Singapore’s efforts to cultivate its local cruise industry have been bolstered with the announcement Costa Cruises is doubling its presence in Asia from March 2009.

The 53,000-ton Costa Classica will be deployed from March to November on 33 cruises from 4-14 days, with departures out of Singapore as well as Shanghai, Tianjin and Hong Kong. The addition to the Costa Allegra brings Costa’s overall capacity in the region to 85,000 berths.

Singapore Tourism Board’s Area Director Divya Panickar said: “It is encouraging to hear Costa is increasing its capacity in Asia. The future of cruising in Asia has never looked better, especially from Singapore’s strategic location. We are delighted international cruise operators are seizing the opportunity to make Singapore their gateway into the region.”

Singapore welcomed 35,448 cruise visitors from Europe in 2006, representing an increase of 45% over 2005. Since Costa began operations in the Far East, more than 50,000 guests have sailed on the Allegra.

Later this year, Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas will return for a second consecutive season, offering cruises ranging from 2-14 nights.