At Last: China Sees Cruise Resumption with Viking Sailing

The 930-passenger Zhao Shang Yi Dun – formerly known as the Viking Sun sailing for Viking Ocean Cruises – has become the first cruise ship to resume commercial voyages with guests in China.

The ship has set sail on an eight-day Charming South China Sea cruise departing from Shekou Cruise Homeport, Shenzhen, sailing to Sanya and then returning to Shenzhen.

[For a complete look at the Chinese market, see the 2022 China Market Report by Cruise Industry News]

“It is very exciting that we are able to launch a brand-new product and the first of its kind in China. We have always been about exploring the world in comfort, and now we offer our Chinese guests an opportunity to rediscover their own backyard in a new way – culturally enriching, in elegant comfort and with a unique touch of Nordic hospitality,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking, in a statement, as the ship departed on Oct. 1. 

He added: “We believe cruising is a boom industry in China, and that Chinese consumers’ demand for cruise travel will continue to grow and become more sophisticated. Our joint-venture partnership with the China Merchants Group will enable us to take advantage of this trend.”

After an official handover procedure in April 2021, the former Viking Sun now sails for China Merchants Viking Cruises as the Zhao Shang Yi Dun.

According to a press release, China Merchants Viking Cruises has carried out “various operational preparations in an efficient and orderly manner”  taking the safety and health of guests and employees as the primary task in the past nine months. This was done with strong support and guidance from the government.

Onboard, guests can look forward to an adjusted experience with the Viking touch.

“The experience that we set out to create is one built on what has made Viking a success around the world and popular with our Chinese guests. We then added locally relevant elements to complement it,” said Wee-Hoon Tan, Vice President of Product Development & Marketing, the architect of this new product. 

For example, since duty-free shopping is not possible on a domestic cruise, the ship’s original cosmetic shop has been redesigned into “The Oriental Shop” – a place for guests to discover traditional Chinese crafts with innovative, modern twists.

“We have however kept the Nordic Shop, which aims to let Chinese guests get acquainted with both established and niche quality brands reflecting Nordic heritage and culture. Over in our jewelry shop, we are proud to be hosting world-renowned Gübelin from Switzerland and presenting its first-ever retail outlet in China. We are also pleased to have Chow Tai Fook – a household brand in China, which is showcasing on our ship many of its jewelry collections not readily available onshore,” said Tan.

Tan added that the ship’s entertainment and enrichment content, as well as food and beverage experiences have also been localized.

“To complement the Chinese tea experience on our ship, we have added guqin – a very elegant classical Chinese instrument, into our live music mix. Our main restaurant originally serving Western cuisine has been revamped into a modern-style Chinese restaurant, street-style Chinese grilled skewers have been added to our Pool Grill originally serving just burgers, Asian flavors have been blended into our afternoon tea at Wintergarden and feature in The Chef Table menus. Our Torshavn Armagnac bar has also been revamped into Bar 1872, which specializes in Chinese wines and spirits and serves a selection of signature cocktails inspired by the history of the China Merchants Group, which began in year 1872.”

To enhance the food and beverage experience onboard, China Merchants Viking Cruises invited Michael Rosenblum, a foreign chef who has devoted much of his life to the Chinese food culture, to join the ship as the chef and the cruise line’s food culture ambassador.

Rosenblum’s team creates dishes that are inspired by the destinations where the Zhao Shang Yi Dun sails, selects local teas and tells stories about them.

The ship combines European and Chinese elements to bring guests “diversified cultural and artistic entertainment programs,” according to the press release.

China Merchants Viking Cruises and Shanghai Wenguang Performing Arts Group SMG Live have created unique shows for the Star Theater onboard. These shows combine original Broadway classic musical tracks and drama performances that integrate elements like dance and audience interaction.

Each voyage will have different guest performers that will bring “surprise performances” to the guests.

Additionally, the Zhao Shang Yi Dun offers onboard lectures on culture, art, natural sciences and food and has 2,000 hand-picked books available in the ship’s several public reading areas.

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