Piano Land to Debut from Xiamen This Fall

P&O Oriana

The P&O Oriana will become the Piano Land this fall and debut in her new China Travel Services and COSCO role from the port of Xiamen.

China Travel Group and COSCO have come together to form Well Star Travel Cruise, a joint venture that will operate and market the 1995-built ship.

P&O UK announced last June that the vessel would be leaving its fleet in August 2019, not naming a buyer. It was later revealed the 1,822-guest ship was heading for a new life in China.

The ship will conclude its P&O program with an 18-day sailing roundtrip from Southampton to Norway and Svalbard; ending on August 9. The first cruise from Xiamen could happen as soon as mid-October.

The transfer of the Oriana to a new Chinese brand marks the second phase of home-grown brands in China. Following the demise of SkySea, only two local one-ship brands remain in Bohai Ferry and Diamond Cruise, which each operate a single 838-guest vessel.

The Piano Land will thus be the largest local vessel in the market.

Later this year, China State Shipbuilding Corporation will take delivery of the Costa Atlantica for its joint venture domestic brand aligned with Carnival Corporation.

Royal Caribbean and Ctrip to Kill SkySea Brand

SkySea Golden Era

Royal Caribbean Cruises and Ctrip announced that they are ending the SkySea Cruise Line joint venture, which has carried well over 200,000 Chinese passengers since launching service in 2015.

The two companies had formed the joint venture in 2014 and installed a new management team early last year, led by Ken Muskat, CEO.

Despite a number of positive major changes for the brand, including an early deployment announcement last August, the joint venture will come to an end later this year.

The news comes on the heels of a number of changes in the Chinese cruise market that has capacity moving downward in 2018 and 2019, according to the 2018-2019 Cruise Industry News Annual Report. It’s also in stark contrast to once bullish growth plans for SkySea.

TUI AG’s Marella Cruises has agreed to purchase Golden Era, with delivery expected in December 2018, according to Royal Caribbean.

After the sale of Golden Era, it is expected that SkySea will wind down its business operations before the end of 2018. The companies expect that favourable business conditions in China and elsewhere will allow them to absorb most SkySea employees into available positions at Royal Caribbean and China.

Through its Royal Caribbean International brand, Royal Caribbean will continue to serve the Chinese market, with the largest fleet deployment in the region and a strong collaborative relationship with Ctrip, the company said.

Royal Caribbean appoints executive to run Chinese joint venture

Image result for SkySea

An executive who spearheaded MSC Cruises expansion in the US is to head Royal Caribbean’s Chinese joint venture cruise operation.

Ken Muskat has been named chief executive of SkySea, a collaboration between China-based online travel giant Ctrip.com and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

SkySea’s first vessel Golden Era – the former Celebrity Century – sails regular itineraries from Shanghai. The business has been in operation for 20 months.

Muskat, who had a long career at Royal Caribbean before joining MSC Cruises in 2013, moves to SkySea in mid-January. He was executive vice president of sales for MSC in the US.

He is expected to help SkySea accelerate its campaign to become the top choice for Chinese cruise passengers seeking new holiday experiences in a “familiar East-meets-West” style.

Ctrip.com vice chairman and SkySea executive chairman Min Fan said: “Ken Muskat is known for his ability to generate consumer excitement and revenue generation, which are key elements in building a new cruise line and setting the stage for long-term growth.”

Muskat said: “There is no challenge I like better than creating a winning business proposition in a competitive market.

“I appreciate the confidence shown in me by the owners of SkySea, and I look forward to using my experience to help this exciting new brand grow to be a leader.

“I look forward to bringing to bear everything I’ve learned in my career and helping SkySea become a standout performer. There is an important role for a Chinese-centered brand like this in this large and growing market.”