Norwegian Cruise Lines, MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises are among the companies announcing new-build ships in Asia, emphasising the burgeoning influence of the region as a cruising powerhouse.
Over the next 12 months many ships will be homeported in China, offering huge opportunities for Southeast Asian travel agents.
MSC Cruises has reconfigured the MSC Lirica for the Asian market. She will sail to a number of destinations including China, South Korea and Japan.
“For a number of years we have been gathering insights into the Chinese cruise market and working with partners on the ground to fully understand the specific needs of Chinese guests,” Achille Staiano, head of commercial services at MSC Cruises, told TTG Asia. “Using these insights, we have completely overhauled one of our ships, MSC Lirica, to meet the needs of the Chinese home market.
“Paying particular attention to the differences in cultures and values, we modified a number of aspects of ship life to ensure that every guest receives our best-in-class service and a memorable experience.”
The line has partnered with the renowned chef Jereme Leung, a pioneer of modern Asian cuisine. He has been involved in restaurants in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, China and Thailand.
“We recruited local staff specifically for MSC Lirica,” said Staiano. “Over 80 per cent of staff on board are Mandarin-speaking, offering specific and expert advice to guests in their native language.”
The line has also changed its shopping onboard to provide European brands to the Asian guests. The ship is currently sailing.
The launch of Asia’s first luxury cruise brand is highly anticipated by Asian travellers. With 35 fresh restaurant, bar and café offerings, a new nightclub as well as new shore excursions and activities (including underwater submersibles), the ship will be the first of its kind in the region. Launching November 2016.
“We are proud to be the first-ever Asian based luxury cruise line that will specifically cater to Asia’s luxury sector, with a purpose built new ship (Genting Dream) for this market launching in late 2016,” said Dream Cruises’ Thatcher Brown. “Currently, the majority of ships with homeports in China are mainly targeted to the mass-market consumer with the occasional premium ship deployment in this region on a more seasonal rather than a permanent basis.
“However, Asia continues to take a bigger percentage of the global cruise industry each year, with China being a major growth engine for the region. As the cruise market continues to evolve and mature, so will the competition.
“At the very core, what will differentiate Dream Cruises from the other cruise lines will be our commitment and ability to offer inspirational luxury, which is Asian at heart and international in spirit for all our guests. We will introduce a new standard of excellence in service and quality at sea.”
Princess Cruises is building Majestic Princess specifically for the Asian market. She’ll sail her maiden voyage in the summer of 2017, will homeport in Shanghai and cruise to Japan and South Korea.
Tony Kaufman, the executive vice president of international operations for Princess Cruises said the line would be catering for Asian travellers by introducing international experiences through the line’s service, entertainment and food.
“The products on Costa and Princess are very different. Princess is a premium international brand focused on bringing its experience of providing cruise vacations throughout the world to the Chinese passengers, allowing them to enjoy food, service and entertainment from all over the world and making them feel special. Costa is an Italian brand and brings its authentic Italy at Sea product to its passengers. Chinese travellers are seeking differentiated services and unique experiences,” he told TTG Asia.
Norwegian Cruise Line announced this year it would be returning to Asia for the first time in 13 years. Not only will the Norwegian Jewel be sailing around Southeast Asia, but the line will also be sending the new-build Norwegian Joy to Asia in 2017. The ship will be homeported in Shanghai and then sent to Tianjin for August and September.
Norwegian Joy will be sailing to Japan and South Korea for three- and six-night cruises.
David Herrera, president of Norwegian Cruise Lines Holding in China, said the company would also be gearing Norwegian Joy for the Chinese market.
“Clearly the dining options and venues have been made with the Chinese passengers in mind, as well as the multiple new entertainment shows. Other key differences on Norwegian Joy will include Mandarin-speaking crew in all passenger-facing roles, and signage predominantly in Chinese characters,” he told TTG Asia.
“This ship is being made for our highly valued guests to know we did not simply modify an existing vessel, but designed it especially for the Chinese market. We wanted our first entrant into China to be the ship that Chinese VIPs deserve.”
Norwegian Joy will have break new ground with go-karts and hover bumper cars.