The first cruise ships built in China for Chinese passengers are to be ordered by a Carnival Corporation joint-venture.

Two new vessels are to be built by a China-based shipbuilding joint venture between Chine State Shipbuilding Corporation, the largest shipbuilder in China, and Italy-based Fincantieri.

The first vessel is due to be delivered in 2023.

A memorandum of agreement gives Carnival Corporation’s cruise joint venture the option to order four additional ships built in China.

Carnival Corporation will operate and manage all cruise ships owned by the cruise joint venture as part of its plans to launch the first multi-ship cruise brand in China.

The two new ships will be built with a design tailored for the cruise brand and the specific tastes of Chinese travellers.

The US cruise giant will provide onsite supervision and support during ship construction.

The agreement updates the terms of an initial shipbuilding MOA announced in September, further expanding co-operation between Carnival Corporation and CSSC.

The cruise joint venture – a partnership announced in 2015 with CSSC in which Carnival Corporation holds a minority interest – plans to launch a cruise brand in China using ships purchased from the US group’s existing fleet.

The joint venture would then add new China-built cruise ships from 2023 to further accelerate growth in the Chinese cruise market and serve increasing demand for cruising from Chinese and Asian travellers.

Carnival Corporation chief executive, Arnold Donald, said: “We are proud to order the first China-built cruise ships and play a meaningful role in developing cruise shipbuilding capabilities for the first time in China.

“This represents another important milestone in building a sustainable and prosperous cruise industry, and demonstrates our commitment to contributing to China become a leading cruise market as part of its five-year economic development plan.”

Michael Thamm, group chief executive of Costa Group and Carnival Asia, added: “Our cruise joint venture’s agreement to order the first-ever cruise ships built in China and specifically designed for our cruise brand to serve Chinese guests is a tremendous opportunity to grow interest and demand for cruising as part of China’s rapidly expanding tourism market.

“We are very committed to working closely with our partners to further develop the Chinese cruise industry and continue supporting China’s efforts to become one of the leading cruise markets in the world, which will remain a key driver for cruise growth across Asia for many years to come.”