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Ministry to explore cruise tourism

10th January, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment will explore the potential of further developing the cruise ship tourism sector, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew.

“I will discuss with the Permanent Secretary (William Baya) and Sabah Tourism Board General Manager (Suzaini Datuk Sabdin Ghani) ways to promote the sector as another tourism frontier,” she said after touring SuperStar Virgo, recently. The 13-storey vessel is the flagship of the Star Cruises fleet in Asia.

Liew, who is also Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, suggested that one way is to have cruise ships ferrying tourists to Sabah from various parts of the world on scheduled cruises, other than just having passengers on transit in Kota Kinabalu for 12 hours before travelling to the next destination.

Managing Director of Suria Capital Holdings Berhad, Ng Kiat Min said Kota Kinabalu has in support of the tourism industry in Sabah accommodated cruise vessels from all over the world as a port of call since the 1970s. So far, some 40 cruise ships have called at KK Port, according to her.

Liew thanked Ng, who is also Managing Director of Sabah Ports Sdn Bhd, for inviting her to visit SuperStar Virgo, and expressed her appreciation to Captain Joakim Vonasek and his team for their warm hospitality aboard the vessel.

She was taken on a guided tour by Genting Cruise Lines Assistant Vice-President Ian Khaw until the helicopter landing site on the 13th deck.

Accompanying the Minister were Ng, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary William Baya, Director of State Economic Planning Unit (Upen), Gwendolen Vu, Suzaini and CEO of SCHB Engineering Services Sdn Bhd, Azman Amarashikin. At the bridge of Virgo, Captain Joakim explained its function in controlling the course of the ship.

In his reminiscences, the captain said he first came to Sabah aboard another Star Cruise vessel in 2004, and now more than 10 years down the road, he could see phenomenal changes in Kota Kinabalu.

“You have the Convention Centre (pointing to the area) which was not there before. Kota Kinabalu is a beautiful place and the weather is nice. We feel very much welcomed,” he said, adding he hoped to come to Sabah again in the near future.

An exchange of plaques and souvenirs took place between the Minister and Captain Joakim who received a toy macaque while William presented a replica of the orangutan as a symbol of Sabah to Virgo Chief Engineer Bjorn Sollerbrant. Both the captain and Bjorn hail from Sweden.

On board were some 1,300 passengers mainly from Southeast Asia, China, Hong Kong, Australia and parts of Europe.

Weighing 75,338 tons, the Virgo measures 268 metres long and 32 metres wide with 935 cabins that can accommodate up to 3,000 passengers. For sports, health and recreation, the vessel is equipped with a medical centre, an outdoor swimming-pool, a gymnasium, a spa and fitness centre, and a golf driving range.

There are over 10 restaurants and bars offering hundreds of dishes from around the world, including Asian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Western and international cuisines.

Other facilities aboard include a library, a hairdressing salon, a boutique, duty-free shops, a show lounge with live entertainment and a theatre where patrons once viewed tiger and lion shows.

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