East Meets West As China Enters Cruise Ship Industry, But Will It Come To Caribbean?

This is what a Chinese cruise ship looks like. Featuring a capacity of 5246 passengers, the ship’s maiden voyage took off with 3000 passengers. Credit: Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding
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China has entered the international cruise industry with its first domestically built large cruise ship, constructed with the collaboration of a good deal of European know-how and technology.

After a long buildup and multiple milestones marked in the media, the Adora Magic City sailed on its first commercial voyage on January 1, 2024.

In addition to being celebrated as an achievement for Chinese shipbuilding, the company is the first large domestic cruise line that seeks to expand regionally leading the development of the Chinese industry with additional cruise ship construction.

The company which was started as a joint venture between China State Shipbuilding Corporation and Carnival Corporation notes that they undertook eight years of research to launch the new company. The ship entailed five years of design and construction as CSSC methodically developed each of the areas required in cruise ship construction.

Fincantieri acted as a consultant through the process and multiple international suppliers were also involved in the project.

Finnish maritime technology company Wärtsilä delivered a suite of solutions to the ship, including automation and control systems, low-location lighting, the navigation system, and smart motor control units.

While the 135,500 gross ton cruise ship is based on a design developed by Carnival and Fincantieri, the Chinese company highlights that it was tailored to the domestic market and the expectations of Chinese travelers.

They are saying that the ship integrates Eastern and Western aesthetics and amenities. The décor is reported to be based heavily on the Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road, which will also be the focus of the cruise operations.

The Adora Magic City, known by her colloquial name Ada Modu, reportedly boarded over 3,000 passengers yesterday for the first cruise. She sailed from Shanghai’s Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal on a trip scheduled for six nights visiting Japan and two ports in South Korea.

Adora has scheduled 80 cruises for 2024 using the ship initially on shorter-duration trips to nearby destinations. The plan calls for adding longer duration cruises to more Maritime Silk Road destinations once a second newbuild cruise ship is delivered in 2025. The company is also operating a secondhand cruise ship acquired from Costa Cruises as part of the formation of the JV with Carnival Corporation.

The Ada Modu has 2,125 passenger cabins with a total capacity of up to 5,246 passengers. The ship is 1,060 feet (323 meters) in length.

Like all modern cruise ships, it features a broad array of amenities for the passengers. They are highlighting more than 20 restaurants and bars with Chinese-style food and drinks, along with more than 2,000 square meters for a shopping center that is said to be the largest on a cruise ship.

The main theater seats nearly 1,000 passengers. Many of the designs and services aboard the ship have been catered to the tastes of Chinese customers, but the ship is using an international staffing agency with European officers and a multinational crew.

Chinese officials called the ship’s entry into service a great achievement for the country. Yang Guobing, Chairman of CSSC Cruise Technology Development said that the project had helped China to develop its first national team for cruise ship design and cultivated interest in the sector.

China began permitting cruise travel to resume last summer after the pandemic but restricted to domestic companies. Adora Cruises has been given a head start before its international competition returns to the market this year.

Royal Caribbean International will resume sailing from China in April 2024 and MSC Cruises has also said it will resume service from China. Before the pandemic, many of the major international brands had ships based in China and it is expected over time additional international cruise ships will return to the market. Before the pandemic, China was one of the fastest-growing segments of the cruise industry.

Source: The Maritime Executive.
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