(4:45 p.m. EDT) — Carnival Corporation will create a brand new cruise line based in China, working with the nation’s largest shipbuilder to construct vessels within the country.
The announcement of the joint partnerships with China Investment Corporation (CIC) and China State Shipbuilding Corporation, made in London this week, drew British Prime Minister David Cameron, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation & plc.
While Carnival’s not the first major North American cruise company to start a China-based company, it will be the first to operate a multi-ship brand and also the first to build ships in the Asian country. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., in partnership with C-Trip, a Chinese travel corporation, has its own line, SkySea, which started operations using the former Celebrity Century earlier this year.
“We’re building a brand from a whole cloth,” said Alan Buckelew, Carnival Corp.’s global chief operations officer.
Few details of the partnerships were available at the press conference, though there were a few interesting tidbits.
Carnival Corp.’s David Dingle, chairman of Carnival U.K., will oversee operations in China and is leaning “towards a U.K. flag” for them. “Equally likely is the newly created cruise brand will fit within the U.K. tonnage tax structure, so there’s a positive U.K. story which made it appropriate for us to sign the deal in the presence of David Cameron,” Buckelew said.
The ships in the currently unnamed cruise line’s fleet will be operated by Carnival Corporation and could include existing vessels from one of its 10 fleets to get things started quickly. Says Buckelew, “We’re seeding the new brand with existing tonnage while we’re ready to get the first new builds to arrive. All the future ships will be new ships.”
There’s no timeline for announcing the name of the cruise line, the size of the ships or other details.
Carnival Corp’s announcements are merely the latest in a drumbeat of expansion news in China. New builds like Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, Princess Cruises’ Majestic Princess and Norwegian Cruise Line’s ex-Norwegian Bliss (which will be renamed) have all been diverted to serve China’s burgeoning cruise fan base. Carnival Corporation announced that ships from its German-based AIDA Cruises, as well as Carnival Cruise Line, would also be transferred to China waters.
The acceleration of China as a hot growth market for cruise also has meant the loss of highly anticipated new ships originally earmarked for the North American and European markets.