INDUSTRY insiders expect that China – despite its current economic downturn – will soon overtake Australia as the world’s fastest growing cruise market.
australiancruisingnews.com agrees. For a start China has a huge population advantage over Australia, and a growing middle class who aspire to the best things in life, including holidays at sea.
International cruise lines are gearing up to be part of the action with some of their fleets already based in Chinese ports, particularly Shanghai. Others choose to cruise in Australian waters for the summer, and then sail off to Chinese ports.
Norwegian Cruise Line recently announced that her latest cruise ship – currently under construction in a German shipyard – is designed specifically with China in mind. It will be delivered in March, 2017, and while currently known as Norwegian Bliss, is likely to have a Chinese name on her hull. Accommodation, cuisine and on board experiences on this 4,200-guest mega ship will focus firmly on the Chinese holidaymaker, norwegiancruiseline.com.au
Indeed, most cruise lines view expansion into the Chinese market as a major driver for fleet growth.
Royal Caribbean has the giant Quantum of the Seas home ported in Shanghai for weekly sailings to Japan and South Korea, as well as sister ship Mariner of the Seas. From June, the soon-to-be launched Ovation of the Seas will sail out of Tianjin, which is the closest port to the Chinese capital Beijing and easily reached by fast-moving bullet train, royalcaribbean.com.au
MSC Cruises is another shipping line with a Chinese focus with MSC Lirica to sail out of Shanghai this year replete with Mandarin speaking staff, signage, Chinese food and entertainment, as well as activities such as T’ai Chi, msccruises.com.au
Recent reports suggest that China will eventually become the largest cruise market in the world. From 2012 to 2014, the number of Chinese cruise passengers grew by 79 percent annually. In 2014 alone almost 700,000 cruise passengers were from mainland China.