Royal Caribbean and Ctrip International have formed a new joint venture cruise line to serve the Chinese market.
Expected to start operating in the middle of 2015, SkySea Cruises will initially operate one cruise ship, with additional vessels to be added “over time”. Sales and marketing activities have already commenced.
Royal Caribbean and Ctrip will both own 35% of the new company, with the remaining 30% stake held by SkySea management and a private equity fund. The transaction is expected to close before the end of November.
“We look forward to working with Ctrip… to build a national cruise line for China,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman & chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises. “SkySea Cruises represents an important strategic milestone in our expansion efforts in the Chinese market.”
Min Fan, chairman & CEO of SkySea Cruises, added that the new company will “bring the very best cruise vacations tailor-made for Chinese travellers.”
“We expect SkySea cruises to be an integral part of China’s fast growing cruise market,” he said.
SkySea Cruises will become Royal Caribbean’s sixth cruise brand, following Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Pullmantur, Azamara Club Cruises and CDF Croisieres de France. Together, these six brands operate a combined total of 42 ships, including the world’s largest – Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. It also has a further seven vessels under construction.
The new venture is the latest of several major moves into China for the world’s biggest cruise companies. Last week, Carnival and Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri penned an MoU to start building cruise ships in China, tailored to the Chinese market.
According to China’s Ministry of Transport, the country could deliver up to 4.5 million cruise passengers by 2020, making it the second biggest cruise market in the world after the US.