Familiar themes emerge at CruiseWorld China

From left: Alan Buckelew of Carnival Corp., Adam Goldstein of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Frank Del Rio of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Gianni Onorato of MSC Cruises.

BEIJING — To U.S. travel agents, the themes that emerged from this week’s CruiseWorld China might have seemed reminiscent of issues that surfaced over the past three decades of cruise industry development in the U.S.

“We need to bring across the idea that the cruise is the destination, instead of just a mode of transportation,” said Zheng Weihang, executive vice president and secretary general of the China Cruise & Yacht Industry Association.

Adam Goldstein, chairman of CLIA and president and COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., added: “A vast number of people have no idea what a cruise vacation is about, what happens onboard and how it offers great value.”

And Anthony Kaufman, executive vice president of International Operations for Princess Cruises, counseled that a travel agent’s responsibility includes “understanding the uniqueness of each cruise product and imparting that knowledge to the consumers.”

Although much of the conversation sounded like Cruise Sales 101, not all of the issues facing a quickly-growing, rapidly evolving industry have a North American parallel. The vast majority of cruises in China are charters, with cabins sold by a handful of mega-agencies, some of them larger than the cruise lines themselves. They, in turn, rely on a network of sub-agencies to help them fill ships.

The sustainability of the charter model was called into question by most of the cruise executives present, though none called for abandoning it outright. The general consensus was that it has helped the market get to where it is today, but more diversity in sales options will be healthier for long-term growth.

Calling charters a “force-feeding” model, Zinan Liu, Royal Caribbean International’s president of China and North Asia Pacific region and chairman of CLIA North Asia, said the charter model was successful in the past six years when consumer awareness was low and the sales force of cruise lines small. He predicted it will likely continue to coexist with other distribution models.

Kaufman noted that it continues to be the foundation for China’s cruise market and at present enables travel agencies to maintain better control of the customer experience and pricing. But, he said, whether it continues to dominate might depend on individual company strategies.

That each of the four largest cruise lines was represented by a top corporate executive suggests that China’s potential is still very much front of mind:

• Carnival Corp. COO Alan Buckelew provided an overview of the company’s 10 brands and revealed that the most luxurious Princess ship yet built will sail Chinese waters.

• Goldstein wore two hats. As chairman of CLIA, he provided an overview of industry growth, with a focus on China, and as president and COO of RCCL, he promoted Royal Caribbean International ships.

• Norwegian Cruise Line Holding Ltd. CEO Frank Del Rio provided updated details about the Norwegian Joy, a ship being built specially for the Chinese market, whose inaugural cruise is slated for June 23.

• MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato provided more details after having announced the day before that a second ship, the Splendida, would be heading to China to join the Lirica.

In addition to the international development and regional line executives quoted above, onstage were Buhdy Bok, president of Costa Group Asia; David Herrera, president of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings China; Roger Chen, chairman of Carnival Corp. China; Harry Sommer, executive vice president for international development at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings; Helen Huang, president of Greater China, MSC Cruises; and Fan Min, chairman and CEO of SkySea Cruise Line.

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Hull art revealed for China-bound Norwegian Joy


Norwegian Joy’s Hull Artwork by Tan Ping

The 4,200-passenger Norwegian Joy, a new ship bound for China next year, will feature a large red phoenix on its hull, the latest in a series of hull paintings for Norwegian ships.

Chinese artist Tan Ping is responsible for the design, which will also include waves and other stylized nautical motifs.

“The Phoenix symbolizes beauty and good luck in Chinese culture, and Norwegian Joy will bridge across the West and the East and bring Chinese people’s best wish to the world and everyone in her path,” said Tan Ping, a painter, print maker and educator.

Joy, the first Norwegian ship to be custom-built for the Chinese market, is scheduled to begin sailing from Beijing and Shanghai next summer.

Ovation of the Seas joins Royal Caribbean’s fleet following delivery ceremony

Richard Fain and Bernard Meyer
There is a new Royal Caribbean ship officially in the fleet, as of today.

Royal Caribbean took delivery of its 24th cruise ship, Ovation of the Seas, in a ceremony held today in Bremerhaven, Germany.  Ovation of the Seas is the third Quantum-class ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet.

Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain took delivery of Ovation of the Seas from Meyer Werft Yard’s Managing Partner Bernard Meyer at the official handover ceremony.

“Ovation of the Seas is magnificent,” said Richard. “Our thanks to the Meyer Werft team for their ongoing partnership in designing and building awe-inspiring ships with us.”

“It’s wonderful to welcome Ovation of the Seas to the Royal Caribbean family of ships,” said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “We have once again introduced yet another one of the most technologically advanced cruise ships and the very first that has been built for the China market – a market we continue to demonstrate our commitment to expanding. Quantum Class has redefined the status quo, and we are excited for our guests in China and Australia to enjoy their extraordinary vacations onboard this stunner.”

Ovation of the Seas will now sail to Southampton, U.K., where the ship will offer a series of short getaways before she sets sail on her 52-night “Global Odyssey” culminating in the arrival to her homeport in Tianjin, China.

She will begin her first homeport sailing season in China from Tianjin in June 2016. Ovation, together with Quantum of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas and Legend of the Seas, will make up the largest fleet of any cruise line sailing in China.