The Henna2013 promises several crucial milestones for the Chinese cruise market. Apart from the record number of ships calling on Chinese ports, the biggest and most important event may have been the maiden voyage of the Henna on Jan. 26, 2013 by newcomer HNA Cruises.

HNA Cruises, established last year, is the first domestic luxury cruise company in China.

Hao Zhang, the CEO of HNA Cruises, told Cruise Industry News: “The Henna holds a very special significance in our hearts. We are proud to break the monopoly long held by the foreign and international cruise operators in the Chinese market.”

HNA Cruises is a wholly owned subsidiary of HNA Tourism, which in turn is owned by HNA Group. The group is one of the top 120 companies in China, with revenue around Rmb 100 billion (approx. $16 billion) and a total asset value of Rmb 300 billion (approx. $48 billion).
Midway through 2012, HNA purchased the 47,700-ton Pacific Sun from Carnival Australia, renaming her Henna and refitting her at Sembawang in Singapore.

HNA did not say what their investment was in the ship or refurbishment, although Star Cruises is managing the vessel.

Yuan Yuan, marketing director of HNA Cruises, explained: “We understand the Chinese consumers better. The Chinese like hard beds, for example. As a result, we have changed our bed installations to hard mattresses.

“One area of our emphasis is to have authentic Chinese cuisine onboard for our guests,” continued Yuan. “However, we are restricted in terms of using open fire in cooking, which is the key in preparing Chinese food. Our colleagues at the hotel and resort division provided solutions to accomplish this.”

In its first year of operation, the Henna will focus on short cruises.

From January to April 2013, the vessel will offer four-day/three-night and three-day/two-night cruises to Halong Bay or Danang, sailing from Sanya.

Then, from May until September, the 1986-built Henna will switch to Tianjin as a homeport, offering itineraries to Incheon and Cheju Island. Further deployment was not announced at press time. “Other homeports like Shanghai and Hong Kong will be considered as we plan for 2014,” Yuan commented.

“We believe that there are enormous opportunities for the cruise market waiting to be tapped and captured in China. As the first Chinese cruise brand, we set ourselves the goal to be the choice cruise line for Chinese consumers,” commented Zhang.

>> Also in this section: A Different World in the Galapagos, MSC Lays Claim to South America

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Spring 2013