First International Cruise Line Resumes Sailings From Mainland China

MSC Cruises resumed home port operations in mainland China with MSC Bellissima making a maiden call in Shanghai.

MSC Cruises becomes the first international cruise line to return its ships to mainland China and begin home port operations since the pandemic as MSC Bellissima arrives in Shanghai for her maiden call.

A Historic Return to China

MSC Cruises has achieved a significant milestone by being the first international cruise line to resume operations from a mainland China home port since the global pause in cruise operations due to the pandemic. 

With MSC Bellissima set to home port in Shanghai, a special onboard event was held on March 18, 2024, attended by government officials, travel agents, media, and partners. The event celebrated the ship’s maiden call and MSC Cruises’ return to the Chinese market.

Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, said of the event, “MSC Bellissima’s maiden call in Shanghai reaffirms our commitment to a market that continues to play an important strategic role for us.

“We are fulfilling our commitment to bring to the region a modern Asian flagship and we are dedicated to further invest in China and benefit the local economy. We want to push high-quality development of the cruise industry in the region, promote the cultural tourism industry and related home port markets.”

Read Also: Cruise Line Announces New Exclusive Sailings in China

The inauguration was commemorated with exclusive culinary creations by world-renowned Chefs Enrico and Roberto Cerea, of MSC Cruises’ Da Vittorio. Entertainment across the ship and a spectacular drone show were also part of the festivities.

MSC Bellissima Leads the Fleet

Serving as the flagship for MSC Cruises’ operations in Asia, the Meraviglia-class MSC Bellissima will home port in Shanghai, Keelung, and Shenzhen throughout the summer of 2024.

The ship’s first scheduled departure will be a 5-night Asia voyage on April 24, 2024, calling on Kagoshima, Kochi, and Yokohama, Japan, in late April.

MSC Bellissima Cruise Ship
MSC Bellissima Cruise Ship (Photo Courtesy: MSC Cruises)

Additional 2024 itineraries will see MSC Bellissima visit Cheju and Busan, South Korea; Ishigaki, Osaka, Miyakojima, and Naha, Japan; and Keelung, Taiwan. The 171,598-gross-ton MSC Bellissima will return to Shanghai in January 2025. It can hold 5,665 passengers and 1,595 crew members.

MSC Cruises also announced during the Shanghai event that MSC Splendida would be arriving for its winter 2024-2025 season. Home porting in Shenzhen and Xiamen, the addition makes MSC Cruises the only international cruise line to deploy two ships in China.

Currently sailing in South Africa, MSC Splendida will enjoy summer and fall in the Mediterranean before transitioning to Asia.

Expanding Competition in China’s Cruise Market

Although the first to home port in China, MSC Cruises will not be the only international cruise line returning following the pandemic. Royal Caribbean International will arrive in late April with its Quantum-Ultra-class Spectrum of the Seas.

Adora Magic City Cruise Ship
Adora Magic City Cruise Ship

Spectrum of the Seas will also operate out of Shanghai to visit Fukuoka, Okinawa, Nagasaki, Osaka, and Tokyo, Japan, on 4- and 5-night voyages, beginning April 27, 2024.

Major cruise lines have also included Hong Kong on their itineraries, with 138 ships calling on the island location in 2023. Prior to the pandemic, Hong Kong witnessed 218 cruise ships calling in 2019. Its 2023 numbers represent 75% of annual pre-pandemic levels, showing a steady rebound.

Carnival Cruise Line also welcomed Adora Magic City in Shanghai earlier this year. The first cruise ship ever built entirely in China, Adora Magic City was built specifically for the Chinese market and does not sail internationally.

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