Just how hot is cruising in China? So hot that even Caribbean-focused Carnival is sending a ship there.
Industry giant Carnival Corp. announced the mass-market "fun ship" brand would deploy a new vessel to China in 2017 that will be specifically aimed at the local market. Carnival Corp.-owned Aida Cruises, a German brand, also will devote a newly-built ship to the China market in 2017, the company revealed.
The two brands are joining sister line Princess Cruises, which already has announced plans to devote its next new ship to the China market in 2017.
Carnival Corp. is the parent company of Carnival, Aida, Princess and seven other cruise brands that together account for nearly half of the worldwide cruise business.
The announcement came just a day after Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line said it would deploy a newly-built ship to China in 2017. Royal Caribbean also is in the midst of sending two of its newest, hottest vessels to China.
"This is an exciting time in China for the cruise industry," Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said in a statement accompanying the announcement. "As the world's largest cruise company and the first global cruise operator in China, we are more committed than ever to helping China become one of the world's most popular regions for cruise vacations."
Carnival Corp. has been a pioneer in cruises aimed at the China market since its Costa Cruises brand first deployed a ship to the country in 2006. Three Costa ships currently are based in China with another heading to the region in 2016. The company's Princess brand first deployed a ship to China in 2014 and will have two vessels there in 2016. The new ship Princess is sending to China in 2017 will be the line's first specifically built for the Chinese market.
Carnival Corp. said it expected more than 500,000 passengers in China this year, up 43% from 2014.
The deployment of a vessel to China is an unusual departure for the Carnival brand, which is one of the most North American-focused cruise lines. Aimed at travelers looking for an affordable, easy-to-reach cruise, Carnival rarely ventures far beyond North America with its deployments, with the majority of its sailings departing from U.S. ports to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico and Alaska. An exception is the recent move of a Carnival ship to Australia to cater to the Australian market.