Voyager of the Seas tests new waters in Asia

Voyager of the Seas tests new waters in Asia

Increasingly, the region is becoming the center of attention in the cruise ship community, with more and more routes being offered and more and more ships testing the waters -- and the majority of them are based around packages that include passage through the waters off China.

Voyager of the Seas has been based out of Singapore since May and over the past few weeks has made its first stops in China, Hong Kong and South Korea. Tellingly, on its current cruise, the 3,470-capacity ship is carrying 3,120 Chinese passengers and places onboard were sold out within days of the cruise being announced.

Three times the size of the Titanic

It's the largest cruise ship to ever head into Asian waters -- estimated to span three times the size taken up by the Titanic -- and so important is the regional market now to its owners that the Voyager of the Seas has on board a team of Chinese chefs and entertainment options catered specifically to the needs of Asian travelers.

That includes Asian-themed nightclubs, a special DreamWorks collaboration which brings popular characters from the studios' animated classics to life and, of course, an expansive selection of retail options along the ship's "Royal Promenade."

"China's cruise market is young and vibrant," Royal Caribbean International's senior vice-president, global sales and marketing, told the China Daily. "The growth rate was above 50 percent at the beginning, when we entered China [2008], and now it's over 100 percent."

More trips planned to meet the growing demand

To help meet demand, Voyager of the Seas will be making 17 trips from now until October, taking in the likes of Shanghai, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Jeju and Busan.

It's part of a growing trend that has seen the number of cruise ships docking at Chinese ports alone increase from 223 in 2010 to 262 last year.

Shanghai is expecting to welcome 62 international cruise ships this year and more than 150 a year by 2013.

Another of the industry's major players -- Italy's Costa Cruises -- is planning on bring a second ship to the region in May next year, with a special "Italy at Sea," promotion specially designed for Asia that will boast Italian-style art, cuisine and shopping. Costa Cruises started its Asian operations six years ago and claims to have now carried more than 350,000 passengers in the region.

MS