Domestic cruise industry heads back out to sea after pandemic

2023-03-28 10:16:25China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

China Merchants-Yidun, a Chinese-flagged luxury cruise ship, is in a port in Shanghai on Sunday. (Photo by Zhou Xin/For China Daily)

After a break of 1,152 days, Shanghai's international cruise terminal resumed its regular operations on Sunday.

It's been more than three years since the last home port cruise voyage returned to Shanghai on Jan 29, 2020.

"Despite the huge impact of the pandemic, all parties in the cruise industry maintained confidence and never stopped their hard work. We are delighted to see passengers still hold strong enthusiasm for cruises," said Gu Jinshan, chairman of Shanghai International Port Group.

He made the remark during a ceremony relaunching cruises in the city at the international cruise terminal in Shanghai's Hongkou district, which was the first home port for leisure cruises on the mainland.

"Lots of arrangements and upgrades have been made to support the safe operation of every single cruise trip and ensure the best experience for passengers," said Xu Juehui, managing director of Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal Development.

Starting from Shanghai on Sunday, China Merchants-Yidun, the first Chinese-flagged luxury cruise ship, will take passengers on a five-day journey of sightseeing and cultural experiences to Zhoushan, Zhejiang province, before returning to Shanghai, according to Zhang Shukai, deputy general manager of China Merchants Viking Cruises.

An eight-day cruise trip along China's coastline is being offered from May 7, visiting multiple ports and destinations including Zhoushan, Xiamen, Fujian province and Shenzhen, Zhang added.

"There are countless natural sceneries and cultural resources along the Chinese coastline, which can not only enrich the cruise traveling experience for Chinese travelers, but also offer an option for international tourists to explore," said Zheng Weihang, executive vice-president and secretary general of China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association.

In addition to domestic voyages, the relaunch of international cruise trips is being planned, Xu added.

China Eastern Airlines Flight MU721, the first flight after the resumption of international flights and Hong Kong-Macao-Taiwan flights at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, waits to take off on Sunday. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

"Although international cruise travel is yet to resume at Chinese ports including Shanghai, we believe related Chinese government divisions are actively making preparations for the reopening," said Liu Zinan, chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises for Asia.

According to Liu, it may take between six months to a year for international cruise operators to fully recover their cruise business in the country after the implementation of related regulations and policies. And it may take at least another year for the market to return to the level of 2019.

"International cruise travel not only makes an important contribution to industrial and economic development, but also plays an active role in promoting international cultural exchanges and communication. Royal Caribbean Cruises extremely looks forward to resuming business in the China market as soon as possible," Liu said.

The Chinese-flagged ship China Merchants-Yidun is a joint venture between China Merchants Shekou and Switzerland-based cruise line operator Viking Cruises. It is the first high-end cruise ship operated and managed independently by China Merchants Viking Cruises.

Before its maiden voyage in October 2021, the vessel had gone through 453 emergency drills, and another 972 emergency exercises since then. A virus prevention and control system was established on the ship to ensure the health and safety of guests and crew members on board, while ensuring the comfort of the cruise experience, according to Liu Fei, a staff captain of the China Merchants-Yidun.

From the sea to the air, direct flights to outbound destinations resumed at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport on Sunday, the first day of the summer-autumn aviation season that lasts from March 26 to Oct 28.

"I am so happy that we can start our outbound trips from Hongqiao airport from today," Xiao Lijun, a passenger who was about to check in for her flight to Hong Kong on Sunday, was quoted as saying by media outlet

A man surnamed Guo, who works in art collection, was also excited about his trip to Hong Kong. "I am going to meet some experts tomorrow. We have not met each other for more than three years because of the pandemic, and I am greatly anticipating the reunion," Guo said.

Hongqiao airport plans for 314 outbound flights a week during the new aviation season, 22 more than in the same period of 2019, said Tang Yichen, a vice-general manager with Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport.


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