A visitor takes pictures of China's first domestically built large cruise ship, which is set to be completed by the end of May. (YIN LIQIN/CHINA NEWS SERVICE)
China has built enormous cargo vessels among other types of oceangoing ships. But if there were one area in which it had not yet made its mark, it would be large cruise ships. That is about to change.
The country's first domestically built large cruise ship, produced by Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Co Ltd, is nearing its delivery date.
Work on the new ship is continuing with the finishing of the interior spaces and system debugging. More than 91 percent of the total construction work had been completed on the 135,500-gross-ton Vista-class vessel as of Feb 10, according to Chen Gang, general manager of Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding, who is also the chief designer of the shipyard's large cruise ship project.
Vista-class ships are named after a group of large cruise vessels built by Fincantieri in Italy and operated by Carnival Cruise Line and others. Gross tonnage is a measure of a ship's overall internal volume.
The shipbuilder has a schedule packed with projects. The first domestically built large cruise ship, due for delivery in December, is set to be completed by the end of May. The first trial voyage is scheduled for July. Meanwhile, a second large cruise ship is also under construction at the shipyard.
The first homegrown cruise ship will be the first Chinese-built cruise ship to sail for Adora, a cruise company brand under China-based CSSC Carnival Cruise Shipping Ltd, which is a joint venture between China State Shipbuilding Corp and Carnival Corp &plc, a large leisure travel company based in Miami in the United States.
Officials said the first homegrown large cruise ship will have a trendy, state-of-the-art shopping center covering 2,000 square meters, the largest of its kind at sea in China. It is also to have the country's largest duty-free shopping center aboard an oceangoing vessel. The shopping amenities are the result of a partnership between Adora Cruises and China Duty Free Cruise Services Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of China Duty Free Group.
The ship is expected to set several other precedents. It is also expected to be the world's first cruise ship with complete coverage by a 5G network, the result of an agreement reached in January between Adora Cruises and the China Telecom Corp Ltd Shanghai branch. Adora officials said they envision guests being able to have an enhanced cruise experience with 5G connectivity, including broad access to multimedia and real-time interaction.
Also, in early February, Adora announced an agreement with Chinese comedy and drama production company Kaixinmahua Cultural Tourism Development Co Ltd, also known as Mahua FunAge, to create the country's first live comedy theater at sea. Officials said Mahua FunAge will present two comedy-drama shows onboard Adora cruise ships focused on Chinese and other Asian guests — one in a 975-seat grand theater and the other in a bar setting.
Since a ceremony for the cutting of the first plates of steel for the cruise ship in October 2019, the construction of the 323.6-meter-long, 37.2-meter-wide ship has received wide public attention for its pioneering construction, complexity and the high level of capabilities required of the builder.
Industry experts called building a cruise ship "an unprecedented challenge" for China's shipbuilding industry in regard to the special structure, craftsmanship complexity, construction difficulties and strict requirements for global supply chain collaboration.
Since cruise ships are, in essence, floating cities, their systems must account for virtually all facets of urban life. As part of that, they must conform to global standards, according to Lin Guolong, director of Shanghai Maritime University's Logistics Research Center.
The ship is being built to host a maximum of 5,246 guests in its 2,125 guest rooms, ranging from standard rooms to presidential suites.
In addition to the construction of the cruise ships, Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding is also working on a variety of high value-added vessels. The shipbuilder is scheduled to deliver a total of 23 vessels this year, with output set to grow 40 percent year-on-year, said Chen, the company's general manager.