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Singapore to host cruises to nowhere from November

SINGAPORE, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Singapore is launching cruises to nowhere from November, as the travel hub tries to kick-start a tourism industry battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International will run the pilot cruises, which have no ports of call and will operate at half capacity with stringent health protocols, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said on Thursday.

The cruises, which the STB classed as “round trips”, are open only to people who live in Singapore and will sail in waters just off the city-state.

The global cruise industry has taken a major hit from the coronavirus pandemic, with some of the earliest big outbreaks found on cruise ships.

Singapore’s plan comes as travelers in Asia have been snapping up tickets on “flights to nowhere” that take off and land at the same airport.

“This cruise pilot is a valuable opportunity for cruise operators to reinvent the entire cruise experience in order to regain the confidence of passengers,” said Keith Tan, STB chief executive.

Facing its deepest recession this year, the Southeast Asian island has been gradually loosening its coronavirus curbs to boost its economy.

The cruises will require guests to have mandatory COVID-19 tests prior to boarding and refrain from close contact with others on the ship.

Globally, some cruise companies are restarting operations incrementally but the industry is far from reaching pre-COVID-19 level capacity.

Royal Caribbean International said its three-night sail from Singapore to nowhere has a base price of S$374 ($257).

Its vessel, Quantum of the Seas, boasts a glass observation capsule 300 feet (91 metres) above sea level, a trapeze school, cocktails served by robots and has previously offered skydiving, surfing, bumper cars, roller skating and gaming. (Editing by Martin Petty)

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