Carnival Corporation is continuing its expansion into the China cruise market with a new agreement for new cruise ships, the first to be built in the country.
In a signing ceremony in Beijing attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Italian President Sergio Mattarella, the company agreed to order two new cruise ships to be build by a China-based shipbuilding joint venture, with an option to order four more. The first of the ships is slated for delivery in 2023.
The agreement updates the terms of an initial shipbuilding MOA announced back in September. As part of the new agreement, Carnival Corp. has agreed to order the new ships from a China-based joint venture between China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) and Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, and the company added an option to order the four additional ships.
Carnival Corp. said it plans to operate and manage all the cruise ships owned by the joint venture as part of a plan to launch a multi-ship cruise brand in China. The two new ships will have a new design tailored to the tastes of Chinese travelers. The joint venture plans to launch the new brand with ships purchased from Carnival Corp.’s existing fleet before adding the new China-built cruise ships starting in 2023.
What will the move mean for North American travel agents? During the release of last year’s 2016 Asia Cruise Trends study by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), CLIA President and CEO Cindy D’Aoust said that growing interest in Asia by the major lines could spell more port opportunities for travel agents in North America.
"It [Asian cruising] also provides a very easy and comfortable environment for travelers to check off their bucket list," D'Aoust told Travel Agent cruise editor Susan J. Young at the time. "For experienced cruisers who've never had that opportunity [to visit some Asian bucket-list ports], there's an entirely new market."
Expect to see more interest in Asia as growth in the region continues, according to CLIA. Ocean cruise passengers in the region grew 24 percent between 2014 and 2015, a number that D’Aoust described as “unprecedented.”
While the growth in Asia travel is leading to the deployment of new ships, like the Norwegian Joy, Majestic Princess and World Dream, designed to appeal to the region, lines are still investing in new ships that will likely appeal to North American travelers. Here’s our guide to the top new cruise ships for North Americans launching in 2017.