The arrival of luxury cruise ships in the city represents an important event, given that their marketing efforts span over a year and necessitate the provision of exceptional services during their port calls, a ranking official of the Philippine Ports Authority in Palawan said.
In light of this, the local port authority is urging Puerto Princesa residents to join forces in enhancing the city’s image and service quality, a collaboration that is vital for creating memorable passenger experiences and attracting more cruises.
Elizalde Ulson, the manager of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) in Palawan, made this declaration on Friday as the Holland America Line-operated Vista-class cruise ship MS Westerdam arrived in the port with an estimated 1,600 passengers and crew members.
“Kung gusto mong sumakay sa cruise ship next year, ngayon pa lang—kung sa ticket ay dapat mag-buy or mag-book ka na para ma-accommodate ka, kasi nga baka maubusan ka ng slot. Dito sa atin naman, ang booking nila ay a year ahead din,” Ulson said during the Amos Ta Ren sa Puerto Princesa program.
“Last year, ang naka book sa atin 22, pero 16 lang yong actual na dumating. This year, may mga naka book sa atin na cruise ships na 16 initially, pero sa ngayon, ang confirmed na lang ay 12. May mga pagbabago kasi baka hindi nila naibenta yong destination,” he added.
Ulson emphasized that whenever a cruise ship arrives, communities in Puerto Princesa should view it as an opportunity to enhance services, emphasizing that this responsibility extends beyond the port.
This is because cruise liner operators and passengers closely observe the city’s cultural aspects, assess the quality of hospitality offered, evaluate the city’s response upon their arrival, and consider other important factors during their visit.
“Yong cleanliness, orderliness, peace, and order sa ating lugar, yan ang hinahanap din ng ating mga guests. So, sana tulong-tulong tayo, kasi isa ito sa magandang industriya na makakatulong sa pagsulong ng ating ekonomiya,” he said.
As part of the pre-berthing process implemented by the PPA before a cruise ship arrives, meetings are conducted, bringing together all key stakeholders to discuss and plan the necessary actions effectively.
These stakeholders include Customs, Immigration, Quarantine, and Security (CIQS) authorities, the city government, officials from surrounding barangays, and other relevant parties.
Ulson said it is also imperative that all individuals involved are present within the port premises. This collaborative approach ensures a smooth and well-coordinated process.
“Based on observations, kapag kasi hindi ready sa one hour before arrival ng barko, nagkakaroon ng problema,” he said, pointing out that the cruise ships that arrive encounter different situations.
Mila Daquer of Starmiles Travel and Tours, who manages cruise tours, explained that before arriving here, there are bidding processes and travel expos held in other countries.
Agencies with the most appealing and affordable proposals are the ones that win.
From international, dumadaan sa national travel agencies dahil hindi kaya ng local ang malaking bond na inilalagak, at pagkatapos ay saka ibabato sa local.
“Si national ay merong ka tie up dito sa local, which is yon yong kami. Hindi naman kami nag-bid, pero napili kami,” she said, explaining that in 2009, their travel agency began organizing trips for sailors of a U.S. Navy Ship, which was why they were selected.
She mentioned that 33 shuttle vans were responsible for conducting tours to the underground river for the MS Westerdam, and even more were used to accommodate the 250 passengers going to Honda Bay.
Daquer stated that one crucial aspect of their preparation involves both ensuring the safety of their guests and meeting their anticipated needs and desires.
“Kaya kumukuha kami ng mga travel partners na lisensyado, may mayor’s permit, may travel insurance, Department of Tourism (DOT)-accredited, at mayroong proper training,” she said.
One of the past difficulties they encountered pertains to the risk of not receiving payment if they fail to deliver the expected service quality. This underscores the importance of not becoming complacent, even when they have extensive experience in the industry.
To illustrate this point, she referred to a recent incident where the bus they had rented experienced a faulty air conditioner. This unfortunate situation resulted in dissatisfaction among some of their guests.
“Kapag nagse-serve tayo sa mga cruise ship, dapat siguraduhin na walang marereklamo sa atin,” Daquer added. “Kahit nadisgrasya yan, kapag naasikaso mo sila ng maayos, magbabayad at matutuwa sila.”