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More Chinese opting for summer sea cruises

2014-06-20 15:35 Ecns.cn Web Editor: Qian Ruisha
A Costa Victoria capable of carrying 1,600 passengers anchors at a harbor in Tianjin. (Photo: The Science and Technology Daily)

A Costa Victoria capable of carrying 1,600 passengers anchors at a harbor in Tianjin. (Photo: The Science and Technology Daily)

(ECNS) – Lying in a pool, sampling a chocolate soufflé or watching the sunset on the balcony, a growing number of Chinese consumers are keen to take cruises for their summer holidays.

According to Ctrip, one of China's largest online travel agents, cruise bookings in June have doubled over same time last year, with a majority of the summer lines already 80 percent booked.

Vivian Hong, president of Travelzoo China, said cruise getaways have been increasingly popular as tourists shun island and beach tours in Southeast Asian countries that have become unstable. Also, she said cruise trips are a good choice for family outings – with no cell phone signals onboard, it can be a perfect opportunity for quality time.

China's Transportation Department forecasts that the country's cruise ship visitors will surpass 4.5 million by 2020, making it the biggest cruise market in Asia Pacific.

International cruise companies have not hesitated to woo Chinese consumers with improved carrying capacity. Statistics show two-digit growth in both the number of ships and lines in the past few years.

Royal Caribbean Cruises, the world's second-largest cruise company, will anchor its brand new ship, Quantum of the Seas, in Shanghai after its six-month maiden voyage in New York next year. Traditionally, cruise companies have chosen to deploy older ships to Asia. But the trend is likely to wane as companies compete for a bigger slice of the cake in China.

According to Hong, cruise trips to South Korea and Japan are among the most popular. An inexpensive four-night trip with Italy's Costa Cruises to South Korea costs as low as 2,000 yuan (around $300) on Ctrip. Singapore's Star Cruises offers two-night trips to Singapore at roughly the same cost.

Other cruise companies are eying the high-end market. Princess Cruises, under the world's biggest cruise company Carnival Cruises, has hired Michelin starred chefs. Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas has amenities equal to a five-star hotel, and the ratio of crew to passengers has reached 1 to 3.

As China's cruise industry develops, Hong said she predicts that middle and high-end cruise trips will prevail over cheaper ones.

These international companies are also trying to boost sales of cruise lines at home. Long haul cruise lines are increasingly accepted by Chinese tourists who prefer to board from overseas such as the US or European countries.

Despite the surging enthusiasm, China's cruise market is still small compared to that of Western countries. But international companies are actively adjusting to the Chinese market with customized trips. For example, a survey shows that 45 percent of Chinese cruisers are concerned most about the quality of onshore excursions, while 26 percent of consumers think the cruise brand matters.

In March, China issued a regulation that many think will boost the sustainable and healthy development of its cruise industry.

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