The Xisha islands in the northwestern South China Sea comprise 45 islands, islets, reefs and beaches. As a shining pearl in the sea, the Xisha islands, along with the Dongsha islands, the Zhongsha islands and Nansha islands, are China's southernmost blue territory. (Xinhua/Zha Chunming)
A new ship will serve the Xisha islands starting in October to promote cruise tourism on the South China Sea, according to the route's sole franchised shipping operator on Thursday.
According to the Hainan Strait Shipping Co., Ltd., the new cruise ship, Haisi Gongzhu, or the Princess of Marine Silk Road, is more comfortable than the current ship. The current vessel, Yexiang Gongzhu, or Scent of Princess Coconut, has completed 60 trips and served 8,000 tourists since the cruise route to Xisha was opened on April 28, 2013.
Ye Wei, deputy manager of the company, said the company has invested 150 million yuan (24 million U.S. dollars) in the new ship with a dead weight of 11,000 tonnes. It offers 500 passenger berths as well as catering and entertainment facilities.
The voyage to the Xisha Islands, a chain of islands scattered along the western part of the South China Sea, departs from the port in Sanya in the island province of Hainan.
Xisha, along with the Zhongsha and Nansha island groups and two million square kilometers of surrounding waters, are administered by China's southernmost and youngest city, Sansha, which was established in July 2012.
Xisha, famous for its beach scenery and pristine ecosystem, has great tourist appeal. The cruise allows tourists to sleep on board the ship and visit the islands of Yinyu, Quanfu and Yagong, where they can play beach volleyball, dive, fish and take photos.
The cruise lasts four days and three nights and can cost anywhere from 4,000 yuan to more than 10,000 yuan depending on accommodations on the current ship.