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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

(My Marianas) Cruise stopovers on Saipan

STAKEHOLDERS in the tourism industry are looking forward to the time when the often asked question “Where is Saipan” will be a thing of the past as the Marianas Visitors Authority and other involved agencies go all out to promote not only the CNMI but the whole of Micronesia to the world through Cruises.
Cruise ships that make brief stopovers on Saipan are usually given the traditional island welcome with cultural dancers and given leis when the ship docks at the seaport.  
Judy Torres of the MVA said that as of June 2013, two cruise ships stopped over on Saipan, two cruise ships stopped over in 2012 and five cruise ships made stopovers for the fiscal year 2011.

For 2014, Crystal Cruises is scheduled to make a stopover on Saipan on February 4. Crystal Serenity will leave Los Angeles on an 89-day world tour from January 18 to April 18, 2014. The ship will visit Hawaii, Bali, Africa, Guam before coming here. The ship is expected to dock at the Saipan seaport at 8 am on February 4 and depart at 5 p.m. on the same day to head for Okinawa and Tokyo, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and other countries.

Some of the cruise ships are regular visitors that make one or two stopovers on Saipan every year like the MS Asuka 11 but there are rare visits like the Queen Mary 2 which unfortunately was unable to dock at the Saipan Seaport due to stormy weather. Businesses prepared to welcome over 2,000 visitors for a day but were disappointed but the weather was beyond everyone’s control.  

The CNMI has already carved its niche after being included in forum discussions in various cruise guides like the Cruise Critic where you can read posts from visitors describing the beauty of Saipan and the top sites to visit, as well as basic information on where to go and what to do. Check out http://www.cruisecritic.com to read some of the posts. An overview of Saipan/NMI and Micronesia is also available in the Cruise Away and Clean Cruising websites where readers/cruisers get a wealth of information about the island, and links to how they can book cruises to come here. Visit http://www.cleancruising.com.au/port.asp?port=GUSPN and  http://www.cruiseaway.com.au/cruise-port/saipan_marianas_islands_micronesia.

Postings at these websites describe Saipan and the CNMI as a paradise to escape with magnificent beaches and crystal clear aqua waters, a place with unhurried friendly lifestyle and warm island hospitality. 
Pacific Development Inc. is usually the ground handler for the cruise ships that come in. PDI director Gordon Marciano earlier said that the visitors usually go to visit the World War 11 sites all over the island, go shopping and eat at the restaurants for the day’s stopover.

Tourism industry including the hotels, restaurants, stores and other businesses in the island earlier expressed that they want these cruise ships to stay more than one day on Saipan. Even taxi drivers said that the longer the cruise ships come here, the more money they spend to spur the island’s economy.
The CNMI hopes to attract more cruise ships in the coming years as the MVA has partnered with the Port Authority of Guam, Guam Visitors Bureau and the Micronesia chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association to make up the Micronesian Cruise Association. For more information please call the MVA at 664-3200. 

First published at the Marianas Variety

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