Governor Imee R. Marcos welcomed last March 20 the maiden arrival of Star Cruises’ Superstar Virgo, a Hong Kong-owned luxury cruise ship, to the Port of Currimao, Ilocos Norte.
“We are honored by this auspicious occasion,” she said, “I’m thrilled to have this opportunity and certainly hopeful that you will be open and patient with us, and let us know what we need to change, how we can best present Ilocos Norte to your passengers.”
While provincial tourism has boomed since the onset of her governorship, the cruise ship arrival posed a new challenge to the provincial government.
Nevertheless the governor shared, “The Filipino market is more than ready to start the fastest-growing sector of the tourism industry, the cruise lines,” congratulating Star Cruises for the company’s pioneering effort of coming to Ilocos Norte.
Provincial Tourism Officer Ianree Raquel also pointed the arrival as “a true milestone for the province.”
Star Cruises has committed to visiting the province every five days until May this year, bringing in thousands of local and international tourists with each visit, with the majority being Filipinos.
“It’s a long cruise season… a bit busy for everybody, especially during Holy Week as there’s a schedule set for Good Friday,” Raquel added. In the Holy Week season of 2016 alone, over 400,000 day visitors were recorded.
Mr. Ang Moo Lim, president of Star Cruises, also shared, “We want to help boost the tourism economy of this region.”
The company was “the first major cruise line to recruit Filipinos and now we are pleased to be the first international cruise line to welcome Filipinos onboard as guests from our homeport in Manila,” he added.
The ship has a capacity of 2,600 passengers and carries a crew of 1,100 consisting mainly of Chinese and Filipinos.
Governor Marcos lauded this, saying, “we are very proud of the quality of Filipino talent, of Filipino service.”
From Manila, passengers arrived in Currimao and explored tour packages from the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office (INTO) and other agencies which took them to nearby destinations such as the San Agustin or Paoay Church.
“There will be about fifteen calls that will be undertaken by Superstar Virgo until May 29,” shared Mr. Gerome Balisi, terminal manager of the Currimao Port.
Lim also guaranteed that after this initial period, Superstar Virgo would be visiting again on December until May 2018 which signals an aggressive tourism season throughout Ilocos Norte’s bicentennial foundation anniversary.
Likewise, Currimao Vice Mayor Gladys Cue assured that the municipal government has been accelerating tourist programs incoordination with Governor Marcos, INTO, and local resorts, strategically marketing the town “as a very small town but owning the port entrance.”
Following Currimao, the ship’s next stops were Kaohsiung City, Taiwain, and Hong Kong before they return to Manila on March 24.—Mizpah Grace G. Castro and Glenn T. Batuyong, PGIN-CMO