Norwegian Cruise Line eyes China market with new liner

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 October, 2015, 7:49am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 May, 2016, 11:30am

Leading cruise companies have been building ships specifically for the Chinese market, and Norwegian Cruise Line is the latest company to get on the bandwagon.

Norwegian Cruise, the world’s third-largest cruise line, said on Monday it would add its first purpose-built ship designed for Chinese tourists in 2017.

The move is part of Norwegian Cruise’s effort to tap into the rising demand among Chinese tourists for cruise travelling.

The cruise line just opened sales offices in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.

The new ship plan was announced by chief executive Frank Del Rio during the CruiseWorld China summit in Shanghai.

Earlier this month, industry giant Carnival Cruise Lines also announced it would deliver its first Princess Class ship customised for Chinese consumers in 2017, called Majestic Princess.

“China will be the largest cruise market in the short term and we want to be part of it,” Del Rio said.  

“Rather than enter the market in a small way, we are bringing our biggest and newest ship as our entry.”  

Cruise brands used to use refurbished old vessels for the Chinese market, which sometimes made travellers from the country feel uncomfortable with the unfamiliar food and service styles.

“I’ve been quite surprised how little customisation has been done for the Chinese market,” Del Rio said, adding that the company’s tailor-made product would meet Chinese guests’ unique preferences in accommodations, cuisine and onboard experiences.

The new ship, which will have its home port in China in 2017, will have a capacity for 4,200 guests and sail to Japan and Korea.

It will be the second ship of Norwegian Cruise’s Breakaway Plus class, and the company describes it as “the most innovative ship ever”.

“We will better understand their dining requirements, providing high-end-quality Mandarin and Cantonese cuisine, and we will create different activities to attract [different] generations,” said Del Rio, adding that additional details would be disclosed in the coming months.

The number of cruise passengers in China saw a compound growth rate of 79 per cent over the past three years, reaching 700,000 last year, and it is expected to hit one million by the end of this year. There are 12 cruise ships with home ports in China, nine of  them foreign vessels.

Del Rio said Norwegian Cruise might bring another new Breakaway Plus ship and a ship from the Oceania or Regent fleet to a home port in China in three to five years.

“The supply of cruises in China is far from saturation. More ships are needed,” Del Rio said. “You build them, and they will come.”

Carnival chief executive Arnold Donald said on Monday in Shanghai it would expand its operation in China by introducing two additional cruise brands, Carnival Cruise Line and AIDA Cruises, in 2017.

It currently operates Costa Cruises and Princess Cruises in China.

MSC Cruises said it would have its first China-based ship sailing from Shanghai in May next year, after a total renovation.