Children from northwest China's Shaanxi Province perform a folk dance during the opening ceremony of the Silk Road Stories program on board the Majestic Princess cruise ship in Rome, Italy, on May 21, 2017. A cultural program called Silk Road Stories made its debut on board the Majestic Princess, a new cruise ship that is making its maiden global voyage from Rome to southeast China's Xiamen City. (Xinhua/Luo Na)
by Stefania Fumo
ROME, May 22 (Xinhua) -- A cultural program called Silk Road Stories made its debut on board the Majestic Princess, a new cruise ship that is making its maiden global voyage from Rome to east China's Xiamen City.
The opening ceremony for the program, which introduces Western passengers to Chinese culture, art, dance, food, and more, took place Sunday on board the gigantic 19-storey vessel, which measures 224 feet in height and 1,083 feet in length.
The program points to deepening Sino-Italian relations, said Chinese embassy's charge d'affaires Zheng Xuan at the ceremony.
Bilateral relations hit a fast track after a state visit to China by Italian President Sergio Mattarella in February, she said.
That was followed by Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni's visit earlier this month, when he attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.
Zheng said the program is a creative way to enhance trust and communication between peoples along the contemporary Silk Road.
It is also a good example of the development of the relationship between China and Italy, injecting new energy into the people-to-people exchanges within the context of the Belt and Road Initiative, she added.
As the massive vessel set sail, a group of 24 Chinese children performed a unique folk dance.
The performance was the first in the Silk Road Stories program.
"The children were quite passionate -- they put a lot of expression into it," said an Australian woman passenger who watched the show. "The expressions they had on their faces -- it was lovely."
David Dingle, who flew in from London for the opening ceremony, said: "It is principally through cultural understanding that we bring peace and prosperity to our world."
With a capacity of 7,000 passengers, the ship will travel through the Suez Canal, along the Persian Gulf and into the Indian Ocean before it arrives in Xiamen on June 26.
It will make 22 stops in 13 different countries along the way.
"In the coming days ahead, we will celebrate with passengers from over 40 countries along the Silk Road," said Li Xiaolin, president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.
"This is our first time to tell Chinese stories on the ocean. I hope one day we will be telling them in space," she said. "That is my dream."