China Approves Restart of Domestic Cruise Industry
The Chinese authorities have confirmed that permission has been granted for the first two domestic cruise ships to resume service. After weeks of reports and rumors, it has been announced the first two cruises will depart on December 9 and 10, both sailing from Hainan province as a trial program.
The first cruise is set to depart on a four-day itinerary to the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea aboard the Nanhai Zhi Meng. The 24,500-gross ton cruise ferry has been operating Chinese cruises since the end of 2016 for Hainan Cruises. The ship normally accommodates up to 900 passengers.
A second ship, the Changle Gongzhu is also scheduled to resume cruise operations the following day. The 12,000 gross ton ship is a ro-ro ferry that has been sailing in the region since 2017. It carries approximately 500 passengers.
Changle Gongzhu seen on her earlier cruises from Hainan
According to Chinese officials, these two ships were selected to resume cruising due to their size. The ships have a more limited passenger capacity, which will provide an opportunity to test the new health protocols.
In addition to the global precautions of hygiene and social distancing, China said that passenger capacity will be limited to 50 percent of capacity of the first cruises. If those trips are successful, and there is no spread of the virus, the plan is to raise the limited to 70 percent of capacity.
The travel companies reported that they had a strong initial response to the announcement that the cruises would be resuming.
The trial program is seen as part of a gradual effort to recover the domestic travel industry. China also has the larger cruise ship the Piano Land, which has also been working to resume service and recently acquired another large cruise ship from P&O Cruises Australia that is expected to enter service in 2021.
For this first trial program, China is following a similar approach to the one that is being used in Singapore. Passengers are being limited both in number as well to residents of the local region. Social media reports from the passengers that sailed this week on Royal Caribbean’s first Singapore cruise were very positive about the experience. The Singapore government is closely monitoring the cruises on Royal Caribbean’s and Genting’s cruise ships for compliance with health and safety protocols. Among the unique efforts implemented in Singapore, a wearable tracking device that passengers and crew keep with them at all times. The technology helps monitor physical distancing and is part of the contract tracing procedures.
Chinese officials expect as they expand the domestic cruise programs that the international cruise company will also seek permission to resume their operations. No timeline was offered for when those permissions could be granted.
Royal Caribbean’s Tracelet, a custom wearable being cruises on the cruises from Singapore - Royal Caribbean International