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Costa Serena To Call Port Klang Its First International Cruise Homeport

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YB Anthony Loke, Minister of Transport (fifth from the left), Mr. Kenny Cheong, Managing Director of Hwajing Travel & Tours (sixth from the left), Mr. Francesco Raffa, Director of Region and Growth Markets of Costa Cruises (fourth from the left), and VIPs at the inauguration of Costa Serena: Malaysia's First International Cruise Homeport media launch.

In a groundbreaking collaboration, Costa Cruises, synonymous with European luxury cruising; and Hwajing Travel & Tours (Hwajing), a leading Southeast Asian cruise tour operator, proudly unveiled the historic undertaking of establishing Malaysia’s first international cruise homeport at Port Klang.

Malaysia’s strategic geographical position and historical significance in the Straits of Malacca through the centuries makes it an ideal homeport, offering a unique departure point for domestic and international travellers.

Crest exchange ceremony between Costa Serena & Port Klang

This pilot initiative represents a significant undertaking, showcasing the nation’s growing prominence in the global cruise industry, while simultaneously catering to the specific needs of the Muslim market. The grandeur of Costa Serena will redefine luxury cruising, marking a significant leap for Malaysia in the global cruise industry.

The Costa Serena has an unblemished reputation as Costa Cruises’ flagship vessel, unfalteringly serving since 2007. The awe-inspiring cruise liner’s interiors exude the charm of an ostentatious  Roman city brought to life within its confines, transforming each voyage into a memorable odyssey that rivals even the most popular and entertaining of Caribbean and Mediterranean cruises. A floating nautical homage to ancient Roman mythology, the Costa Serena seamlessly blends European luxury with Italian sophistication.

SETTING SAIL

Costa Cruises, Europe’s largest cruise brand with a rich 75-year history, made its foray into the Asian market over 15 years ago. Renowned for their “Cruising Italian Style” tagline, they are celebrated for curating novel and immensely enjoyable experiences at sea with great attention to detail.

Costa Serena

Hwajing has likewise played a pivotal role in the ASEAN cruise tourism sector since 1989. This collaboration with Costa Cruises signifies a new chapter in the company’s journey. The strategic decision to anchor Costa Serena at Port Klang aligns with Hwajing’s commitment to exploring new markets and offering passengers an unparalleled travel experience.

Despite Malaysian ports not being natural choices for international luxury cruises, the disruptions caused by the recent pandemic opened opportunities for infrastructure-ready harbours like Port Klang to fill a niche in the industry as normalcy has resumed. Seeing the Jalur Gemilang (Malaysian flag) flying high during the ceremony for this historic achievement, alongside the Hwajing flag, was a vivid display of patriotism in honour of the country and also a tribute to one of the busiest container ports in the world.

Mr. Kenny Cheong, the Managing Director of Hwajing Travel & Tours.

“Even during the pandemic, we maintained a close working rapport with Costa Cruises,” said Mr. Kenny Cheong, the Managing Director of Hwajing Travel & Tours. “In 2020, when China closed its ports, we were in constant communication, hoping to have the Costa Serena docked in Malaysia. However, it was not feasible. Therefore, as soon as the world reopened, we promptly brought her here for a trial run. The strategic choice of Port Klang as Costa Serena‘s homeport underscores Malaysia’s emergence as a maritime hub, poised to cater to a diverse international clientele.”

CATERING TO THE MUSLIM MARKET

United by a shared vision, Costa Cruises and Hwajing embark on a journey to explore the vast potential of the untapped Muslim travel market.  Both companies have undertaken a thorough customisation of its services and offerings to cater to the specific needs and preferences of Muslim travellers. This ensures a thoughtful, introspective, and inclusive experience for all passengers.

As a result, the tailored cruise experience weaves elements of leisure, charity, and Halalan Toyyiban into the fabric of the voyage. Managed by Intratama Travel Consultant & Tours, passengers can engage in enriching Islamic lectures and workshops, enhancing their overall cruise experience with a deeper cultural and spiritual connection.

Simultaneously, there is a unique opportunity to foster cross-cultural exchange by tinkering with the sheer variety of food and beverage options. The spectacular culinary offerings, featuring 40% Asian fare, promise an exciting fusion of flavours, including highlights such as Tomahawk steaks, Musang King durian gelato and other delightful culinary creations and desserts.

ECONOMIC SURGE

YB Anthony Loke, Minister of Transport (fifth from the left), Mr. Kenny Cheong, Managing Director of Hwajing Travel & Tours (sixth from the left), Mr. Francesco Raffa, Director of Region and Growth Markets of Costa Cruises (fourth from the left), and VIPs at the inauguration of Costa Serena: Malaysia’s First International Cruise Homeport media launch.

This pilot initiative, a collaboration between Costa Cruises and Hwajing, holds the potential for long-term economic benefits and lasting advantages for the nation, and is contingent on the success and continuation of this partnership.

The introduction of Costa Serena in Port Klang goes beyond a tourism boost; it acts as a catalyst for sustainable economic growth. As the inaugural international cruise homeport, it will have a spillover effect, invigorating Malaysia’s economy and unlocking opportunities across various sectors.

This surge is not limited to enhancing job opportunities for those directly involved with Costa Serena, including crew and maintenance staff; it serves as a catalyst for a comprehensive and sustained economic revival. Affiliated sectors, including accommodation, dining, transportation, and retail, are poised to reap the benefits and rewards of heightened tourism. This collaborative venture signifies a strategic, long-term initiative contributing to the overall economic prosperity of the nation, which gives immense pride to all Malaysians involved in the process.

Minister of Transport Malaysia, YB Anthony Loke Siew Fook.

“With the Halal Certification of the Costa Serena, it helps to establish Malaysia as a beacon for a culturally sensitive and comfortable cruise experience. This goes beyond catering to the needs of the over 40% Muslim population in Southeast Asia but also signifies a strategic leap, positioning Malaysia as a global hub for inclusive travel experiences. A collaborative effort between Costa Cruises and Hwajing, the pilot initiative promises enduring economic benefits and lasting advantages for the nation,” emphasised the Honourable Minister of Transport Malaysia, YB Anthony Loke Siew Fook.

“With Port Klang as the new hub, it unlocks more opportunities for tourists to explore Malaysia’s diverse culture, unique architectures and delicious cuisines, be it through excursions to the Royal City of Klang, the vibrant temples of Batu Caves or the street food of Kuala Lumpur. This positions Malaysia as a regional leader in job creation within the cruise industry and is also a shot in the arm for supporting sectors such as accommodation, dining, transportation, and retail.”

“The establishment of Costa Serena as Malaysia’s first international cruise homeport is a game-changer, elevating Malaysia to a premier international cruise destination. Port Klang’s designation as an international cruise homeport opens doors for collaborative ventures with other regional ports, laying the foundation for a network of intersecting cruise itineraries,” he said.

ABOVE DECK

Stretching 290m in length and weighing approximately 115,000 tonnes, Costa Serena is a feat of engineering marvel. With the capacity to host up to 3,780 guests, it promises an intimate yet opulent cruising experience that is akin to 15 aeroplanes lifting off at the same time. With an average of two trips per week, the annual flow of passengers could peak at 600,000.

Commencing its maiden voyage, guests boarding the Costa Serena can expect an enjoyable 3-day, 2-night itinerary from Port Klang to Penang as a domestic sailing dream holiday to start. As Costa Cruises and Hwajing embark on this exciting journey, this is an open invitation to travellers to participate in exploring Malaysia’s vibrant and diverse oceanic landscape, including shore excursions showcasing all that Malaysia has to offer.

Mr Francesco Raffa, Director of Region and Growth Markets of Costa Cruises

“This Costa Cruises and Hwajing partnership signifies a paradigm shift in travel. Port Klang as Costa Serena‘s homeport is a resounding endorsement of Malaysia’s potential,” said Mr Francesco Raffa, Director of Region and Growth Markets of Costa Cruises. “The overwhelming interest from travellers sets the stage for a new era of inclusive tourism. This collaboration promises a positive and promising trajectory for Malaysia’s cruise industry, reflecting a shift towards culturally sensitive and friendly travel experiences.”

The launch ceremony establishes Malaysia’s inaugural international cruise homeport, reshaping the travel and tourism landscape in the region. The joint effort is a proud moment for Malaysia’s cruise industry, signalling a shift in perception and establishing Port Klang as an exciting new maritime hub.

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