships Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria, have previously called at Penang during round-the-world voyages.