Builder Says Fleet Of 10 Ships Will Be “Most Comfortable In The World”
Tianjin may be working (and spending) like mad to become the international cruise ship hub of China, but in the budding inland cruise industry Chongqing remains king. Though low-end Yangtze River cruise tours have been around for years, more recently Chongqing has established itself as the epicenter of the region’s burgeoning “five-star” cruise market. In 2009, the Victoria Jenna, the world’s largest luxury inland cruise ship, made its maiden Yangtze voyage from Chongqing. As Jing Daily noted last year:
A four-day, three-night vacation on this floating luxury hotel didn’t run cheap: the gargantuan riverboat, which has 2 presidential suites, 38 luxury suites and 160 standard rooms and can hold 400 passengers, offered packages that went as high as US$5,000 for the presidential suite. Far from cut-rate. Despite the high prices, cruises on the Victoria Jenna sold out through the second half of 2009.
Likely heartened by the increased interest in high-end river cruises in 2009 and 2010, the Chongqing Traffic & Tourism Investment Group (CTTIG) has announced plans to build 10 luxury cruise ships by 2012, to the tune of 2 billion yuan (US$304 million). According to the Chongqing Evening News, a representative from CTTIG has said that these ships will be “the largest, most luxurious, and most comfortable in the world.” Though, being a spokesman, he’d have to say something like this, the fact that a large state-owned company is putting emphasis on the size of the ships indicates their confidence in demand for these pricey cruises.
As the Global Times points out, the first ship of the fleet of 10, the “Gold I,” is currently being built by the Chongqing Dongfeng Shipbuilding Corporation, and should take its first Yangtze voyage on May 1 this year. The ship will have 161 guest rooms and accommodate up to 355 people, and will come equipped with the usual cruise line features, such as offices, a shopping mall, restaurants, swimming pool, spa, a golf course, and a helipad. (For the Eurocopter-shuttled exec on the go, presumably.) CTTIG says that the Gold I will be the first inland river cruise ship ever built that includes a helipad. Considering China is one of the only countries to be actively pushing its “five-star river cruise” industry at the moment, we’d be hard-pressed to argue with that.
Following the upcoming launch of the Gold I, CTTIG plans to launch four more cruise ships, outfitted with what the company vaguely referred to as “more advanced equipment” over the course of the year. As for the remaining five ships, CTTIG has begun accepting design bids, and hopes to have all ships fully operational in the second half of next year.