China recently named its first luxury cruise ship, which will operate in the domestic cruise ship market. Although China has begun to develop the domestic cruise industry by acquiring old second-hand tonnages and refitting ferries, the new joint venture between China Merchants Shekou and Viking Cruises aims to bring a new level of luxury to the domestic market.
The ceremony marking the official renaming of the cruise ship, which had been built in 2017 by Fincantieri cruise ship built in 2017 was officially renamed the Viking Sun at its new homeport in Shenzhen, China, on June 26. The ship was renamed “China Merchants Yidun” by Duan Xianghui, director of China Merchants Group, which means “China Merchants Eden.” After the ceremony, the guests were invited to visit the cruise ship before the first coastal voyage. China Merchants stated that the event “ushered in a new era in China’s cruise industry.”
Eden became the first five-star luxury cruise ship built especially for the Chinese market, marking the entry of China Merchants into the cruise industry. This 745-foot-long cruise ship is one of the highest-rated cruises in the world. It can accommodate 930 passengers in 465 cabins, all verandah. China Merchants stated that it would add Chinese elements to the ship while maintaining its Nordic design and decor.
Cruise Line will use Shenzhen as its homeport to launch coastal routes focused on the experience of domestic tourist destinations. The company stated that it plans to provide in-depth cultural tours for domestic tourists who have a strong interest in nature, history, folklore, and food culture. Although this approach is similar to the marketing of Viking Cruises, China Merchants emphasized that the cruise will be independently operated and managed by China.
The selection of Shenzhen and yacht Shekou’s home port that the company has highlighted comes as the port marks its fifth anniversary since tourism operations began. They note that the introduction of the new yacht is also the next step in China’s efforts to develop the port as an international tourist destination. The port of Shekou is developing as a strategic alternative to the proximity to Hong Kong, which has long been a major destination for international tourism.
Viking has a strong presence in China, operating its cruise ships and riverboats and marketing special ships to Chinese tourists before the pandemic. Chinese investors have also helped Viking expand its operations. Viking Sun also became the first new cruise ship named China when introduced in 2017. It is the fourth identical cruise ship built for the Vikings, currently having a fleet of six of them. Sister ships as well as nine others on order with Fincantieri.
China Merchants announced plans for a new cruise venture in November 2020, saying it will combine the global strength of China Merchants Group and Viking Cruises’ rich experience in high-end cruise operations. To build the first operation of a five-star yacht in the sailing world under the Chinese flag. The goal is to expand China Merchants Viking Cruises into a larger operation, but it will operate with a single vessel for now.
Viking Sun arrived in China to start a new operation in March 2021, and after a period of isolation, the official handover took place in mid-April.
The register was transferred to China and the China Classification Society to meet the requirements of the national register for coastal flight operations.