Efforts to restart Malaysia's cruise shipping industry using a model similar to Singapore (cruises to nowhere) are still continuing but moving slowly. The goal is to provide a major source of revenue to the ports and leisure activity for the population.
Prior to the COVID crisis, "cruises to nowhere" were part of the domestic ship cruising industry. Officials estimate that 2/3 of the 1+ million passengers in 2019 were attracted to the cruises to nowhere aboard the casino ships leaving roundtrip from Port Penang.
The Penang Port and Port Klang Authority presented a proposal to Malaysia's Ministry of Transport, after receiving input from the passenger terminals in Port Klang/Kuala Lumpur and Port Penang as well as cruise companies.
While the plan has progressed with a discussion at the national level, including the National Security Council, the Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, the plan appears to be “at a standstill" as discussions between the federal government and port authorities had been put on hold.
Similar to Singapore, the new plan was considered as a test toward restoring the travel industry in the region. It would use a lot of the limitations employed in Singapore, such as restricting the ships' capacity and limiting the cruise passengers to Malaysians.
Singapore permitted two ships - Quantum of the Seas and World Dream) to resume cruises to nowhere in November-December 2020. Passengers are being required to take COVID tests prior to boarding and maintain precautions aboard like social distancing and the use of face coverings. Travelers also agree to use a tracking device permitting the liner and officials to determine close contacts during the voyage.
There is no timeline for when the country might permit international cruise ships to return to ports. However, there is hope that permission would be granted early next year to restart limited cruise ship operations.