PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 12:00am

Star Cruises, established to tap the potential of the Asia-Pacific as an international cruise destination, has helped to develop an Asian cruise industry, attracting travellers from North America, Europe, Australia and Asia eager to discover the region.

Launched in 1993 with just one ship, Star Cruises has expanded to become 'the leading cruise line in the Asia-Pacific' with a fleet of nine ships of varying tonnages. It has won several awards, including the Best Cruise Operator in the Asia-Pacific for six consecutive years, from travel industry magazine TTG Asia, between 1997 and this year.

In 2000, the group completed the acquisition of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Holding, bringing into its fold the NCL and Orient Lines brands and gaining access to the North American and European markets, thus establishing the group as 'the first global cruise line'.

Star Cruises made it into the Top 50 Asian Brands in 1999, and was voted second in terms of 'greatest upward movement potential'. It was the top-ranked brand name in the leisure category in the Top 50 Asian Brands League.

Since its inception in 1993, the company has achieved global recognition with a winning combination of continental comforts and Asian hospitality. It has played a leading role in shaping the Asia-Pacific cruise industry by offering travellers new, large and luxurious ships and exciting itineraries. It has also made important investments in marketing, operations, information technology, reservation systems, safety and infrastructure.

New and enhanced products and services help to set new standards in the industry. The company's ships SuperStar Leo and SuperStar Virgo are especially popular, with both Asian and Western travellers.

The group offers three cruise brands: Star Cruises, NCL, and Orient Lines. Its fleet offers three classes of cruising: the SuperStar Series, the Star Series and the MegaStar Series.

Star Cruises highlights a 'freestyle cruising' experience on board all its vessels in the Asia-Pacific. Ships such as SuperStar Leo and SuperStar Virgo are purpose-built for Asian cruising. SuperStar Leo, based in Hong Kong, collected three ShipPax Awards in 1999 for outstanding design and innovative features.

'Freestyle cruising' gives passengers greater freedom to organise their own onboard experience, and bears similarities to a land-based vacation.

The freestyle cruising concept has been well received in North America, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Europe and Alaska, prompting other cruise operators to adopt the format.

The award-winning Orient Lines focuses on in-depth cruise-tour vacations to exotic destinations within the context of a luxury cruise.

Star Cruises constantly monitors its products and services to keep abreast of customer needs and desires. The safety, health and well-being of passengers are Star Cruises' top priorities. The group has one of the youngest and most modern cruise fleets in the world, and its ships have the latest in navigational control and fire systems. The group also employs a high crew-to-passenger ratio of 1:2.

Star Cruises operates a combined fleet of 19 ships, with more than 24,000 lower berths. It offers cruises to destinations and islands in the Asia-Pacific, North and South America, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Alaska, Europe, the Mediterranean, Bermuda and Antarctica under the Star Cruises, NCL, Orient Lines and Cruise Ferries brands.

By the end of this year, with a second Libra-class vessel, Norwegian Dawn, for the NCL fleet, Star Cruises will have more than 26,000 lower berths. The Star Cruises vessels operating in Asia-Pacific are SuperStar Leo, SuperStar Virgo, SuperStar Aries, SuperStar Gemini, SuperStar Capricorn, Star Pisces, MegaStar Aries and MegaStar Taurus.

The NCL group operates 10 ships under two brands. With eight ships, NCL offers mainstream cruises in the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, Europe, Bermuda and the Asia-Pacific. With two ships, Orient Lines offers destination-oriented cruises in Europe in summer and to global destinations (going as far as Antarctica) from autumn to spring. NCL and Orient Lines are marketed primarily in North America, but also extensively in Britain, Europe, South America and Asia.

The Cruise Ferries brand, which was launched last year, comprises the MV Wasa Queen, offering daily cruises from Hong Kong. Star Cruises also has fly-cruise programmes that will be increased to improve penetration of the medium- to long-haul markets and provide broader promotional opportunities. Star Cruises is developing its fly-cruise hubs in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand.

Cruise products are cross-marketed and sold via a distribution network comprising wholesalers and travel agents, supported by the group's offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Britain, Germany, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, the Philippines, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.

The group actively identifies potential source markets to generate inbound traffic to Hong Kong and works closely with the Hong Kong Tourism Board and other regional non-trade organisations. This distribution network is also supported by regional and local advertising campaigns and joint promotions with relevant partners.