Mobile Payments Go Cruising With Princess Cruises

December 24, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

To suggest that mobile payments are “increasingly ubiquitous” really isn’t out of line, especially when you look and see all the places where these tools are popping up. In fact, one more advance recently arrived that will likely be welcomed by the growing Chinese tourist class, as Princess Cruises adds WeChat Pay and Alipay support to its shops aboard the Ruby Princess.

With the move, the range of options aboard Ruby Princess only increases; a quick look at the Ruby Princess suggests that there are four duty-free shops on board for a start, and there are likely other options available from there. This marks the first passenger cruise line in North America to accept both of the major Chinese mobile payments systems at once. It’s not the first time that Princess Cruises has connected to Alipay and WeChat Pay, though, as back in 2017, Princess Cruises opened up service for both lines on the Majestic Princess while it was deployed in Shanghai.

Given that WeChat Pay reaches around 800 million active users a month, and Alipay edges them out with around 900 million, it’s clear that Princess Cruises had every reason to add on support for the two payment services.

Granted, it’s a safe bet that there’s at least some overlap between these two markets. The saying in China is that WeChat Pay is for pennies, but Alipay is for big bucks, which means it’s entirely possible that some have both to cover these different angles. Plus, a substantial portion of either market likely won’t be hitting a Princess cruise any time soon, which makes the utility somewhat limited. Still, if we assume that the overlap is total—which means 900 million total users—and only one percent goes cruising, that’s nine million new cruisers spending money, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

The sheer size of the Chinese market makes it a force to be reckoned with. There are just too many people involved to not pay attention, and even a niche market in China is the equivalent of a major market anywhere else. The only thing that’s surprising about Princess’ move is that it took this long to set up.