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The big three major cruise lines moved in unison this year to build stronger ties in Asia, the region which many expect to surpass North America as the world’s largest cruise market sometime in the next decade.

Carnival Corp. signed a deal to develop a new brand for Chinese passengers, and inked a tentative agreement to custom-build the vessels in China itself. Royal Caribbean Cruises strengthened its ties with Singapore, Asia’s most popular individual cruise port. Norwegian Cruise Line, as well, will send its newest ship to China with a specialized design for the market.

If more of China’s vacationers start to cruise, these moves will become crucial to cruising’s global business model. If they don’t, the cruise lines have the luxury of sailing ships back to Europe and North America.

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Photo Credit: Artist's rendering of an NCL Breakaway Plus-class ship. Norwegian Cruise Line