Adora Magic City cruise ship in China port

China implements visa waiver for cruise ship visitors, aims to attract 14 million cruise passengers annually by 2025

China’s National Immigration Administration (NIA) has announced that it will grant a visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups who enter China by cruise ships at all cruise ports along the coast of China, starting May 15, 2024.

The tourist group must remain with the same cruise ship until its next port of call and stay within permitted areas for no more than 15 days.

Under this policy, foreign tourist groups, comprising two or more individuals, who travel by cruise ship and are organised by Chinese domestic travel agencies, can now enjoy visa-free entry as a cohesive group at cruise ports in 13 cities along the Chinese coast.

These cities include:

Tianjin
Dalian (Liaoning)
Shanghai
Lianyungang (Jiangsu)
Wenzhou (Zhejiang)
Zhoushan (Zhejiang)
Xiamen (Fujian)
Qingdao (Shandong)
Guangzhou (Guangdong)
Shenzhen (Guangdong)
Beihai (Guangxi)
Haikou (Hainan)
Sanya (Hainan)

Additionally, the NIA announced that seven cruise ports, namely Dalian, Lianyungang, Wenzhou, Zhoushan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Beihai, have been designated as visa-free transit ports for nationals from 54 countries. This move facilitates the transit and departure of foreign travelers from these ports via cruise ships under China’s visa-free transit policy.

With a coastline stretching 18,000 km, China boasts steadily improving port infrastructure, abundant tourism resources, and rapid growth of the service industry, making it a major stop for international cruise liners.

Shanghai Cruise port with docked ships
Shanghai Cruise port

Currently, China’s inbound cruise tourism market is experiencing strong momentum. From February to April 2025, over 14,000 tourists from at least 47 countries and regions visited China aboard cruise ships, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. This move will further bolster the development of the cruise economy in China’s coastal regions.

China Daily reported that at the end of 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, China was the world’s second-largest cruise ship travel market after the United States, according to the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association.

With Chinese and multinational cruise companies recently resuming operations, the Association said that China is confident it can return to the 2019 level within two years, and kick-start a new lucrative period for the industry starting in 2026.

A joint guideline issued by ten government agencies, including the Ministry of Transport, aims to grow the Chinese cruise market into one of the most dynamic ones in the world, with annual passenger trips expected to reach 14 million by 2035.

In line with this policy, Adora Cruises has also launched the first large-scale cruise ship made in China, Adora Magic City, from Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Port in January 2024. Adora Magic City’s first voyage was a 7-day and 6-night cruise visiting Jeju Island in South Korea, and Fukuoka and Nagasaki in Japan.

At 323.6 meters long and weighing 135,500 tons, it has 2,125 luxurious guest rooms and suites and can accommodate 5,246 guests at full capacity. In future, the Adora Magic City will embark on cruise routes from China to Southeast Asian countries

China had also earlier announced that it has extended its visa-free travel programme for citizens of 12 countries until December 31, 2025. Citizens from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland can now visit China for 15 days.

Global Times reported that China’s appeal as a travel destination is clearly on the rise, as evidenced by the statistics from China’s National Immigration Administration. In the first quarter of 2025, international visits to China reached a staggering 13.1 million, marking a 305.25% increase year over year. The number of visa-free foreigners entering China also saw a substantial rise, reaching 1.98 million, up 266.1% from last year.

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