Norwegian Cruise Line announced Monday it will expand into the China market in 2017, launching the first ship purpose-built for Chinese travelers. The 4,200-passenger vessel, currently under construction, will be delivered in spring 2017, Norwegian CEO Frank del Rio announced during the CruiseWorld China summit in Shanghai. It will be a sister ship to the Norwegian Escape that will home port in Miami beginning in November.
The move follows a course set by competitors, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean. In 2014, Royal Caribbean took the first of a new class, Quantum of the Seas, to China after a brief introduction in the U.S., and has announced other ships bound for China. Earlier this summer, Carnival Corp. announced its 2016 itineraries include four China deployments; in addition, its Princess brand will launch a purpose-built ship for the market, also in 2017.
Industry leaders are seeking to capitalize on a growing and affluent middle class, increased demand for outbound leisure travel and a government eager to build cruise infrastructure. Between 2012 and 2014, the number of passengers from mainland China grew 79 percent a year, from 216,700 to 697,000, according to a report released by Cruise Lines International Association.
Miami Herald staff