Silk Road cruise stim­u­lates in­ter­est in China

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TRAVEL - By YANG FEIYUE

Bon­nie En­der is a vet­eran cruise trav­eler.

The Amer­i­can from Ari­zona has been on roughly 30 cruise hol­i­days be­fore, but the trip she took in June was dif­fer­ent.

She em­barked in Barcelona, Spain, on the brand-new cruise ship Ma­jes­tic Princess with her hus­band in late May and would spend 49 days sail­ing to mul­ti­ple coun­tries be­fore reach­ing the fi­nal des­ti­na­tion, Shang­hai, in early July.

The route took her across key an­cient Mar­itime Silk Road points, in­clud­ing Greece, the United Arab Emi­rates, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thai­land and China’s Xi­a­men.

“My un­der­stand­ing of the Silk Road has deep­ened dur­ing the trip,” she says.

She and her hus­band even made a point of study­ing Marco Polo and the Silk Road be­fore climb­ing aboard.

At the same time, a series of pro­grams fea­tur­ing tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture, such as tea, paint­ing, cal­lig­ra­phy, opera and sculp­ture were hosted on the ship.

Those pro­grams were ar­ranged by the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s As­so­ci­a­tion for Friend­ship with For­eign Coun­tries and part of the co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the as­so­ci­a­tion and Princess Cruises.

The pur­pose is to en­able Western guests to bet­ter un­der­stand and sa­vor Chi­nese cul­ture and tra­di­tions, ac­cord­ing to Li Xinyu, a se­nior of­fi­cial with the as­so­ci­a­tion.

“I like the em­pha­sis on the Chi­nese cul­ture,” En­der says.

“And I en­joyed the whole Silk Road pre­sen­ta­tion, the dancers, the singers, the or­ches­tra, the lec­tures. It’s been a won­der­ful thing on the ship”.

She and her hus­band have been to China 16 times, but En­der says the trip helped her get new in­sights in China’s cul­ture and his­tory.

En­der is one of roughly 7,000 tourists from more than 40 coun­tries and re­gions who were on board and got an im­mer­sion in the world of China.

Pas­sen­gers were mainly from Aus­tralia, United Sates, United King­dom and Europe.

They are mostly ages 40-70 and with higher ed­u­ca­tion, and they chose cruis­ing more as a way of life in­stead of just trav­el­ing.

“It’s a safe and com­fort­able way to travel to mul­ti­ple coun­tries, with­out wor­ry­ing things like trans­porta­tion, air­fare and food,” says Theodore Rib­bons, an en­ter­tain­ment host on the ship.

The long trip will al­low them to in­ter­act with each other and make friends, Rib­bons adds.

More than 2,900 new guests joined the leg of the jour­ney from Sin­ga­pore to Shang­hai.

A ma­jor­ity of them will end up in China to en­joy cul­ture, es­pe­cially after be­ing ex­posed to those Chi­nese per­for­mances on the ship, says Terri Cy­bu­liak, ho­tel gen­eral man­ager on the ship.

“Guests on board will also en­joy easy ac­cess to in-depth tours in those Chi­nese cities (Xi­a­men and Hong Kong) through the ports,” Cy­bu­liak adds.

“Our au­di­ence have viewed a lot of the per­for­mances,” says An­thony Kauf­man, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of Princess Cruises, “and we’ve had stand­ing ova­tions on­board the ship when the per­form­ers have given their pre­sen­ta­tion”.

Pas­sen­gers have of­ten in­ter­acted with per­form­ers on­stage.

“These kinds of pro­grams with the friend­ship as­so­ci­a­tion are ex­actly the pro­grams we would love to present our guests in fu­ture,” Kauf­man says.

The “East Meets West” in­ter­na­tional of­fer­ings along the “Silk Road Sea Route” will largely con­tinue for Chi­nese guests.

This in­cludes award-win­ning in­ter­na­tional cui­sine from chefs from Miche­lin-starred restau­rants and Camp Dis­cov­ery, a youth-en­rich­ment pro­gram de­vel­oped with The Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel and the Cal­i­for­nia Science Cen­ter in Los Ange- les, ac­cord­ing to Kauf­man.

When Ma­jes­tic Princess ar­rives in Shang­hai on Sun­day, more Chi­nese cui­sine and Chi­nese staff will be added to com­ple­ment the in­ter­na­tional staff on the ship.

“We’ ll of­fi­cially pre­miere our all­new pro­duc­tion show, Fan­tas­tic Jour­ney, the big­gest and most ad­vanced Broad­way-style mu­si­cal ever staged at sea,” Kauf­man says.

More­over, a series of pro­grams cater­ing to Chi­nese tourists will be ready once the ship reaches Shang­hai.

“Chi­nese guests will have op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn about the stars through our stargaz­ing pro­gram, meet with the cap­tain and other se­nior of­fi­cers on the bridge tour, par­tic­i­pate in English-lan­guage classes and many other pro­grams de­signed to ed­u­cate and to en­rich their lives,” Kauf­man says.

Dur­ing the maiden voy­age of Ma­jes­tic Princess, the Silk Road sea route jour­ney was 100 per­cent booked.

Hear­ing that more sim­i­lar trips are likely to be launched in the fu­ture, En­der says she would be ex­cited to come back again.

She was par­tic­u­larly fas­ci­nated by the Chi­nese paint­ing ses­sion given by Xu Ren­long, a pres­ti­gious artist from the Cen­tral Academy of Fine Arts in China.

She was amazed by Xu’s mas­tery of paint­ing and cal­lig­ra­phy.

She her­self loves paint­ing very much, which she says helps her to re­lax dur­ing spare time.

“I felt like I’d like to take a cal­lig­ra­phy les­son after the lec­ture,” she says.


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