Italian cruise runner Costa Cruises on Saturday celebrated the maiden call ceremony of its cruise ship, the Costa Venezia, at its home port in Shanghai, a reflection of overseas cruise firms’ determination to grab the mainland market, despite market fluctuations.

The 324-meter-long ship, which is tailor-made for the Chinese market, combines Italian features, such as Venetian art designs and gondolas,with Chinese elements like hotpot and a mah-jong room.

Mario Zanetti, President of Costa Group Asia, said that China is part of the company’s mid- and long-term strategy, and the company has confidence in the Chinese market’s growth potential.

“We believe in the potential of this country (in terms of the cruise market),” he said on Saturday.

In 2018, several overseas cruises, such as the 3,883-passenger ship Norwegian Joy, left Chinese waters, arousing speculation that the Chinese cruise market was on the decline after a breakout period.

But Zanetti didn’t agree. “When you look into a 10- to 15-year perspective, adjustments are natural…the Chinese cruise industry is still at an early development stage,” he said, pointing to the fact that the penetration of cruise travel in China is still at a relatively low level whether measured by China’s total population or by the size of China’s middle class – compared with some Western countries.

Costa Cruises increased investment in China at a time when economic relations between China and Italy are progressing fast. In March, Italy signed a Belt and Road Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with China, becoming the first EU member to join the China-proposed initiative.

Zanetti said that growing cooperation in the cruise industry between Italy and China also “represents an opportunity for the two countries to get closer and closer.”

Costa Cruises is not the only overseas cruise runner to increase its chips in the mainland market recently.

In April, Genting Cruise Lines under the Hong Kong-based Genting Hong Kong also launched its latest cruise ship, the Explorer Dream, in Shanghai.