Royal Caribbean and Chinese travel service provider Ctrip have announced a new joint venture designed to serve the booming Chinese cruise market with a new national cruise line.
The joint venture was formed through a strategic partnership with SkySea Cruises, with Royal Caribbean and Ctrip each owning 35% and the balance by SkySea’s management and a private equity fund.
The new cruise line is expected begin service in the middle of 2015 with the operation of one ship, with plans to add additional vessels over time. The identity of the single ship has not yet been released.
The new company’s formation is expected to be complete by the end of November, and sales and marketing activities have already commenced, according to Royal Caribbean.
“We look forward to working with Ctrip, a Chinese travel leader, to build a national cruise line for China,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “SkySea Cruises represents an important strategic milestone in our expansion efforts in the Chinese market.”
The Chinese Ministry of Transport (MOT) has projected that over the next several years China will become second largest global cruise market based on economic growth, increased spending of Chinese consumers and the growing demand for cruise vacations. The MOT has even estimated that China could see 4.5 million cruise passengers by 2020, surpassing the U.S. as the world’s largest cruise market.
A recent testament to the China’s emergence as a key player in cruise shipping was the home-porting of Royal Caribbean’s new ‘Quantum of the Seas’ in Shanghai (Baoshan) beginning in May 2015. The ship has been hailed as the most technologically advanced cruise ship ever built and the third largest by gross tonnage.
The new joint venture also comes on the heels of what has been called a historic deal between Carnival Cruise Lines, China State Shipbuilding Corporation, and Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri with the intentions of exploring cruise shipbuilding joint ventures for the Chinese market and the construction of the first-ever cruise ships to be built in China.
With the delivery of a new ship to Costa Cruises in April 2015, Carnival Corporation will have four ships homeported in China, the most out of any cruise company. Carnival Corporation recently stated that expects to carry 500,000 cruise passengers in China in 2015.