The stimulus for my recent travels to Asia was new business – customers reaching out across the miles for our expertise, particularly with large groups and full ship charters.   In 2014, I traveled to Taiwan, Korea, China (Beijing and Shanghai), Malaysia and Singapore.  I cruised; I inspected ships, attended a trade show in Shanghai, met with new clients and potential customers, and experienced the wondrous, wild and (at times) wacky adventure of doing business in a culture that is so different from our own.

So what is it like being onboard a ship with the new and growing Chinese cruise market?  It’s fascinating, really.  Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Voyager of the Seas from Tianjin attracts a mostly Chinese clientele.  These cruises are adapted to appeal to this market, and they purposely don’t market to westerners.  That being said, if you have a sense of adventure, you may enjoy the immersion experience and it is great fun watching the Chinese enjoy cruising.  These are new cruisers – first timers all.  Remember your first cruise?  Well, imagine a ship full of mesmerized, unspoiled

That being said, if you have a sense of adventure, you may enjoy the immersion experience and it is great fun watching the Chinese enjoy cruising.  These are new cruisers – first timers all.  Remember your first cruise?  Well, imagine a ship full of mesmerized, unspoiled first-time cruisers…  I found myself smiling a lot.

I do have to say, it was a surreal experience at first….  Leaving Tianjin harbor to the beat of reggae music and Jimmy Buffet.  Yes, the elevator signage, menus, daily program were all printed in Mandarin.  Announcements were made in Mandarin and key staff onboard are Chinese.  But the onboard entertainment experience was all American.  It is what attracts so many Chinese people… the chance to experience America without leaving home – no fuss – no muss – no lengthy visa process or agonizing waiting period.  That’s the appeal of a Royal Caribbean Cruise.   And it is attracting thousands of people from all over China.

RCI is the first major cruise line to introduce western-style cruising to the people of China.  For those of you who are still wondering why RCI is sending their newest most talked about ship to Shanghai (The Quantum of the Seas) – I think I have your answer.  How’s about a potential cruise market of over 1 billion people?

Here’s something else I learned…   A lot of Americas lump Asia and China together.  While China is in Asia, it has such a different culture (and political structure) than the rest of the Asian countries – many of which are very western oriented.  So you cannot and should not expect to do business the same everywhere in “Asia”.

Then there’s Southeast Asia versus northern Asia.  Take Malaysia and Singapore as examples.  They relate much more to Australia and their customs than to northern Asian countries like Korea or Japan, who have a more insular culture.  In fact, a Malaysian of Chinese decent who I was traveling with was miffed when people spoke to her in Mandarin.  It is so easy to offend and “lose face”.  You have to keep your wits about you, especially in a business setting.

What brought me to Malaysia and Singapore was a great opportunity to be involved in Asia’s largest music festival at Sea – called It’s The Ship…   We just completed a full ship charter round trip Singapore to Langkawi Island in Malaysia, filled with young, excited new cruisers enjoying electronic dance music on board the ship and ashore.

It was very successful – widely promoted through social media – and attracted festival participants from as close as Singapore and Malaysia to as far away as the UK.  It was a lot of hard work behind the scenes, but also an amazing experience being a part of something exciting and new.  Everyone has seen these types of cruise charters being popular in America and now it’s Asia’s turn to capture this market.

More and more of our charter inquiries are coming from the East.  When we first started our business in 1982, chartering a cruise ship was new and unusual in the U.S.  Now it is big business, and continuing to grow in North America, South America and Europe. However, cruising, in general, is still a relatively new concept in Asia – but not for long.  This is the wild, wild East and anything is possible.  It’s like starting our business all over again.

Next month, I’m off to Cambodia and Vietnam to try cruising on the Mekong River on a new vessel from Avalon Waterways.  Stay tuned for more “Scuttlebutt” from Asia!

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