NCLH, Alibaba Partnership Aims to Ramp Up China Cruises

Norwegian Joy

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) is ramping up its investment in the growing China cruise market with a new partnership with online and mobile commerce company Alibaba.

NCLH just announced that the two companies will partner with the aim of leveraging Alibaba’s e-commerce ecosystem to raise awareness in China of the unique offerings of a cruise vacation, with the eventual goal of making cruises “the preferred vacation choice among Chinese travelers in what is forecasted to become the cruise industry’s second-largest source market,” according to a release announcing the new partnership.

The two companies said that they will also collaborate to provide Alibaba customers with new online-to-offline (O2O) experiences at sea across Norwegian’s China-based and global fleet.

The move comes shortly after Norwegian Cruise Line, one of NCLH’s cruise brands, took delivery of Norwegian Joy, a new cruise ship that’s been custom-built for the China cruise market. Amenities tailored for this market include a two-level competitive Ferrari-branded racetrack, an open-air laser tag course, simulator rides, Oculus virtual reality technology and interactive video walls at the Galaxy Pavilion, and two multi-story waterslides. In addition, Norwegian Joy has a tranquil open space park as well as the line’s largest upscale shopping district.

According to a 2016 study by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), cruises in Asia grew 24 percent between 2014 and 2015, with more than 2.08 million passengers taking to the waves in 2015. At the time CLIA President and CEO Cindy D’Aoust said that the booming market means more port destinations for North American travel agents to sell to experienced cruise clients.

"It [Asian cruising] also provides a very easy and comfortable environment for travelers to check off their bucket list," D'Aoust said 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."

Other cruise lines have been continuing to invest in the region as well. Most recently Royal Caribbean announced plans to send a major new cruise ship to Asia. In spring 2019, the line’s first Quantum Ultra-class ship will be based in the region, joining sibling ships Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas. Billed as the “next evolution” of the cruise line’s Quantum class, Royal Caribbean made the announcement regarding the new ship as part of the unveiling of its lineup of 2018 – 2019 China, Singapore and Australia itineraries.

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