LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines — The Heritage Adventurer, a cruise ship carrying 76 international tourists and 160 crew members, docked at the Port of Legazpi on Sunday, marking a significant step in the Philippines’ efforts to bolster its cruise tourism industry.

The arrival of the New Zealand-based Heritage Expeditions vessel in Albay province underscores the country’s growing appeal as a cruise destination, following its recognition as Asia’s Best Cruise Destination in 2023.

Passengers from New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and the United States were greeted at Bicol International Airport after a brief excursion in Manila. The group had already visited Sumlang Lake in the nearby town of Camalig, offering a glimpse of the region’s natural beauty.

“This is part of our strategy to diversify tourism offerings and showcase the lesser-known gems of the Philippines,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Tourism, who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The Heritage Adventurer’s visit to Legazpi City, known locally as the “City of Fun and Adventure,” is the second such cruise ship arrival this year. In May, the Hanseatic Spirit of Hapag Lloyd – TUI Cruises made a similar stop.

Following its Albay visit, the Heritage Adventurer is scheduled to dock at Ticao Island in Masbate province, where tourists will explore Halea Nature Park in the town of Monreal.

Local officials hope that increased cruise ship arrivals will cement Legazpi City’s status as a key entry point for international tourists eager to explore the Bicol region’s attractions.

As the Philippines seeks to capitalize on its recent accolade and expand its tourism sector, the Department of Tourism is focusing on increasing cruise arrivals at various ports throughout the country in 2024.

The success of these efforts could have significant implications for local economies and the nation’s tourism industry as a whole, potentially reshaping the travel landscape in this corner of Southeast Asia.