While cruise ships sailing from U.S. ports were making adjustments due to tropical storm Erika, cruise ships in Asia were making adjustments for typhoon Goni. The Quantum of the Seas sailed on August 23 from Shanghai for a nine-day cruise. The original itinerary had the ship visiting three Japanese cities, however, to avoid the typhoon the captain sailed for South Korea instead. During the cruise passengers received free Wi-Fi and lobster dinners. Upon return to Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal, 300 passengers refused to disembark saying they would stay onboard until they were properly compensated. Some did disembark but at 11:30 a.m. there were still more than 200 passengers who refused to leave.
Royal Caribbean International, along with tourism and district authorities tried negotiating with those still onboard and around 1 p.m. a compromise was reached where the guests would leave the ship and talks would continue at a local hotel. The majority of the guests accepted the gesture but a few still refused and had to be carried off the ship by members of the crew. Royal Caribbean said it was willing to communicate with guests based on international and Chinese regulations, however, it said it would not accept “irrational and illegal behavior”, including threats affecting other cruisers’ vacations.
Shanghai Tourism Administration sided with the cruise line and said “tourists should not use such methods in order to safeguard their rights”. The tourism administration issues the cruise contract on behalf of the cruise lines. They stated that there have been other cruises where passengers have complained about changes in itineraries and they are drafting a new document to better state the policies.
While some passengers were very upset about the change, others were very happy. The ship sailed to the South Korean port of Inchon, where tour buses took the guests into the city of Seoul. This was the first time that the Quantum of the Seas called in Korea. The port authority was extremely happy with the unexpected arrival of the world’s largest cruise ship. They stated that the successful port call shows Royal Caribbean and other big ship operators that the port has the capacity to receive such ships. After leaving Inchon, the ship called on the city of Busan at the southern tip of the Korean peninsula.
The Chinese outbound tourism industry is growing at a phenomenal rate. As a broader segment of Chinese society is starting to travel, cultural conflicts are rising as well. In Thailand, there have been a number of high profile incidents. The city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand has gone so far as to direct the national tourism bureau not to include the city in promotions aimed at Chinese tourists. A mountain resort in Switzerland is launching special train services for Chinese tourists. Locals and other tourist have complained about the conduct of the Chinese tourists.
The cruise lines have not been in China in such large numbers before and with the cultural differences, there will be a time of misunderstandings.