The first Chinese-made cruise liner is expected to launch in 2020, with construction beginning as early as next year.
Funding for the project comes from a joint venture between the China State Shipbuilding Corporation, the China Investment Corporation, and Carnival Cruise Lines worth an estimated $3.89 billion.
The new cruise liner, which will incorporate “Chinese elements” as part of its design, is reportedly 300 meters long, 14-15 stories high, and weighs 140, 000 tons. It will have a capacity between 3,000 to 4,000 people. The ship will be constructed by Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Co., with Italian shipbuilder, Fincantieri, providing technical assistance.
Cruise lines have become immensely popular with Chinese tourists, prompting industry giants like Carnival and Royal Caribbean to establish operations at Chinese ports, notably Shanghai.
The number of Chinese cruise passengers rose 79 percent between 2012 and 2014, and continues to grow at a staggering rate. According to figures from the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association, more than 1 million Chinese mainlanders are expected to go on a cruise this year, up from 700,000 last year.
By 2020, Carnival expects the Chinese market to grow to half the size of the US market, while online travel agency Tongcheng predicts the cruise industry will add RMB 51 billion to the Chinese economy.
The cruise line industry is so lucrative in China that a Carnival ship which recently returned from an 86-day around-the-world tour, was filled entirely with Chinese passengers.
Meanwhile, rival Royal Caribbean also has ambitious expansion plans in China. The company has entered into a partnership with the Chinese online travel company Ctrip, the biggest seller of cruise tickets in China. Royal Caribbean also plans to build its third Quantum-class cruise ship to be based out of Tianjin, and has expressed interest in building Chinese-based dry dock facilities and re-supply centers for its ships.