The United Kingdom's Noble Caledonia cruise company, along with approximately 100 tourists from the UK, arrived in Keelung today (17th) to begin a tour around Taiwan and an island-hopping journey. This is the first time a foreign small luxury cruise ship has arranged a fly + cruise (flight and cruise) tour in Taiwan and Taiwan's offshore islands; it is the first time a foreign cruise ship has circled the island and embarked on an island-hopping journey; lastly, it is also the first time a foreign cruise ship has berthed in Taitung. The journeys marked many "Firsts" and have turned a new page in Taiwan's cruise ship tourism industry.
To welcome the arrival of tourists, the Maritime and Port Bureau (MPB) and Taiwan International Ports Corporation (TIPC) is jointly preparing a welcoming activity at the Port of Keelung and has invited the well-known Feng Hsiang Dance Group of Keelung to perform on the theme of the black kite (Milvus migrans, the city bird of Keelung), to showcase the ecological features of the Port of Keelung.
The MPB indicated that small cruise ships have less stringent requirements on dock length and water depths and are more suitable for promoting offshore island cruise tourism. After receiving Noble Caledonia's information on arrival to Taiwan, the MPB immediately contacted border management agencies and the Kinmen, Penghu, and Taitung local governments to perform field surveys and coordination for cruise berthing, dock facilities, and passenger arrival and departure customs clearance processes. Moreover, the Tourism Bureau and Kinmen and Penghu county governments are providing strong support for the cruise ship company to complete its exploratory and onshore tour plans.
Moreover, this island roundtrip has another special feature. The cruise company is deeply attracted by the scenery in Sanxiantai and the rural areas of Taitung, a city that currently does not have an international commercial port. To fulfill Noble Caledonia's wish to berth in Taitung, a precedent has been set to permit a cruise ship to transport passengers from the ocean to the dock using small landing crafts. The MPB held multiple meetings, consulted the professional opinions of surveyors and pilots, received support from Taitung's local fisherman's association and transport ship operators, and finally coordinated with the cruise ship company a set of conditions for safe small-craft transport operations. Regarding this issue, the MPB expressed that having the “first ever cruise ship to berth in Taitung” was not easy. In addition to its gratitude for the cruise company's high level of interest, the MPB would also like to thank the Taitung County Government, Taitung Fisherman's Association, and local CIQS authority's support, and the Maritime Patrol Directorate General (MPDG) and Coast Guard Administration's (CGA) approval for assisting and safeguarding the small craft transport process. Each of these units was indispensable for completing this journey.
The TIPC indicated their interest in seeing diverse operating models develop through berthing cruise ships. Small luxury cruise ships, such as the Noble Caledonia, are more mobile than the typical intermediate or large cruise ships and are more suitable for connecting international commercial ports and domestic harbor attractions. Several conditions must be met for berthing cruise ships, such as water depth and bollard pull. Surrounding scenic spots must be recognized and made accessible so that tourist groups can engage in tourism and consumer behavior during the limited average berthing time of 8 hours. On this journey, passengers of the Noble Caledonia boarded the ship from the highly accessible Port of Keelung, and from there embarked on a tour around the main island of Taiwan as well as the mysterious offshore islands. The journey focused on providing in-depth tours instead of a mere passing glance, and is a crucial breakthrough point for cruise tourism development in Taiwan. The MPB is committed to developing domestic docking and professional itinerary packages from ground transport travel agencies; these were crucial allies of the Noble Caledonia passengers for this trip.
This year, 2018, has been named the Year of the Most Beautiful Bay by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) in expectation of building a successful model through the Noble Caledonia island roundtrip and island-hopping cruise. It is hoped that the successful model will attract other cruise companies to berth at offshore islands and open up new cruise lines between Taiwan's main island and offshore islands (e.g., Matsu, Qimei and Wang'an [Penghu], Orchid Island) so that our people can also enjoy a unique island-hopping cruise.