Singapore's tourism board and a Walt Disney Co. subsidiary have agreed to make the Southeast Asian country the first Asian homeport for one of the company's cruise ships.

The Singapore Tourism Board and Disney Cruise Line have signed a memorandum of understanding to homeport the new vessel exclusively in Singapore for at least five years, they said. Disney cruises are operating in the Caribbean, Europe and elsewhere but not in Asia.

Senior officials of Walt Disney Co. group, Singapore Transport Minister S. Iswaran (4th from R) and other officials take a group photo with Disney characters at a convention center in Singapore on March 29, 2023, after announcing Disney Cruise Line has chosen Singapore as its first home port in Asia. (Kyodo)

"We obviously are going to focus a lot on the Southeast Asian markets here, but it's the first one in Asia, absolutely," said Disney Signature Experiences President Thomas Mazloum, who oversees the cruise line, at a news conference on Wednesday.

Singapore's Transport Minister S. Iswaran noted the significance of Disney choosing Singapore, saying, "It speaks volumes of our region's significant potential for cruise tourism and to become, as some have described it, the 'Caribbean of the East'."

It also "affirms our position as the region's premier cruise hub," and makes the country a "major player in cruise tourism" due to its strategic location, world-class air connectivity and port infrastructure, Iswaran said.

The 208,000-gross-ton ship is estimated to be able to carry 6,000 passengers and 2,300 crew members. Alongside people traveling to the country by air, having the ship in Singapore creates the potential to bring in "millions of local and foreign cruise passengers" over the five-year period, the company said in a statement.

Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D'Amaro speaks at an event in Singapore on March 29, 2023, during which he announced Disney Cruise Line has chosen Singapore for its first home port in Asia. (Kyodo)

Singapore's cruise liner industry has shown strong signs of recovery from what became a near-standstill after border closures and travel restrictions were implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The country saw 1.2 million cruise passengers last year compared to more than 1.8 million in 2019, the year before the pandemic. Over 400 cruise ships called at Singapore's ports in 2019.

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