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.
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, serving since 2007.
The cruise liner’s interior exudes 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.
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.
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 Malaysian flag, the Jalur Gemilang, flying high during the ceremony for this historic achievement, alongside the Hwajing flag, was a display of patriotism in honour of the country and also a tribute to one of the busiest container ports in the world.
“Even during the pandemic, we maintained close working rapport with Costa Cruises,” said Hwajing Travel & Tours managing director Kenny Cheong.
“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.”
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.
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.
This pilot initiative, a collaboration between Costa Cruises and Hwajing, holds the potential for long-term economic benefits and lasting advantages for the nation.
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 such as accommodation, dining, transportation, and retail, are poised to reap the benefits and rewards of this tourism boost.
Transport Minister Anthony Loke, who officiated at the launch, said: “With Port Klang as the new hub, it unlocks more opportunities for tourists to explore Malaysia’s diverse culture, unique architecture and delicious cuisines through excursions to the Royal City of Klang, the vibrant Batu Caves Temple 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,” he said.
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,” said Loke.
He also applauded Costa Cruise Lines’ initiative to serve halal food on the cruises.