Carnival's increased investment in China comes amid slowing growth in the North American cruise market, with the number of North American passengers rising just 1.2 percent in 2013 from the previous year, according to data from Statista.
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So far, North America is easily the largest cruise market, with around 60 percent of forecast 21.6 million passengers expected this year globally originating there and an estimated annual revenue of more than $20 billion, contrasting with Asia's less than 7 percent of total passengers, according to data from Cruise Market Watch.
But China's people are developing ever-itchier feet. A CLSA report in January estimated that the number of mainlanders expected to travel abroad may hit 200 million a year by 2020, double 2013's level. Chinese travelers shelled out around $129 billion in 2013, according to data from the United Nations.
Carnival is tweaking its offerings to take a slice of that spending. On its Costa-branded ships, it's made obvious changes such as language and offering Asian foods to go with its Italian offerings, Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival, told CNBC last week.
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On its premium Princess line, its offerings now include Tai Chi classes, he said.
"They've also increased their retail luxury brands available because the Chinese have a real appetite for luxury brand shopping," he said.
Another draw for Chinese travelers may be onboard casinos. In 2013, more than a million trips were made by passenger vessels to Macau, as the enclave is the only place within China where gambling isn't outlawed, according to data from Euromonitor.