Princess Cruises won’t be changing the “international” nature of its fleet, even as it enters China with a new US$600 million ship built especially for a burgeoning market growing at up to 70%.
Executive vice president of international operations Tony Kaufman gave the assurance to ASEAN cruise news aboard the Majestic Princess, the line’s latest vessel which made her maiden journey last week in the Adriatic.
As if to emphasise her cultural roots, the ship played the theme from the TV series Love Boat and Kung Fu series Wong Fei Hong over load speakers as it arrived in the Italian port of Trieste to collect hundreds of Chinese agents and media.
Ms Cherry Wang, vice president in charge of the global line’s China office, described the Majestic Princess as “peerless” in the way it created a seamless “east-meets-west” experience.
“I was moved and touched by what I saw when I looked over the ship,” she told ASEAN Cruise News in an exclusive interview. “I’ve been to other ships in the royal class, but in terms of the hardware and software aboard this ship, it is peerless.”
Chinese agents had been full of praise for the ship’s fine food, service facilities, specially designed luxury beds and wines from China, she said.
“All these things are really making people happy.”
Southeast Asian agents would be very welcome to sell suites and cabins to their clients – and rewarded with commission in the usual way, she maintained.
“They are welcome – they mean business to us. Let me make it clear: we rely very heavily on travel agents to acquire customers. They get a cut from the revenue – not much different to the model with the other 18 cruises operated by Princess.”
She suggested they contact the line’s Shanghai office if they needed to discuss a client’s needs.
The 19-deck vessel will be a template for another three new Royal class Princess ships rolling out of Italian yards up to 2022.
The line will be marketing itself in China as the ”global travel master”. The Majestic Princess will be known as the “Master of Luxury Cruising”.
Gordon Ho, director of brand marketing, revealed Princess have an important new weapon pitched at Asia’s Tiger Mums. The ship has a special educational program on offer to students designed enhance their school work.
Youth enrichment may not sound like a foil for water slides, flight simulators and go karts – but Princess believes it will add important value and enrichment to their cruises in the eyes of Chinese families.
“The majority of Chinese want their kids to learn and be creative while they are on vacation. Chinese parents want their kids to do well,” said Mr Ho.
The Discovery program, developed with the California Science Centre and Disney, has been aligned with some school syllabus, he said.
Ms Wang agrees it is a winner.
“Chinese cruisers are looking for family orientation with cruise holidays. People are looking for learn something and enrich themselves through the on-board educational and cultural offerings”
And that’s not just the children. Teaching Chinese travellers how to enjoy Western food, wine tasting and art education would also be on offer on the Majestic Princess.
The ship will be based in Shanghai until 2018 – but after that, depending on deployments, she could – like Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas – sail between Sydney, Singapore and China.
She will start her journey on what Princess is calling “The Silk Road route” to her new home – stopping off at ports like Singapore for celebrations.
The ship represents Carnival Corporation’s biggest and boldest play yet for the Asian market.
The World’s largest cruise company, with ten brands, over 100 ships and a payload of 12 millions guests a year, is renewing its faith in the up-market Royal Class vessel that will become the template for Princes ships well into the 2020s.
And while she has many special features for her new home port of Shanghai from May, including Chinese Michelin chef Richard Chen and the largest up-market shopping mall at sea, she is still at heart a Princess ship.
As she tackles the journey to China on “The Silk Route”, she will gradually transform into a ship where Mandarin predominates in signage, announcements and menus.
But Princess is keen to emphasise that, along with the Royal and Regal ships and three more in the pipeline, we should expect to see many of her new amenities carried over to the rest of the fleet.
The 3560-passenger, 330-metre 19-deck Majestic Princess features:
- A Chinese chef and expanded Chinese good offerings with picture menus
- Special education children’s programs
- Fantastic Journey, a high tech show – Princess Cruises most expensive ever – with drones, 3D scenery, pyrotechnics and a Chinese cast
- An expanded casino, with VIP and VVIP gaming rooms where limits change each day
- A huge shopping precinct with top brands like Gucci, …
- An expanded spa and steam rooms
- Mr Kaufman said the Princess Academy agent training system had proved a hit with Asian agents across the region, and the line’s legendary loyalty program was also gaining traction.