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CSSC Carnival Will Restart Cruising in Northern China in Late 2023

China cruise Carnival restart
Mediterranea is scheduled to start CSSC Carnival's operations in the fourth quarter of 2023 (CSSC Carnival)

Published May 23, 2023 2:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

CSSC Carnival Corporation, the Chinese cruise company started by China State Shipbuilding Corporation with investments from Carnival Corp. announced agreements to start cruise ship operations and commence sailing with its second cruise ship. This agreement comes as China moves to accelerate the relaunch of its cruise industry in a phased program approved by the central government.

In social media postings today, CSSC Carnival reports it has entered into an agreement to start cruises in the fourth quarter of 2023 from the northern port city of Tianjin. They are the first cruise line to announce the restart from the region following reports last week that will see Shanghai resume its first large cruise ships sailing to international ports in June 2023. Cruises paused in January 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic and never restarted internationally in China. CSSC Carnival’s Adora cruise brand announced last week that it would start sailing from Shanghai after it takes delivery on China’s first large domestically built cruise ship. The company named the ship Adora Magic City and is referring to the ship using the popular nickname for Shanghai of Ada Modu.

The company entered into an agreement with the Tianjin Binhai New Area Culture and Tourism Bureau, and Tianjin International Cruise Home Port Co. The strategic cooperation aims to jointly promote the resumption of cruises and further develop Tianjin's cruise market.

The cruises will launch aboard the newly renamed Mediterranea, formerly the Costa Mediterranea. Details were not announced but the company said the ship will sail to neighboring countries in Northeast Asia.

Formed in 2019, CSSC Carnival was initially described as a joint venture designed to build the domestic Chinese cruise market. Carnival Corp. reported in 2020 and 2021 that it sold its interests to CSSC and today only holds a minority interest. In 2021, they contributed $90 million in capital to the company but did not make any further contributions in FY 2022.

As part of the agreement to form the new company, CSSC Carnival agreed in 2018 to acquire two cruise ships, the Costa Atlantica (built in 2000) and the Costa Mediterranea (built in 2003). Carnival Corp. chartered the ships back from CSSC to complete their scheduled cruises of Costa with the original plan being to handover the Costa Atlantica by late 2019. Carnival instead maintained the ships during the pause due to the pandemic, handing over the Atlantica in August 2021 and the Mediterranena in October 2021. Both ships have been transferred to the Bahamas registry by remain laid up in the Mediterranean.

At 85,600 gross tons, the two ships are sister ships each 959 feet long with a capacity of 2,680 passengers. CSSC Carnival reports the Mediterranea will be dry docked for upgrades and a new livery before it returns to service. No definitive plans have been announced for the former Costa Atlantica, but reports in China suggest that she is expected to begin cruising from Shanghai possibly as early as July.

China looks to restart its cruise business first with its domestically owned ships. Royal Caribbean International was the first international cruise company to schedule its return to Chinese homeport cruising which is due to start in April 2024 from Shanghai. Other major Western cruise lines are expected to also announce plans to resume their Chinese cruise programs in the future.