China to restart international voyages from Shanghai in June

   May 18, 2023 ,   Cruise Industry

In June 2023, China will reopen its international cruise market as part of a pilot program aimed at restoring the industry after the COVID crisis. This marks the first phase of the reopening, following a 3-year suspension of ex-China voyages. Recently, the government allowed the resumption of domestic cruises, and on May 15th, media reports stated that the plan for the next phase of restarting international cruises was approved.

The initial ships to restart international service will be Blue Dream Star, operated by Blue Dream Cruises, and Zhao Shang Yi Dun/fka Viking Sun ship operated by a joint venture between Viking Cruises and China Merchants. While China Merchants' ship has been operating on domestic cruises, Blue Dream Star will begin service with this pilot program.

The "Plan for the Orderly Pilot Resumption of International Cruise Transport" was issued by the General Office of the Ministry of Transport in late March. The plan focuses on reopening Shanghai and Shenzhen for cruises to international ports during the pilot program. Shanghai officials have already approved the plan. The intention is to gradually increase the scale of the cruise restart in the future.

The Blue Dream Star recently arrived in Shanghai and underwent a comprehensive safety inspection due to the 3-year hiatus in the cruise industry and the implementation of new health protocols. After completing the safety inspections, the ship departed without passengers on a trial voyage to obtain certification before starting revenue cruises. On May 16th, Blue Dream Star left Shanghai and sailed to Jeju Island, South Korea. The vessel is scheduled to return to port on May 18th.

Cruises from Shanghai, carrying passengers to Japanese ports, are set to begin on June 19th. The initial schedule, as shown on the company's website, spans 4 months from June to September. China Merchants Yidun is also planning to start cruises to Japan in June. While there is no official information regarding when other cruise ships will resume service, a Chinese news outlet, Caixin, reported that CSSC Carnival, a joint venture between Carnival Corporation and CSSC, will commence service in July with a cruise from Shanghai to Okinawa, Japan.

The resumption of international cruises in June 2023 will mark the first time in 41 months since their suspension. Shanghai suspended cruising on January 30th, 2020, in order to prevent the spread of COVID. Prior to the suspension, 8t cruise ships had docked in Shanghai, carrying 30,595 passengers and 10,000+ crew members.

The Shanghai government considers the resumption of cruising as part of its efforts to boost economic recovery and once again make the cruise industry a prominent feature of the city. The departure of the Blue Dream Star was celebrated as the first international cruise in 3+ years. As an additional precaution, the ship was escorted out of the Yangtze estuary by two patrol boats.

Earlier this week, Royal Caribbean International announced its plans to become the first international cruise line to return a cruise ship to homeporting in China and operate for the domestic cruise market. Spectrum of the Seas, with a gross tonnage of 169,379, will relocate from Singapore to Shanghai in April 2024.

Furthermore, by early 2024, CSSC Carnival will introduce China's first large domestically built cruise ship, sailing under a newly created brand called Adora Cruises.