The first cruise ship being built for the Carnival China Cruise Shipping joint venture was floated out last week at Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding.
The float out of the ship, which has not yet been named, marks a major milestone in its construction, with a second on order and two former Costa cruise ships already in the fleet.
“We at Carnival are committed to supporting to CSSC and our joint venture CSSC Carnival which is the foundation of Carnival’s China strategy,” said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, in a video address celebrating the float out of hull 1508.
“We are committed to building CSSC Carnival into a successful and fully functioning Chinese-flagged cruise company,” Donald added.
The ship is one of two on order for Carnival’s joint venture brand with CSSC, where Carnival is a minority partner.
The brand will serve the domestic Chinese market and has already taken ownership of the Costa Atlantica and Costa Mediterranea.
The new ship touched water for the first time in Shanghai, and will now move to an interior fit out dock before her delivery in 2023.
Her sister ship will follow in 2024, and there is an option for four additional ships on the contract.
The newbuilds are on the Carnival Vista-class platform, with CSSC working in partnership with Fincantieri, the Italian shipyard that launched all the current Vista-class ships in the Carnival fleet.
The entry of Carnival Corporation into the Chinese market marks a significant turning point for the domestic cruise market in the country, and also marks a shift change for China’s shipbuilding sector.
The transfer of knowledge and expertise from European shipyards, such as Fincantieri, to Chinese shipyards such as Shanghai Waigaoqiao, will give China greater capability to compete with the European yards in cruise ship construction.
Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding is a subsidiary of China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), with whom Carnival has partnered to launch its Chinese venture.
By operating as a domestic cruise line in China, rather than as a foreign company, Carnival will have greater control over the cruise product it offers the Chinese market.
Although other cruise lines, notably Royal Caribbean International, have launched new ships designed specifically for China, they are not able to sell directly to the domestic market and have to rely on China-based travel companies that charter the ship for an entire season.
Royal Caribbean also sent Quantum of the Seas to Asia following her launch in 2014, as well as Spectrum of the Seas following her launch in 2019. Both were designed specifically for the Chinese market, while Costa Cruises, part of the Carnival Corp fleet, has also refitted existing ships or designed new ones for China.
Costa was meant to deploy Costa Venezia, Costa Serena and Costa Mediterranea in China for 2021, but has since been forced to change those plans due to an ongoing ban on cruises in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.