[Editor’s note: Danny Vinluan and his wife Myrna of Atlanta, Georgia are regular cruise passengers. The following is Danny’s reaction to this article.]
It is true that many cruise ships are bypassing Manila but there are ships that visit once in a while. Costa Cruises, the biggest European cruise line, visit Manila, Cebu and Palawan. Holland America Cruiseline also visits Manila on their southern journey from Hongkong. I guess the Department of Tourism has not exerted enough effort to sell our country just like the other countries have done. Lots of foreign ports have been refurbished to accommodate the big ships and the governments have been vigilant in promoting their countries. The big three cruise lines namely, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and NCL also put in their own funds to assist the foreign governments in establishing world class docks and infrastructures.
Most ships visit a port and stay less than 24 hours. The port area of Manila is where the ships dock. It is very close to Luneta and the Intramuros where San Agustin Church, Manila Cathedral, Fort Santiago, Chinese Museum and the restored Walls are located. Tours of Corregidor Island are also popular. One tour sponsored by a cruise line in partnership with a local retailer takes passengers to Robinson Mall for shopping. The cruise line offers free shuttle to Robinson’s and the Mall of Asia. Tourists love to shop not only for bargain clothing but also for handicrafts and locally made souvenirs.
I believe that there are lots to do in Manila within a 10-hour period. Off course safety is a concern. The Manila police department and the Dept. of Tourism should be vigilant in making sure that tourists are safe. Pickpockets should be curtailed and the street beggars (children) placed in order. Just about all big cities in the world are infested with pickpockets. Rome, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona and the worst of them all, Rio de Janeiro have their share of thievery. Even Copenhagen and St. Petersburg, Russia have their own bad fingers. In Tallin, Estonia, the former Russian satellite in the Baltic region has a big sign as you enter the city that warns tourists of pickpockets. In Jamaica, tour buses have been boarded by armed bandits on the way to their tour stops and the tourists have been relieved of their prized possessions, cash, jewelry, cameras, etc. These acts of violence have convinced some cruise liners to bypass Jamaica altogether. The same is true with St. Croix of the Virgin Islands.
I hope and pray that the cruise ships continue to visit our beautiful Philippines. The government, in partnership with local retailers and the cruise lines, should join hands in establishing Manila and Cebu as premier stops on Asian journeys. By the way, cruise lines pay port charges based on the number of passengers. Some small ports like Roatan, Honduras treasure the fees as a good source of income for the city in addition to the funds tourists spend while visiting.