A 500 kilometer circle around Tianjin finds 11 major cities and a population of 220 million people.

In Tianjin itself, GDP was up over nine percent in the first half of the year, according to deputy mayor Haishan Zhao.

Cruise traffic is doing well too, with year-over-year growth at 74.5 percent with 97 homeport calls in 2015.

He pointed to favorable policies for cruise ships, as well as a strong support network in suppliers, logistics and recruitment in an address at China Cruise Shipping, behind held in Tianjin, which offers cruise ships its Free Trade Pilot Zone.

"It implements a 'single window' for international trade," Zhao said. "Our homeport is the only one that is located in a free trade pilot zone. Therefore the homeport can enjoy policy support from the state, as well as free trade policies."

The free trade regulations extend further, to travel agencies for outbound business, in addition to more relaxed customs and immigration policies for crew on ships calling in Tianjin.

Zhao said he hopes the policies in place help build up Northern China's cruise industry further.

There is also a purchasing group that launched in 2011 in Tianjin, linking businesses looking to supply ships to the cruise lines.