Cruise lines are betting that the growing number of middle class consumers in China are keen to sample chocolate buffets and stroll the Lido deck. And that’s leading to an influx of ships being sent to sail year-round from mainland China.
China is expected to be the world’s second-largest cruise market (after the U.S.) by 2017, with growth rates far higher than in North America and Europe, the two regions where the industry has historically collected most of its profits. Carnival, the industry’s largest player, with 10 brands and more than 100 ships, plans to base four ships in mainland China next year, while also boosting its year-round fleet in Australia. The Asian Cruise Association estimated in a 2013 report that area demand will nearly triple to 3.8 million annual cruisers in 2020, with 1.6 million from China.