The Cruising Tide Rises in China
Illustration courtesy of Thinkstock
China is the hot ticket in cruise travel right now with the entire Carnival Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International preparing major new entries into the popular Asian market with its latest ships. With a burgeoning cruise market in China projected to reach over 200 million outbound cruise passengers traveling internationally by 2020, its prime time for these companies to make inroads.
No one conglomerate is more currently dedicated to China than the Carnival Corporation. Already on the scene are the company’s Costa Cruises and Princess Cruises brands with three ships and one ship respectively, increasing to six total in 2016.
Additionally, Princess has just announced that its next sister ship to the new Royal Princess and Regal Princess will be dedicated to China. Named the Majestic Princess, as well as Sheng Shi Gong Zhu Hao meaning “Grand World” or “Grand Spirit” in English, the new 3,560-guest ship is currently under construction to sail year-round from Shanghai to destinations such as Japan and Korea beginning in mid-2017.
Also in 2017, Carnival will deploy two additional brands to China with AIDA Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line, and each will have one ship home-ported in the region.
Most audaciously, Carnival revealed this week a 25-year deal with Chinese partners to launch an entirely new brand – five now from the company for those of you who are counting – dedicated to the country.
In a conference call with Alan Buckelew, COO of Carnival Corp., and David Dingle, Chairman of Carnival UK, two joint ventures were detailed: one to build ships and one to own and operate ships. The ownership component is split 60 percent for the partners and 40 percent for Carnival, and operations will fall entirely under Carnival. The total capital investment over the first 10 years is estimated at $4 billion.
An exact timeline for the emergence of the new brand is not yet set, but the implementation phase is expected to begin immediately after final government approval is received. Potential medium to large ships have been modeled and presented to the partners, and any new-builds will be constructed under partnership with China State Shipbuilding Corporation and Fincantieri. The use of existing ships is also being considered.
When asked if the new brand will be international in nature or one dedicated specifically to Chinese passengers as the corporation’s AIDA Cruises brand is dedicated to German guests, Carnival stated they are exploring both options with a possible ship registry in the United Kingdom. The next step is to conduct extensive market research to determine the most profitable branding approach and market segments to target in the region.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line is also planning to join the Chinese fold with the introduction of its next new vessel, sister-ship to the Norwegian Escape which the company just took delivery of. This as-yet-unnamed second Breakaway Plus-class vessel, an expanded version of the line’s successful Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, will be custom-built for Chinese guests and come online in spring 2017.
At this time it’s unknown if the ship, currently being assembled, will replace or only delay the previously announced Norwegian Bliss, which was scheduled to be the line’s second Breakaway Plus-class ship, two more of which are on order for 2018 and 2019 delivery.
In support of Norwegian’s future operations in the region, the line’s parent company has opened offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai to also service the Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands.
Royal Caribbean International
Not outdone by its competitors, Royal Caribbean International has already positioned one of its newest ships in China with the Quantum of the Seas sailing year-round from Shanghai. The ship joins the Voyager of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas and Legend of the Seas in the Orient region, and its forthcoming Ovation of the Seas is next scheduled to be based in Tianjin near Beijing.
In fact, as part of the ship’s overall DreamWorks Experience, Quantum recently unveiled the Kung Fu Panda Noodle Shop onboard in partnership with DreamWorks Animation. Families can enjoy dishes such as dim sum, noodle bowls and traditional Chinese desserts while visited by Po and the characters from the titular animated film “Kung Fu Panda.”
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