China is the world’s second largest cruise market and has the potential to become the world’s largest one.  Middle-class Chinese families are flocking to luxury vacation cruise holidays. Until, recently, cruise travel for the average Chinese citizen meant taking a boat ride down the Yangtze River. But, over time ship travel has become far more luxurious. Traveling abroad is still regulated in China and holidays are generally fewer, therefore a relaxing short cruise trip is a great relief for Chinese citizens.

In fact, there is a huge boom in the Chinese cruise market and it is expected to reach 2.5 million by the year 2020. 4.5million by 2025 and 7 million by 2030.

History of the Chinese Cruise Market

In the 1990’s, Star cruises had started building the Asian cruise holiday market from its base in Hong Kong, they increased their standing step by step and tapped into the Chinese market. In 2006 Costa Cruises, owned by carnival deployed its first ship to China. It was the first international line to enter the Chinese market. Then, other competitors like Royal Caribbean etc. followed. Traditionally, they would test the waters using their old ships. That strategy has definitely changed now with better and modern ships used once the market is verified. The Chinese expect quality cruises.

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Cruise Market

  • Costa has recently announced that 2 new ships will be launched in 2019 and 2020, they are specifically built for the Chinese market, they are being built in Financier shipyard in Italy.
  • In 2014, Royal Caribbean had announced that it would homeport its latest ship ‘Quantum of the seas’ in China after just one season in the Caribbean. In 2016, the 5 royal Caribbean ship has been home ported in China.
  • Princess cruises moved Sapphire Princess to Shanghai in 2014 and recently announced a new ship Majestic Princess to be built specifically for the Chinese market.
  • MSC cruises bought its first ship to China MSC Lirica in Shanghai. Carnival is moving 2 ships Carnival Miracle and Carnival Splendour from the US to China in 2017 to 2018.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line will launch its first purpose-built ship in mid-2017 in china called Norwegian Joy.
  • The ship Sky Sea Golden Era was sailing as the first royal joint neutral between a mainstream cruise line, Royal Caribbean and a Chinese agency.
  • There are exclusive cruises for celebrities also which are commonly known as Celebrity Century.

Development in the Cruise Market

The international cruise industry has begun to pay more attention to the Asian market especially the Chinese market. Many cruise companies have even started seeking Chinese partners and investing in the Chinese cruise market like Royal Caribbean, Stars, and Carnival.

The government of China is also paying great attention to the cruise market. A system is being established for Cruise management and many Chinese youngsters are seeking professional training in cruise management. The government is considering cruise tourism as one of the important developmental strategies for the coastal cities of the Chinese mainland. At present, 16 port cities such as Tianjin, Qingdao, Xiamen, Sanya are harboring international cruises.

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Popularity of Cruise Holidays

A survey based on leisure holidays shows that Chinese middle-class families like to spend their holidays on cruises. They prefer short tour holidays in the cruise as they are more accessible and affordable to them, rather than long tours. They enjoy Chinese food, service, luxury, casinos and live entertainment on their trips. Chinese specific needs have to be catered for,

Activities in Cruise Holidays

The average Chinese cruiser is not looking to lie by the pool and read a book. So the ships are providing them activities to enjoy like Tai chi at dawn, dancing classes in the afternoon and Kung Fu movies at night. Mainlanders are not big drinkers either. Bars and club are frequently empty.

  • Shopping – There are a variety of things to do in cruises, All ships sailing in China expand their shopping areas, taking passengers to huge electronics stores or pharmacies to stock up on items not available in China.
  • Gambling – There’s more spending at the casinos. Huge gaming floors are in operation, with slot machines and tables for poker and blackjack, baccarat and sic bro are also played. There are also roped off areas for the real high rollers, betting far more than they have spent on their cruise fare.
  • Food – The Chinese people want a change in their traditional food and so ships replace whole restaurants with new Asian cuisines or adapt buffet to feature local like congee, dumbells or noodle bars. Chinese eat earlier and faster, meaning kitchens have to move a lot faster.
  • Recreational activities – The average cruiser is not looking to lie by the pool or read a book. They offer Tai chi at dawn, to begin with, the day it is a form of fighting based on a reconciliation of dynamically international forces. Mahjong is a traditional solitude game. It is addictive and fun, the workers of the ships usually teach the passengers these games and after they learn they are left to play among themselves. Traditional Chinese painting is also taught.
  • Live entertainment – As the sun goes down the light turns up on board as passengers are treated by after dinner entertainment and there are nice performances including folk dance, fashion show, comedians and Chinese calligraphy and much more so that the passengers are not bored. (Read also: Entertainment market in China)

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Due to all these reasons as well as the help of the Government of China, cruise management is becoming one of the growing sectors. The number of cruise ships arriving on china’s ports is increasing day by day and 37.6% Chinese people have opted to spend their luxury vacations in cruises. Many investors are keen to invest and are finding Chinese partners to do business with cruises and the Government of China is also considering this as a development strategy in both the tourism and educational areas. As traveling to abroad is still regulated in China and the Chinese people do not get a long vacation short, luxury and relaxing cruise holidays are welcomed with great ecstasy by Chinese citizens.