Carnival Corp. plans to order two new ships—with an option for four more—in a joint venture with the China State Shipbuilding Corp. (CSSC).
Carnival announced this week it has signed a revised agreement with CSSC and Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to build the ships—in a $1.5 billion investment tailored specifically to the Chinese guest. The first is set to debut in 2023.
Carnival Corp. initially had signed CSSC to build two ships; this week’s revision increases the number to four and changes the expected delivery year of the first ship from 2022 to 2023.
Carnival CEO Arnold Donald called the news “another important milestone in building a sustainable and prosperous cruise industry” and sees China as one of the world’s “leading cruise markets.”
China is “going to be the world’s largest cruise market, like it’s going to be the world’s largest market for everything else. It could be as large as the entire cruise industry is today; there’s just that many people.”
According to CLIA, Asia is by far the fastest growing market in the cruise industry, and will likely outpace the North American market within the next 10 years. More than 1,500 sailings were scheduled for Asia in 2016, a 43% increase over 2015, with a record overall capacity of 2.3 million passengers. The number of ships sailing Asian waters has risen from 43 in 2013 to 52 in 2015 to 60 last year.
At the Skift Global Forum in June, Donald spoke about the company’s expansion in Asia, telling attendees that China is “going to be the world’s largest cruise market, like it’s going to be the world’s largest market for everything else. It could be as large as the entire cruise industry is today; there’s just that many people.”
Other lines have also committed to the region in the past year.
Norwegian Cruise Line this week announced that the company’s fourth Breakaway Plus vessel—not yet named—will debut as a purpose-built ship for China, the second Norwegian vessel to do so after the Joy debuts this June.
Bookings for Joy are already “significantly ahead of the rest of the Norwegian brand fleet,” even with prices at a 20% premium, Norwegian president Frank Del Rio said this week.
Meanwhile, MSC Cruises will deploy its second ship to China when the MSC Splendida sets sail in May 2018. Splendida will join MSC Lirica, which began sailing out of Shanghai in May 2016 and has since moved to Tianjin, as the company’s first two ships in the market.
Princess Cruises will debut its second cruise ship specifically designed for the Chinese market, Majestic Princess, in summer 2017. The third ship in its Royal Class, Majestic Princess will be based in China year-round, and will sail out of Shanghai and cruising to Japan and Korea.