PHOTO: Princess Cruises' Majestic Princess under final construction at Fincantieri's Monfalcone, Italy shipyard. (photo by Jason Leppert)
It might come as a bit of a surprise that Princess Cruises’ newest ship, the Majestic Princess—specifically slated for the China market—now has plans to service the Australian market as well.
However, it may be more of a sign of Australian cruising picking up than Chinese cruising slowing down.
When I visited the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy to preview MSC Cruises’ upcoming new MSC Seaside, the nearly complete Majestic Princess was finishing up its construction across the way (as pictured above). For the most part, she looked the same as her Royal Princess and Regal Princess sister-ships that preceded her.
Besides the “Sea Witch” logo applied boldly to the bow—as has also been retroactively added to the Royal—there was only one major exterior change from the earlier ships: The Majestic Princess (understandably) also had a Chinese ship name on its side.
The script roughly translates to “Grand World” or “Grand Spirit.”
Onboard, the ship has been fully customized to Chinese travelers, including karaoke studios and the Harmony Chinese restaurant in partnership with chef Richard Chen. Elsewhere, it had the Leaves Tea Bar and a Noodle Bar, while the Grand Casino was also expanded with additional gaming options.
The ship was officially delivered on March 30, 2017, with the expectation that it would sail for the China market year-round. It has already started its career in the Mediterranean on 7-, 14-, 21- and 28-day cruises leaving from Rome, Barcelona and Athens. On May 21, 2017, the ship will depart on a 49-day “Silk Road Sea Route” from Rome to Shanghai, where she will then homeport in China from July onwards.
However, by April 12, 2017, as reported by Cruise Industry News, it was revealed that Majestic Princess would also service the Australian market by heading to Sydney from September 2018 to March 2019. Afterwards, it will head back to Chinese cruising.
The article indicates that the decision was made based on the popularity of cruising in Australia.
Princess Cruises Vice President Australia & New Zealand Stuart Allison was quoted as saying, “From her gourmet restaurants to her stunning onboard features, Majestic Princess is nothing short of magnificent. We’re thrilled to be welcoming our newest, most stylish and most luxurious flagship to our shores – having just experienced her preview voyage I know Australian cruisers will love all that she has to offer.”
The good news is that this is a strong showing for Australia, but it's curious for China in that the piece also indicates the Sapphire Princess will leave the Chinese market as well in 2018 for Europe.
Strangely, there is certainly no downturn expected in the Chinese market overall as plenty of other brands are dedicating massive amounts of resources there.
READ MORE: Carnival Corporation Orders First Cruise Ships Built in China
Parent company Carnival Corporation has ordered its first cruise ship to be built in China for the Chinese market, and competitors are scheduling brand new ships there also. Norwegian Cruise Line’s upcoming Norwegian Joy, for example, is set for China as will be another of its next future ships.
Princess Cruises’ Majestic Princess plans are probably most similar to Royal Caribbean International’s deployment of Ovation of the Seas, which started out in Asian regions before also heading to Australia seasonally. The only question that remains is whether or not the Chinese customizations will translate well to the market down under.
Meanwhile, other developments in Australia point to its own market boom there.
Originally, P&O Cruises was to receive its first new-build dedicated exclusively to Australia but was later earmarked instead for the Carnival Cruise Line brand in North America. The Carnival Splendor will head to Australia in lieu of the new ship, but the Majestic Princess announcement might indicate that tides are once again shifting back in favor of Australian cruising.
Clearly, there are many new emerging cruise markets, China and Australia included, and balancing new fleet deployments to maximize revenue in the right regions while maintaining a healthy presence in the original North American market is tricky.
By moving Majestic Princess to Australia for a period of time, Carnival Corporation can test the waters a bit with a newer ship before dedicating an entire new-build, but it’s looking more and more like that may eventually be scheduled again.