|The cruise liner SuperStar Gemini takes 1,200 tourists on its first trip from Xiamen to Taiwan on Friday. Hai Xi / For China Daily|
Travel between Fujian province and Taiwan is nothing new.
But how about crossing the Taiwan Straits on a cruise ship?
Mainland tourists now have the chance to do so, with the launch of the latest tourism project in Fujian.
SuperStar Gemini, a 50,764-ton passenger cruise vessel of Star Cruises, started its first trip from Xiamen to Taiwan on Friday. The trip is taking 1,200 tourists to Taiwan's Penghu county and Kaohsiung city.
The four-day voyage, initiated by the Fujian Tourism Bureau, is the bureau's latest cross-Straits tourism project, which plans to take 100,000 tourists to travel between Fujian and Taiwan on cruise ships in two or three years. All trips will start from a port city in Fujian such as Xiamen, Quanzhou or Pingtan.
Fan Youxuan, a 61-year-old native of Changsha, Hunan province, said it was such a great chance to visit Taiwan. Fan lives with his son in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province.
"It's my dream to see the other side of the Straits. I gave myself the go-ahead when I learned about this voyage," Fan said.
Zhuang Wenxian, a Fujian native, said he expects his first trip on a luxury ship to be pleasant. It's Zhuang's first trip to Taiwan.
"I prefer the cruise trip because it can save me the trouble of carrying luggage around. I also want my parents to experience this new form of leisure with me," said the retired college teacher, who is traveling with his parents.
A ticket costs 2,000 yuan ($327) to 5,000 yuan.
Zheng Weirong, deputy director of Fujian Tourism Bureau, said the voyage marked a breakthrough in the cross-Straits tourism industry.
On Wednesday, passenger liner Haixia made its maiden trip to Taipei, boosting the number of sea passenger routes between Fujian and Taiwan to five, with 17 trips every week.
"Friday's voyage — and the additional cruise trips to be arranged by the bureau — is a luxurious addition to cross-Straits sea travel," Zheng said.
Wang Honglin, a manager of Carnival Cruise Company in Xiamen, said cruise trips across the Straits have great potential.
Mainland tourist arrivals to Taiwan grew 11.7 percent year-on-year to reach 1.3 million in the first seven months of the year, but very few of the tourists travel by cruise, Wang said.
"It offers a chance to appreciate the scenery at sea, with many recreational facilities such as swimming pools, libraries, cafes and casinos," he said.