Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas, the third ship in the company's Quantum Class, docks in Fremantle. The Spectrum of the Seas will be another Quantum Class vessel. Photo: Wikipedia

Construction of the new Royal Caribbean super-ship Spectrum of the Seas has begun in Papenburg, Germany. This is part of Royal Caribbean’s hopes to open up the Chinese market to luxury cruise experiences by offering cutting-edge experiences and amenities.

There is little word yet on the particulars of the new ship’s features, but the company’s latest well-publicized announcement signals that Royal Caribbean is still very much focused on the Chinese cruise market, which has experienced some instability this year with the South Korean “travel ban” in the wake of the dispute over deployment of a missile-defense system. The confusion and tumult created a temporary drop in demand for Royal Caribbean’s China cruise offerings.

In response to the diplomatic row, Royal Caribbean temporarily removed South Korean destinations from its China itineraries, replacing them with Japanese ports such as Nagasaki and Kumamoto. Next year, some Royal Caribbean itineraries will include more Japanese ports, such as Fukuoka and Naha.

Korea’s Jeju island, a popular destination for Chinese tourists because of its lax visa policy, is available as a stop on a single itinerary departing from Shanghai in mid-November. However, this itinerary is unavailable on the Chinese version of the Royal Caribbean site.

While Royal Caribbean has demonstrated its long-term interest in the Chinese market, it is a market that is subject to dramatic flux in the event of diplomatic and political conflicts. With the continued rise of China economically and its willingness to exercise its ability to project both political and economic power, such conflicts will continue. This necessitates flexibility and responsiveness on the part of companies  catering to Chinese tourists.

When Royal Caribbean announced its intent to increase its Asia-Pacific efforts with the creation of tour packages and the building of ships to cater to luxury-oriented Chinese consumers, it was considered by some to be a gamble. No doubt challenges in China remain for Royal Caribbean, but the construction of the Spectrum of the Seas indicates that the company is very optimistic about the long-term prospects of the cruise industry in China and its popularity among wealthy Chinese consumers.

This article was originally published on Jing Travel.

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Mason Hinsdale

Mason Hinsdale is a China expert who has done research on modern Chinese business history and consumer culture. He studied in both Taiwan and mainland China and received his master's degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.