Reporter Journal / William Hennelly

Cruise companies continue to steam into Chinese ports

By William Hennelly (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-10-29 09:43

"This has enabled us to accomplish two things: expand the size of our Chinese deployment, and expand the seasonality of that deployment. We now have Quantum of the Seas doing China sailings year-round, and while off-peak sailings will still trade above the normal fleet average, they will not trade as high as the peak summer China sailings."

Quantum of the Seas weights 168,000 tons, costs $1 billion and is the largest cruise ship in the region. Based in Shanghai, the ship spans 18 decks, has 2,090 state rooms and can carry 4,180 passengers. Together with Ovation of the Seas, scheduled to embark on its maiden voyage in April 2016, the two vessels will give Royal Caribbean the largest fleet in China.

"Chinese travelers are willing to pay for high-quality service, so we built this brand-new ship, which is equipped with the most advanced technology and facilities, specially for the China market," Liu told China Daily on Oct 17. "Unlike many cruise trips where travelers would be cut off from the rest of the world due to weak Internet connection, this ship has been equipped with 4G Wi-Fi, a key consideration for China's IT-savvy consumers."

Earlier this month, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd said it would introduce a 4,200-passenger ship particularly for the Chinese market in 2017, to tap the world's fastest-growing market for cruises, Reuters reported.

"Our new purpose-built ship for China will have characteristics that are authentic to Norwegian Cruise Line and yet distinctively Chinese in all of its sensibility," Frank Del Rio, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO, said in an Oct 15 release. "It will perfectly suit what modern Chinese travelers value from an upscale cruise experience."

Ivan Feinseth, chief investment officer with Tigress Financial Partners LLC in New York, an independent investment banking and brokerage firm, told China Daily that "there's a huge opportunity because of how the population in China is well-positioned to get to ports to go on cruises".

His firm has a strong buy rating on Norwegian, a buy on Royal Caribbean and is neutral on Carnival. He said he prefers the former two companies because "they have retrofitted ships specifically for the Chinese market".

The expanding cruise industry is transforming China's ports.

China has seven international cruise home ports, with two in Shanghai and one each in Tianjin, Sanya, Xiamen, Zhoushan and Qingdao. Three more international cruise ports are being built in Shenzhen, Haikou and Dalian.

Zhang Zhendong, general manager of the Tianjin international cruise home port, said that the port has received 340,000 passengers on 74 cruises this year and is expecting 650,000 visitors on 150 cruises in 2016.

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