Cruise tourism resumes in Taiwan but only to domestic ports

The "Explorer Dream" cruise ship. (Photo courtesy of CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — A cruise ship carrying 1,200 passengers set sail from Keelung Port on Sunday, on the first commercial sea tour since Taiwan imposed travel restrictions due to the COVID-19, the Maritime and Port Bureau said.

The “Explorer Dream,” however, will visit only domestic ports, namely the islands of Penghu and Matsu, according to the operator.

With 1,200 tourists on board, the cruise liner will stop at Penghu and Matsu, before returning to Keelung in northern Taiwan on July 29, the operating company Dream Cruises said.

Dream Cruises said it will offer 30 similar trips over the next three months, taking passengers to Hualien in eastern Taiwan and the island county of Kinmen on four- to five-day trips.

The Explorer Dream, which has a capacity of 3,630 passengers, will be used for all the tours, but will carry no more than 1,815 passengers on each trip to reduce the risk of COVID-19, the company said.

Furthermore, it said, the passengers will all be assigned to cabins that have portholes, to allow for better ventilation.

Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (third right), Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (third left) and Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang (second left) attend the launch ceremony. (Photo courtesy of CNA)

The Explorer Dream is the first cruise liner to be allowed into a Taiwan port since early February, when the country imposed a ban on international cruise ships.

Four months later, on June 9, as Taiwan’s COVID-19 infections began to slow down, the Maritime and Port Bureau announced that Explorer Dream, SuperStar Aquarius and six other cruise liners could again apply to make port calls in Taiwan.

The country’s ban on international cruises, however, has been extended at least until the end of August, which means the cruise ships can offer only domestic tours.