On April 3, 2017, Kuala Lumpur-based Podiumspot Capital Group’s CEO, Mr. Tim Leonard will reveal some of the unique features that will set the world’s largest casino cruise ship, Crusino, apart from any other. Mr. Leonard was kind enough to agree to an interview with World Casino News, giving our readers an exclusive inside look at this industry-changing development.
As planned, Crusino will measure just shy of 968 feet fore to aft and 118 feet port and starboard with 1,330 state rooms capable of carrying up to 3,200 passengers along with 900 crew members. Crusino will be operated by Podiumspot subsidiary Crusino Cruise Services Limited and is expected to set sail by April 2020.
Although not the world’s largest vessel to include a casino, Crusino will feature nearly 200,000 square feet (17,650 sqm) of gambling space over two full decks, easily eclipsing anything currently at sea, and when successfully deployed, promises a sea change for the casino cruise industry.
The ship’s final design, as well as the design for the casino, will be revealed at the launch ceremony on April 3.
Interview with Mr. Tim Leonard, CEO of Podiumspot Capital Group
(LJ) – Lar Jones, World Casino News
(MB) – Tim Leonard, CEO of Podiumspot Captial Group
LJ: Mr. Leonard, thank you for allowing us to interview you today.
TL: You’re most welcome. It is indeed my pleasure to speak to World Casino News and I am grateful for your esteemed publication’s interest in highlighting our project.
LJ: With your company planning to unveil design features for the ship and casino in just about a month I’ll bet excitement is running high with your team. Can you tell our readers how the project was conceived and a little bit about the work that’s gone into planning at this stage?
TL: We are excited and upbeat on Crusino. It keeps me awake at nights because I’m constantly thinking of ways to make this project a success. Basically, I came up with the idea of ‘Crusino’, which is a name coined from the words ‘cruise’ and ‘casino’, because I wanted a casino to be more than just a building. I want to create an ‘experience’. What more fun way than to board a luxurious ship, go for a cruise to exotic locations and indulge in gambling along the way. Most casinos throughout the world are housed in a building such as a resort. I wanted to change this ‘feeling’ of a typical casino and add some soul into it and that’s how Crusino was conceived. We have finalized the design and the layout which we will unveil at the launch of the project. We hope to have the first steel cutting by year end.
LJ: Sounds like a tremendous undertaking. Initial estimates indicate that the cost to construct such a phenomenon as Crusino will be about US$560 million. Some of our research preparing for the interview indicates that you have a syndicated bank loan and investors lined up to accomplish the build and launch. Do you ever plan to take the company public or seek outside investments?
TL: It is going to cost more than US$560 million. I will say estimates are in the region of US$600-650 million. We have a group of investors backing this project and a syndicated bank loan available to cover construction costs. As for listing, it is something we will do eventually but I want the fundamentals to be strong. I want to create a strong brand first and make Crusino a new benchmark for the casino and cruise industry.
LJ: According to our information it will take approximately three years from April’s design launch until the maiden voyage of Crusino. Has a shipyard been chosen yet for the construction? And if so can you share some of the metrics that went into your decision to build there?
TL: We are in the final stages of discussion with shipyards in China and Vietnam. Basically, we are going to adopt a modular construction method for the construction of Crusino. This gives us the option of working from two separate locations and greater flexibility. And since we are a Malaysian company, we will want to give some portion of the job, such as the outfitting, to Malaysian companies. We will announce this at a later stage.
And just as most cruise liners do, we will register the vessel in an offshore jurisdiction to take advantage of tax savings. We hope to finish construction by the first quarter of 2020.
LJ: Royal Caribbean announced MS Harmony of the Seas’ maiden voyage last May. As an Oasis-class cruise ship, she outsizes Crusino in several respects. MGM runs a small Casino Royale on Harmony’s Deck Four. Can you tell us how Crusino will become the world’s largest floating casino? We understand most of the distinguishing design features are understandably under wraps until April 3, but anything you can share with our readers will help them understand the gravity and importance of such an important addition to the cruise industry.
TL: Crusino is not seeking to compete with other cruise liners. We have our own niche and we want to serve the sizeable market of Asian gamblers from countries such as China, India, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
There is tremendous potential in Asian countries, such as Vietnam and China, because the citizens of these countries are deprived of participating in legal gambling activities due to government policies.
If you look at Vietnam, they have casinos but it’s only open to foreigners. Locals are not allowed in. Thailand has no legal casino. Malaysia has only one legal casino for the past five decades. And sport betting is not allowed in Malaysia. So in essence, Crusino is filling this need. People from these Asian countries can get onboard Crusino and live their dreams.
Now, why we say Crusino is the largest casino on sea is simply because we will have two special decks with a combined floor size of more than 190,000 sq ft to cater for a wide variety of slot games, live games, table games, sports betting and other gaming activities. And there is going to be dedicated plasma TVs in each room to allow for live participation in dealer games. So to do this from the comfort of their rooms is going to be a one-of-its kind experience for seasoned as well as recreational gamblers.
Most cruise liners, except Disney Cruise Line, have casinos on board but it is just a small component of their ship. For us, the entire ship is ‘centered’ on a casino. We hope to set a benchmark for the casino industry with a lot of unique features that also incorporates fair gaming practices. For instance, our roulette tables will feature transparent roulette wheels. There are many more features which we will unveil at the launch. I can assure you that Crusino is going to be a game changer in the casino industry.
LJ: How do you see Crusino setting itself apart from other big Asian operators with onboard casinos and short casino cruises, such as Genting’s Star Cruises? Or Royal Caribbean who have deployed Quantum class ships to the Chinese market, or Carnival, Virgin and others clamoring for Asian gaming revenues at sea?
TL: These cruise liners are selling a ‘holiday’. We are selling a ‘casino’ plus the amenities that comes with a typical cruise ship such as a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping outlets, a theater, library, spa, sauna, massage and fitness centre. We will have our own features that will distinguish us from other cruise liners. We are selling the concept of a unique experience on a casino. Crusino is going to be a class by itself, no doubt about that. It’s going to be an affordable luxury experience. I have already received numerous requests from my friends and associates who want me to book them on the maiden voyage because they are excited on the prospect of traveling and gambling. And our rooms, 1,330 in total, are going to be built with trappings of luxury and everything onboard Crusino is going to give you the ultimate feel of luxury and being pampered. So, when you end your trip and disembark our ship, you might already be thinking of your next trip onboard Crusino.
LJ: In a class by itself… do you see adding to the Crusino fleet in the future? Have you considered a port of call or itineraries yet or is it premature to ask?
TL: We are going to focus primarily on the Asian market. Then we will move on to the European and American markets. I also see a lot of potential in Latin America. And yes, we are definitely looking at the prospect of a Crusino fleet in the future. As for the port calls and itineraries, we will decide at a later stage.
LJ: Well Tim, thank you for sharing your insights with our readers. We’ll be looking forward to your launch on April 3, and especially to Crusino’s launch as soon as 2020!
TL: Thank you very much.