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Carnival Corp. teams with powerful partner to explore domestic cruise line for China, port development

Carnival's Buckelew - MOU with CMG 'a great opportunity to take the next step in the future of Chinese cruising'
Carnival Corp. & plc signed a memorandum of understanding with state-owned enterprise China Merchants Group to explore the possibility of two joint ventures—a domestic cruise line for China and turnaround and transit port development.

In developing a cruise line for the Chinese market, the venture would look at owning and operating ships designed and built in China and acquiring existing tonnage.

The ports venture would start with CMG's Prince Bay Cruise Terminal in Shekou, Shenzhen, located in southern China just miles from Hong Kong. The partners would work to have cruise ships sail from this flagship port, while also developing other destinations across China and northern Asia.

CMG, China’s oldest state enterprise founded in 1872, focuses on transportation, infrastructure, financial services and real estate development.

Carnival has been increasing its presence in China, and expects to carry 500,000 cruisers there this year, when Costa Serena in April joins Costa Atlantica, Costa Victoria and Sapphire Princess.

Carnival and CMG officials signed an MOU Tuesday morning at the Hilton Shenzhen Shekou, involving Yang Tian Ping, general manager of China Merchants Shekou Industrial Zone, and Alan Buckelew, chief operations officer of Carnival Corp. & plc. The ceremony was also attended by Sun Cheng Ming, vp of China Merchants Group, among other officials and guests.

'The MOU we signed today signifies a great opportunity to take the next step in the future of Chinese cruising, while addressing some key needs for both the cruise industry and its passengers in China,' Buckelew said. 'With CMG’s amazing track record, reach and influence in the market, we are working with a strategic partner that can help us explore immediate ways to impact cruise growth in China, including the possibility of a new Chinese cruise brand and new destinations.'

While pursuing potential joint ventures to develop and grow the overall cruise market in China, Carnival said it remains committed to serving Chinese travelers who are already sailing with Costa Cruises and Princess Cruises.

The race is on to cultivate China for cruising. Royal Caribbean International has been building up capacity in the region over several years and will send its newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, to year-round operations in Shanghai starting this summer.

Parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. through a venture with plans to launch SkySea Cruises with Celebrity Century, scheduled to begin operations at mid-year after leaving the Celebrity Cruises fleet in April.

HNA Corp.'s Henna Cruises and Star Cruises are other operators in the market.