South East Asia has seen its first port calls by cruise ships in over two years as the industry looks to rebuild its operations in the region in the wake of Covid-19.

Royal Caribbean’s 169,000-gt Spectrum of the Seas (built 2019) called at Port Klang in Malaysia on Friday, according to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

Separately, Resorts World Cruises’ 150,700-gt Genting Dream (built 2017) was due to call at the Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan over the weekend.

Both cruise ships are homeported in Singapore.

Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are the first South East Asian countries to resume port calls since cruising was halted in March 2020.

The STB said it expects the cruise industry in Singapore to return to pre-pandemic levels between 2023 and 2024, given discussions to resume similar calls in more ports across the region.

“The resumption of port calls is an important milestone for Singapore and the region,” said STB chief executive Keith Tan.

“It has been made possible by the strong partnership and collective commitment in ASEAN to grow the cruise industry.

“Cruising is a key tourism driver, and as ASEAN’s lead coordinator for cruise development, Singapore will continue to work with our counterparts to strengthen the region’s attractiveness as a cruising destination and source market,” he added.

Prior to Covid-19, Singapore's cruise industry enjoyed robust growth with over 400 cruise ships across 30 cruise brands called at its ports in 2019, with year-on-year growth in passenger throughput of more than 1.8m that year.

Since Singapore restarted cruising in November 2020, over half a million passengers have sailed on nearly 370 ‘cruise to nowhere’ sailings.

Angie Stephen, vice president and managing director, Asia-Pacific, Royal Caribbean International, described the return of cruising in the region as “timely” as countries around the region re-open to visitors, revitalise their tourism sectors, and embrace the new normal.

Resorts World Cruises president Michael Goh said the company was committed to Singapore’s vision to be a premier cruise hub in Asia.

“Together with STB, we look forward to growing the cruise sector, including the fly-cruise segment; and to making Singapore and Southeast Asia one of the largest year-round cruise destinations in the world,” he said.

To prepare for the return of fly-cruise travellers, STB said it will continue to offer the Cruise Development Fund to encourage cruise lines to homeport in Singapore and to cruise agents to develop and market cruise packages.