China Starts Assembly of Second Cruise Ship, Hails Progress in Shipbuilding

China cruise ship keel laying
China celebrated the keel laying for its second, large domestically-built cruise ship (Adora)

Published Apr 22, 2024 2:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

Assembly work for China’s second, large domestically-built cruise ship began on Saturday, April 20 at the Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding yard. Part of China’s goal of “mass and serial construction” of large cruise ships, the project is also demonstrative of the country’s systematic approach to developing its shipbuilding skills.

During an elaborate ceremony to mark the lowering of the first keel blocks for the second cruise ship into the dry dock, they reviewed the approach to the project. They reported that construction is already 20 percent completed and now moving to a focus on the rapid assembly of the vessel. 

Construction began on the second cruise ship in August 2022, with the timeline calling for the dock cycle to be shortened by eight months versus the first cruise ship. The new ship is scheduled to be floated in March 2025, undocked in March 2026, start sea trials in June 2026, and be delivered before the end of 2026.

During the first project which produced the cruise ship Adora Magic City (135,000 gross tons) China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) stated they mastered the key core technologies in the design and construction of a large cruise ship. They worked with Fincantieri and the ship was based on a design developed for Carnival Corporation. 

In the second project, they report the design has been greatly improved in terms of the size of the ship, cabin layout, systems configuration, and specification standards. The length of the ship is being increased by 57 feet (17.4 meters) to a total of 1,119 feet (341 meters) resulting in an increase of 6,400 gross tons or a total of 141,900 gross tons. The ship will have 2,144 staterooms and among the new technologies and advanced systems will be two new desulfurization systems and five sets of advanced environmental protection systems. 


China continues to work to add cruise ship construction to its domestic capabilities -- keel block of the cruise ship in the busy Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding yard (CSSC)


They report using research and management experience efforts will be made to promote process optimization. The goal is to increase construction efficiency by 20 percent compared with the efforts for the Adora Magic City. China’s goal is to compete against the established European shipbuilder, Chantiers de l’Atlantique, Fincantieri, and the two Meyer shipyards, which are the only yards in the world building large cruise ships. They highlight that cruise ships are the most complex construction projects and they look to systemize the process similar to tankers, bulkers, and containerships.

The Global Times newspaper quoted researchers highlighting the rapid growth in China’s cruise market, a view echoed by the Western executives at the recent Seatrade Cruise Global conference. Royal Caribbean Group and MSC Cruises noted that the market was beginning to reopen after the pandemic and that it has developed with the first direct sales and travelers interested in experiences. Before the pandemic, China was a rapidly growing cruise source market but sales were done through charter groups and most people were traveling for the opportunity to go shopping outside China. 

Globally in 2023, the cruise market was just under 32 million passengers according to the trade group Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). The forecast for the Chinese domestic cruise market is that it will reach nine million passengers by 2035. Analysts told the Global Times that China will require 38 cruise ships in service by 2035 to handle the projected market.

China’s first domestically-built large cruise ship, referred to by the colloquial name Ada Modu, began service in January 2024. Adora Cruises reports she has operated 26 voyages with more than 100,000 passengers. The company was initially established as a joint venture between Carnival Corporation and CSSC, but Carnival has reduced its participation making Adora a wholly Chinese company.