Japan’s First Mega-Yacht Cruise Ship Ordered and Will be Built in Portugal

cruise ship construction
Portugal's West Sea which is building exploration cruise ship received the order for Japan's firsth mega-yacht cruise ship (West Sea - Viana Shipyard)

Published Dec 27, 2023 4:26 PM by The Maritime Executive


The expansion of Japan’s cruise ship market is continuing with the news that a new mega-yacht cruise ship has been ordered. Traditionally marketing domestically to Japanese travelers, the cruise sector is seeing new growth in Japan as both NYK and Mitsui O.S.K. launched new investments while niche operators such as Peace Boat added a newer cruise ship.

The luxury mega-yacht was ordered last week by Japan’s Ryobi Holdings, a diversified company that includes operations in transportation and tourism. The transport group currently operates ferries and excursion boats as well as buses and a tour company.

“We plan to offer a different kind of cruise life experience, such as enjoying a visit to a remote island on a small boat,” writes Ryobi announcing its first cruise ship order. They explained that their plan will be Japan’s first yacht-style passenger ship. It will have features common in this sector including a marina in the stern for water activities, which will be the first on a newbuild in the Japanese market. MOL will also be introducing this feature when it takes over a cruise ship in 2024 acquired from Carnival Corporation’s Seabourn Cruises.

Ryobi has contracted West Sea – Viana Shipyard, a Portuguese shipbuilder started just a decade ago. The company has built river cruise ships for several of the major brands and starting in 2018 entered the ocean-going segment building luxury exploration cruise ships. West Sea is building a total of seven 9,900 gross ton cruise ships for a Portuguese company Mystic Cruises. Starting with the World Explorer in 2019, the ships are 413 feet (126 meters) with luxury accommodations for 200 passengers, The first of the ships are operating under charter while Mystic also launched Atlas Ocean Voyages to market its exploration cruises.

Ryobi reports that the ship will be approximately 360 to 390 feet (110 to 120 meters) in length and 9,000 to 10,000 gross tons, making it similar in size to the Mystic cruise ships. The plan is for just 60 staterooms with accommodations for 120 passengers plus 100 in crew.

The design will emphasize luxury and hospitality with the idea being that each passenger can feel like the owner of a mega-yacht. The cruise ship will operate mainly in Japan and southwest Asia.

The new Japanese cruise ship will be built at the Viana do Castelo shipyard and is scheduled for delivery in 2027. West Sea is valuing the order at around €100 million.

The concept of modern mega-yacht cruise ships was launched as the cruise industry developed with the first new ships known as the Sea Goddesses launched in the mid-1980s. The niche market has continued to grow and was elevated by Scenic Cruises which recently built two mega-yacht style luxury cruise ships as well as two similar ships for its Emerald Cruises brand. These ships are marketed internationally and will now be joined by the Ryobi ship. 

The Japanese cruise market is seeing a resurgence with NYK building a 52,200 gross ton cruise ship Asuka III at Meyer Werft, while MOL is using the ship acquired from Carnival Corp. to launch a new international cruise operation. MOL has also reported plans to build cruise ships for the Japanese market. The major international cruise brands also operate cruises marketed to Japan which is seen as a growing market for leisure travel.