A Miami-based international cruise line will soon be providing “technical and financial support” to build a terminal in either Caticlan or Boracay, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said.

This after the DOT and the province of Aklan secured a deal with Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd. (RCCL) to further open the Western Visayas region to the global cruising market.

The deal was signed by Undersecretary Benito Bengzon, Jr., Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores and RCCL VP for New Commercial Development John Tercek on Tuesday (March 14).

Bengzon said the deal is still under negotiation. However, the agency said the planned homeport for RCCL will be open to other commercial vessels as well. The amount to be invested was not disclosed.

He, meanwhile, expressed excitement and confidence for the prospects of the RCCL in the development and promotion of Caticlan and Boracay for cruise tourism.

“We are confident that the strategic partnership will result in more ships calling on Boracay, and pave the way for eventual home port operations,” the tourism official said.

Bengzon is in Fort Lauderdale in Florida to lead this year’s Philippine delegation to the ongoing Seatrade Cruise Conference (SCC) at Broward County Convention Center.

SCC is the leading annual global business-to-business event in the cruise industry, which provides a platform to discuss topics and issues in cruising and attended by top executives, industry experts and thought-leaders.

The Philippines’ ninth year at Seatrade also features old and the latest cruise destinations in the country such as Hundred Islands in Pangasinan, Kalanggaman in Leyte, Coron in Northern Palawan, Romblon, and Bicol region for expedition cruises that carry less than 300 passengers.

Bengzon said the agency is seeing a major shift in the cruise market noting that there will be more ships to be deployed in Southeast Asia.

He said that he is hopeful that the Philippines would get more than its fair share of the market with extended deployment of a number of large cruise ships to the country.

Meanwhile, Bengzon welcomed the upcoming homeport deployment of one of Star Cruises’ ships, Superstar Virgo, to Manila for the first time.

“The big news for us this week is that we will finally have the major cruise ship, the Superstar Virgo of Singapore’s Star Cruises, homeporting in the PHL. And we are hoping this will be the start of other homeporting of cruise vessels in the region,” the tourism official said.

Boracay is the Philippines’ third largest cruise destination with 29 calls over the last four years. It is topped by Puerto Princesa with 39 calls and 16 overnights and followed by Manila with 48 transits and five overnights.

International cruise calls to the Philippines have been growing at an average rate of 27.8 percent over the past four years, with 56 calls in 2014, 70 calls in 2015 and 72 calls in 2016.

DOT said that this year’s target is to acquire 100 port calls with an estimated 122,000 cruise passengers. (PNA) JBP/ANP