TAIPEI, March 16 (Xinhua) -- A ship carrying 1,600 Chinese mainland tourists arrived at Keelung harbor in Taiwan Monday morning, marking the first direct cruise from the mainland to the island.
"Legend of the Seas", a passenger liner of Royal Caribbean International, traveled about 40 hours after it set off from Shanghai Saturday. It arrived in Taiwan at 8:30 a.m., where passengers received a welcoming ceremony complete with traditional Chinese dragon and lion dances.
Keelung Mayor Chang Tong-rong said, "We welcome you far away friends in this warm spring when flowers are blossoming. We wish you a pleasant and smooth journey in Taiwan."
According to Yan Zhirong, a senior official with the Amway Greater China, most of the tourists aboard the ship are company clerks visiting Taiwan for the first time.
Yan said Amway plans to carry nine groups of 12,000 workers to the island for tours organized by China Travel International Ltd. Every tour will last six days and seven nights, with stopovers at main port cities including Keelung, Hualian, and Taizhong.
According to the mainland-based Cross-straits Tourism Exchange Association, more than 100,000 trips have been made by Chinese mainland visitors to Taiwan from July 2008 to March 12 of this year.
The mainland and Taiwan started direct flights and shipping services on Dec. 15, 2008, ending a 59-year ban on such links.