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Subic Freeport welcomes maiden cruise ship visit

Subic Freeport welcomes maiden cruise ship visit

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—A band struck up festive music while employees of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) waved flaglets here last Saturday as the Italian cruise ship Costa Atlantica slipped into the dock for what is seen to be the first of a series of port calls here.

The Italian-flagged cruise ship arrived here before 7 a.m., bringing more than 2,000 mostly Chinese passengers who toured the Subic Bay Freeport for a day and visited some tourist destinations in the nearby provinces of Zambales and Bataan.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said some visitors ventured as far as the Rosa Farms in San Marcelino, Zambales, where they picked mango fruits at the 12-hectare mango orchard, and Las Casas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan, where authentic Filipino heritage houses are on display.

Still others joined tours of the staple Subic Freeport theme parks like Ocean Adventure, Zoobic Safari and Jest Camp.

The arrival of Costa Atlantica is expected to be the start of regular port calls by international cruise ships here in Subic, which is fashioning itself to be the next cruise-ship playground in Asia.

Jem Camba, manager of the SBMA Tourism Department, said last Saturday’s port call is expected to be the first of 15 port visits here by the Italian cruise ship.

The itinerary program of Costa Atlantica is reportedly based on cruises from Dubai, Shanghai and Singapore.

Eisma, who personally greeted the disembarking cruise-ship passengers last Saturday, said Costa Atlantica’s visit served as a litmus test for Subic, which is raring to attract more foreign tourists to its shores.

Eisma said the whole Subic community is “already very excited” about the prospects of Subic’s becoming part of the inter-island itinerary of international cruise ships.

“Subic’s time to become the next cruise-ship playground of Asia has already begun,” Eisma announced last Friday, as she briefed members of the recently-formed technical working group for SubiCruise campaign on the arrival of Costa Atlantica.

The ship, which sailed first into Manila before coming over to Subic, came almost as a surprise to the Subic community, as the SBMA expected the first cruise ship to arrive by midyear.

Eisma had earlier announced that cruise operator Royal Caribbean International will bring to Subic its cruise ship MS Ovation of the Seas in June, to be followed by the Voyager of the Seas in August.

For this, the SBMA had coordinated its offerings with tourism stakeholders in Olongapo City, Zambales and Bataan, which are expected to contribute to a more varied itinerary for the visitors.

Eisma said she is confident that the Subic Bay Freeport, as well as the nearby communities, would be able to keep its promise to offer the best tourism facilities and services for visitors from the arriving ships, as well as memorable and tailored-tourism experiences to meet their expectations.

The visiting Costa Atlantica is an 85,619-ton, 292.56-meter Spirit-class cruise ship owned and operated by Costa Crociere (Costa Cruises), an Italian cruise line based in Genoa, Italy and owned by Carnival Corp. Plc.

The Costa Cruises brand currently operates 15 cruise ships that provide cruise holidays in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and South America.

Costa Atlantica is renowned for having all of its decks named after the movies of Italian movie director Federico Fellini, with each deck elegantly adorned with Italian-inspired decors of arts and furniture.

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